Skip to main content
Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, May 11, 2007 12 years ago

Coffee Talk

Share
Pray we don't have a hurricane. That's the best thing we can count on now that the state has decided to compete with private insurance companies to write residential and commercial property insurance, says Florida Rep. Trudi Williams, the Republican who represents portions of Lee and Collier counties.ReadyAlert Services co-founder Happy Rideout told the Review last year he expected 2007 to be a defining year for the Largo-based emergency text messaging company.Now it looks like company revenue might pass the $1 million mark this year.Andrew Greenwell must have been absent the day they taught baby steps in infant school. Not yet 24 years old, the commercial real estate broker is leaving Corporate Realty Group, the Sarasota firm he co-founded with his aunt in 2004, to open his own shop. Sarasota-based electronics manufacturer Teltronics was recently recognized by a national magazine for its success in selling phone switches and circuits to government offices and agencies.If you want to know where the next category-3 hurricane is most likely to hit, ask the people who bet their money on such probabilities. At Intrade.com, speculators can bet on the chances of numerous events coming to pass. Sarasota Association of Realtors President Joe Hembree admits that numbers can be spun nearly any which way the spinner would like, and that's certainly true in monthly real estate sales figures released by countless local agencies throughout the Gul

Coffee Talk

Recent insurance bill puts all at risk

Pray we don't have a hurricane.

That's the best thing we can count on now that the state has decided to compete with private insurance companies to write residential and commercial property insurance, says Florida Rep. Trudi Williams, the Republican who represents portions of Lee and Collier counties.

"It's going to come back and bite us," Williams warned a group of real estate investors in Fort Myers recently. "Come that first storm...the taxpayers of Florida will assume all of the risk."

Instead of spreading the insurance risk globally through private insurers, Florida taxpayers will surely pay a greater share of the claims. Williams calls it "Cuban economics."

"What we did to property insurance is a nightmare," she acknowledges.

Va. Tech tragedy spurs ReadyAlert business

ReadyAlert Services co-founder Happy Rideout told the Review last year he expected 2007 to be a defining year for the Largo-based emergency text messaging company.

Now it looks like company revenue might pass the $1 million mark this year. Last month's Virginia Tech massacre, a tragedy that took the lives of 32 students and teachers, including that of the shooter, has caused other colleges to evaluate emergency response systems.

ReadyAlert Services, started after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, is working with numerous universities to set up its emergency messaging system that works when cellular telephones don't.

ReadyAlert has signed a contract with the University of Tampa and it's talking to other Florida colleges, as well as Harvard, Purdue and the University of Kentucky.

Rideout and Bob Austin have spent several years and $2 million establishing the system that is based on proprietary technology. Other users now include Pinellas County Emergency Management, the Miami U.S. Coast Guard and all of the state's fire chiefs.

For more information, visit www.readyalert.com.

Young real estate hot shot launches out on own

Andrew Greenwell must have been absent the day they taught baby steps in infant school. Not yet 24 years old, the commercial real estate broker is leaving Corporate Realty Group, the Sarasota firm he co-founded with his aunt in 2004, to open his own shop. The new firm, Andrew Greenwell & Co., will be debut June 1 out of an office in downtown Sarasota.

Earlier this year, Greenwell was named to the National Association of Realtors' nationwide list of the top 30 Realtors under 30. And even before that, he was featured in the Review for being both so successful and so young in an industry dominated by a more mature set. The early successes at CRG include closing more than $10 million in deals in its first two years and opening offices in Tallahassee and Panama City Beach. (See 9/28/06 Review).

Greenwell tells Coffee Talk he plans on maintaining the same boutique-style focus as CRG. He does intend to focus more on Sarasota-area properties, as opposed to Venice and other southern Sarasota County locations. He also plans to take on some residential real estate projects, to keep up to date on that side of the market.

And while Greenwell recognizes there is some added pressure when running a business bearing your own name, it serves more as a boost to his youthful exuberance than as a source of dread. Says Greenwell: "It makes me want to go out and do more."

Teltronics receives good news, but...

Sarasota-based electronics manufacturer Teltronics was recently recognized by a national magazine for its success in selling phone switches and circuits to government offices and agencies.

The publication, Government VAR - the VAR stands for value-added reseller; leave it to the government to add jargon to anything with value - named the company to its top 100 list of public companies that cater "to the information needs of the education and government markets." Teltronics customers include prisons, schools and other agencies at all government levels.

Teltronics, which is traded on the over-the-counter board under the symbol TELT, has made other news lately, too. It released its annual earnings statement late last month - and like past earnings reports, it was a mix of good news tempered with 'buts.'

Net income, for example, increased 100%, from $800,000 in 2005 to $1.6 million in 2006. But the company's net income available for common shareholders dropped 235%, from $3.2 million in 2005 to $954,000 in 2006, the result of a one-time, $4.6 million net gain in 2005 from loan repayments and patent sales. Its diluted net income per share amounts dropped off, too, from 36 cents a share in 2005 to 10 cents a share in 2006.

What's more, revenues did increase in 2006, but the rise was a paltry 2%, from $46.1 million to $46.9 million. And annual revenues have basically hovered in the $46 million range for four years.

Teltronics executives continue to rely on the positive ends of the 'buts,' a tack they have been taking for the past few years. (See 5/12/06 Review). President and Chief Executive Officer Ewen Cameron says in 2007 he plans to continue his long-term goals of increasing revenue while keeping costs down.

Gambling on hurricanes for the pros

Forget weather forecasters.

If you want to know where the next category-3 hurricane is most likely to hit, ask the people who bet their money on such probabilities.

At Intrade.com, speculators can bet on the chances of numerous events coming to pass. On the weather market, these speculators are betting money that there's a 58% chance a category-3 hurricane will hit Florida this year. The next state most likely to land a cat-3 storm is Texas, with a 24% chance.

Coffee Talk wishes the odds get better.

Local real estate numbers look good, by one count

Sarasota Association of Realtors President Joe Hembree admits that numbers can be spun nearly any which way the spinner would like, and that's certainly true in monthly real estate sales figures released by countless local agencies throughout the Gulf Coast.

But when Hembree tells Coffee Talk the residential market is looking better, in Sarasota at least, he seems to be on to something. For example, while overall sales in the county for the first quarter of 2007 are 12.6% off from the first quarter last year, the much-beaten down condo market actually saw a slight sales increase, from 569 in 2006 to 587 sold so far this year. Median sale prices on quarter-to-quarter basis follow the same pattern: Up in condos, down in single-family homes.

And the month-to-month comparisons show even more improvement. In total, there were 653 condos and single-family homes sold in March, the first 650-plus month since last May. "I don't know if it's the bottom," says Hembree, whose day job is in commercial real estate, "but it's close."

The slight sales increase comes as the association's expensive Time 2 Buy advertising campaign enters its fifth month in May. But just like real estate sales figures, it can be tough to judge what impact the campaign - designed to prod fence-sitters into buying by focusing on things like low interest rates and competitive prices - has actually had.

Hembree says one of the best barometers he's seen on the campaign is imitation. Sarasota presented its campaign at a statewide Realtors conference a few months ago and since then, several markets across Florida have picked up pieces of it, including Manatee County, Orlando and Jacksonville.

Technology company is secure with big sale

MadahCom Inc., one of the Gulf Coast's top technology firms in terms of revenue and employee expansion - as well as in its novel yet practical security- products - has been bought by Cooper Industries, a Houston-based publicly traded electronics manufacturer. Cooper paid $43 million for the firm.

The Review's 2005 Technology Innovation Award winner, MadahCom makes and supplies mass emergency notification systems for U.S. military branches and private businesses. Its revenues grew 47% in 2006, from $15 million to $22 million. And with more than 80 employees, including 15 it hired in 2006, the company has also outgrown its offices near the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.

MadahCom, though, is tiny when compared to Cooper, which has 31,000-plus employees spread across eight divisions and had 2006 revenues of $5.2 billion. Its 2007 first quarter revenues grew 12% from the same period in 2006, from $1.24 billion to $1.39 billion. Net income rose 22%, from $107.7 million in the first quarter of 2006 to $131.9 million in the first quarter this year.

MadahCom's core product is called WAVES, for Wireless Audio Visual Emergency System. The proprietary system, which MadahCom President and Chief Executive Officer Reuben Ben-Arie and two other company researchers developed in 1994 with $500,000 in funding, is used primarily in war zones, where it gives off local and specific warnings to troops in danger. It's also used on and marketed to college and business campuses, to alert people of pending dangers.

Ben-Arie, an Armenian native who served 22 years in the Israeli Air Force, has told the Review that the company's ongoing challenge has been to convince people to buy a product for a problem they don't know they have. Ben-Arie has said it's like a solution searching for a problem.

The WAVES product does have several unique selling features, in addition to what it actually does, that Cooper plans to capitalize on. For example, it's the only commercially sold personnel alert system that has passed a rigorous anti-terrorism test administrated by the Pentagon.

AT A GLANCE

Cooper Industries Ltd.

Headquarters: Houston

CEO: Kirk Hachigian

FY 2006 Revenues: $5.2 billion

Stock symbol: CBE

Recent stock price: $51.41

52-week stock price range: $39.98-$52.84

Price-earnings ratio (trailing 12 months): 19.69

Dividend: $0.21 a share, payable July 2, 2007

Market capitalization: $9.38 billion

Source: Yahoo Finance

MadahCom Inc.

Year Revenues %growth

2003 $3.5 million -

2004 $7 million 100%

2005 $15 million 114%

2006 $22 million 47%

Real, Florida grouper or no grouper

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum weighed in on the recent decision of the Columbia Restaurant, a famous Spanish eatery established in 1905 in Ybor City, to quit serving grouper to customers.

McCollum praised the restaurant's owners, the Gonzmart family, for taking grouper off the menu rather than selling a less expensive imitation. An undercover operation by the attorney general's office recently found that 17 of 24 Tampa Bay area restaurants checked sold fake Grouper.

"By taking this positive step towards protecting Florida consumers, these restaurants lead by example," McCollum wrote in a press release.

Richard Gonzmart, Columbia's president and the great-great-grandson of founder Casimiro Hernandez, Sr., announced May 1 that the company's seven restaurants would no longer serve grouper because it's difficult to find.

The restaurants will serve grouper when they're able to obtain the entire fish, not just a filet purported to be grouper, he says.

In addition to Tampa's Ybor spot, the company has locations at St. Armand's Circle in Sarasota, at Sand Key at Clearwater Beach, St. Petersburg, St. Augustine, Celebration and West Palm Beach.

Of course, if you want to catch a Flamenco show by the Columbia Restaurant Dance Troupe, you'll have to visit Ybor.

After Everest, Turner sets out on new climb

Entrepreneur John Turner, who risked his life last year to try to reach the top of Mount Everest in a mission to raise money for The Children's Home, recently joined a Tampa-based investment banking and private equity firm in an executive position. Turner, who was previously CEO of his own management consulting company, Net Infuse Inc., joined Communications Equity Associates (CEA) as chief operations officer.

CEA Chairman Rick Michaels says Turner will help the firm continue its climb to success.

CEA, which provides investment banking and private equity services to the media and entertainment, communications and information technology industries, arranged more than 900 deals valued at more than $40 billion since its 1973 founding.

Related Stories

Advertisement