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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Mar. 2, 2007 12 years ago

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The Related Group, which has built two Trump towers in South Florida, signed a letter of intent to become managing partner on the downtown Trump Tower Tampa, waterfront project with Gulf Coast developer SimDag LLC and private-equity firm, Mirabilis Ventures, Orlando.The Lee County Chamber of Commerce, the for-profit chamber in Fort Myers, is fighting to keep its name.State legislators have filed a bill that would prevent any for-profit group from using the name "chamber of commerce" and violations would be punished as a first-degree misdemeanor. Traditionally, chambers of commerce have been not-for-profit organizations, but entrepreneurs have started using the "chamber of commerce" name.Coffee Talk has nothing against young guns taking prominent positions in business, law and politics - witness the Review's annual 40 under 40 issue - but there was some mild surprise when AARP, the national lobbying group for the mature population, recently named its new Florida director: She's 33 years old, a baby in AARP years. Development executives were buzzing at the Urban Land Institute conference in Naples Feb. 22 about a DiVosta Homes ad appearing in the local daily newspaper.The two-page, four-color ad touted a 48-hour sale during which homebuyers could get discounts of as much as $60,000 on a new home at one of three communities in Naples, Bonita Springs and Ave Maria.The stock of Chico's FAS, the Fort Myers-based women's retailer, was ranked as th

Coffee Talk

+ Related to Trump by success

If the third time is the charm, then maybe the most recent company to take charge of Trump Tower, Tampa, will get it built.

The Related Group, which has built two Trump towers in South Florida, signed a letter of intent to become managing partner on the downtown Tampa, waterfront project with Gulf Coast developer SimDag LLC and private-equity firm, Mirabilis Ventures, Orlando.

The 52-story tower, announced in January 2005, has seen more than its share of problems since Trump agreed to put his name on the project.

Developers have not yet secured financing on the project, and Turner Construction, the first company hired to build the project, is no longer involved. Last month, two buyers sued to get out their contracts, citing delays and ground instability at the 1.5-acre site.

Apparently Trump, who has been disappointed in the $300 million project's delays, wanted The Related Group to take over.

+ Lee County Chamber fights for its name

The Lee County Chamber of Commerce, the for-profit chamber in Fort Myers, is fighting to keep its name.

State legislators have filed a bill that would prevent any for-profit group from using the name "chamber of commerce" and violations would be punished as a first-degree misdemeanor. Traditionally, chambers of commerce have been not-for-profit organizations, but entrepreneurs have started using the "chamber of commerce" name.

Armando Nargi, the founder and CEO of the for-profit Lee County Chamber of Commerce, has launched a Web site to fight the proposed legislation at www.savefreeenterprise.com. The site lets users send an email to Gov. Charlie Crist and legislators disapproving of the bill.

Nargi's company was featured in the Feb. 16 edition of the Review.

+ Lobbying group goes young

Coffee Talk has nothing against young guns taking prominent positions in business, law and politics - witness the Review's annual 40 under 40 issue - but there was some mild surprise when AARP, the national lobbying group for the mature population, recently named its new Florida director: She's 33 years old, a baby in AARP years.

Lori Parham, who took over the role of state director Feb. 26, does come with stellar qualifications; she served as AARP's chief legal advocate and has a Ph.D. in sociology with a concentration in gerontology from Florida State University. She's worked for the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration and is a current member of the Florida At-Risk Driver Council.

But AARP, especially in Florida, where nearly 3 million of its 38 million members live, has a history of promoting those in the over-50 age bracket - not exactly an area in which she has a lot of experience. Still, Coffee Talk wishes Parham well, and the avoidance of pacifier jokes.

+ DiVosta ad creates buzz

Development executives were buzzing at the Urban Land Institute conference in Naples Feb. 22 about a DiVosta Homes ad appearing in the local daily newspaper.

The two-page, four-color ad touted a 48-hour sale during which homebuyers could get discounts of as much as $60,000 on a new home at one of three communities in Naples, Bonita Springs and Ave Maria.

Executives shook their heads in disbelief as the newspaper was being passed around the room. All agreed they had never seen such deep discounts in Southwest Florida, especially in Naples.

A spokeswoman for DiVosta declined to reveal the results of the campaign but says they exceeded expectations.

+ Chico's worst one-year stock

The stock of Chico's FAS, the Fort Myers-based women's retailer, was ranked as the worst one-year performer among 1,000 companies in 2006 by The Wall Street Journal's annual Shareholder Scorecard.

After years of stellar performances, Chico's stock (symbol CHS) returned ?53% in 2006. An investment of $1,000 at the start of the year would have been worth $471 when trading for the year ended Dec. 29.

But Chico's stock performance has been stellar over the long term. Even after last year's poor performance, the company's stock has returned an annualized 56% over the last 10 years. Chico's ranked in second place in that long-term category, down from first place last year.

+ Tervis Tumbler brings in guru

Tervis Tumbler, the Venice-based drinkware company, has been going through a growth spurt (see 01/05/07 Review) and as such, has been seeking new board members with experience to help. Its latest director is also a neighbor. Randy White, former president and CEO of Venice-based PGT Industries, the publicly traded impact-resistant window and door manufacturer, was recently appointed to the board.

When it comes to growth, White is a true been-there, done-that guy. In his nine years leading PGT, the company grew from $63 million in sales with 900 employees to $250 million in sales with 1,800 employees. White also helped prepare the company for its 2006 IPO.

While Tervis executives have long said they have no plans to take the company public, they do have plans to keep growing while maintaining the firm's entrepreneurial spirit. Company revenues, which were $24 million in 2006, have increased 64% since 2004 and 360% since the late 1990s.

"Tervis is facing the same reality now that my company faced in the 1990s," White says. "What works well when you're small and growing fast simply doesn't work when you grow bigger. The continuous adjustment is highly challenging."

Chamber gets a makeover

The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce is getting a makeover. A new logo for the chamber, in addition to new look for the group's six councils, was unveiled last month at its annual breakfast kick-off. The logo is a replica of the Ringling Bridge.

The chamber's goals for 2007 include working with more groups and other organizations, in order to reach more businesses, and the logo is designed to reflect that, chamber officials say. In addition to new logos, the chamber's branding program will also be used to update its Web site and its in-house publications.

In search of excellence

The Review is seeking the best and brightest Gulf Coast entrepreneurs for the newspaper's 10th annual Entrepreneur Award.

And for the second consecutive year, the Review will be recognizing the best from its entire coverage area: Tampa Bay south to Naples.

If you know of a worthy candidate, please send us his or her name. We're looking for entrepreneurs whose company's results over the past three years show exceptional performance and growth. Nominees should be visionaries and leaders who have overcome obstacles or demonstrated extraordinary characteristics that have led their companies to exceptional achievements. The entrepreneurs must be owners or part-owners of their companies, and their companies must be based on the Gulf Coast.

Last year's overall winner was Ian MacKechnie, the president and founder of Tampa-based financial services firm Amscot Financial. The Tampa region winner was Mark Swanson, founder of four Bay-area businesses; the Sarasota-Manatee region winner was John Williams, president of Gould & Lamb Healthcare Consultants; and the Fort Myers-Naples winner was Brian Stock, owner of Stock Development.

To nominate an entrepreneur, send his or her name to Mark Gordon at [email protected] or call (941) 362-4848. Please include the person's name, company and a brief description of what distinguishes the candidate.

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