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The House! The House! The House Is On Fire! A Play by Bob Andelman

By Bob Andelman Mr. Media® Radio Network • Email • Twitter • Facebook • LinkedIn • YouTube • Free Mr. Media Android App • Stitcher And now for something completely self-indulgent… Thanks to a suggestion by my friend Raffi Darrow, I was invited to participate in the inaugural ev

Thanks to a suggestion by my friend Raffi Darrow, I was invited to participate in the inaugural event of a new St. Petersburg nonprofit, Tampa Bay Plays. Founder and executive director Lora Hogan asked 25 non-playwrights in our community to each create an original, one-minute production.

This is mine. I hope you’ll enjoy it. I’m posting the script below in case you can’t make out a line.

Watch it here:

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Copyright 2011 by Bob Andelman

Dan Wheldon Remembered: An IndyCar Driver St. Petersburg Called Its Own (2006 Interview)

(Note from the author: I interviewed race car driver Dan Wheldon twice over the years, the longest conversation in 2006 for the Maddux Business Report. We weren’t friends by any measure but he was literally a part of our community in St. Petersburg, Florida; Wheldon and his wife and two bo

Read the entire 2006 interview with IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon here: .

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Copyright 2011 by Bob Andelman

Real estate developer Ken Good remembered, fondly by some, not so much by others

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(I read today that Tampa Palms developer Ken Good died on August 13, 2011, in Dallas. He had a profound and lasting impact on the Tampa Bay area in the late 1980s and I was reminded of a profile I wrote about him for the old Tampa Bay Life glossy magazine. I’m reprinting it here–as I submitted it on October 26, 1990, not in its final printed version–admitting all the while that this is a bit off topic for Mr. Media. But Good was quite the celebrity in his time in Florida, and a lasting reminder that if something or someone seems too good to be true, he, she or it probably is.)

By Bob Andelman

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“Hear ye, hear ye! A mortgage foreclosure sale!”

Within minutes, case 90-460, Barnett Bank v. Kenneth M. Good, is over and one of the great rollercoaster rides in Tampa real estate history comes screeching to a close. Only one of the two dozen people waiting outside the Hillsborough County Courthouse steps forward to bid on the 5,000-square foot golf course home of the bankrupt developer of Tampa Palms. The sole bidder represents the bank that forced the foreclosure.

“Plaintiff bids $422,000,” says J. Alan Asendorf, attorney for Barnett Bank.

“Do I hear another bid?” asks the circuit court clerk conducting the sale. “Going once… going twice … Sold to the plaintiff!”

A week later a few Tampans are given the opportunity to look over furnishings of Good’s home at a garage sale as he counts down the days before the bank takes possession and he is out on the street for the second time in as many years. (His 33,000-square foot, $2.5-million Denver mansion was lost in a 1989 foreclosure suit by the Columbia Savings and Loan Association of Denver.)

Is this an end befitting a legend?

That depends upon which legend one chooses to remember.

Is it the man who over-leveraged and debt-ratioed himself into financial ruin? The man who is running a close third behind Charles Keating and Neil Bush as official poster boy for the S&L crisis?

Or … is it the visionary who saved Tampa Palms from becoming a 9,100-acre, cookie-cutter tract development and instead turned it into the residential jewel of Hillsborough County, a much-copied and honored master-planned community? Is Ken Good the man who endowed two $600,000 chairs at the University of South Florida, donated a house to the Tampa Museum of Art, offered 100 acres of land to lure an Olympics training site to Tampa, bought a table at every charity fundraiser in town and donated a fountain valued at $900,000 to the city of Tampa?

In reality, Ken Good, 46, is both of these people, yin and yang, the ruined financial wizard and the benevolent community spirit.

Good — whose net worth was estimated at $100-million in the mid-1980s — came to Tampa from Denver in January 1985 after buying the 5,400-acre Tampa Palms site from the Deltona Corp. for $37.9-million. He also acquired Gulfstream Land & Development Co., which became parent company to Tampa Palms. Good continued buying raw land adjacent to Tampa Palms in the years that followed, bringing the total site to 9,100 acres.

The developer reshaped Tampa Palms into a multi-level residential community offering everything from $60,000 condos in Palma Vista to $1-million luxury homes in an exclusive, gated sub-division called The Reserve.

Real estate reporters doted on Good and the Palms, creating a stream of stories over the years about new homes, designs, national tournaments at the Tampa Palms Golf Course and so on. His troubled background was largely ignored.

Two years ago, at the precipice of impending doom, Good was unmistakably upbeat. He claimed to have passed out copies of Bobby McFerrin’s hit song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” to all his managers.

Meanwhile, Good built an estimated $200-million in debt. The figure was not outlandish for a major developer but was exacerbated by the collapse of home sales, the general real estate market and the sluggishness of the entire economy. Banks and other creditors took control of Tampa Palms, Gulfstream and other Good properties.

Stories began to filter out that Good had been involved in questionable dealings with Neil Bush, son of the President. Good and Bush were linked to the collapse of Colorado-based Silverado Banking Savings and Loan Association. Subsequently it was revealed that Bush was a director of Good’s Gulfstream Holding Co.; that Good was a major borrower at Silverado while Bush was a director; and that Good invested in and became a partner with Bush in JNB Exploration Co. He was called to testify before Congress.

Turns out that Good — to quote Lou Costello — was a baaaaaad boy.

But in the unfolding drama of the nation’s spreading twins of fiscal typhoid, the banking and real estate collapses, Good has become a national symbol of what’s wrong with American business and its businessmen. The Tampa Tribune ran a “GoodWatch” in its Monday business tabloid for weeks, poking fun at the developer’s misfortunes and encouraging readers to contact the newspaper if he was spotted around town. His name appeared — albeit less humorously — in a regular diet of stories published by the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Time, Newsweek and Business Week.

All of the good works he accomplished in Tampa were swept aside in the rush to nail him for the sins and poor judgement of the country’s S&L directors.

Tampa friends have put distance between him and them. Where once Tampa’s leading citizens elbowed each other to get close to him, to attach his golden good name to their charities, now many want no part of him.

“Weren’t you once a friend of Ken Good’s?”

“No comment.”

In response to an interview request, Mayor Sandy Freedman responded with a complimentary but curt statement read by her spokesman: “He did good things for the community while he was here. He worked with non-profits and made a lot of contributions to various organizations. He also brought a major residential project to Florida.” Freedman, who served on the Tampa Palms Golf and Country Club’s founding board of governors, was unwilling to answer direct questions regarding Good.

Even on the promise of anonymity, several former business associates refused to talk about the ruined real estate developer.

“It’s kicking a dead horse or praising a dead horse,” says one.

“I don’t think anybody wants their name associated with Ken Good,” says another. “This is going to be a tough story to tell because people are unwilling to associate themselves with him or out of loyalty they don’t want to talk about him when he’s down.”

Good came to town and brought many close friends and long-time associates with him. He made acquaintances in Tampa — many among the ladies, according to the rumor mill — but few close friendships flourished because Good was never in one place very long. He was in Jacksonville, Daytona Beach, Virginia, Denver and New York with such regularity it probably prevented people from getting too close or familiar. That may be part of why it’s easy for even those who know him best to put distance between them.

“Ken is brilliant. Some would say too smart,” says his friend and frequent dinner companion Camille Roberts, a vice president of the Tampa-based real estate consulting firm of Bissett McGrath Co. “He’s a high-roller. Everybody wanted to get to know him, use him. He would show people how to do deals that couldn’t be done. Now all they do is bad-mouth him. They don’t take into consideration that it was the economy that went bad. People blame him for the economy. It wasn’t his fault people weren’t buying homes fast enough.”

“It’s funny how when someone starts to stumble that people forget what they did when they were successful,” adds Don Whyte, a long-time Good lieutenant who moved with the developer from Denver to be vice president of finance at Tampa Palms. “There are some gifts that Ken gave the community that will last. He was always prepared to contribute financially if he thought the cause was worthwhile. The sculpture to the Tampa Convention Center, the gifts to USF. Those don’t disappear. They have lasting benefits.”

Of course, this is probably the time to point out what many people will say, that it’s easy enough to give away money if it’s somebody else’s money.

Still, a number of his friends are gathered here, not to bury Caesar but to praise him.

Tampa Palms

Steve Kuzma is a native Floridian. He lived in Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando before moving his family to Tampa Palms in 1986, one of the first settlers in the fledgling community.

“What I liked was it was away from the city and it was a planned development, not just a few blocks,” says the senior manager in litigation support at the accounting firm of Ernst & Young. “I knew what was going to be across the street from me and next to me. I liked the variety of homestyles. It wasn’t going to look like a tract development.

“I have one of the Gulfstream homes,” he says. “I’ve always been real happy. It’s appreciated significantly in the years we’ve been there.”

If Ken Good did nothing else in Tampa, Tampa Palms would still remain a beacon to one man’s vision and over-achievement. In 1986, Tampa Palms was little more than an administrative building, an inviting sign and big promises. Three years later it was a full-fledged community with scout troops, a $17-million golf and country club and a name as recognized as Carrollwood, Countryside or Hyde Park.

It was named 1988’s Top Master-Planned Community by the National Association of Home Builders. The 11-state Southeast Builders Conference awarded Tampa Palms its Aurora Award for being one of the southeast’s 10 best planned communities. It also was recipient of the Florida Association of Realtors’ 1988 ENVY Award for being the best environmentally designed community in the state.

Tampa Palms was Ken Good’s Trump Plaza.

It established Bruce B. Downs Blvd. as a desirable business and residential location — eventually expected to provide homes for 13,000 people. It open the floodgates to development along the new Interstate 75/Tampa Parkway.

One of those developments was the Hidden River Corporate Park. Developer Joe Taggart feels Good deserves a lot of credit for making his upscale office park desirable to national corporations considering relocation to Tampa.

“We’ve had people wanting to move here and live at either Tampa Palms or Hunter’s Green,” he says. “I respected Ken for his vision. But developers are not averse to risk. That’s what developing is. It’s gambling. He had a great piece of dirt, the concept was good. If the housing market hadn’t dried up, he’d still be rolling along.”

“Ken Good put Tampa on the map with one project,” agrees George Sturdivant, director of client services for Heidt & Associates, the civil engineering firm which laid out Tampa Palms. “They set a standard of excellence there and others have followed. We appreciated what he did for our company. He stayed with us and we stayed with him. There were some rough times — particularly when we weren’t being paid — but it worked out.”

Sturdivant says one of the most striking differences between Tampa Palms and the mammoth residential projects which preceded it was the way two-thirds of the Palms was preserved in its natural setting and will never be developed.

“They did it because they were going to have to do it anyway. But it demonstrated to other developers that they had to take a different approach. They had to approach the value of environmental areas aesthetically and practically. These could be plusses, even though developers hated to lose the acreage,” says Sturdivant.

Tampa Palms even employed its own full-time environmentalist to oversee protected areas of the 9,100-acre tract.

Unlike Denver and Dallas where Good is recalled as a man of big talk and little action, he truly left his thumbprint on Tampa Palms.

“It was always very different from the type of activity in Denver and Dallas,” according to Don Whyte. “Tampa Palms could not have been pulled off by somebody if they did not have a grand plan. Deltona would have done it quite differently. Ken came in and envisioned an assemblage that was more ambitious than most people could dream of. And he put 90 percent of it together. It’s unfortunate you can’t point to it and say it’s a financial success. There’s a lot of reasons Tampa Palms could not succeed, but the property itself is a tremendous success story.”

Good is a “big picture” guy. He sketches the big picture — in this case, a master-planned community — and passes it to lieutenants who give it texture, depth and color. He saw 9,100 acres of raw land, envisioned a self-supporting community and told his hand-picked associates to make it so. As successful as Tampa Palms is, some would say he has two skills — that vision thing and an eye for talent.

“I don’t think Ken Good is unusual in the way he manages things,” says a former employee. “There are a lot of big picture guys. They’re gunslingers. They get things done. It may be a lot of bravado, but that’s the style of the real estate gunslinger.

“The good news is they take chances,” he says. “The bad news is they lose their shirts.”

Whit Ward knows the developer mentality. As executive director of the Builders Association of Greater Tampa, he’s seen them come and go, pushing the envelope and bursting the bubble. Ward thinks Good was the genuine article.

“Whatever else the man is, he’s a man of vision,” credits Ward. “Had the economy been different and his situation with Tampa Palms been different, you would hear today’s critics continue to talk about what a brilliant person he was. He pioneered development in the northeastern section of the county. Tampa Palms is an extremely well-planned community. When you have a self-made person, the economic conditions may not be favorable through their whole lifetime. If they are, they become Rockefeller. If not, they have setbacks.

“The only thing that’s out of Tampa Palms is Ken Good,” he says. “The master-planned community is still there, the value is still there. That area is selling or closing as many houses as any area in the upper price range in Hillsborough County. The people who bought homes there have an excellent value on the dollar that matches anything in the county. Good’s vision is still there. He’s just not there to reap the financial benefit from the project.”

It is to Good’s credit that all the negative publicity about Tampa Palms and Gulfstream is aimed at him. His lieutenants — Jim Apthorp, Bill Livingston and Don Whyte — have been largely untouched by the boss’s scandal.

“I was a part of that and I’m the president of the Tampa Chamber of Commerce now,” says Jim Apthorp, executive vice president of Gulfstream under Good and now a consultant to Tampa Palms. “I think a lot of people, including Ken, are trying to restructure careers and get themselves squared away.”

“I don’t think it’s hurt me, either,” says Don Whyte, who has begun a real estate consulting firm with former Tampa Palms President Bill Livingston. “I don’t think anybody has held anything against anybody from Tampa Palms except Ken Good, personally.”

University of South Florida

A search is currently on to fill the $600,000 Sam M. Gibbons Endowed Chair in Architecture and Urban Design at the University of South Florida, which the Good Gulfstream Foundation endowed in 1986.

As in the bulk of his philanthropic activities, Good was not the instigator of the endowed chair. He met Joe Busta — then USF’s vice president for development and alumni affairs and now vice president for advancement at Auburn University — through Jim Apthorp.

“Ken and Jim both had a strong commitment to reinvestment in the community where they were doing business,” recalls Busta. “We had a meeting with Ken. He wanted to do something to support the university in a significant way. He felt the university offered the best chance for long-term economic development for Tampa.”

Busta says Good created a program for 25 scholarships valued at $5,000 each, which was the largest program the school had at the time.

Additionally, Good committed to funding two Eminent Scholars chairs. “One was funded right away, the other was one payment away when I left” in mid-1990, he says.

There’s no doubt in Busta’s mind that Good’s heart was in the right place.

“Ken has a very interesting personality,” he says. “He was a very gregarious person. But his commitment to the institution was unquestionable and unwavering. Whenever we had an opportunity to do something at the university and needed community support — new businesses we were trying to attract, briefing our needs to a legislative delegation — he was willing to make statements, play host at Tampa Palms or attend (functions) at the university. He was very supportive.”

Another scholarship project of Good’s making met with mixed results.

Good contacted the Washington, D.C.-based Urban Land Institute (ULI) a few years ago and said he’d like to create $100,000 in scholarships in the name of his mentor, Dallas developer Henry S. Miller, Jr.. The money was to come out of the Good Gulfstream Foundation annually for 10 years.

For the next two years, the foundation paid ULI and everyone was happy. By the third year, 1989, Good’s well had run dry. By the time ULI learned there would be no money coming from the Good Gulfstream Foundation it had already committed the funds to students. ULI had to take the money out of its own coffers.

To make matters worse, the year Good failed to deliver, he invited the students to fly to ULI’s annual meeting in San Francisco. Good said he’d pay for the trip and ULI advanced the money — $18,000. He never reimbursed the institute.

“What I understand is the assets of the foundation was in property and they were unable to sell the property,” says Rachelle Levitt, staff vice president for education at the institute. “The year they paid us, it was with borrowed money. The person at the foundation told us they never had the cash, that they had borrowed it against the property.

“I’ve been with ULI for nine years,” she says, “and we’ve never had a problem with someone not coming through. I do believe he was well-intentioned. The motivation wasn’t clear. He didn’t seem to have any self-serving reasons. He just seemed to be benevolent — at the time.”

The Arts

Joe Abrahams is administrator of parks, recreation and cultural services for Tampa. He believes Good’s actions will have long-term significance for the cultural health of the city.

“Number one,” according to Abrahams, “he made a donation of an artistic fountain by Yaacov Agam that is estimated to be worth $900,000. It will be installed at the new convention center. We have the (University of Tampa) minarets; the fountain could be the second thing that becomes associated with Tampa.”

“It will be a work of fascination,” says Andrew Maass, director of the Tampa Museum of Art. “All of Agam’s work revolves around color and motion. He likes to play with the way one color or illusion changes to another. It’s kinetic and that creates interest. People will be fascinated by it and it will be a magnet for the convention center.”

Larger sculptures by Agam are displayed publicly in Chicago and Miami.

“It was a wonderful gesture,” says Maass. “One helluva gesture.”

The fountain was previously featured at Good’s Denver home. Abrahams says that the developer learned Tampa Mayor Sandy Freedman was an admirer of Agam’s and he decided to make it a gift to the convention center. Freedman took personal charge of many aspects of the center and Good knew the sculpture would please her.

Couldn’t the developer simply have made a less costly contribution to the mayor’s re-election campaign if he wanted to impress her and earn her favor?

“He could have done that and gotten in her good book,” Abrahams concedes. “But it was more than that. And I don’t think it was tied with any favor in return. I think he had a feel for the relationship between the arts and development. He just wanted to make a contribution to the community. I don’t think there was any ulterior motive. He didn’t even want the publicity we tried to tie him with when we made the announcement.”

Following the initial hoopla of the announcement of Good’s donation came a wave of negative publicity when the developer’s financial woes began to multiply and he was unable to bear the cost of installing the fountain, estimated at $30,000.

“A $900,000 item and we’re going to invest $30,000? Is it worth it? Sure,” says Abrahams.

Abrahams says when the fountain is formally unveiled and dedicated, Good’s name will be prominent.

“We’re not going to deprive his name of the credit that is deserved,” says the parks director. “We will probably come up with a permanent plaque that indicates it was a donation from him.”

Good’s other act of benevolence toward the arts involved the donation of a Tampa Palms home to the Tampa Museum of Art. It was auctioned to the highest bidder, bringing $100,000 to the museum. “That $100,000 was the single highest gift the museum ever received,” according to Maass. “We received the check as things were starting to crumble (for Good). But the check cleared.”

Maass — who is frequently mistaken for Good (“bearded and bald,” he quips) — says the developer invested much time and energy to museum fundraisers, corporate breakfasts and that he attended most openings.

“He sparked attention for the arts. Whether or not you would call what he did grandstanding, he raised the visibility of the arts. The impression I had was of a person who would like to make the grand gesture. He wanted to be the gem but he was uncut. He had rough edges. He was the opposite of champagne taste on a beer budget.”


Under the category of what might have been, Good was approached a few years ago by a number of prominent Tampans — including George Steinbrenner and Tampa Tribune Sports Editor Tom McEwen — to donate a site for a potential Olympic training site. Good promised the group a plot of 100 acres at Tampa Palms if they could convince the U.S. Olympic Committee to locate some training activities here.

Good even became chairman of the local group.

“He did a great job. He went all out on that bid,” according to Jimmy Carnes, chairman of site selection for U.S. Olympic training centers and a co-founder of the Athletic Attic sporting goods chain. “He was a very nice fella, good to work with and always delivered on anything he (promised).”

The U.S. had an existing training center in Colorado Springs with a second under construction in San Diego. Supporters wanted to bring a third to the east coast. But just having the land wasn’t enough. Under the anticipated weight of $50-million-plus to build such a facility, the proposal withered and died.

Devil or Just That Darned Developer?

Not many people can easily describe Ken Good.

“I have nothing but respect for him intellectually and for his ability to think outside the box. Tremendously creative. A doer who not only conceives of things but finds a way to make them happen,” says Don Whyte.

But what’s he like?

“I would be at a loss for words,” says Whyte. “Ken’s a difficult person to describe, to get close to and get to know well.”

This from a man who has known Good a long, long time.

“He may be a little like Don Quixote,” romanticizes George Sturdivant. “His thinking process is entirely different in terms of finances than anyone I’ve ever come across. It was probably over everybody’s head and that was to his detriment. The way he anticipated leveraging things, he needed the economy to turn big time. If it had, he would’ve been a hero.”

Camille Roberts thinks she knows why so many people felt like Good perpetually kept them at arm’s length. “Ken is like — I don’t want to say the absent-minded professor, but he’s one of those smart people who doesn’t deal well on a basic level. He doesn’t do small talk with people who don’t have anything to offer. He doesn’t deal well with Joe Blow.

“I don’t think he’s the kind of guy who went out to hurt anybody,” she adds. “He’s just a gambler. People who are in the real estate community know Ken was not the reason Tampa Palms went back to the Bank of Boston and Citicorp. In the S&L mess, they’re going to take the most colorful characters and he’s one of them.”

Roberts doesn’t expect Good — who is living in New York’s SoHo district — will ever return to Tampa to do business. “He’s a Colorado guy,” she says.

Fran Davin, executive director of the Tampa Parkway Association — of which Tampa Palms is a member — says while he was here, Good was of the community, not just in it. “He wasn’t a hit and run,” she says. “I don’t know what his corporate and personal commitments in Texas and Colorado were, but his involvement here was real.”

Whyte doesn’t believe there’s anything to be gained from a reconsideration of Ken Good’s community acts. He points to other big givers in town and says his former boss was just doing what he thought was expected of him.

“Ken saw that to be involved in Tampa you had to give more than lip service,” according to Whyte. “The people who had an appreciation for what was done still have that appreciation. And there’s an awful lot of business leaders in this community — people like Hugh Culverhouse — who give a lot back. If you look at what Culverhouse has given just to USF, it’s phenomenal.”

Besides, it’s good business.

Ken Good is not only a visionary with a talent for juggling dollar bills with lots of zeroes, he is a showman. Flamboyant, gregarious, fast-lane, neon lights — he knew how to turn people on. In Tampa, being the candy man with charity works well.

“It’s great business,” says Whyte. “It’s a great way to show the name of the community before the public, that you’re here and you’re real, that you’ll be here tomorrow. That sounds bad today, but Ken sincerely believed in giving back to the community.”

Joe Abrahams says it’s human nature to jump on someone when they’re down and out, even if it artificially accelerates the plunge.

“When people get in trouble, no matter what it is,” he says, “people drop them, they don’t want people to know they’re still associated with them. I suppose there’s also a group of people who look at the end result differently. If I was in business with Ken, I might feel the same way towards him now. You know who I compare him to? Steinbrenner. He’s a helluva nice guy. But with everything that’s happened with the Yankees, people cast him aside. If you write a complimentary article about him, there’s a lot of people who would not believe a word of it. Ken Good is like that.”

It’s impossible to separate the two Ken Goods. But even if the developer is the monster he’s been painted, some in Tampa have reason to think well of this quirky, gifted developer. And Tampa’s best, brightest and richest shouldn’t be too quick to throw stones. Something big, hairy and financially messy may be gaining on them, too:

Times are tough. They may get tougher. Today’s civically correct businessman may be tomorrow’s black hole. It may be time to decide if we’re going to throw our corporate babes out with their dirty bathwater or if we’re going to hang tough with them in the bad times and remember the days when they made us proud.

“A person is responsible for everything they’re involved in,” says Joe Busta. “But Tampa does owe Ken Good for making a change in the way the community does business and thinks. The scale of Tampa Palms changed the whole market and led to other developments. He caused city government to view things differently — seeing annexation as sweet things. He caused the city council to see the county as a bigger place than the downtown core. His presence changed the course of the city. Some people will be reluctant to admit that, but it’s a fact.”

Bob Andelman is the author or co-author of 12 books, including Mind Over Business with Ken Baum, The Consulate with Thomas R. Stutler, The Profiler with Pat Brown, Built From Scratch with the founders of The Home Depot, The Profit Zone with Adrian Slywotzky, Mean Business with Albert J. Dunlap, and Will Eisner: A Spirited Life. Click here to see Bob Andelman’s Amazon Central author page. He is a member in good standing of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (member page).  [Get Copyright Permissions]Copyright 2011 Bob Andelman. Click here for copyright permissions!

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Stitcher’s ‘Meet the Talkers’ turns tables, poses embarrassing questions to ‘the other King of All Media,’ Mr. Media!

By Matty Staudt
Stitcher Radio
January 7, 2011

Bob “Mr. Media” Andelman has been in the business for over 30 years. Through his newspaper columns, radio shows, and podcasts he has interviewed over 700 people. He and Matty talk about his career, how he finds his guests, some of his favorites, and an awkward moment with an actor from the TV show “Heroes.”


Hear it now!BOB ANDELMAN audio excerpt: “We’re making a great effort in 2011 to go all video with Mr. Media celebrity interviews.” 

Bob Andelman is the author or co-author of 10 books, including ‘The Profiler’ with Pat Brown, ‘Built From Scratch’ with the founders of The Home Depot, and ‘Will Eisner: A Spirited Life.’ • Follow Bob on Twitter or Facebook.

 [Get Copyright Permissions]Copyright 2010 Bob Andelman. Click here for copyright permissions!

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Kurt Long and FairWarning: Ahead of the Curve (Maddux Business Report)

By Bob Andelman Maddux Business Report
November 2009

Whatever his personal political beliefs, St. Petersburg software developer Kurt Long found good things to say about select leaders of both parties over the last 12 months.

Long’s company, FairWarning, develops privacy software used by hospitals, medical centers and doctors to ensure patient confidentiality and electronic medical records privacy. It was a promising market when he hung out a shingle four years ago after a long and successful run with his previous company, OpenNet; today he is sitting on another potential goldmine.
The first career-changing moment came when Republican California Gov. Arnold Schwarzennegger signed legislation on September 30, 2008 creating a state office to police patient privacy and issue fines of up to $250,000 for violations. That was a huge, manna-from-Heaven moment all by itself for FairWarning.
“During calendar year 2008,” Long says, “there were a lot of high profile breaches of privacy—unfortunately its only celebrities that get the notoriety, when it’s truly the tip of the iceberg. The mistake these guys did in California was snooping on (Schwarzennegger’s wife) Maria Shriver’s records. Within months, Gov. Schwarzennegger signed into law an anti-snooping provision. For the first time ever, it defined what snooping was and defined substantive fines for people involved in snooping.”
To put that in perspective, Long claims that UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles may have had thousands of medical records breaches in 2008 that didn’t cost it a penny. Those same invasions of privacy in 2009 would have brought $25 million in state penalties.
And in February, when Democratic authors of the 2009 federal stimulus—the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—included new requirements for electronic health records and privacy requirements, that was a second unexpected, life-changing development for Long.
“Buried in there—nothing to do with monies allocated—there were 70 pages of privacy language that passed,” according to Long. “The first time I heard of it, it was a rumor. A customer sent us an email: ‘Did you realize?’ I didn’t, actually. The language was negotiated in the last hours, but it was signed in a form that healthcare privacy advocates had been hoping for for years.”
HIPPA—Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act—created general guidelines in 1996 for medical professionals to observe, but it lacked enforcement or requirements that patients be notified if a breach occurred. “If some bad guys broke in and stole your records,” Long says, “there was no federal law that required that health care entity to notify you that your records had been comprised. And there was no requirement to notify the federal government—or anyone else.
“Thousands and thousands of records were compromised. There was this concept that you could go to Health and Human Services and hope their civil rights office would take your case—among 50,000 others. Now there is federal law to require that entity to report to the media and the federal government if there is a breach. And they will receive tiered penalties.”
The new reporting will likely be akin to what happens when a credit card company’s electronic records are stolen, exposing thousands of customers and their account numbers.
There is such a thing as too much of a good thing, too much, too soon. And that does strike a cautionary note with Long. “It was legislation catching up on 10 years of neglect in 10 days. I was worn out on the prior administration’s attitudes on privacy and enforcement. I don’t know what to say. Is it too good to be true or is it too much too soon?”
Health care industry officials are among those playing catch-up with the new California and federal rules, trying to absorb what just happened in the omnibus recovery bill. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has something called the “Red Flag” rule for financial identity theft. As of November 1, 2009, health care organizations will fall under federal identity theft rules and be required to take steps to minimize identity theft.
That “ka-ching!” sound effect you just heard was the virtual cash register at FairWarning jingling like never before.
“In California, our sales are going through the roof,” Long says. “They have already fined Kaiser Permanente several hundred thousand dollars in the Octomom case” for privacy breaches. The deaths of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett and the invasion of their medical records only created more demand for vendors such as FairWarning to sell their wares. “Our challenge is that we have this amazing, unique product and a four-year head start on this sector nobody cared about. The question is, how do we capitalize on that? How do we get to all these places fast? How do we educate the market? How do we mobilize a sales force? Those are no small challenges. We’re going to grow. My wife should fire me if I don’t grow the business. We have to grow it a lot if we want to be the world’s largest provider of these services.”
FairWarning software can detect a nurse that has accessed 100 patients in a day, according to Long, or whether she printed out sequential medical records. The company will notify the medical and security officers if it occurs and provide detail such as whether data was copied to a USB drive or sent to a Yahoo or Gmail account.
All this demand puts a serious squeeze on FairWarning, which still operates like a start-up in many ways. As of early September, the company employed fewer than 20 people full-time “but we’re hiring,” Long says. And rather than ramping up too fast or too much, challenging quality control, Long made a tactical decision to take on sales and marketing partners that could supply and service worldwide demand. The first two FairWarning resellers are huge: McKesson and Oracle. “We’re trying to figure out how to mobilize their worldwide sales force,” Long says. And there are 30 more companies waiting in line to join them. Eventually, the resellers will be trained to customize FairWarning software for their customers.
“We have to phase it in,” Long says. “The resellers will do training and planning but we won’t let them touch the data. There is a lot of quality control we have to worry about.”
Another decision: Long isn’t returning to his globetrotting OpenNetwork days.
“This is a no-travel business model,” he says. “We did a digital sales process and digital deployment so nobody flies. I’m managing as many or more customers as I had at OpenNetwork with one-eighth of the people. We’re absolutely going to hire, but it’s a much more leveraged, more profitable model. I’m tired of traveling on business. If we travel on business, it’s the kind of things you want to be traveling for.”
Long makes technology work for him; FairWarning  webinars, white papers and press releases were downloaded more than 60,000 times in the first eight months of 2009 and there were 1,200 live attendees to the company’s webinars.
“We’re using webinar technology and remote access technology and every kind of digital advantage we can gain across marketing, sales and support. Here we are, a little company in St. Petersburg, Florida, and we’ve signed University of California Medical Centers and Scripps Health,” Long says. “We’re in 200 hospitals and 700 clinics. It’s a start, but in the US alone there are 5,706 hospitals. Globally, you can about double that market.”



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Pinellas County Corporate Report: Jobs. Period. (Maddux Business Report)

The PierThe Pier in St. Petersburg, image via WikipediaBy Bob Andelman Maddux Business Report
December 2009

Over the last two decades, Pinellas County economic development has at times embraced military contractors, medical manufacturers, tourism operators and technology developers. Rolling with the latest twist and turns of the national economy, county leaders are supporting expansion of all four.

The big news is the rapid impact of Stanford University-based SRI Florida and Cambridge-based Draper Laboratory, which have formed partnerships with the University of South Florida and hired locally at an even faster pace than promised.
And the Young-Rainey STAR Center in Largo, the CTC Tampa Bay/STAR Technology Enterprise Center—once intended as a mere incubator for nascent technology-based businesses—has grown new tentacles, adding new programs from businesses at different levels. It also doubled its space and increased staff.
There have been other successes for the EDC in the past year, including: Geographic Solutions, which will increase its employment base by 20 percent; Biopsy Sciences, a company that relocated to Pinellas from Tucson, Arizona; and Plasma-Therm, a St. Petersburg-based company that returned to local control and ownership in 2009.
Geographic Solutions has 110 employees at its Palm Harbor headquarters. “There are some real strategic advantages in our location because we can attract a lot of employeees from North Pinellas and Pasco County,” says CEO Paul Toomey. “Our offices are very close for software developers who live in these bedroom communities; their only other alternative is driving to jobs in downtown Tampa or St Pete.
To accommodate planned expansion, Geographic is starting construction on a new 18,000-square-foot. It already owns or leases 15,000 square feet.
Mike Meidel, director of Pinellas County Economic Development, says his job this coming year is simple.
“Jobs are the focus, period,” he says. “It always has been, always will be, that we’re here to produce more and better jobs for Pinellas County citizens. We do a better job of the retention and existing business programs and even new business startup and entrepreneurship than most counties in Florida because, with the makeup of our county, the industries we already have, and the fact that we are nearing build-out, we are by force of necessity working with our existing employers and helping them to expand here locally.”
• • •
It’s hard to tell who is more excited about the fast start of Draper Laboratory in St. Petersburg—EDC officials or Dr. Len Polizzotto, the R&D facility’s principal director for strategic business development.
“We had all these goals through the end of 2009 and 2010,” he says. “Well, we have met the goals for the end of ’10 now. We’re very pleased.”
Draper promised EDC and state leaders that it would staff up to 30 employees by the end of 2010, a number it reached by fall 2009. “We expect to have 65 people in St. Petersburg after five years and 100 people in Tampa after seven years. These are all innovation economy, good wage jobs,” Polizzotto says.
The lab doesn’t do production a traditional sense, instead producing small lots of multi-chip modules (MCMs) in St. Petersburg for specific government contracts—all of which are protected under a veil of official secrecy. “We’re the only folks who make these things,” according to Polizzotto. “We’ll have a run of 100. It’s a pilot prototype.” This work was previously done in Cambridge but Draper ran out of capacity in Massachusetts. It’s affiliation with SRI and familiarity with the California-based research institute’s plans in St. Petersburg brought Draper here.
“I can’t say enough good things about the community,” Polizzotto says. “The community has been fabulous. The government groups—state, federal or local government—Mayor Rick Baker, Governor Charlie Crist, Rep. Bill Young (R), Rep. Kathy Castor (D)—have been great. The business community—including the Tampa Bay Partnership and the county folks—couldn’t be better. We’ve had no issue hiring the type of people we need. We intentionally sent down a few people from Cambridge for each facility so we could maintain the Draper culture, but the majority of folks are locals who we’ve hired here.”
Another positive and unexpected development in Draper’s landing: instead of renting facilities, it purchased a building from Oerlikon-Buehrle Holding—now Plasma-Therm. “It shows our commitment of staying here for the long term,” Polizzotto says.
Draper had a ribbon cutting for its new facility on October 26.
Speaking of which, Draper has moved so rapidly in St. Petersburg that it actually opened its local headquarters ahead of SRI, which arrived in town first but built from the ground up. At deadline, SRI hoped to open its doors by year’s end.
Larry Langebrake, who left USF’s Department of Marine Sciences to head up SRI’s Florida presence, couldn’t be more proud of what SRI has wrought.
“What we’re seeing is the reality of the technology cluster coming together,” Langebrake says. “Candidly, these things are always a challenge. And with the current economic situation, it’s made a challenging job even harder. But the fact is, Draper is here and there are other potential contributors to the cluster.”
He’s referring to the North Carolina-based Research Triangle Institute, which is affiliated with three major research universities in that state and which has publicly expressed interest in joining SRI, Draper and the University of SouthFlorida in St. Petersburg.
“We’re still waiting to see how things progress with the state,” Langebrake says. “It’s in the state’s hands.
“Meanwhile, there is anecdotal evidence of smaller companies with cutting edge technology beginning to look more closely at this region because the cluster is coming together. The momentum has begun,” he continues. “We’re seeing the fruits of the labors of the Tampa Bay Partnership, the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership, USF and St. Petersburg College, the county and city economic development groups, and Enterprise Florida. All these things have conspired to brand the region, to bring companies in and to sustain the momentum. People are focusing in on how the culture of the region is changing.”
• • •
Tonya Elmore, executive director of the CTC Tampa Bay/STAR Technology Enterprise Center at the Young-Rainey STAR Center in Largo,
says the center has expanded from operating a technology accelerator to offering four distinct programs:
TEC Launch is a launch pad for inventors, entrepreneurs, and early stage companies developing innovative technology with the ability to change a market. Launch will validate an idea and determine if an invention/product has merit.
TEC Venture builds springboards from which businesses can launch. Completing the TEC Venture program should place a company in a stronger position to apply for the TEC Accelerator program, raise capital, execute with high-impact, or all of the above.
• TEC Accelerator executes a vetted and feasible business plan with precision and accuracy. Graduating from the TEC Accelerator program should indicate that the firm has beaten the odds and is well on the path to sustainable high-impact growth.
• TEC Transition acts as a resource for early stage technology companies, and entrepreneurs developing technologies for the defense sector by: providing mentoring on commercialization/business plans, sales, marketing, government contracting and dual-use markets; licensing technologies from military and other federal laboratories for commercialization; and determining the technology readiness level (TRL) and manufacturing readiness level (MRL) of emerging technology.
“TEC Venture gets them to an executable business plan,” Elmore says. “TEC Launch started because one of our companies found its product was already out there—and being provided by the government! So we started doing market research strategies with these companies and USF. They needed more comprehensive reports at the beginning, not the nuts and bolts stuff. TEC Venture is more focused on planning; TEC Accelerator is focused on execution.”
CTC Tampa Bay/STAR TEC now has 13 employees and more than 50 mentors and advisors it calls on for guidance. The operation recently doubled in size to 40,000 square feet and is looking to add 10,000 more.
“We’ll lease you space if you need it,” she says, “but you don’t have to be on site. We even work with a company in Canada through our military contacts. One company outsources its manufacturing in Clearwater; they need to understand better how to do business with government clients. “
Clearwater facing uphill battle after new downtown residences are built but remain empty
There was genuine excitement in downtown Clearwater and Clearwater Beach during recent years as long sought residential and resort hotel development came to fruition. On the beach, the Sandpearl opened on time and to rave reviews in August 2007; this February, the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa will begin accepting reservations.
On the other hand, the completion of Water’s Edge on the downtown waterfront was not the major event that was expected. First it was discovered that the condominium tower was built on a slender piece of land the developer did not own or control. That issue was settled but was quickly followed by the real estate crash and the stunning collapse of developer Opus South, which declared bankruptcy.
“Our two condominiums were completed,” says Geri Campos Lopez, director of economic development and housing for the city, “but unfortunately they hit that market at the wrong time. Opus South (Water’s Edge)is in bankruptcy and the other one—Station Square Companies—returned their building to their lender.”
Campos Lopez says there are fewer than a dozen occupied condominiums at Water’s Edge and just three in Station’s Square.
“One of the key components of downtown is having people live downtown. So it’s going to take a while,” she says.
Instead, the downtown is going to another strength: location. It is emphasizing retail and restaurant recruitment for downtown and with some real success to show for its efforts. La Cachette, a fine dining French restaurant, relocated from Indian Rocks Beach in November. Dunedin-based Bellini’s announced plans to open “Casanova” this spring in downtown Clearwater. A third restaurant, Divino, opened on Ft. Harrison.
“We had a specific strategy,” says Campos Lopez. “All of this has been geared to creating a destination downtown. We know the first step is restaurants. The consultant showed there is a market. But we need to focus on restaurants that already have a clientele that might be interested in relocating or opening a second location.”
• • •
The $30 million, 90,000-square-foot Dunedin Gateway project on the east side of town includes medical, office and retail facilities on Main Street at Dunedin’s southern entry. Phase one includes 20,000 square feet of medical office space and 25,000 square feet of retail space.

Tom Harmer, vice president of Pizzuti Solutions and project manager for Dunedin Gateway, says, “We’ve always liked Dunedin; it’s a unique niche in Pinellas County that has done well. In this economy, some tenants are struggling but the downtown has kept its occupancy high. We’re targeting medical—a sector that has been stronger than others. We’re optimistic that the location and ties to downtown will interest tenants. There is an anchor piece that is about 15,000 square feet. Then we have another 10,000 square feet of inline retail and 20,000 square feet of medical office on the second and third floors.”

The City of Dunedin received a $1.3 million state grant to underground utilities and infrastructure around the project.
On the west side of town is another new development, Sterling Commons. Tarpon Springs-based contractor Joe Kokolakis bought a dormant, two-story building with about 8,000 square feet of existing space. The second floor will be home for artists who once were displaced by a fire and have since moved from place to place in search of permanent studio space.
“It was the old rec center for the city,” says Kokolakis. “It was left in disrepair for the last 10 to 20 years. A group of developers was planning to develop a six-story condo on the site but the bank stepped in and took it. I have some property across the street and wound up buying it from the bank. I renovated it and added 4,000 square feet of retail. It’s retail on the first floor and I have the second leased to the Dunedin Fine Art Center. They have 5,500 square feet for 20 studios for small artists to sublease. There are also two classrooms.”
 “It’ll be pretty cool there,” according to Bob Ironsmith, Dunedin’s director of economic development.
County Manager Bob LaSala on the biggest issues facing Pinellas in 2010
Bob LaSala is in his second tour of duty with Pinellas County Government. The first time around, from1979-89, he served as chief assistant county administrator under Fred Marquis. He spent the next 20 years in a variety of roles around the United States, ultimately returning in 2008 to succeed Marquis as county manager.
The Maddux Business Report asked LaSala what he sees as the biggest issues facing Pinellas in the coming year. This is what he said:
“Number one is learning what the new ‘normal’ will be in this economy. And I don’t think we’ll know at the end of 2010; we’re just seeing the new normal unfold. What’s going to be the role of county government going forward? Our budget is the real story. We did a projection of revenue allocation and we’re not going to be able to sustain current levels of services without an infusion of revenue.
“I think a big issue will be for the community to keep body and soul together in an environment where 50 percent of the property is worth less than what’s owed on it. The level of foreclosures is steep by national—but not Florida—standards. Our projections show assessed values will continue to drop in 2009 and won’t show up till 2010. What does that mean for people?
“Will the commercial real estate market be the other shoe to fall? And if so, what happens then?
“As we look to the future, what does redevelopment mean for a built-out community? Because what it means in St. Petersburg and St. Pete Beach and Oldsmar and Palm Harbor is quite different.
“Preparing for the issue of transit and light rail as Hillsborough County goes forward with its initiative in 2010 is important. What does that foretell for Pinellas County if it passes? And if it doesn’t, that sends a different message.
“Tourism is a bigger piece of the economic engine here than in Hillsborough. Has the industry found its bottom? Is it on the way back? Does it hold flat? And what about the tax that comes from that? We’re also trying to balance quality of life against constraining the cost of government and protecting the viability of our beaches from the offshore drilling issue.
“I don’t think unemployment has peaked yet in Florida. The creation of new jobs is going to be slower here than elsewhere and we’re going to have chronic unemployment for some time. What does that mean for the economic life of Pinellas?
“Pinellas isn’t growing; in fact, it seems to be contracting a bit. It’s not as dramatic as in Rust Belt communities so it’s not high on anybody’s radar screen yet.”
Sidebar: Three Questions for DT Minich
DT Minich took over as executive director of Visit St. Petersburg Clearwater in April 2007. He was previously tourism boss in Lee County.
Q. How concerned are you about talk of offshore drilling near Pinellas beaches?
DT Minich: I’m very concerned. We’re the only county in the state that went through one of these spills—in 1993. If you look at the business drop we went through after 9-11 and these last 12 months, that was nothing compared to what happened to us after that oil spill. The Pinellas County group has been the most vocal in the state against this. Now they say we would be off limits, that the Pinellas Aquatic Preserve would be protected in the bill. But if anything happens north of us, it would still affect our beaches. We’re very opposed to this issue. It’s a shame we have to spend so much time money fighting this.
It’s just too big of a risk. The foundation of the state has always been tourism.
Q. You’ve been hoping to find or develop more meeting space. Any luck?
Minich: The Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce hired a consultant firm to do a study on it. They just came out with that and it’s favorable about what we’ve been talking about: a smaller convention center. We don’t want to compete with the Tampa Convention Center.
Florida Huddle will be held in January 2010 and that will be the last event at Harborview Center in downtown Clearwater. It was not built for that; it was converted from a department store. It has columns throughout, no breakout rooms. We rarely used it and there are no hotels.
A big event space opened in Tarpon Springs where they converted the old Louis Pappas Riverside Cafe into The Riverside Venue at Tarpon Springs, a banquet and event space that can accommodate up to 1,000 people. But again, there is no hotel there, either, so it’s used more for social events than meetings.
In December, the Hyatt will open on Clearwater Beach and they’ll have meeting space. They built their space based on the number of rooms they’ve got. But it’s not a big Hyatt and the space was built accordingly.

Q. What is one thing that would help tourism in Pinellas in 2010?

Minich: Probably a little healthier economy and people’s attitudes towards the economy turning. We’re starting to see that. Long term, a more robust meetings market would help. We’ve been fortunate; we’ve seen a drop-off on meetings but not the way destinations that have a Four Seasons have. We felt like stepchildren before because we didn’t have big brands but now it’s working in our favor because people are looking at the Sandpearl, the Hyatt, the Renaissance Vinoy and shying away from the very high-end brands.
We’ll probably attract more limited service hotels in the future. Right now we don’t have anything coming out of the ground. I’m hoping in 2010 for new things to come out of the ground. Our biggest property, Tradewinds, will be doing a major renovation of its guest rooms and that will be like having a new hotel.
Sidebar: Three Questions for Dr. Carl Kuttler
Few people can remember a time when Dr. Carl Kuttler wasn’t the president and guiding light of what was St. Petersburg Junior College, a two-year institution, and is now simply St. Petersburg College and offering four-year college degrees. This past year, Kuttler—who had an influence on global education thanks to his warm, long-standing personal relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin—decided it was time to move on from the school he built with his own two hands.

Q. Where is St. Petersburg College headed from here?

Dr. Carl Kuttler: We have produced, between our university partner center and our own four-year degrees, 115 degree programs with thousands of graduates. Those have resonated throughout the county. We have 29,000 students online and run the best high school in the county. The nursing school is one of the largest in the South. The College of Education will probably be the biggest in the state in a couple years.

So as the universities ratchet up their tuition with 15 percent compounded increases and continue to raise their standards, it’s making it more difficult to get in. But our future, serving our community, is very bright.

Q. Why did you voluntarily decide it was time to move on?

Kuttler: First of all, I’ve served 43 years. Eight years ago, people asked when I was 62 if I would retire. Now I’m 70. I haven’t said I’ll totally quit. I took SPC through three major phases: two years to four years; then the four-year program this year became state college level. That’s a lot of migration, as well as adding the high school and online education. And it takes a while to pick a president!
The big battles are over. I’m leaving with millions in reserves, good endowments, and healthy scholarship programs. We’re also one of the best-run financial institutions in Florida.

Q. What are you proudest of from your many years at the school’s helm?

Kuttler: I think, certainly, the two- to four-year jump would be one of the big ones. We were not getting, on this peninsula, the degrees we wanted. If you could read the letters from graduates, it’s pretty exciting.
And the University Partnership Center—according to Harvard University, it’s one of the best in the world.
Every time (Putin) comes to this country, we find a way to see each other. That was a unique relationship. When I first went to the old Soviet Union, he was in charge of my visit. We traveled together each day. He later said, in a national address on the 300thanniversary of his country, that St. Petersburg College helped make him president of Russia. It’s a good argument why international education on college campuses is important; when you travel somewhere, you never know when the person hosting you may become president, so treat him kindly.
Sidebar: Three Questions for Noah Lagos
Noah Lagos may have the toughest job in Pinellas County Government because, as director of St. Petersburg Clearwater International Airport, his success or failure is always in the hands of regional airline executive. Going all the way back to PEOPLExpress, their companies have a habit of rising fast at the local airport and suddenly crashing back to earth.
Q. It’s been a tough year. What gives you hope that the airport will thrive again?
Noah Lagos: Our traffic has been steady for the third year in a row. Allegiant has made us a focus city and continues to grow here. Our numbers are impressive when you consider that USA 3000 left a year ago. But we lost that airline and our traffic is only flat because Allegiant has increased its capacity.
Our numbers through August showed us down three percent year-to-date. I think that’s quite an achievement when you look at other airports seeing double-digit reductions in flight activity.
People like using our airport based on size and convenience and they like Allegiant because of its low cost and that it flies point-to-point.
Q. St. Petersburg Clearwater International has been burned a few times over the last two decades by becoming too reliant on a single air carrier. But what choice do you have?
Lagos: The fact of the matter is that we fish in a small pond. The major carriers are at Tampa International Airport. Small airports struggle with smaller airlines and ride the coattails of those that succeed and suffer with those that come and go. We don’t control the product. In some ways, we operate as a shopping mall: we lease space, but we don’t control the pricing, the destinations and we don’t control the airlines.
Allegiant is very stable. Their stock trades at a higher per share value than any other airline that’s being traded.
In 2004, we did 1.33 million air passengers. ATA went bankrupt and pulled out. They were 65 percent of our traffic; people loved flying on ATA. Southeast went belly-up. As a result, we saw our traffic go as low as 400,000.

Q. Why is St. Petersburg Clearwater International important to the Pinellas economy?

Lagos: There are a couple reasons. We’re a pretty large employer as a whole—there are 1,600 jobs in or through the airport. We have an economy impact of $750 million per year.
We also provide the quickest entrance into Pinellas County for tourism. The cities that Allegiant serves are not duplicated at Tampa International. We bring in tourists that normally wouldn’t come here. And we provide outgoing service to Pinellas residents to cities they want to go.
We also serve counties other than Pinellas. We get a significant number of riders from Hillsborough County and 19 percent from Sarasota and Bradenton. Our driving distance to Disney is about as far to Disney as Orlando-Sanford International Airport—where Allegiant also has a major presence.
Sidebar: College Updates
Eckerd College in St. Petersburg has raised $70 million of its $80 million campaign goal, which includes $30 million for a new molecular and life sciences center and several million more for a new campus arts center.
In late September, the private, liberal arts school—now in its 51st year—announced the highest fall enrollment numbers in its history with 1,842 full-time equivalent students. These students come from 45 states, 35 countries, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
• • •
Maling Ebrahimpour is the new dean for the College of Business at USF St. Petersburg. He hails from Rhode Island, where he served as dean of the Gabelli School of Business at Roger Williams University and led the school through a three-year process to achieve its initial accreditation by AACSB International. Ebrahimpour joined the school on August 1.
Construction on the 35,000-square-foot Science and Technology Building at USF St. Petersburg will be complete soon and the university expects to dedicate the, $12 million, 6,500-square-foot building in January.



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Good. Bad. Ugly. The state of Tampa Bay’s commercial real estate market (Maddux Business Report)

Lake Mirror in downtown Lakeland, Florida. Lak...Downtown Lakeland, Florida, image via WikipediaBy Bob Andelman
Maddux Business Report
March/April 2010

Fifty years in the commercial real estate business.  That’s a huge milestone for Lakeland-based Hauger-Bunch Inc., to be sure, but company president David Bunch says it’s not going to be a year full of celebration.

“You want an honest answer? I don’t have a clue,” he says. “Too many things at play that no one knows what to do with. I think it’s going to be the same (as last year). I don’t see anything too drastic changing it one way or the other.”
The prolonged land, development and leasing slump—and that’s probably too mild a word, but who wants to use the “D” word?—is not unlike some other memories Bunch recalls from his five decades of sales and the 800 businesses his company sited in those years.
“We’ve been through some funny times in those years that, to me, were as painful as this is,” he says.
But—and this is the key, he says—he’s not giving up.
“I have to be positive or I couldn’t sell anything,” Bunch says. “This country is not out of business. There is pain, there is suffering, but 85 to 90 percent of the country is working—contrary to what some people seem to think. So we look for the business. Somebody is doing something somewhere and we’ll go there.”
Seniority earned Bunch the right to sound off first in the Maddux Business Report’s annual commercial real estate outlook, but his views could have come from virtually anyone we surveyed. The prognosticators are uniformly sour on the months ahead, their eyes and hopes already locked on 2011, one hand clamped on their nearly empty wallets, the other covering their erratically beating hearts.
There’s enough blame to go around, but government gets a lot of it. Disappearing jobs are a huge issue and lost jobs translate into empty office, industrial and warehouse space.
“I don’t think I’ve seen anything of this magnitude in the years I’ve been in the business,” says Robin Bishop, president of Tampa-based Robin Bishop & Associates. “There is light at the end of the tunnel but I think we’ve got another year or so of this. The statistics are pretty startling. In every class of space, in every submarket, there has been negative absorption. When you see Westshore at 20 percent vacant… Not that long ago it was five percent. The most staggering statistic is in the Westshore submarket—750,000  sf of negative absorption. I don’t think you’ll see any new buildings come out of the ground anywhere in Tampa.
“We need jobs,” she adds. “That’s dragging us down here in Florida, particularly in Tampa.”
Steve Kossoff, managing director of Meridian Development Group in Clearwater and Sarasota has seen a little more activity—busywork, you might call it—but overall, it’s the same mindset as 2009.
“Last year,” he says, “Southeast investment sales were off 78 percent compared to the year before. It was abysmal. Leasing is at a snail’s pace. Vacancies are up, rates are down. The Sarasota-Bradenton market is almost unrecognizable compared to 2006-07. There is just nothing going on. It was so reliant on tourism and never diversified into other employment; now they’re left trying to pick up the pieces. It’s very tough sledding there now. A 70-person architectural firm we dealt with is out of business. The engineering firm we use laid off half its staff. We’re just managing our legacy assets. We haven’t bought a building in two years.
“Candidly,” Kossoff concludes, “I think we’ll be talking a year from now and be seeing some tangible improvement to the market. But I think it’s going to take another year.”
No argument there, says Hogan Group CEO Mike Hogan.
“Two-thousand-and-nine, in my opinion, was horrible,” says the Lutz-based developer. “There was virtually no leasing activity. There was no development because the banks aren’t loaning money. They say they are, but there is no demand. The economy was horrible. We had four or five projects that just stopped. Pieces of property we had, including a Kohl’s Department Store, were put on hold. And for the record, ‘08 wasn’t much better than ‘ 09. We are seeing an increase in office and retail traffic. Not deals, but people walking in the door, wanting to look at space for probably the first time in three years.”
Tampa real estate attorney Ron Weaver can tick off all the ways that the commercial real estate business collapsed—although Stearns Weaver stays pretty busy as a result of the fallout. “Office continues to freefall,” he says. “It’s going to have an awful year. The 17 percent official vacancy rate is probably closer to a true 30 percent. Technically you’ve got a tenant who may be paying rent or reduced rent but it’s on available space. You can go to a company and maybe they’re using 70 percent of their space and you could ask them to sublease 30 percent and they’ll say, ‘Please!’”
One of the issues hampering commercial real estate is the real or perceived collapse of the loan market.
NorthMarq Capital Managing Director Bob Hernandez doesn’t mince his words: he thinks it’s already happened.
“People may not know it if they’ve been paying their mortgage,” he says. “But if you have a loan coming due in the next few years, you’ll see values have come down 20 to 50 percent. Even if you’re going along the same as before, bankers will apply market rates to your rolling rents and cap rates and the loan you get will be greatly reduced.”
 “There is no question that the CMBS (commercial market-backed securities) market is a large pool that has to be recast,” says Raymond F. Sandelli, senior managing director for CB Richard Ellis-Tampa. “Part of that will be mitigation by the lending institutions today who will look at loans closer and look at clients with whom they choose to move forward. The key was to keep the system from collapsing, but the regulators moved in and, in their attempt to be judicious, were very hard on the lenders. People must first understand how the system works, what the rules are. Then they can look at the problems and look for the solution. Is there a concern? Yes. But people have a better sense of what the rules of engagement are. And I think the CMBS market will come back in some fashion. It’ll help mitigate the problems out there.”
That’s another reason for pessimism, says John T. McKay, president of the Riverside Real Estate Company in Bradenton.
“So many of the assets that are going to have problems have not come to a head yet,” he says. “The banks and other lenders are in a state of denial. And the banks are forced to be in a state of denial by the regulators. It’s not by choice. One minute their FDIC insurance is increased; the next minute the feds put another rule or regulation on them—contrary to everything you see about lenders being encouraged to lend more. There is a gap between the rhetoric on the political side and the actions of the regulators.”
Not to get biblical in this already overheated climate, but McKay believes there will come a reckoning in the money markets.
“As for the predicted deterioration of the commercial market, because of the reported $1.5 trillion in loans coming due over the coming years, that has yet to occur with the banks,” he says. “With the conduits— the Wall Street vehicles that made loans on shopping centers and office buildings—and the life insurance companies, it has yet to occur because the minimum loan term from the conduits was five years. Most people agree the peak was 2006-07, so those aren’t due yet. And when they are due, the conduits are faced with limited options because they have so many bondholders and the bondholders can have different objectives.
“It’s going to be interesting.”
You’ll get an “Amen!” to the notion of a coming day of financial bedlam from Bruce Erhardt.
“That’s definitely coming,” according to the executive director of Cushman and Wakefield in Tampa. “The financial institutions make the decision that says, ‘Pay me something and I’ll let you go another year or two.’ But if they lose tenants and rents go down more, they’ll probably lose the building. I don’t know how much longer we can pretend and extend; a rolling loan gathers no loss. But once it stops… that’s going to be a problem in the buildings the C class developers built. And then there are the people who just paid too much.
“There are a lot of buildings out there,” Erhardt continues,  “that don’t have a prayer to get refinancing because they don’t have the income to support the currentdebt. Some might be able to pay to refinance; others won’t make it. They paid too much at the peak. But the next guy in will buy it from the bank, lease it up and sell it at a profit.”
A common refrain in this survey is that there are investors who won’t even get into the market until there is total distress; they account for much of the money reportedly sitting on the sidelines during the current crisis. Billions of dollars in real estate loans will likely roll over in the next two to three years and be dumped at huge discounts to eager buyers who smell someone else’s loss and their own profit.
There are some positive indicators in the market, of course.
Sandelli chuckles at the thought of a better year ahead. But it’s a pleasant chuckle.
“I think ‘08 was a freefall,” he says.  “People felt the system was coming apart; I don’t know if there was a bottom. By mid-‘09 people started realizing the world wasn’t coming to an end and started planning for ‘10, planning the revenue. Everybody ratcheted back on expenses. Once people got to that point, they needed to downsize, renew or look for additional resources. After a quiet 12 months, we see the market starting to move and we see people once again adept at making decisions. I think it’s wrong to go back and say, ‘When’s it going to be like it was a few years ago?’ It’s not. But a few years ago didn’t make a lot of sense. Now you look for where the opportunities are and move forward.”
Raj Ravi, managing director of Prudential Commercial Real Estate in Land ’o Lakes and South Tampa, says 2010 “has to” be better ’09.
“Last year brought a learning curve on how banks and lenders handle certain properties,” he says. “But properties will have to move. Banks—per government—will have to increase capital and get properties off the books.  Not to exaggerate it, but there are some deals coming up. A lot of banks will get more aggressive. And buyers will see deals and say, ‘I would have liked to have been in that,’ whether bankers or brokers are showing them opportunities. It’s not going to be a home run year, but better than 09.”
One possible ray of light: leasing.
“Lease rates are lower but for shorter terms, so the landlord isn’t locked in,” according to Ravi. “The tenant is saying, ‘If I can get these terms, that will let us determine where things are going.’ At some point, things have to equalize. I don’t think there is any other option except to get back to what some people would call normal—at some point, but we’ve got a few years of adjustment ahead of us. What I know is, there are new and different opportunities coming up. And there are people who will capitalize on that and come out on top. We’re seeing deals, hearing about deals—we’re doing deals. When the right opportunities come up, you can see the right people coming in. There are funds and cash out there.”
The first places to see that will be in-fill locations where there is strong traffic and supportive demographics. “The recovery will be less,” Ravi says, “as you get to the outskirts and rural areas. The A locations are always going to get higher volume. We see people upgrading from B or C locations to an A or B because they know they can get in at a reduced lease rate. And as far as sales go, people are buying A properties they couldn’t buy a few years back. Now some of them are making sense at the numbers they being offered.”
Bunch feels the same way about Lakeland.
“I’m so imbued in dealing with my market here in Lakeland, sitting between Tampa and Orlando on I-4,” he says. “I think everybody see things as we do. Us being the recipient of overflow from two major markets and Disney, we’re going to be fine here. I wouldn’t change my location for anything. We’re not over-absorbed in anything. We’ve got appetite for everything. We have availability for 1.5 million sf of good, legitimate, modern warehouse space right now. And we have absorbed 1 million sf a year for many years, so that’s not a scary number. We don’t have a lot of vacant large offices; when things turn up, it’s going to be at multiple levels.”
The recovery of the commercial side of the market is dependent upon the speed of the recovery of the residential market, says McKay, who visualizes how it will occur. “Many, many subcontractors have left our state. They’ve gone to Louisiana and Texas. Once those folks start coming back, you’ll see apartments recover. Then warehouses and showroom warehouses will come back. Then I think you’ll see retail and office come back after that. Those two will lag the apartment and industrial markets.”
At Lakewood Ranch, residential sales—of both existing homes and land for new construction—is leading LWR Commercial Realty President Brian Kennelly to expect improvement on the community’s commercial side.
“It’s encouraging that our existing inventory for sale dropped below three percent,” Kennelly says. “That percent peaked at 10 percent. That has driven buyers back to our homebuilders. We closed 33 residential lot sales in the last five weeks in ‘09. Those were to builders with buyers. I’m scratching my head, too, sometimes, but that inventory is dropping. You can buy homes cheaply, but builders have adjusted to that by adjusting what they’re selling. Packages aren’t as expensive as they were. That’s how they’re getting people back in the door.
“As a result,” Kennelly adds, “I saw commercial activity pick up in the last quarter of 2009. We got some small lease deals done and there are some land transactions, which is a significant difference from the rest of last year. It doesn’t mean they’ll all get done—the primary obstacle being the capital markets.”
Weaver says business at his real estate-intensive law firm is different this year than last—better, actually.
“Deal-flow is up,” he says, “and not just the year-end stuff that had to be done for tax and other reasons. We’re seeing a distinct improvement. Industrial seemed one of the last to fall and is the first to come back. Industrial people don’t mess around. They get to the bottom of how bad it is and come back.”
Residential small lots sales are up, especially for townhome sites and more affordable lots, according to Weaver. “First-time homebuyers are using that $8,000 federal credit. Two-thousand-and-eight was denial and ‘09 was, ‘Oh, my goodness,’ with stronger expletives used by the sellers. The buyers have been scooping up better deals and they can afford their land-use lawyers again.
“Retail is begin to stabilize or not falling as fast as it was,” Weaver continues. “There are a few types of retail that can survive. And some of the banks are actually growing and buying branches in the market. Mutual of Omaha and Homebanc, Bay Cities Bank—certain banks are doing a good job. Some have gone out and reestablished certain market opportunities. Loans are being made, sometimes with the requirement of a relationship, some with 75 percent loans instead of 100 percent loans and stark appraisals.
“We have been so busy doing due diligence for buyers looking for bargains. There has been environment review all over the state, lots of due diligence related to foreclosure and related to those buying and selling notes. Due diligence is due diligence. Bad time due diligence is the same as good time due diligence. So when the market comes back you will have your regulatory requirements in place.”
Weaver credits “lots” of property use litigation statewide with keeping his staff of lawyers busy. “A lot of property owners have had time to reflect on the way government has treated them,” he says.
Sidebar: The Dirt Devil Speaks
Bill Eshenbaugh, president of the Eshenbaugh Land Co. in Tampa, spoke to the Maddux Business Report from his car in January, driving back from a statewide marketing meeting of commercial real estate brokers in Orlando. Eshenbaugh was a speaker at the event.
“I have to be pretty optimistic to face the market everyday. I told them that I don’t have any distressed real estate. I have righteously priced real estate. Look at values from 1999-2002 and I see what I work with was worth then—it’s worth the same today…
“A guy came up to me after my talk and said, ‘I have notes from what you said last year. Last year you said, “It’s going to take patience and resistance.” And it appears from what was said today, you were right. So I’m writing this ‘righteous pricing’ thing down today and will remind you of it next year.’”
Eshenbaugh pauses.
“What’s the statute of limitations on speeches?”


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Where are they now? Cleveland Wheeler, Mason Dixon (Maddux Business Report)

By Bob Andelman
Maddux Business Report
October 2009

Radio was more fun and unpredictable in the 1980s and early ‘90s thanks to air personalities such as Cleveland Wheeler and Mason Dixon, who were featured in our November 1988 and October 1991 cover stories, respectively.

In ’88, both were at the top of their game and working under the same roof, Q105 in Tampa, where Wheeler was co-creator of the wacky Q Morning Zoo and Dixon was the station’s effervescent afternoon drive guy. Few stations in modern radio history have dominated a market—or influenced their industry—as they did together.

But it was not to last.

Three years later, Dixon jumped to Clearwater-based Mix 96, where he shook the market again as host of Tampa Bay’s new #1 morning show. Today, Dixon is back at Q105 (now located in St. Petersburg), this time as the morning host, but things are far different.

Earlier this year, the once legendary Q laid off its entire air staff, keeping only Dixon. And Dixon—who survived a nearly deadly car crash five years ago—is programming Q105’s online, HD2 radio station, “The Faith,” which he calls “the most listened to Christian hit music station on the web.”

“The accident brought a lot of things home to me,” Dixon says, “what life is all about and how close you can be to almost not being here. It really moved me to do something bigger and better.”

As for Wheeler, he’s on the outside looking in.

He spent several years creating and programming a commercial-free, ‘60s music station at XM Satellite Radio. Before and since, however, several comeback attempts—including one at Tampa Bay country station WQYK—fizzled.

He is currently living in Galveston Beach, Texas—“ looking across the water with binoculars at you in Tampa Bay”—hoping to get back in the game one more time.



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Power Study: John Jovich’s presidential obsession (Tampa Bay Life, July 1991)



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The Power 25 (Tampa Bay Life cover story, July 1991)



[Get Copyright Permissions]Copyright 2010 Bob Andelman. Click here for copyright permissions!Some stories may appear in this archive in unedited or different versions that are different from their print counterparts.

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Copyright 2010 by Bob Andelman