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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Aug. 20, 2004 17 years ago

Coffee Talk (Sara/Mana edition)

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This week's items: Could Charley kill Florida's golden goose - construction?The Florida Brownfields Association rescheduled its Florida Brownfields ConferenceMerging Point Design executives star Nuevo Punto Advertising Group

Coffee Talk (Sara/Mana edition)

Could Charley kill Florida's golden goose - construction?

The Florida Home Builders Association is concerned Hurricane Charley could deal a devastating blow to the industry. With major construction supplies - primarily plywood, steel and concrete - already in short supply, what happens when the reconstruction of damaged homes and businesses further increases demand?

"That is a really huge concern right now," says Edie Ousley, the association's public affairs director. "After Andrew, the construction industry experienced large increases in costs not from price gouging, but from increased demand for materials."

The industry wants to speed up access to materials through the new Disaster Contractors Network, made up of construction organizations and recognized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The network will feature a Web site (www.dcnonline.org) for contractors and property owners.

The site helps contractors learn about state building requirements, and it allows members to communicate needs for material, labor or supplies.

"It would allow one group to go online and say things like, 'We have materials, but we need labor for a particular job,' " Ousley says. "This network is the first in the nation. We are anxious to see the outcome."

For property owners, the Web site will provide the names of licensed Florida contractors and building requirements. DCN will also offer a link to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation's Web site so homeowner can verify a contractor is licensed.

"We are encouraging all of our members to register on the site," says Jay Brady, executive director of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange in Sarasota.

Second chance

With Hurricane Charley barreling toward Sarasota, the Florida Brownfields Association rescheduled its Seventh Annual Florida Brownfields Conference: "Taming Brownfields ¦ From Rural Communities to Urban Areas" at the Sarasota Hyatt.

Instead of running from Aug. 15-18, the conference was postponed to October 3-6. (Coffee Talk hopes another hurricane doesn't head for the Gulf Coast since hurricane season doesn't end until late November.) More than 300 people from government, business, finance, and local communities were expected to attend the conference, which will focus on the brownfield environmental-cleanup process.

"It was a very hard decision to make, but it turned out to be the right one," says Nandra Weeks, conference chair. "A lot of the people that would have attended are involved in emergency cleanup. (Such as those personnel with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.)"

The delay also reopens registration for the conference. People interested in attending can find out more information via the Web site www.floridabrownfields.org.

Buying power

Seeing opportunity in the Hispanic market, the founders of the Sarasota-based Web management firm of Merging Point Design, Pedro and Roseanne Perez, have a new startup: Nuevo Punto (New Point) Advertising Group.

The new company is a full-service advertising and marketing firm aimed at helping companies reach the largest minority group in the nation - Hispanics.

As of the 2000 Census, 16.8% of Florida's residents were of Hispanic or Latino origin. In the Sarasota-Bradenton area, the Hispanic market grew from 6,174, or 1.76% of the total population, in 1980 to 38,682, or 6.56%, in 2000. There was a more than 500% increase in the Hispanic population in the two-county market compared to a 70% growth rate in the total population.

The Perezes have enlisted the help of Marjorie Floyd, owner of Strategic Marketing Resources, and Dan Miller of Startup Florida. Merging Point Design will now operate as a service under Nuevo Punto.

"Our plan is to start local and then to take the company statewide, then national and then internationally," Pedro Perez says. "We hope to reach the international level in three years. What is really driving this is Hispanic buying power. By 2010, Hispanic purchasing power is expected to reach $1.2 trillion."

Perez says one of the advantages his company has over other bilingual marketing agencies is the acknowledgement that the Hispanic market is extremely diverse. The new company includes personnel from Colombia, Cuba, Venezuela and Puerto Rico.

Survey shows greater economic confidence

The most recent survey by the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida showed a sharp uptick in expectation for economic conditions in the future. Most sectors recorded a decline from November to March followed by a recovery in July. The survey was based on observations of 426 Floridians.

Expected national economic conditions over the next year

July '03November '03March '04July '04

FLORIDA88928793

Men941069698

Women84798191

Under age 6092948894

Aged 60 and over78888591

Income under $30,00082847984

Income $30,000 and over929693100

Source: The Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida

Etc...

× KCC Estimating & Construction Services Inc., Sarasota, plans to hold contractor state licensing exam prep classes and construction-estimating training courses. The Florida contractors' license exam preparation course for general, builder and residential contractor candidates starts at 6 p.m. on Sept. 6, in preparation for the Dec. 12-13 exam. Each course is limited to five people and lasts three months. Attendants have an 84% pass rate. KCC's three-month comprehensive estimating training course will begin at 6 p.m. on Sept. 7. Both classes will be held at 1849 Vamo Drive, Sarasota. Call (941) 966-7047.

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