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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Aug. 13, 2004 17 years ago

Coffee Talk (Sara/Mana edition)

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This week's items: Gerald Anthony is going to give community banking another shot.The redesign of an interactive store display has landed Sarasota-based Design Marketing Group a contract with the nation's largest specialty-retailer of

Coffee Talk (Sara/Mana edition)

Anthony tries again

Not unexpectedly, Gerald L. Anthony is going to give community banking another shot.

The long-time Manatee County banker filed an application last month with state regulators to start Freedom Bank down the street from the last bank he founded in Bradenton. In his application, Anthony indicates he and Freedom's seven other directors hope to raise $6.5 million before opening the doors at 410 Cortez Road W.

The proposed bank's headquarters, which Freedom intends to buy for $2.5 million, houses a SouthTrust branch now. SouthTrust Corp. is in the process of merging with Wachovia Corp.

This would be the third bank that the 61-year-old Anthony has founded in Bradenton since 1989. The first two, American Bank and Coast Bank of Florida, grew quickly but ran into problems with delinquent loans and uneven performance. Anthony eventually left both institutions.

His departure from Coast in February came after the bank waived a clause in Anthony's employment contract. The clause would have prevented Anthony from going to work for another Manatee bank for one year.

The proposed Freedom board consists of Bradenton physicians Alphonso A. Belsito and David E. Law, retired Ohio State University President Edward H. Jennings of Bradenton, Parrish locksmith John T. Hubbard, Sarasota real estate broker David E. Pack, retired Bradenton plastic surgeon Howard A. Seider and retired Sarasota auto dealer Lynn B. Powell, who helped Anthony found American Bank.

Anthony, the president and chief executive, would hold 6.4% of Freedom stock, the biggest stake among directors, who collectively would own 25%.

By the third year of existence, Freedom forecasts it will have $73.6 million in assets and generate $633,945 in profit, according to pro forma financial statements accompanying the application to the state Office of Financial Regulation.

Meanwhile, Coast parent Coast Financial Holdings Inc. is struggling to become profitable in the wake of Anthony's exodus. For the quarter that ended June 30, Coast Financial earned 6 cents a diluted share, compared to a 14-cent loss for the same 2003 period.

The bank continues to wipe bad debt off the books. The ratio of net charge-offs to average loans was .36%, or 33 basis points higher than the same quarter last year. But Coast pointed out that the June 30 ratio was down from .45% for the last quarter of 2003.

Fake boat controls drive demand

The redesign of an interactive store display has landed Sarasota-based Design Marketing Group a contract with the nation's largest specialty-retailer of boating supplies, West Marine Superstore.

DMG got the opportunity from its first client Limerick, Pa.-based Teleflex Marine, a manufacturer of boat parts. When West Marine agreed to carry Teleflex products, the retailer asked Teleflex if it knew of a company that could produce the display. Teleflex suggested DMG.

"They have been a hell of good client for us," says Sanford Cohen, agency president. "The first (display, which features interactive steering and engine control products,) we built was based on West Marine's specifications for the Fort Lauderdale store. For the second display, we begged and pleaded with them to let us improve it."

That display, which eventually made it to West Marine's San Diego store, was so well received that DMG was given a contract to produce eight more.

The total display cost is about $15,000, excluding product costs.

DMG outsources production of the base and plastic products.

"In terms of the size of the contract, West Marine is not our biggest customer," Cohen says. "But in terms of potential I can't thank them enough. West Marine has the potential of being such a large customer for us. This is pretty exciting. Plus to be a West Marine approved vendor ... it says a lot about your credibility as a company."

West Marine has more than 260 locations, including stores in Bradenton, Sarasota, Venice, Englewood, Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda.

Cleaning up dirty dirt

How to make use of contaminated land will be the focus of the Florida Brownfields Conference Aug. 15-18 at the Sarasota Hyatt. The event, co-hosted by Sarasota County and the Florida Brownfields Association, will gather experts from government, business, finance, and local communities to discuss urban development and environmental challenges and the specific challenges in rural areas and smaller communities.

A brownfield is defined as a property with a real or perceived contamination that hinders development. Sites that receive a brownfield designation from the city or county are eligible for new business tax credits, low-interest loans, loan guarantees and additional aid in cleaning up ground contamination. Participants in the Brownfield programs are required to commit to create jobs and must show they will be able to complete their project.

Sarasota County's only brownfield site, near the intersection of Fruitville Road and Interstate 75, is seeing a Lowe's home improvement store make use of the incentive program.

Part of the brownfields conference will be a "pitch your property" session where people can match real estate assets and development dreams. Other program events include recreational redevelopment, portfields, technology applications, grants and insurance issues. Event organizers expect 300 people to attend.

For information, go to www.floridabrownfields.org.

Etc...

× In an example of how no office is completely safe from crime, the Sarasota office of the Institute for International Research was recently burglarized at Technology Park II, one of the former Arthur Andersen buildings at 101 Arthur Andersen Parkway. According to police, on August 4 someone stole several laptop computers, a safe containing several computer backup tapes and other employee items. The officer noted no signs of forced entry. The open safe was later found in Charlotte County on the side of the road. It still containing the stolen tapes. Technology Park II uses a computerized key-card access system. The investigation continues.

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