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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Dec. 7, 2007 11 years ago

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JBM Realty Advisors goes California dreamin' : Another Tampa company, JBM Realty Advisors, one of the nation's premier institutional multifamily brokerage firms, recently connected with a large out-of-state business, Sperry Van Ness.Sarasota Chamber looks to tomorrow with optimism: Sarasota Tomorrow, the capital campaign designed to prove businesses aren't just a necessary evil, kicked of its donation season with a big announcement: It has already raised $1.22 million - 60% of its $2 million goal.Condo project goes retro, sells most units: The following sentence wasn't lifted out of a 2005 Coffee Talk item: A Sarasota condo developer has been selling units at about the rate of one a week for three months, with the majority going to the contract stage Sarasota money manager dies from stroke: Gary Wood, founder of a Sarasota-based money management firm bearing his name, died Nov. 29, a few weeks after suffering a stroke. He was 68.HMA highlights chairman's stock sales: It's usually a routine affair when top executives sell stock of the company they manage.Foreign tourism slips, security issues blamed: Security concerns are making it more difficult for the Tampa Bay area to attract foreign visitors, a key component of the area's important tourism industry.Commercial brokers seek access to TICs: If the National Association of Realtors has its way with federal regulators, some commercial real estate brokers will have another way of m

Coffee Talk

+ JBM Realty Advisors

goes California dreamin'

Another Tampa company, JBM Realty Advisors, one of the nation's premier institutional multifamily brokerage firms, recently connected with a large out-of-state business, Sperry Van Ness.

The two brokerages are merging, but JBM will retain its name, at least for the moment.

Founded in 1987, Sperry Van Ness is one of the largest and fastest-growing commercial real estate brokerage firms, with more than 900 advisors in more than 150 locations. Based in Irvine, Calif., the firm operates internationally and provides brokerage, consultation, asset management, property management, leasing, accelerated marketing, and auction services. Sperry Van Ness' deals in office, multifamily, retail, industrial, self-storage, hospitality and land transactions.

JBM, which was founded in 1999 by James B. May, is one of the nation's premier brokerage firms specializing in the sale of institutional assets. Known as a leader in the industry, consistently ranking among the top brokerage houses by transaction volume, the firm is renowned for its level of service, market expertise and marketing practices. JBM is headquartered in Tampa with additional offices in Naples and Miami.

Jerry Anderson, president of Sperry Van Ness International, told Coffee Talk that the company is bullish on Florida and the Gulf Coast.

"Florida is such a destination state for investors, this makes a lot of sense," Anderson says.

For example, in its Costa Rica and Panama expansion, 55% of investors were from the United States and Canada. Many of those were from Florida.

JBM will be known as the JMB Sperry Van Ness Institutional Team.

"They (JBM) have a very strong brand," Anderson says. "It would be silly to buy that company and eliminate that brand. It has very loyal clients. We want their clients to know they are part of this. This expands their reach way beyond Florida, beyond the Gulf Coast."

+ Sarasota Chamber looks

to tomorrow with optimism

Sarasota Tomorrow, the capital campaign designed to prove businesses aren't just a necessary evil, kicked of its donation season with a big announcement: It has already raised $1.22 million - 60% of its $2 million goal.

The program is being put together by the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, which in turn has recruited some of the area's biggest and most well-known businesses and entrepreneurs to give both money and time. (The Observer Group, parent company of the Review, has committed $25,000 over five years to the campaign.)

At a kickoff event Dec. 4 at the Sarasota Hyatt, some of those business leaders spoke about how essential a program like this is to help Sarasota thrive. That's particularly true given the most recent election in Sarasota, where an anti-growth supermajority governing initiative was approved by 60% of county voters. (See Review 9/28/07, 11/29/07).

In talking up the details of the program, Chamber President Steve Queior was one of several campaign leaders to boast about how ambitious the five-year program is. For example, it includes more than $500,000 for programs designed to improve the area's business climate. Says Queior: "We are throwing out some Jacksonville-size chamber initiatives."

Tom Dabney, the past chairman of the Chamber and a current co-chair of the Sarasota Tomorrow campaign, addressed the crowd last, and he said what Coffee Talk thinks would make for a stellar campaign rally cry: "The business community has made Sarasota the wonderful community it is today. Not government."

+ Condo project goes retro,

sells most units

The following sentence wasn't lifted out of a 2005 Coffee Talk item: A Sarasota condo developer has been selling units at about the rate of one a week for three months, with the majority going to the contract stage.

It is current.

The project is Broadway Promenade, a condo building highlighting a mixed-used development a few blocks north of downtown Sarasota. The condos are a combination of one-, two- and three-bedroom units, while the mix-used component includes a Publix, a few stores and a bar and restaurant.

The building, which officially opened in September after a three-year permitting and construction process, has 186 condos. Of those, just a few in each size remain unsold says Uri Man, an executive with Palm Beach Gardens-based RAM Development, the project's lead developer.

Nine units have been sold since the grand opening. The recent buyers, Man says, are split almost evenly between second home buyers and permanent Sarasota residents.

Man tells Coffee Talk there's no magic potion to the success he's had while many of his nearby peers are gasping for even one sale a month. The developers have done very little advertising, he says, and its only buyer incentive has been an agreement to pay a year's worth of homeowners' association fees, worth about $2,000.

One key, says Man, is price: The Broadway Promenade condos, on average, are going for $270-$300 a square foot, about $100 less than the average per square foot price in the area. To be sure, the actual condo is smaller than some other project's units, but Man says the condos still come with several amenities, including a resort-style pool and concierge and valet services.

+ Tampa company

signs deal with Quest

Resource Providers Inc., a five-year-old Tampa company that offers electronic medical transcription and records management services, recently signed a deal with Quest, the behemoth lab test company, to provide Quest test information in its electronic records.

Resource CEO Allen Clifford told Coffee Talk he was talking to Washington-based Quest for about a year to secure the deal.

"It was not a real simple thing to do," Clifford says. "It's a fairly high-level tech operation."

Resource deals with the clinic level, an area where doctors and practices are having a hard time swallowing the cost of medical records packages. Resource provide the records and management software as a part of the transcription package - a practice only pays for what they transcribe.

Clifford, Resource's founder, has been a lifelong entrepreneur. He had a couple of other long-term businesses, including a parts distributor for power plants. He had a patent on an industrial product he sold to General Signal Corp.

Like other Floridians, he retired, got bored and started this business. Revenues have doubled every year. This year should bring a 40% increase in revenue.

"I was looking for something to allow me to take advantage of what was going on," Clifford says. "It was very obvious you could move a lot of information for little money on the Internet."

The cost of the Quest deal? Opportunity.

"They don't charge you. You can't charge for the service," Clifford says. "We see it as opportunity to secure more business."

+ Sarasota money manager

dies from stroke

Gary Wood, founder of a Sarasota-based money management firm bearing his name, died Nov. 29, a few weeks after suffering a stroke. He was 68.

Wood, who worked in money management for more than 40 years, founded Wood Asset Management in 1993 after moving to Sarasota from New York. He ran the firm and was its chief investment officer through October, when he sold the company for $31.5 million to Titanium Asset Management, a startup Sarasota-based asset management firm. (See story, page 12.)

Wood Asset Management had $1.45 billion in assets through September and its 2007 returns were running 3.3% ahead of the Russell 1000 Value Index. Its specialty is in mid- and large-cap stocks, with a client list made up mostly of high net worth individuals, foundations and pension plans.

In 2006, the firm had $6.2 million in 2006 revenues and $950,000 in net income, according to Titanium documents. Wood stayed on with the company after the sale, serving in an advisory role.

Wood was born in Redding, Calif. He earned a bachelor's degree in engineering from San Jose Sate University, as well as an MBA from Harvard. After college, he spent several years at large Wall Street firms.

In 1986, he co-founded the money management firm Schaenen Wood Associates, which ultimately grew to $1.3 billion in assets. After moving to Sarasota, Wood served as a trustee of the New College Foundation. And in 2003, Gov. Jeb Bush appointed him to the Florida Investment Advisory Council, where he eventually served as chairman.

+ HMA highlights

chairman's stock sales

It's usually a routine affair when top executives sell stock of the company they manage.

In fact, investors pay more attention when executives buy stock in their companies because that's tells them more about the company's prospects than when they sell. There are myriad reasons why executives sell stock and most of the time it has nothing to do with the stock's potential. Often, executives sell stock to buy a new house, diversify their portfolio or use the proceeds to donate money to charity.

Generally, companies announce stock sales by filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. These are often routine sales timed so that they don't coincide with important corporate announcement.

But Health Management Associates, the Naples-based hospital company, recently went out of its way to announce stock sales by William Schoen, the company's founder and chairman. The company is under pressure from lawsuits claiming that Schoen and other HMA executives benefited from stock sales before the company announced a decline in earnings this summer.

Schoen sold a total of 481,458 shares in November, a fraction of his current total holdings 5,657,979 shares, the company says. Furthermore, Schoen has options to buy another 4 million shares.

"Bill is simply engaging in sound personal financial planning," says Burke Whitman, HMA's president and CEO. Schoen sold these shares for tax planning purposes in order to offset financial gains from other unrelated stock trades this year.

+ Foreign tourism slips,

security issues blamed

Security concerns are making it more difficult for the Tampa Bay area to attract foreign visitors, a key component of the area's important tourism industry.

Obtaining a visa can take more than 100 days and require a trip to a U.S. embassy. Upon arrival, visitors often face long waits in line and sometimes surly federal agents.

Is this any way to welcome people who make up a $100-billion industry? That was the question posed by Rick Webster of the Travel Industry Association in a presentation to Pinellas County's Tourism Development Council.

His pitch resonated with the panel of mostly local hotel executives and elected officials. European visitors, mostly British and German, make up a significant and high-spending sector of the county's tourism business.

Last year, nearly 890,000 Europeans made an overnight stay - in Pinellas, that stay makes you a "tourist" - which was a decline of 2 % from 2005. That 890,000 made up 17 % of all Pinellas tourists in 2006. This year, their numbers are down about 1 %.

Nationally, the numbers for 2007 look better. Through July, more than 26.7-million foreign visitors entered the United States, up 8.4 % from the same period last year.

Big increases from Mexico and Canada mask weak visitation from places like Japan down 5.3% and the United Kingdom (up 2.6 %), said Webster. The weak dollar should be attracting waves of bargain-hunting tourists, he said.

A variety of issues influence the decisions of overseas travelers, from anti-American feelings about the war in Iraq to the lure of heavily marketed competitors like Dubai and Turkey.

+ Commercial brokers seek access to TICs

If the National Association of Realtors has its way with federal regulators, some commercial real estate brokers will have another way of making money next year.

That is if the association is successful in petitioning the Securities & Exchange Commission to exempt commercial brokers from strict rules governing what's known as tenant-in-common sales. A TIC sale, which allows individual investors to pool their money to buy commercial properties and other large real estate holdings, has gained popularity the past few years as an investment option for the high net worth crowd. (See Review 1/26/07.)

But as it stands now, commercial Realtors can't participate in TIC sales, which are governed by the SEC, unless they have a Series 22 or Series 7 stockbroker license. That rule essenatiually forbids the overwhelming majority of commercial real estate brokers from particapting in the TIC market, as cross-licensed professionals are rare, both on the Gulf Coast and nationwide.

The SEC opened the request for public comment late in November, and will likely make a decision on the request by early next year.

The gist of the association's argument is that a TIC purchase is, at its core, a real estate purchase and not stock shares. In its statement to the SEC, the association states that commercial brokers "would provide valuable guidance and assistance to a purchaser because of their extensive training and experience in matters relating to the estate and the predominant role of real estate in a TIC security transaction."

The NAR's exemption proposal comes with its own guidelines. Its application to the SEC specifices that for Realtors to qualify under the exemption, they must have received one of several industry designations, such as being licensed as a Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM). Without the designation, the broker, NAR says, must meet certain transaction standards: At least five commercial real estate transactions having an aggregate value of at least $3 million in the prior five years, or at least 10 commercial real estate transactions having an aggregate value of at least $10 million in the prior 10 years.

Sarasota-based commercial real estate lawyer Jefferson Riddell - who participates in TICs as both a licensed Realtor and stockbroker - says the concept of allowing Realtors in on TICs is a good one in theory. The NAR's proposal, though, isn't clear on certain points, Riddell says, such as who is the lead broker when two sides come together on a deal and what stipulations will be put into place to protect investors. "I hope they polish it up," Riddell says, "and then I can completely endorse it."

+ OSI looks at selling some chains

The parent company of Outback Steakhouse is looking to sell restaurant chains that don't have the potential to become leaders in their industry, company Chairman Chris Sullivan told a crowd of investment bankers recently.

In doing so, Sullivan confirmed speculation by restaurant analysts that OSI Restaurant Partners would shed some of its smaller chains. Sullivan only mentioned one company in particular that may be sold, the Roy's chain of Hawaiian fusion restaurants, joking that he might like to own a piece of the chain.

Sullivan, who co-founded Outback Steakhouse in 1988, gave a keynote speech at a convention of the Association for Corporate Growth in downtown Tampa. The ACG is a trade association made up of investment bankers and others involved in finance and mergers and acquisitions.

Formerly known as Outback Steahouse Inc., OSI had been a publicly traded company until this summer, when it went private. It now is owned by two private equity firms, Bain Capital Partners and Catterton Partners, and OSI's founders.

Sullivan said OSI's employees now can focus more on their restaurants' success and less on non-restaurant issues, such as dealing with the rigorous accounting requirements for public companies and activist stockholders.

The one chain he mentioned, Roy's, has 34 restaurants around the world. By comparison, Outback Steakhouse has more than 900 restaurants.

Restaurant analysts have been expecting OSI to sell some of its chains to pay down the debt it picked up when it sold out to the private equity firms. OSI had $200 million in debt before the sale; it wound up with about $2.4 billion in debt after the deal.

Bearing this out, last month OSI announced it will sell off 80 percent of the tiny Lee Roy Selmon's barbecue chain, but keep the other 20 percent. The eight restaurant chains under OSI's umbrella are: Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill, Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, Cheeseburger in Paradise, Roy's, Lee Roy Selmon's and Blue Coral Seafood & Spirits.

Metro acquires 8,300 home sites

Timing is everything. Although residential real estate is in the tank, there apparently are deals to be had. Some of them big.

In the largest land purchase in company history, Tampa-based Metro Development Group has acquired 8,300 homesites in seven Florida counties from Lennar Corp., one of the nation's largest homebuilders.

The purchase price was not disclosed.

The homesites are in Pasco, Brevard, Sarasota, Polk, DeSoto, Lee and Hills-borough counties in the following communities:

• Pasco – Epperson Ranch, 3,905 homesites on 1,700 acres

• Lee – Stoneybrook North, 1,275 homesites on 741 acres

• DeSoto – Stoneybrook Oaks, 1,249 homesites on 641 acres

• Brevard – Chaparral, 850 homesites on 246 acres

• Hillsborough – Waterleaf, 530 homesites on 140 acres

• Polk – Leomas Landing, 393 homesites on 94 acres

• Sarasota – Hidden Palms, 98 homesites on 41 acres

According to Metro Development spokesman Rob Ahrens, the purchase was part of long-range acquisition strategies developed by the five-year-old company. Moreover, the Lennar deal increases by nearly 40% Metro Development's total Florida holdings, which now stand at more than 30,000 homesites under its ownership or control.

Ahrens says the purchase was triggered by Lennar's desire to convert many of its land holdings to cash, amid the nationwide slowdown in the housing market.

Founded in 2003, Metro Development has been involved in developing nearly five dozen communities throughout central Florida. Last year, the company generated sales of nearly $200 million.

FYI: Kash n' Karry is history

Shelly Broader wants you to know Kash n' Karry supermarkets are not around anymore. They're all Sweetbay supermarkets now.

But Broader, president and CEO of Tampa-based Sweetbay Supermarket, is visibly annoyed that the Kash n' Karry name is still foremost in some shoppers' minds. She complains the old name is often mentioned in the same breath as the new name.

"Those days are over," she told a gathering of business executives at the Chamber of Southwest Florida in Fort Myers recently.

The fact that Kash n' Karry is still present in consumers' minds shows how hard it is to change a brand that's been around since 1955. As proof, the company still maintains the Kash n' Karry Web site (www.kashnkarry.com), which sends visitors to the new Sweetbay Web site.

"Kash n' Karry was gracefully retired," Broader says. Apparently, so was half the staff of the old supermarket chain. Broader's change in the company's corporate culture meant only 50% of the Kash n' Karry staff remained after the switch to Sweetbay.

"Now you know what it's like working for me," Broader says with a grin. "Happy Sweetbay Day!"

Tampa to get Ritz

For years, city and tourism officials have lamented that the Ritz-Carlton's flag hasn't flown over Tampa.

Now they are celebrating the news that plans are on track for the city to land its first Ritz hotel as soon as 2011.

Ritz-Carlton officials intend to soon announce their plans to open a 269-room hotel on the Courtney Campbell Parkway at Rocky Point Drive. The project also will include 176 luxury residential units, retail space and a marina, according to information from the hotel chain.

Developers hope it becomes the area's first five-star hotel, and tourism leaders hope a high-class hotel attracts more events, conventions and visitors to the Tampa Bay area.

The Tampa Ritz will be the 10th Ritz-Carlton in Florida. The project will be developed by Clearwater-based Orion Communities and R.L. Pearson & Associates.

John Grandoff, an attorney working on the project, says he is discussing marina details with the Port Authority. He said he expects the marina to be permitted by mid 2008. The hotel also will include 30,000 square feet of event space, including a 12,000-square-foot ballroom.

Atop seven floors of hotel rooms will be 44 residential units. An adjacent 19-story second tower will include 132 residential units. The average floor plan is 2,800 square feet. The Radisson Bay Harbor hotel will be torn down to make room for the development.

Steve Hayes, executive vice president of Tampa Bay & Company, the area's convention and visitors bureau, says the Ritz will be a welcome addition to an area seeing substantial hotel development. Currently, 20,500 hotel rooms exist countywide.

Taking Big Blue to court

Watch out, Goliath.

T3 Technologies Inc. of Tampa has filed an anti-trust claim against IBM in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York alleging anti-trust violations and unfair competition. The filing seeks to join Platform Solutions' existing anti-trust litigation against IBM due to the similarities in the company's allegations.

T3's claims are based on efforts by IBM to maintain and extend its reach in the mainframe hardware industry. T3 alleges that since the expiration of the U.S. Justice Department's Consent Decree in 2001, and contrary to historical practices that resulted from that decree, IBM has prevented the sales of competing mainframe hardware products by withholding the licensing of IBM's mainframe operating systems to any hardware systems except their own. T3 is seeking undisclosed damages.

T3 championed the cause of smaller mainframe users when it began marketing its tServer line of mainframe-compatible systems in 2000. Developed specifically for small- and mid-sized users that IBM offerings no longer suited, the tServer became the leading small mainframe in the world, with more than 600 units installed in 28 countries.

T3 Technologies is a privately held firm in Tampa launched in 1992 and has been involved with mainframe hardware and services since its inception.

Port likely to spend $1 billion

The Tampa Port Authority and maritime businesses can expect to pump more than $1 billion into facilities at Tampa's port during the next 20 years, a consultant developing the port's master plan said.

The port should enjoy continued growth, says Jim Brennan of the consulting firm Norbridge, if the public agency and private businesses make capital investments of $1 billion to $1.5 billion through 2027.

The port will profit from growth in the Interstate 4 corridor that runs across Central Florida, he says, as demand increases for gasoline, construction materials and consumer goods shipped into Tampa.

The port authority will need to spend $850-million to $950-million to build berths and cargo terminals and buy additional land, the report suggests. Within 20 years, companies operating petroleum terminals will likely consider relocating from Ybor Channel, Port Tampa and Rattlesnake Point as developers offer to build residences there, says Brennan.

Most CFOs to maintain staffing levels

Five percent of chief financial officers in the Tampa Bay area plan to add accounting and finance staff during the first quarter of 2008 and 5% anticipate reductions in personnel, according to the most recent Robert Half International Financial Hiring Index. The majority of respondents, 87 percent, foresee no change in hiring.

The local results reflect a two-quarter rolling average based on interviews with 200 CFOs from a stratified random sample of companies in the Tampa Bay area with 20 or more employees.

Community banker dies

Chris Ferrer, the 42-year-old founder and former president of Community Bank of Cape Coral, died of brain cancer on Nov. 27. Ferrer had lived in Cape Coral since 1975 and is survived by his wife Jill Ferrer and three children. In fact, investors pay more attention when executives buy stock in their companies because that's tells them more about the company's prospects than when they sell. There are myriad reasons why executives sell stock and most of the time it has nothing to do with the stock's potential. Often, executives sell stock to buy a new house, diversify their portfolio or use the proceeds to donate money to charity.

Generally, companies announce stock sales by filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. These are often routine sales timed so that they don't coincide with important corporate announcement.

But Health Management Associates, the Naples-based hospital company, recently went out of its way to announce stock sales by William Schoen, the company's founder and chairman. The company is under pressure from lawsuits claiming that Schoen and other HMA executives benefited from stock sales before the company announced a decline in earnings this summer.

Schoen sold a total of 481,458 shares in November, a fraction of his current total holdings 5,657,979 shares, the company says. Furthermore, Schoen has options to buy another 4 million shares.

"Bill is simply engaging in sound personal financial planning," says Burke Whitman, HMA's president and CEO. Schoen sold these shares for tax planning purposes.

+ Foreign tourism slips,

security issues blamed

Security concerns are making it more difficult for the Tampa Bay area to attract foreign visitors, a key component of the area's important tourism industry.

Obtaining a visa can take more than 100 days and require a trip to a U.S. embassy. Upon arrival, visitors often face long waits in line and sometimes surly federal agents.

Is this any way to welcome people who make up a $100-billion industry? That was the question posed by Rick Webster of the Travel Industry Association in a presentation to Pinellas County's Tourism Development Council.

His pitch resonated with the panel of mostly local hotel executives and elected officials. European visitors, mostly British and German, make up a significant and high-spending sector of the region's tourism business.

Last year, nearly 890,000 Europeans made an overnight stay - in Pinellas, that stay makes you a "tourist" - which was a decline of 2 % from 2005. That 890,000 made up 17 % of all Pinellas tourists in 2006. This year, their numbers are down about 1 %.

Nationally, the numbers for 2007 look better. Through July, more than 26.7-million foreign visitors entered the United States, up 8.4 % from the same period last year.

Big increases from Mexico and Canada mask weak visitation from places like Japan down 5.3% and the United Kingdom (up 2.6 %), said Webster. The weak dollar should be attracting waves of bargain-hunting tourists, he said.

+ OSI looks at selling

some chains

The parent company of Outback Steakhouse is looking to sell restaurant chains that don't have the potential to become leaders in their industry, company Chairman Chris Sullivan told a crowd of investment bankers recently.

In doing so, Sullivan confirmed speculation by restaurant analysts that OSI Restaurant Partners would shed some of its smaller chains.

Sullivan only mentioned one company in particular that may be sold, the Roy's chain of Hawaiian fusion restaurants, joking that he might like to own a piece of the chain.

Sullivan, who co-founded Outback Steakhouse in 1988, gave a keynote speech at a convention of the Association for Corporate Growth in downtown Tampa. The ACG is a trade association made up of investment bankers and others involved in finance and mergers and acquisitions.

Formerly known as Outback Steahouse Inc., OSI had been a publicly traded company until this summer, when it went private.

It now is owned by two private equity firms, Bain Capital Partners and Catterton Partners, and OSI's founders.

Sullivan said OSI's employees now can focus more on their restaurants' success and less on non-restaurant issues, such as dealing with the rigorous accounting requirements for public companies and activist stockholders.

Restaurant analysts have been expecting OSI to sell some of its chains to pay down the debt it picked up when it sold out to the private equity firms. OSI had $200 million in debt before the sale; it wound up with about $2.4 billion in debt after the deal.

Bearing this out, last month OSI announced it will sell off 80 percent of the tiny Lee Roy Selmon's barbecue chain, but keep the other 20 percent.

The eight restaurant chains under OSI's umbrella are: Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill, Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, Cheeseburger in Paradise, Roy's, Lee Roy Selmon's and Blue Coral Seafood & Spirits.

+ FYI: Kash n' Karry

is history

Shelly Broader wants you to know Kash n' Karry supermarkets are not around anymore. They're all Sweetbay supermarkets now.

But Broader, president and CEO of Tampa-based Sweetbay Supermarket, is visibly annoyed that the Kash n' Karry name is still foremost in some shoppers' minds. She complains the old name is often mentioned in the same breath as the new name.

"Those days are over," she told a gathering of business executives at the Chamber of Southwest Florida in Fort Myers recently.

The fact that Kash n' Karry is still present in consumers' minds shows how hard it is to change a brand that's been around since 1955.

As proof, the company still maintains the Kash n' Karry Web site (www.kashnkarry.com), which sends visitors to the new Sweetbay Web site.

"Kash n' Karry was gracefully retired," Broader says. So was half the staff of the old supermarket chain. Broader's change in the company's corporate culture meant only 50% of the Kash n' Karry staff remained after the switch to Sweetbay.

"Now you know what it's like working for me," Broader says with a grin. "Happy Sweetbay Day!"

ECONOMIC SNAPSHOT

Gulf Coast BUSINESS INVESTMENT SALES IN SEPTEMBER

(Dollars in millions)

Metro area Taxable sales of business investment % year-over-year change

Fort Myers $153.9 ‑22%

Naples $74.9 ‑21%

Punta Gorda $24.3 ‑12%

Sarasota $158.8 ‑10%

Tampa $686.3 ‑7.6%

Source: Florida Legislature Office of Economic and Demographic Research

What the data shows: Business investment is down throughout the Gulf Coast. This category includes taxable sales of store and office equipment, computer equipment, industrial machinery, hotel and restaurant supplies, transportation equipment, industrial supplies, paper and packaging material, medical and optical supplies, commercial rentals, farm equipment and feed and seed supplies.

What it means: Businesses are retrenching their spending on equipment and supplies. The trend is particularly acute in the southern counties of Lee and Collier, which are most affected by the real estate downturn. Tampa's more diversified and much larger economy means it has experienced a smaller decline.

Forecast: Business confidence will have a lot to do with future investments in equipment and supplies. A strong tourism season this year will alleviate what is likely to be another tough year in the real estate sector, especially in Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties. Look for the numbers to improve next year as signs of a real estate recovery appear.

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