Boca Raton tech firm to cut 59 workers in December and January

Happier days: A fake sumo match at NTT's facility in Boca Raton. (Taylor Jones/The Palm Beach Post)
Happier days: A fake sumo match at NTT’s facility in Boca Raton. (Taylor Jones/The Palm Beach Post)

Tech firm NTT America plans to lay off 59 workers at its operations in Boca Raton, the company has told state labor officials.

NTT America says it will lay off 16 people on Jan. 15, many of them engineers. In a bit of good news for workers, NTT America scaled back a previously announced layoff, saying just 43 people will lose their jobs Dec. 15, down from the 51 originally reported.

NTT America operates from a facility at 5050 Conference Way in Boca. It’s a division of NTT Communications Corp. of Japan.

Which Florida county is the richest? New data offers one answer

Naples Pier

Among Florida counties, Palm Beach is home to the poshest real estate, while Miami-Dade boasts the biggest economy. But when it comes to per capita personal income, Collier County is the clear victor.

Collier County’s per capita personal income was $78,473 in 2015, No. 1 among Florida’s 67 counties, the Bureau of Economic Analysis said Thursday. Palm Beach County’s $68,743 was No. 4. Union County’s $18,255 ranked last.

Every Florida county saw income rise from 2014 to 2015. Intriguingly, in this area of ever-expanding income inequality, Collier County’s 1.6 percent increase was the slowest pace of growth.

Personal income includes wages and salaries, investment income and transfer payments such as Social Security.

Nationally, income ranged from a low of $16,007 in Georgia’s Wheeler County to a high of $194,861 in Wyoming’s Teton County.

BofA building sells for $23 million in WPB

share467A medical office building in downtown West Palm Beach is one step closer to being a reality.

The Bank of America Centre in West Palm Beach sold Oct. 14 for $23 million to a group that plans to bring medical offices to the waterview property, including Jupiter Medical Center and Mount Sinai Hospital of New York.

The 10-story, 110,000-square-foot office building overlooks the Intracoastal Waterway at 625 N. Flagler Drive.

Bank of America Centre
Bank of America Centre

Developer Michael McCloskey of FRI Investors is the buyer, along with Palm Beach investors Tom and Leslie Quick. They formed an entity called 625 Flagler Acquisition LLC, according to a deed recorded with the Palm Beach County clerk’s office.

The seller is EFN Flagler Property LLC, an entity owned by car dealer Ed Napleton, who bought it in 2014 and flipped it to Flagler Acquisition for about double what he paid.

Another bidder for the building confirmed the property’s note was sold for a price in excess of $11 million to Napleton, although the recorded deed shows a price of only $2.9 million.

McCloskey tried to bring the medical tenants to the city owned “tent site” on Okeechobee Boulevad and South Dixie Highway last year. The deal didn’t go through.

But medical tenants remain interested in catering to wealthy Palm Beach residents across the bridge. The Bank of America building is well-located to the island, next to the Flagler Memorial Bridge.

Even though the property is known as the Bank of America Centre, the bank no longer is in the building. Bank of America moved to the nearby Esperante office center this year.

Signs touting the incoming medical tenants are expected to rebrand the building.


Florida tops nation in job growth — but what happened to Texas?

Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Texas Gov. Rick Perry in West Palm Beach in 2013. Photo by Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post
Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Texas Gov. Rick Perry in West Palm Beach in 2013. Photo by Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post

Florida continues to lead the nation in job growth. The 3.4 percent jump in Florida jobs was tops among large states, beating California’s 2.3 percent, New York’s 1.1 percent and Illinois’ 0.7 percent, the U.S. Labor Department said Friday.

Perhaps most surprisingly, Florida continues its drubbing of Texas, which not so long ago led the nation in job growth. Texas posted a middling job growth rate of 1.7 percent from September 2015 to September 2016, trailing even Michigan’s 2 percent.

Only three years ago, Rick Perry visited West Palm Beach to take a job-creation victory lap. Perry was still governor of Texas, which was a job-creation machine at the time, and he and Florida Gov. Rick Scott shared a stage to discuss the miracles of low taxes and loose regulation as an economic engine.

Perry didn’t mention the most obvious reasons for the Texas-sized job growth: The Lone Star State didn’t experience a housing bubble, and it was the beneficiary of an energy boom. Once that cycle ran its course, Texas gave up its pole position as the nation’s job engine.

“Texas helped lead the U.S. out of recession, thanks in part to the shale drilling revolution,” The Wall Street Journal reports. “But after more than two years of slumping oil prices, the state is now a sore spot for the national economy.”

Two WPB apartments to get multi-million dollar upgrades

Arium apartments in West Palm Beach
Arium apartments in West Palm Beach

An Atlanta-based company that turns around old apartments has swooped into West Palm Beach and purchased  two apartment complexes, with plans to spend a whopping $20 million renovating them.

Cortland Partners, an investment and management firm, purchased 396-unit Arium Palm Cove and 416-unit Arium at Laguna Lakes.

Cortland plans to combine the apartment complexes into one community to be called Portofino Place, in a bid to make the properties operate more efficiently. The apartment communities are north of Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard, to the west of Interstate 95.

The purchase closed on Oct. 14. Terms were not disclosed. The seller was Carroll Communities, which bought the apartment complexes just last year for $112 million.

A top Cortland executive said the purchase price was a premium over the previous $112 million sale, but still was less money than new construction would have cost.

John Builder of Cortland Partners
John Builder of Cortland Partners


As a result, Cortland will be able to rehab the apartments and make them as luxurious — or better — than new apartment complexes coming onto the market, said John Builder, Cortland director of investments for Florida.

Cortland’s move could signal a shift away from developers seeking to build new apartments, and instead indicate that some real estate players think it might be cheaper to buy old ones and fix them up.

After all, construction costs are going up and bankers are demanding stricter lending terms, according to a recent real estate forum featuring the region’s top apartment builders.

During the next two years, Cortland will take units as they are vacated by tenants and completely redo them. Kitchens will receive 42-inch cabinets, granite countertops, tile backsplashes and stainless steel appliances. Bathrooms will receive new plumbing and lighting.

A Laguna Lakes pool will be rebuilt because it is too small.

When the upgrades are completed, Builder expects rental rates will rise to between $230 to $250 a unit. Online rents now range from about $1,200 to $2,000 for one to three-bedroom apartments at Arium Palm Cove, according to

Although some apartment developers are starting to be wonder if rental rates can go much higher, Builder said Cortland is thinking of long-term housing trends. And those trends shows increasing apartment dwelling, Builder said.

A major reason: Young people in their 20s are putting off buying homes until they are well into their 30s.

“They’re more tied to a career than what they perceive as a financial anchor,” Builder said.

Cortland thinks Palm Beach County shows positive signs for continued job growth, a positive trend for apartment owners.

Cortland has been impressed by deals such as  UTC’s decision to build the Center for Intelligent Buildings in Palm Beach Gardens. The center, which will showcase UTC products and brands, is expected to create hundreds of new jobs.

Builder said Cortland has been eager to enter the Palm Beach County market, and this was a strong first deal.

“We needed a tent pole in Southeast Florida, and 812 units is a great way to have a tent pole,” Builder said. “It’s not going to be our last (deal) either. We’re bullish on the area over the long-term.”

Cortland owns 35,000 apartment units throughout seven states, mostly in the Southeast U.S. and also Texas.








Seven things to know about Palm Beach County’s real estate market

From left to right: Joel Altman, the Altman Companies; Mike Belmont, Minto Communities; Jeff Greene; Bob Vail, Kolter Urban; Michael Wohl, Pinnacle Housing
From left to right: Joel Altman, the Altman Companies; Mike Belmont, Minto Communities; Jeff Greene; Bob Vail, Kolter Urban; Michael Wohl, Pinnacle Housing. Photo courtesy Green Advertising.

Banks are turning off their money spigots.  Apartment rental rates aren’t likely to go up.

But people still need to live somewhere, and five prominent housing developers told a crowd of about 70 on Thursday they remain mostly bullish about the Palm Beach County housing market.

The speakers were Jeff Greene, a Palm Beach billionaire and West Palm Beach land investor;  Mike Belmont, president of Minto Communities Florida; Bob Vail, president of Kolter Urban; Joel Altman, chairman of The Altman Companies; and Michael Wohl, president of Pinnacle Housing.

They addressed a crowd assembled at Morton’s Steak House for the aptly-named Real Estate Developer Power Lunch. The lunch was hosted by Green Advertising and chairman Phyllis Green, in celebration of the company’s 30th anniversary representing a range of businesses, especially developers.

Although the real estate developers were enthusiastic about their own projects, they candidly voiced concerns about housing affordability, demand for rental apartments and the future of new projects proposed in the county.

And, in a one-on-one interview with a reporter, one developer  dropped a bombshell.

Here are seven takeaways:

  • Minto is not promising to build parks and recreational facilities at Westlake, a city created after the county gave Minto approval to develop 4,500 homes in a portion of the Acreage. “That’s up to the city (of Westlake),” Minto’s Mike Belmont told this reporter. Minto is the primary landowner in the Seminole Improvement District, whose boundaries now roughly equate those of Westlake. The project calls for 200 acres of parks and 15 miles of trails for horses, bikes and walkers. After Westlake was created, county officials worried Minto would not keep its promises and instead, punt to Westlake.
  • Boca Raton is about to become a hot market for apartment rentals.  Altman’s soon-to-open 396-unit apartment complex, Altis Boca Raton, is expected to attract professionals working in the nearby Park at Broken Sound. Altis is under construction on Military Trail and is expected to open in March. Rents will range from $1,800 to the high $2,000s for one, two and three bedroom apartments.
  • West Palm Beach remains an iffy market for more new apartments. Greene said there’s a limited pool of people who can afford pricey rents. At the Strand apartment building and City Palm condos, where Greene owns bulk units and rents them out, he consistently has a 10 percent vacancy rate. “We don’t have robust demand,” Greene said.
  • Housing affordability is a problem. Belmont said Westlake will provide for-sale homes for working families, but other developers who build apartments acknowledged rents are starting to become too pricey. In Boca Raton, Altman said rental rate increases will soon start moderating because the supply of apartments is increasing. In West Palm Beach, Greene said rental rates increases are “constrained” because there isn’t a huge pool of renters. This means rental rates are less likely to rise in the future, he said.
  •  Fewer condominium and apartment projects will be built, thanks to tightened lending practices. Making matters worse: Bank regulators are clamping down on banks that already have broad exposure to the housing market. Minto’s Belmont said one major bank dropped out of its lending group, but the company was able to replace it with another bank. “The (lending) pool is shrinking, and the banks participating in the pool are getting tougher,” agreed Kolter’s Vail. Kolter is building The Alexander apartments in West Palm Beach and the Water Club condominium in North Palm Beach.
  • West Palm Beach has a lot of proposed projects, but “of eight or 10 proposed projects, maybe one or two will get built,” Greene said. Greene said obtaining bank financing will be a problem for some developers, but not for him: He plans to self-finance construction of One West Palm, a twin-tower complex featuring office space, hotel rooms and apartments. “I’m taking a shot here, but it won’t ruin me if it doesn’t work out,” said the billionaire. Greene expects to break ground on the 30-story towers at Quadrille Boulevard within about four months.
  • Everybody wants the West Palm Beach condominium, The Bristol, to succeed. The ultra-luxury condo, now under construction on Flagler Drive, could provide a “viral” boost to the local real estate market, once the 25-story building is completed and word gets out, said Kolter’s Vail.

Need a job? This company is hiring hundreds of workers


Global Response, a call center company in Margate, is hiring more than 700 workers.

Many of the jobs will be for the upcoming holiday season, but the company said it tends to hire permanent workers from the pool that works the temporary holiday period. In fact, 80 percent of the company’s management started as entry-level phone agents.

Spokeswoman Margie Plunkett said the company draws workers from throughout South Florida, including Palm Beach County, to serve as customer service representatives fielding calls for Global Response’s numerous clients.

These companies include Crate & Barrel home furnishings retailer; Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters women’s fashion retailers; and Rack Room Shoes. Global Response also represents many Fortune 500 companies.

Global Response has more than 1,500 employees companywide, but most are at the Margate facility.

For information, call 954-969-2433.

See how much West Palm Beach apartments sold for


The Jefferson Palm Beach apartment complex in West Palm Beach traded hands in June for $56 million, or $198,936 a unit, according to county property records.

The new owners are Dedicated West Palm Beach LP and GP Florida LLC.

The address of Dedicated West Palm Beach is listed as the address of Brass Enterprises, based in Toronto, Canada. Brass is a real estate investor in multifamily housing in both the U.S. and Canada.

The newly built rental community was completed a year ago. It consists of 281 units. Monthly rents now range from $1,547 for a one-bedroom unit to $2,041 to a three-bedroom unit.

The Jefferson Apartments are at 300 Courtney Lakes Circle, near the Palm Beach Outlets, off of Palm Beach Lakes Blvd.

The Jefferson’s sales price was a nice premium for the apartment’s developer, JAG-Star, an affiliate of Starwood Capital of Greenwich, Ct. JAG-Star bought the 11-acre parcel of land in 2012 for $4 million.



Four things to know about Palm Beach County’s job market

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Noteworthy items from Friday’s Florida unemployment report:

  1. Palm Beach County unemployment dipped: It was 5.1 percent in August, down from 5.2 percent in July.
  2. Palm Beach County job growth remains comparatively tepid: Over the past year, Palm Beach County job growth was 2.3 percent. If we were in Texas or New York, that would be a strong showing. But in Florida, which posted 3 percent job growth over the past year, it’s not great.
  3. More middle-of-the-pack news: Palm Beach County’s unemployment is just above the statewide figure of 4.9 percent (seasonally unadjusted) and the national figure of 5 percent (also seasonally unadjusted).
  4. Income growth is strong: In a separate study — the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey — Palm Beach County’s median household income soared 8.5 percent from 2014 to 2015. That outpaced the national growth of 5.2 percent.

Florida’s middle class shrinking, FIU study says

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Florida’s middle class is dwindling, even as the state’s upper and lower classes grow. That’s according to a study released Monday by Florida International University’s Research Institute on Social & Economic Policy.

Wage stagnation has been a central theme of the presidential election, and FIU’s findings do nothing to dispel the notion that the middle of the economy is disappearing:

  • Middle class: In 2009, 50.8 percent of Florida households were middle class. By 2014, that share had fallen to 49.1 percent. Average income for middle-class households is $39,275.
  • Upper class: In 2009, 17.5 percent of households were upper class. That share grew to 18.9 percent in 2014. Average income for upper-class households is $118,847.
  •  Lower class: The share rose from 31.7 percent in 2009 to 32 percent in 2014. Average income is $12,098.