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Business Observer Thursday, Nov. 29, 2007 10 years ago

Gulf Coast Week

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A $125 million contractHome values fallCoast Bank clears hurdle Hudson wins House seatBeating the drought

Gulf Coast Week

TAMPA BAY

A $125 million contract

Sypris Electronics LLC, a Tampa subsidiary of Sypris Solutions, received a four-year deal worth $125 million from the Pentagon for the production of cryptocards, a personal computer memory and information security card.

The device allows military to plug into high-security networks and computer systems using encrypted passwords.

Home values fall

Some of Tampa's best-known addresses have suffered some of the worst housing value declines, according to the third-quarter data provided by the national housing tracking firm Zillow.com.

Crunching property appraiser records and housing sales data, the Seattle company purported to capture median home value changes from Sept. 30, 2006 to Sept. 30, 2007.

Overall, the four-county region of Pinellas, Pasco, Hillsborough and Hernando showed a 13.1 % decline in housing values. Clearwater Beach, with its glut of high-priced condos, lost the most at 20.8 %.

Indian Rocks Beach's values dropped 17.4 %, Port Richey's 15.7 %, Hunter's Green's 14 % and Tierra Verde's 14.1 %.

Fixated mostly on sales prices, Realtors have quibbled with Zillow's analysis in the past, but company spokeswoman Amanda Hoffman said blending in county property appraisals is a "better measure of market health."

When it comes to valuation, all houses are not created equal. Zillow said extra-small single-family homes below 1,200 square feet and extra-large homes (more than 3,000 square feet) have weathered declines better than houses in the 1,200- to 3,000-square-foot range.

For condos in the region, the smaller the size, the steeper the declines, reflecting a surplus of smallish apartments converted to condos in the past few years.

Home values have held up better in some expensive neighborhoods like Tampa's Davis Islands and Bayshore Beautiful. But less-expensive communities, many of which didn't enjoy skyrocketing valuations during the boom, racked up the best results.

East Tampa, Old West Tampa, University Square and Dade City all showed only small declines in property values.

Taking a longer view of the market, Zillow's analysis had Tampa Bay area homes increasing in value 10.5 % over the past five years. Conclusion: We haven't given back all the gains from the boom that ended in late 2005-early 2006.

SARASOTA/MANATEE

Coast Bank clears hurdle

Coast Financial Holdings Inc. shareholders have officially approved the sale of Bradenton-based Coast Bank to St. Louis-based holding company First Banks Inc.

The approval, which bank officials expected - albeit from disappointed and poorer investors - was announced after a Nov. 26 shareholders meeting, about three months after First Banks announced an agreement to buy Coast for about $22 million, or $3.40 a share. The total purchase price can still change, however, depending on what happens over the next month with some outstanding Coast loans.

The shareholders join the Federal Reserve in approving the deal. Missouri banking regulators still need to approve the purchase, a process Coast officials say could be finalized by the end of the year, which would officially complete the deal.

The sale of Coast, a $644 million asset bank with 20 branches in Manatee, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, was initially triggered nearly a year ago, when the bank revealed that 482 home loans were at risk of going unpaid due to the homebuilder's failure to complete the homes.

Two bank executives were fired because of the problems, company shares dropped significantly and the bank is currently a defendant in several ongoing lawsuits.

First Banks, one of the largest privately held firms in St. Louis, operates banks in Missouri Illinois, California and Texas.

LEE/COLLER

Hudson wins House seat

Matt Hudson, 41, a real estate broker with VIP Realty Group in Naples, won a special election to the Florida House of Representatives on Nov. 20. The Naples Republican will fill the seat of Mike Davis, who died from cancer earlier this year.

Hudson's district stretches across Collier and Broward counties. He defeated Democrat Linda McDonald, a Collier County teacher, 56% to 44%.

Vanderbilt extension

Collier County plans to extend Vanderbilt Beach Road 11 miles to the east into the Golden Gate area of the county.

The first section from Collier to Wilson boulevards will be designed as a five-mile, six-lane divided roadway.

The second six-mile section from Wilson to DeSoto boulevards will be designed as a four-lane divided roadway.

Design and permitting are expected to take two years. County commissioners approved the extension of the road in April 2006 and about one-third of the land needed for the road has been acquired so far.

A public meeting on the road's preliminary design is scheduled Dec. 5 at Golden Gate Community Center Auditorium from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Beating the drought

Sarasota and Manatee government and water authority officials are attempting to fight off the drought issues facing other parts of the southeastern U.S., such as Georgia, before a problem becomes a crisis.

The problem, at least so far, isn't a lack of actual water, says Mike Coates, the water resources division director for the Peace River/Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority, the area's chief water source. Instead, a lack of rain is impacting the quality of the actual water already in the reservoirs.

"We are not going to run out of water," says Coates, "but the water quality will deteriorate as we move toward the spring."

Coates says Manatee County's water quality is normally the best in the region, and as such, the water authority, in conjunction with county officials, began a program in late November to have Manatee County supply Sarasota County with up to 2 million gallons of water per day. Sarasota and Manatee county commissioners are also considering proposals to declare a water emergency, which would allow the counties to further shift water resources.

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