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Business Observer Friday, Apr. 6, 2007 13 years ago

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Alexandra Miller has already survived a tricky internal power struggle within her Sarasota-based family-run medical supplies distribution company. Now she will try to survive a political campaign. The middle of March was good for US Home's Tampa division, which reported its best week this year. The builder sold 39 new homes in 23 Tampa Bay area communities during March 12-18.The gist of the survey, subtitled "what many boards and executives still don't know about the health of their businesses," is that many board members and senior executives are "in the dark about the overall health of their organizations" because they don't know enough about the non-financial matters, which tend to be tougher to monitor and judge.AnazaoHealth Corp. just made its third multimillion-dollar acquisition in 12 months. The Tampa-based custom mail-order pharmaceutical company acquired the assets of Kronos Compounding Pharmacy in Las Vegas.The latest taxable-sales data confirms anecdotes from many commercial builders: Charlotte County is experiencing a commercial construction boom.

Coffee Talk

+ Entrepreneur takes stab at politics

Alexandra Miller has already survived a tricky internal power struggle within her Sarasota-based family-run medical supplies distribution company.

Now she will try to survive a political campaign. Miller, who was unsuccessful in a bid to win a seat on the Sarasota Memorial Hospital board last year, told Coffee Talk April 3 that she officially filed her candidacy to be the Republican nominee for the District 69 State House seat for the 2008 election; the district covers north Sarasota County and a small part of southern Manatee County.

Miller, who was named a top up-and-comer in the Review's 2006 40 under 40 issue, says she wants to bring both a conservative and a pro-business stance back to the seat, which is currently occupied by Democrat Keith Fitzgerald. She also says she's "kind of sick of" seeing all the career politicians holding things down in Tallahassee, and would like to see more business owners and executives run for public office.

Besides those reasons for running, there's also the matter of the 2006 property tax bill for Mercedes Medical Inc., of which she currently serves as CEO. The tax bill was $70,000, a 204% increase over the $23,000 in 2005.

Obviously, property tax relief for businesses would be high on Miller's agenda if she were elected.

Fitzgerald was only elected six months ago, though, so the campaign is as preliminary as it could be. The first step would be a potential primary against Laura Benson, a former member of the Sarasota County School Board who Fitzgerald beat out for the seat last year.

With thoughts toward that election, Miller says she hired Tallahassee-based political consultant David Wolfson, who was behind Republican Doug Holder's successful campaign for the District 70 State House seat last year.

Miller's experience in navigating politics at Mercedes Medical, a two-time Inc. 500 firm, could be an asset. Back in 2003, Miller, who was eight months pregnant at the time and head of operations for the $16 million company, was phased out of any role in making decisions. (See 8/11/06 Review).

But less than a year later, Miller fought her way back into things as she watched the company sink under an outsider-CEO. Since Miller returned, Mercedes Medical has gone back to its steady growth and profitable ways. In the Aug. 11 profile on how Miller did it, her comments even foreshadowed an entry into politics.

Miller, responding to her role in saving the company, said "I'm sort of like a pit bull. I'll do whatever it takes."

+ Real estate slipping. . . upward?

Are residential sales finally picking up?

The middle of March was good for US Home's Tampa division, which reported its best week this year. The builder sold 39 new homes in 23 Tampa Bay area communities during March 12-18.

That's not to say it's time for a celebration. Spring is historically the best time of year for home sales. And US Home's average new-home sale price for the same period was $219,000, below the division's 2006 average sale price of $250,000.

The Tampa Bay region, which includes Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Polk and Hernando counties, has sold 250 homes so far in 2007.

Lower prices obviously don't bode well for US Home's parent company, Miami-based Lennar Corp., one of the nation's largest builders. The company blamed its fourth-quarter loss of $1.24 per diluted share on the weak housing market.

+ Measuring company health, more than numbers

Attention Gulf Coast executives and board directors: Turn on the lights.

Or at least come out of the dark, states a survey commissioned by New York City-based tax and business consulting firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.

The gist of the survey, subtitled "what many boards and executives still don't know about the health of their businesses," is that many board members and senior executives are "in the dark about the overall health of their organizations" because they don't know enough about the non-financial matters, which tend to be tougher to monitor and judge.

So even though 78% of CEOs polled by the survey say financial indicators aren't the only measurements of their company's strengths and weaknesses, it's the best they currently have, as they lack the tools, staff and ability for monitoring non-financial performance.

According to the survey developed with the Economist magazine's research department, the Economist Intelligence Unit, 87% of CEOs and senior executives describe their ability to track financial performance as excellent or good. But only 29% of polled CEOs describe their non-financial record in the same terms.

Non-financial measurements, according to the survey, include increasing risk to reputation; increasing customer influence; increasing global competition; increasing regulatory emphasis on non-financial measures; accelerating innovation; and greater scrutiny of non-financial performance measures by the media.

As to why there is such a big drop-off between knowing what's going on financially and non-financially, one of the most prominent cited reasons is the old standby of apprehension to change. Other impediments to the use of non-financial performance metrics, according to the survey, include underdeveloped tools, organizational skepticism, unclear accountability, time constraints, and the concern that the practice may reveal too much information to competitors.

+ AnazaoHealth expands with another acquisition

AnazaoHealth Corp. just made its third multimillion-dollar acquisition in 12 months. The Tampa-based custom mail-order pharmaceutical company acquired the assets of Kronos Compounding Pharmacy in Las Vegas.

AnazaoHealth's CEO wouldn't disclose how much the nine-year-old company paid for Kronos, but the acquisition is expected to increase domestic sales, especially on the West Coast.

In addition to the April 2 acquisition, CEO Jacob Beckel says the company is continuing to grow organically at about 30% annually. This year, revenue is projected to hit the high $30 millions, up from $22 million in 2006.

About 26 of the company's 145 employees are pharmacists, most with specialized training in nuclear medicine, Beckel says, adding: "It's very good for the state of Florida."

AnazaoHealth's previous acquisitions included Plum Creek Pharmaceuticals in Amarillo, Texas, and a division of publicly held Priority Healthcare. All three acquisitions were in the range of $3 million to $7 million each, Beckel says.

The company is revolutionizing the custom pharmaceutical industry by remaking older drugs in newer and better ways.

Beckel declined to release profit figures, except to say, "We are quite profitable. We are really growing the business with internal cash flow."

AnazaoHealth specializes in nuclear medicine and pain management medications, and the company makes drugs to treat people exposed to radiation through so-called dirty bombs.

WHO'S HOT: CHARLOTTE

The latest taxable-sales data confirms anecdotes from many commercial builders: Charlotte County is experiencing a commercial construction boom.

Building investment surged 60% in the Punta Gorda metropolitan statistical area (MSA) in January versus the same month a year ago, according to data from the Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research. However, business investment such as office equipment fell 3% in the same area, though that might pick up as buildings are completed.

The same isn't true in other Gulf Coast areas. In Naples, building investment fell 19%. In Sarasota it fell 16% and in Fort Myers it dropped 15%. In the Tampa area, building investment fell 13%. Business investment declined the most in Sarasota ( 16%) and Fort Myers ( 12%).

In another sign of the residential real estate downturn, taxable sales of consumer durables fell in every area along the Gulf Coast in January versus the same month in 2006. Consumer durables include appliances, furniture, home electronics, aircraft, boats, hardware and items from decorating stores.

However, sales of consumer nondurables held up well, indicating consumers haven't cut back completely. These items include food, clothing, drugs, antiques, books and florists, among others.

PUNTA GORDA LEADS IN GROWTH

Here's how the taxable sales break down by MSA (figures are in $ millions)

Consumer Tourism Consumer Bldg. Business

MSA Total Autos durables recreation nondurables investment investment

Fort Myers $1,073 $183 $93 $208 $295 $112 $182

%Change 2% 3% 7% 0% 12% 15% 12%

Naples 644 82 64 158 186 54 100

%Change 2% 1% 6% 10% 7% 19% 7%

Punta Gorda 232 31 22 34 65 54 27

%Change 8% 4% 10% 0% 2% 60% 3%

Sarasota 986 170 87 191 289 79 170

%Change 3% 2% 5% 1% 7% 16% 11%

Tampa 3,519 671 248 638 1,024 245 692

%Change 0% 0% 2% 2% 7% 13% 3%

Source: State of Florida

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