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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Aug. 27, 2004 15 years ago

Coffee Talk (Sara/Mana edition)

This week's items: Gulf Coast bankers get FBA honorsNo news from city regarding The Beckett Whitney Group LLC's offer to purchase the City CentreVenice-based PGT Industries Inc. may need a bigger help wanted sign.

Coffee Talk (Sara/Mana edition)

Gulf Coast bankers get FBA honors

GCBR isn't the only one picking a banker of the year. The Florida Bankers Association has also chosen a Gulf Coast banker for its annual award.

Jerry L. Neff, president and chief executive of Gold Bank-Florida, took the FBA prize at the banker association's recent 2004 convention at the Ritz-Carlton Beach Resort in Naples.

Neff was selected during the same year he retired as a brigadier general in the state's Army National Guard. Gold, a unit of Gold Banc Corporation Inc. in Kansas, maintains its Florida headquarters in Bradenton.

Meanwhile, up in Dade City, a Pasco County bank is celebrating as J. Lamar Roberts takes his turn as FBA president. Roberts is president of the First National Bank of Pasco.

"It's quite an honor," says Roberts, who has led the 18-year-old Dade City bank on a path of steady if not spectacular growth.

Roberts was installed at the Naples convention. The 63-year-old Roberts has been in banking since his teens in Georgia. His first bank presidency came at age 29 when he crossed the state line to head the Dixie County State Bank in Cross City.

Roberts came to First National Bank of Pasco in 1992. The national bank had $87 million in assets, as of March 31.

During the past year, Roberts has traveled extensively around the country as FBA president-elect. He says the FBA compares favorably with any statewide banker group in America.

"We're a winner. We're an ace," Roberts told GCBR. "You know why? We're united."

The FBA has membership among executives affiliated with thrifts and community banks as well as the biggest commercial banks. About 90% of all Florida banks and thrifts belong to the FBA, according to Roberts.

Roberts referred questions about legislative and regulatory priorities for his term to Alejandro "Alex" Sanchez, the FBA's chief executive. But Roberts made an exception for the issue of competitive fairness and the big credit unions.

"Frankly, they're tax-free banks masquerading as credit unions," says Roberts, who would like to see the non-profit status of billion-dollar-asset credit unions reviewed by federal and state authorities.

The FBA's president-elect is Jerry J. Williams, chairman and CEO of Orion Bank in Naples. Williams, 43, may be familiar to GCBR readers. He was the newspaper's banker of the year in 2003.

No news is bad news

After St. Petersburg-based developer The Beckett Whitney Group LLC's offer to purchase the Bradenton City Centre was publicized by GCBR in June, the silence from City Hall has been noticeable.

Beckett Whitney officials proposed to buy the municipal building, on the waterfront, for its appraised value, and to work with the city to relocate the three departments that occupy the facility.

"I have to say honestly it has been tremendously disappointing," says Blake Thompson, chairman of acquisitions for the developer. "We have called and written letters to the mayor and the city. We had heard that this was an idea that Mayor Poston was in favor of (at least in general). We are being told now the mayor is unavailable or is on vacation. We haven't even received a call back."

So for now, the developer has turned to other opportunities.

"We have a large piece of land under contract in Sarasota," Thompson says. "We are definitely looking around for other projects. We are not going to sit around and wait. It's too bad we wanted to do something good for the city. If they are interested, they've got my number."

Help wanted

Venice-based PGT Industries Inc. may need a bigger sign. Following the window manufacturer's acquisition of two nearby properties and its projected expansion, the company plans to add more than 100 employees over the next year.

As GCBR reported in April, PGT Industries bought a 15,000-square-foot building, adjacent to the company's main manufacturing facility and its leased 57,000-square-feet glass plant. The company will add 27,000 square feet to the smaller building for its new simulated wood division and another 20,000 square feet to the painting operation in the first quarter of next year.

"We have over 75 job openings right now even without these new hires," says Dave McCutcheon, vice president of engineering. "We are planning to hire 12 to 15 employees per shift for the new division and another 10 to 15 per shift for the glass plant addition."

The company, one of Sarasota-Manatee's largest employers, employs 1,600 workers in Florida and another 350 people in North Carolina, McCutcheon says.

"We have just been seeing huge sales growth," he adds. "We have been growing by double digits for the past few years."

The new entry-level jobs start at $9 an hour and go as high $18 an hour, depending on experience and training.

A new urbanism first for Sarasota?

Siesta Key developer Henry Rodriguez plans to submit a rezoning petition and detailed site and development plans on its Osprey Bay Street Village and Town Center project within the next few weeks.

The development, which had been previously referred to as the Grand Oak Village of Osprey, is one of the first among the new wave of urbanist villages planned in Sarasota County.

The 50-acre project is adjacent to the planned new Wal-Mart along the east side of Tamiami Trail in Osprey.

Rodriguez, president of Sarasota Development Corp., told GCBR's sister paper The Osprey Observer, he has been negotiating for about seven months with officials over the design.

As Rodriguez submits his plans, county planners are expected to complete their review of the fourth version of plans for the Wal-Mart Super Store, which will be developed on about 25 acres.

Mary Stephens, planner and development review coordinator for Sarasota County, says she is confident Wal-Mart's latest revisions will be approved.


× Maybe it's just us, but isn't it ironic the Fourth Annual Sarasota County Hurricane/Flood Preparedness Expo was delayed by a hurricane? The free event is now Aug. 28 at the Sarasota Bradenton International Convention Center, 8005 15th St. E., Sarasota.

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