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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Mar. 9, 2007 13 years ago

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There are more than $1 billion in health care construction projects in the pipeline in the Tampa Bay area, according to Nashville-based HealthLeaders-InterStudy. While all those high-end services and equipment might mean better care for patients, it's also expected to spur hospitals to push aggressively for higher reimbursements from insurance companies to cover costs, says Margaret Dick, who authored the HealthLeaders-InterStudy report. And guess what? Health insurance companies are going to push back. Naples-based Health Management Associates was the only Gulf Coast firm to be named to Fortune magazine's annual list of America's most admired companies. The Speaking of Fortune magazine's most admired companies (see related item) Dallas, Texas-based national homebuilder Centex is number one in its industry, scoring top marks in seven categories, including quality of management, quality of product/services and use of corporate assets.On the Gulf Coast, though, specifically in the Sarasota-Manatee market, the company has recently been admired for something even more important to both shareholders and employees: Sales. When Hovnanian Enterprises bought Cape Coral-based First Home Builders of Florida in August 2005, the new-home market in Lee County was sizzling. First Home builds moderately priced homes for first-time homeowners and in 2005 was the county's largest locally owned homebuilder.

Coffee Talk

Look for more health care battles

There are more than $1 billion in health care construction projects in the pipeline in the Tampa Bay area, according to Nashville-based HealthLeaders-InterStudy.

While all those high-end services and equipment might mean better care for patients, it's also expected to spur hospitals to push aggressively for higher reimbursements from insurance companies to cover costs, says Margaret Dick, who authored the HealthLeaders-InterStudy report.

And guess what? Health insurance companies are going to push back.

In fact, the push-back is underway. Dick points to UnitedHealthcare's dropping of H. Lee Moffit Cancer Center & Research, Tampa, from its Medicare network as an example.

UnitedHealthcare, which has a nationwide reputation for aggressive contracting, is playing contract hardball with several Tampa Bay area hospitals, according to Dick.

After dropping Moffitt in December, it also dropped for-profit Brooksville Regional, which recently built a new facility, and Spring Hill Regional hospitals after several months of unproductive contract renewal negotiations.

Hospital construction is also expected to increase demand for specialist physicians in cardiology, cancer care and neurosurgery, which are in short supply in Florida, she says.

And quality and pay-for-performance initiatives are beginning to have a stronger presence in the local market with programs from Aetna, CIGNA and Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Health Management Associates stands alone

The Gulf Coast receives plenty of admiration, from its waterways to its sunsets to its overall high quality of life. But apparently the region isn't too admired when it comes to public companies.

Naples-based Health Management Associates was the only Gulf Coast firm to be named to Fortune magazine's annual list of America's most admired companies. The hospital management firm, which ranked second in its industry behind Toledo, Ohio-based Manor Care, was especially lauded for its "financial soundness." The company, profiled in the March 12, 2006 Review, ranked first in its category in 2006.

HMA's ranking, impressive as it is, doesn't take into account recent company financial news Coffee Talk reported on earlier this year: The firm took on $3.25 billion in additional debt Jan. 17, a move designed to fend off potential private-equity takeover attempts. Then, earlier this month, it gave shareholders a special cash dividend of $10 a share, halving the company's market capitalization to $2.48 billion and forcing it to be bumped from the S & P 500 index to the S & P Mid Cap 400 index.

Four other Gulf Coast-area companies almost were left puffing the proverbial cigar Fortune was handing out: Clearwater-based Tech Data, St. Petersburg-based Jabil Circuit, and Tampa-based Outback Steakhouse and WellCare Health Plans all placed in the contender category in the magazine's rankings, published in its March 19 issue.

Overall, Florida placed 10 companies in the most admired list and 10 more in the contenders list - numbers lagging significantly behind other heavily populated states such as California (39 most admired) New York (37 most admired) and Texas (34 most admired).

The list is complied initially by sorting through the Fortune 1,000 compilation of top companies. That list is paired down to 63 industries and then executives, directors and analysts within those categories rank the firms on a list of eight criteria, from investment value to innovation. A company's overall score must be in the top half of its industry to make the cut for the most admired list.

An admirable homebuilding sales number

Speaking of Fortune magazine's most admired companies (see related item) Dallas, Texas-based national homebuilder Centex is number one in its industry, scoring top marks in seven categories, including quality of management, quality of product/services and use of corporate assets.

On the Gulf Coast, though, specifically in the Sarasota-Manatee market, the company has recently been admired for something even more important to both shareholders and employees: Sales.

Agents in the two-county market have sold 103 homes and condos in company's fourth quarter, which ends March 31, Centex's southwest Florida marketing coordinator Lissa Antes tells Coffee Talk. That's a 100% jump from the previous quarter. What's more, cancellations are down 40% from the previous quarter, and the all-important inventory count is down 50%, Antes says.

Antes attributes the increase to a combination of factors, including a general comeback in the market, increased marketing and leveled-out prices.

Fort Myers a drag for Hovnanian Enterprises

When Hovnanian Enterprises bought Cape Coral-based First Home Builders of Florida in August 2005, the new-home market in Lee County was sizzling. First Home builds moderately priced homes for first-time homeowners and in 2005 was the county's largest locally owned homebuilder.

With the Lee County homebuilding market slowing dramatically, it now appears that Red Bank, N.J.-based Hovnanian overpaid for First Home.

In a special securities filing on Feb. 27, Hovnanian says it will take a $90 million charge in the Fort Myers-Cape Coral area citing "a continued decline in sales pace and general market conditions, as well as increasing cancellation rates."

About $50 million of that charge will be to write off the remaining intangible value of the First Home acquisition and $40 million will be for inventory impairment charges.

Gulf Coast churns out jobs

More good news for Florida's Gulf Coast when it comes to employment: Forbes ranked the Sarasota-Bradenton and Tampa-St. Petersburg MSAs as the 12th and 13th best in the country, respectively.

And an international staffing agency now says the Tampa Bay area is expected to do quite well in the second quarter when it comes to finance and IT workers.

The Feb. 16 Forbes list of the top 100 cities for jobs places the Sarasota-Bradenton MSA at 12th place, or the third best in Florida, one step above Tampa. When it comes to the area's unemployment rate and job growth, the Sarasota MSA is the third best in the country.

Median income in the Tampa-St. Petersburg MSA was ranked 75, while the unemployment and job growth rates were ninth. On income growth, the area was 13th. When it came to the cost of living, the area didn't rank so well at 60.

In addition to Sarasota, several other Florida cities ranked higher than Tampa Bay. But Tampa Bay ranked above Miami and West Palm Beach.

Florida's star, the Jacksonville MSA, moved to third place from eighth the previous year. The Orlando area stayed in fourth place, and Fort Lauderdale moved to ninth from 25th.

Ahead of Jacksonville were No. 1 ranked Raleigh, N.C., and No. 2 Phoenix, Ariz.

According to a Robert Half survey, a net 16% of chief information officers (CIO) in the Tampa Bay area expect to hire IT professionals in the second quarter, up two points from the first quarter in 2007 and four points above the national average. Only 1% of the area's CIOs expect to reduce staff.

In the accounting and finance area, a net 7% of local chief financial officers plan to hire staff in the second quarter, up three percentage points from the first quarter and two points above the national average, the survey shows.

Both Robert Half surveys were conducted by an independent research firm.

BY THE NUMBERS

Forbe's List of Florida's Best Cities For Jobs

Median

Household Un- Income Cost of Job Total

Rank MSA Income employ. Growth Living Growth Score

3 Jacksonville 40 15 6 49 13 123

4 Orlando 57 6 3 57 4 127

9 Fort Lauderdale 48 8 10 84 7 157

12 Sarasota-Bradenton 64 3 16 76 3 162

13 Tampa-St. Petersburg 75 9 13 60 9 166

16 West Palm Beach-Boca Raton 43 22 14 89 8 176

51 Miami 77 35 27 83 38 260

Source: Forbes

+ Corrections

• R. Quinn Turner's photograph was misidentified in an article on GLE Associates in the Feb. 23 edition of the Review.

• A real estate brief in the Feb. 23 issue regarding Sarasota Historic Waterworks building was incorrect. Northfield, Ill.-based Lock Up Self Storage purchased a 50,000-square-foot building on vacant property adjacent to the former Sarasota City Waterworks building. The company also purchased a 2,000-square-foot condominium unit in a newly constructed one-story building behind the Historic Waterworks Building. Frank W. Howell retains ownership of the Historic Waterworks Building and half of the one-story building behind the Waterworks Building.

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