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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Dec. 22, 2006 13 years ago

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Florida foreclosure numbers show big gainDon Ackerman will step down as chairman of WCI Communities at the company's next annual meeting, a sure sign that significant changes are in store for the struggling Bonita Springs-based homebuilder. Going into December, shares of PGT, the Venice-based impact-resistant window and door manufacturer, had been hovering in the $11-per-share range, and what's more, overall, the stock had decreased 15% since its June IPO and 33% since its all-time high of $18.84 Aug. 3.That was until SunTrust Robinson Humphrey analyst Keith Hughes upgraded his rating on the stock to buy from neutral.Coffee Talk is always a little weary when it hears about new products that come with a "change the entire dynamic" tag, be it small business banking or the latest stock craze. A little dose of skepticism can go a long way.But we perked up after talking to a few bankers about remote deposit capture, a federally approved system that equates digital check images with paper checks. It allows banks to provide a way for clients to scan paper checks and deposit them electronically. Coffee Talk usually takes the color-blind approach to judging businesses - or more to the point, if there's any color to be judged, the one with the most cache would be green. Hence, lists breaking down entrepreneurs by racial or gender categories are usually little more than window dressing.

Coffee Talk

Florida foreclosure numbers show big gain

Foreclosuresdaily.com, a Largo-based mortgage foreclosure company that tracks filings in about 35 Florida counties, recently released a new batch of foreclosure statistics. Company President Mike Kane says the statewide numbers represent the "bottom of the bell curve" when it comes to the housing market.

Statewide, foreclosures are up 81% and 74% from 2005 to 2006, based on numbers from October and November, respectively. The Gulf Coast plays a big role in the increase, with areas such as Sarasota-Manatee (up 99% in November), Charlotte County (up 90%) and Lee County (239%) leading the way.

Foreclosure Statistics

County 2005 2006 %+/- 2005 2006 %+/-

Oct. Oct. Nov. Nov. Alachua 14 63 350% 26 55 111%

Brevard 132 249 88% 102 248 143%

Broward 272 788 189% 279 864 209%

Charlotte 59 93 57% 42 80 90%

Citrus/Hernando 98 161 64% 98 139 42%

Clay 80 92 15% 80 86 8%

Collier 35 86 146% 50 89 78%

Dade 384 831 116% 525 908 73%

Duval/Nassua 490 669 36% 523 657 26%

Escambia 40 162 305% 51 112 120%

Flagler 20 61 205% 12 51 325%

Hillsborough 365 527 44% 400 553 38%

Indian River/

St. Lucie/Martin 64 224 250% 63 229 263%

Lake 88 100 14% 91 135 48%

Lee 140 388 177% 114 386 239%

Leon 90 109 21% 83 90 8%

Marion 134 112 -16% 124 106 -14%

Orange 265 449 69% 278 371 33%

Osceola 68 170 150% 83 203 145%

Palm Beach 169 432 156% 194 541 179%

Pasco 159 247 55% 175 329 88%

Pinellas 295 514 74% 304 464 53%

Polk 318 356 12% 313 316 1%

Putnam 50 50 0% 41 45 10%

Santa Rosa 16 57 256% 14 53 279%

Sarasota/Manatee 150 316 111% 147 293 99%

Seminole 112 139 24% 99 148 49%

St. John's 26 46 77% 37 42 14%

Volusia 146 269 84% 157 262 67%

Totals 4,279 7,760 81% 4,505 7,855 74%

SOURCE: ForeclosuresDaily.com

+ Ackerman to abandon chairman's post at WCI

Don Ackerman will step down as chairman of WCI Communities at the company's next annual meeting, a sure sign that significant changes are in store for the struggling Bonita Springs-based homebuilder.

Ackerman, 72, became chairman when President George W. Bush tapped Al Hoffman to be U.S. ambassador to Portugal in 2005. Ackerman says he will remain on WCI's board, though he won't run for election to the chairman's post at the company's next annual meeting on May 17.

Ackerman's likely successor is Charles Cobb Jr., 70, who was recently elected to the newly created position of vice chairman. Cobb was elected to WCI's board in September 2005 at Hoffman's urging, proxy filings show.

Cobb brings years of experience in real estate development. He has been chairman and CEO of Arvida Corp. and Disney Development Co.

He'll likely need to muster all his skills as WCI's financial situation continues to deteriorate. Moody's Investors Service became the latest credit-rating agency to downgrade WCI. "The negative outlook reflects Moody's expectation that WCI's earnings in 2007 will decline significantly from 2006 levels, perhaps breaking into negative territory," the agency's analysts wrote on Dec. 8.

Company officials couldn't be reached. However, in a prepared statement, Ackerman says "[Cobb's] appointment provides for an orderly transition of the board leadership to an individual with outstanding credentials in the real estate industry."

+ PGT shares mount a comeback

Going into December, shares of PGT, the Venice-based impact-resistant window and door manufacturer, had been hovering in the $11-per-share range, and what's more, overall, the stock had decreased 15% since its June IPO and 33% since its all-time high of $18.84 Aug. 3.

That was until SunTrust Robinson Humphrey analyst Keith Hughes upgraded his rating on the stock to buy from neutral. Since the Dec. 14 report, PGT shares, traded on the NASDAQ exchange under PGTI, have climbed to the mid-$12 range. It was as high as $13.67 the day of the upgrade before closing the day at $12.80 a share.

Hughes based his upgrade partially on the low share price, combined with "pitifully low" earnings expectations. He added the company's new products and growing popularity with customers in coastal communities would be a bonus.

SunTrust Robinson Humphrey is one of three research firms that track PGT. Another firm, JMP Securities, downgraded the stock to market perform from market outperform Nov. 29.

+ Deposit capture has big potential

Coffee Talk is always a little weary when it hears about new products that come with a "change the entire dynamic" tag, be it small business banking or the latest stock craze. A little dose of skepticism can go a long way.

But we perked up after talking to a few bankers about remote deposit capture, a federally approved system that equates digital check images with paper checks. It allows banks to provide a way for clients to scan paper checks and deposit them electronically.

The Federal Reserve is on the hyperbole, too, saying RDC is one of the banking industry's most important developments in years. Technically, the concept isn't new, as it stems from federal legislation known as Check 21, passed in 2003 and implemented in 2004. The law allows banks to clear checks based on an image, instead of having to transport the original check back to a bank.

It's a time-saver for banks and for customers, proponents say. No surprise, the concept even has it's own Web site: www.remotedeposticapture.com.

And while it's not likely to change the world, the concept does have great potential for big and small banks. Marty Gladysz, CEO and president of Central Bank, a New Tampa-based start-up profiled in last week's Review, says his bank intends to use the practice as a way to compete with bigger regional and national banks.

And some of those bigger banks are utilizing it as well. Chicago-based Northern Trust, for example, has started using the concept in its Illinois branches, Northern Trust senior vice president Don Berk tells Coffee Talk. Northern Trust's 25 Florida branches, including 11 based on the Gulf Coast, are scheduled for March, although Berk tells Coffee Talk the demand for it is already there.

"This is not another enhancement," for small business accounts, says Berk. "We fundamentally believe this will change the industry."

Woman, minority-owned businesses make strong showing

Coffee Talk usually takes the color-blind approach to judging businesses - or more to the point, if there's any color to be judged, the one with the most cache would be green. Hence, lists breaking down entrepreneurs by racial or gender categories are usually little more than window dressing.

Still, it's worth pointing out the Gulf Coast did OK for itself in a pair of nationwide business diversity lists complied by businessdiversity.com, a Web site for minority small business and entrepreneurs. Four Gulf Coast firms made the organizations' top 500 women-owned business list, while two others made the Div500, a list combining the top revenue-producing firms among women-and minority owned businesses.

One firm, Tampa-based J2 Engineering, was profiled in the Aug. 4 Review. Here's a glance at the Gulf-Coast based firms fared:

+ Bay-area women-owned business doing well, part II

And speaking of women in business, score another one for the Gulf Coast, specifically the Tampa area, for its showing in the Center for Women's Business Research biennial update of state and metro area women-owned business figures and data.

Florida was the fastest growing state and the fourth highest overall, using a combination of the number of woman-owned companies, sales and employee levels. What's more, five of the fastest growing metro areas for women-owned business are in the Sunshine State, the group reports, including Tampa-St. Petersburg. The center is a Washington D.C.-based research group.

Top 500 Woman-Owned Businesses, U.S.

Ranking Company Principle Location 2006 revenues

123 Thomas Sign & Awning Co. Priscilla Thomas Clearwater $26 million

172 Employer Management Solutions, Inc. Elaine Myrback Tampa $18.5 million

317 Jimco Maintenance Inc. Lynn Moseley Venice $9.8 million

333 Syslogic Technical Services Susie Carrigan Lutz $9 million

Top 500 Diversity-Owned Businesses

Ranking Company Principle Location 2006 revenues

236 Thomas Sign & Awning Co. Priscilla Thomas Clearwater $26 million

342 Employer Management Solutions, Inc. Elaine Myrback Tampa $18.5 million

400 J2 Engineering, Inc. Jose Morales Tampa $15.5 million

412 Pilgrim Software, Inc. Amijati Utji Tampa $15 million

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