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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Mar. 16, 2007 13 years ago

Coffee Talk

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Late last month though, Roper Industries, an international engineering and manufacturing firm specializing in industrial imaging and software products, officially moved its headquarters from Duluth, Ga. to Sarasota. Whitney Holding Corp. of New Orleans completed its acquisition of St. Petersburg-based Signature Financial Holdings Inc., the parent of Signature Bank, in a cash and stock deal worth $61.7 million.Coffee Talk can boast with the best of them, and the latest bragging rights comes courtesy of Andrew Greenwell, the 23-year-old Sarasota based commercial real estate wunderkind. The Review introduced Greenwell to the business and real estate universe first in a Sept. 28 profile on his accomplishments, which include co-founding Sarasota-based Corporate Realty Group, a six-employee, $20 million firm. Top 10 lists, ubiquitous on late night TV and in all sorts of promotion and marketing materials are, at their core, supposed to have some shred of humor. Too bad laughter wasn't what Coffee Talk heard after reading Enterprise Florida's top 10 recommendations to the Florida Legislature for its upcoming 2007 session.Instead, the sound was more like a ca-ching of cash registers: Three of the first five recommendations include some form of the words "continue funding," for a total of $272.5 million in programs. And More...

Coffee Talk

+ Send out the Welcome Wagon

Who said Sarasota doesn't have any thriving public companies that make the city its headquarters?

Well, the Review has, for starters. So have many others in the Gulf Coast business community, who can look south of Sarasota to find usually solid companies such as Chico's and Health Management Associates and north of the area to find Jabil Circuit and Marine Max, among others. But there's been a regular dearth of public stalwarts in Sarasota.

Late last month though, Roper Industries, an international engineering and manufacturing firm specializing in industrial imaging and software products, officially moved its headquarters from Duluth, Ga. to Sarasota. The company, with more than 6,000 employees in 35 locations, has had about 15 executives working in Sarasota for several years, but only recently switched its headquarters designation.

And while it's not a high-flying glamour stock, it does have some meat: In 2006, it had net earnings of $193 million, or $2.13 a share, and it had net sales of $1.7 billion, a 17% jump from 2005. The stock, traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol ROP, is part of the S & P MidCap 400 and the Russell 1000 indexes; a recent share price was $52.04, about $5 off of its 52-week high.

Look out, Chico's.

+ No more Signature Financial Holdings

Whitney Holding Corp. of New Orleans completed its acquisition of St. Petersburg-based Signature Financial Holdings Inc., the parent of Signature Bank, in a cash and stock deal worth $61.7 million.

The deal was completed and signage was changed on Signature's seven locations on March 2 without much of a hitch, says David Feaster, who was president and chief executive officer of Signature. A former Northern Trust senior officer, Feaster is now Whitney's south Pinellas president.

Shareholders will receive $41.04 per Signature share and stock consideration of $1.263 Whitney shares per Signature share, according to the deal, first announced in October.

Signature's largest shareholders were Craig Sher, Beth Houghton and Robert H. Willis. Other directors were Jackson H. Bowman IV, Norris E. Counts, David S. Daniels and Dennis G. Ruppel.

Signature, started in 1999, had $278 million in total assets, $226 million in loans and $220 million in deposits. Whitney acquired Madison BancShares Inc. of Palm Harbor two years ago, and it also recently added First National Bancshares Inc. of Bradenton.

Whitney now has 35 branches, a loan production office and two trust offices in Florida, with approximately $1.6 billion in total assets.

+ Young gun Greenwell scores again - nationally

Coffee Talk can boast with the best of them, and the latest bragging rights comes courtesy of Andrew Greenwell, the 23-year-old Sarasota based commercial real estate wunderkind. The Review introduced Greenwell to the business and real estate universe first in a Sept. 28 profile on his accomplishments, which include co-founding Sarasota-based Corporate Realty Group, a six-employee, $20 million firm.

Greenwell's most recent accomplishment is being named to the National Association of Realtors' list of the top 30 Realtors in America under 30. Greenwell's one of the first Gulf Coast Realtors to be named to the list.

Remember where you read about him first.

+ Development group seeks to open cash register

Top 10 lists, ubiquitous on late night TV and in all sorts of promotion and marketing materials are, at their core, supposed to have some shred of humor. Too bad laughter wasn't what Coffee Talk heard after reading Enterprise Florida's top 10 recommendations to the Florida Legislature for its upcoming 2007 session.

Instead, the sound was more like a ca-ching of cash registers: Three of the first five recommendations include some form of the words "continue funding," for a total of $272.5 million in programs. A majority of those recommendations are self-serving, such as a suggestion to keep funding Enterprise Florida itself ($12.5 million) as well one to keep the money coming for the "Economic Development Tool Kit," including $100 million for "innovation incentives."

Not all of the suggestions are funds-based; one item on the list asks legislators to support changes to a public records exemption law. And Enterprise Florida is only acting upon what it says its members - which include both government entities and private companies - want, such as new companies coming to the state too create jobs.

Still, Coffee Talk wonders if some of those private companies would prefer the resources (and recommendations) go to something more pressing, such as insurance and property taxes.

Pink is the new Black

A few years ago, consultant and author Daniel Pink caused a small disturbance in the business world with his shtick focusing on the catch phase of "the MFA is the new MBA." Pink's premise was that 'artsy' traits such as design ability and creativity would eventually be more important to both employees and employers than 'geeky' traits, such as logic and linear reasoning.

Pink recently updated his mantra. The MFA is still the new MBA, he says, but now, to get ahead in the business world (read: the global economy) job candidates and young professionals will need to have traits of both degrees - one in fine arts and one in business administration. They will need to be empathic and artistic, for example, while maintaining their raw reasoning skills.

Pink, who served for two years as a chief speech writer for former Vice President Al Gore, spoke about these theories to 1,500 people at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in downtown Sarasota March 5. His presentation was part of the Town Hall lecture series, a fundraiser for the Sarasota-based Ringling School Association, which supports the arts and design school's Verman Kimbrough Memorial Library.

In an interview before his presentation, Pink told Coffee Talk that his ideas, detailed in the books Free Agent Nation and A Whole New Mind, also have a significant impact on executives, entrepreneurs and hiring managers. Free Agent Nation, a best-selling business book when it was published in 2001, focuses on the death of old-style company loyalty and the rise of entrepreneurialism and people working for themselves.

Pink's presentation, and his more recent book, introduces the idea that left-brain thinkers, the people that make up the bulk of professions such as accounting and law, will soon go the way of the Rotary phone. People who use the right side of the brain better and more often, people that can innovate with design and tell stories with products, will replace them.

"The left brain is necessary," says Pink, "but no longer sufficient."

Pink offers several anecdotal and statistical examples to prove his thesis. On the stats side, he says a closer examination of the often debated global outsourcing jobs controversy reveals that it's the left-side brain jobs that are being deported. For example, one million tax returns were prepared in India in 2006, he says.

On the flip side, Pink says, there are still jobs to be had and money to be made stateside, by using creativity. To illustrate that, Pink showed the crowd pictures of a silver-tinted toilet cleaning brush and a funky purple fly swatter with ends that allow it to stand up.

At their core, those products are examples of the left-side brain phase, what Pink calls the utility of the product. With items such as toilet brushes and fly swatters, though, the utility part is tough to improve on, as the technology has maxed-out.

But the right-side brain phase can create a new significance for the product, so it can be sold infinitely. "You will always make money out of significance, absent a giant leap in utility," he says.

All of this means a lot to companies, both big and small businesses, says Pink, because hiring the right people and creating the right work environment always goes a long way toward ensuring long-term success, no matter what side of the brain.

-Mark Gordon 

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