As Trump targets H-1B visas, here’s how Palm Beach County employers use the program

Donald Trump on Super Tuesday. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

Corporate titans NextEra Energy, Office Depot and Jarden Corp. use the H-1B visa program to hire skilled foreign workers in Palm Beach County. So do Florida Atlantic University, Lynn University, Palm Beach Atlantic University, the Palm Beach County school district and Scripps Florida.

RELATED: Trump again hires foreign workers for Mar-a-Lago, little change in pay

Trump targets visa plan he says hurts American workers

But Palm Beach County’s most active users of H-1B visas are companies you’ve probably never heard of. The top four, based on the Post’s dive into data from the U.S. Department of Labor:

  1. MakeUrCareer LLC has H-1B visas for 215 programmers and software engineers based at its downtown Lake Worth address, although the company’s phone number is in the Seattle area, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor.
  2. Naztec International of West Palm Beach has H-1B visas for 84 workers in Palm Beach County, mostly systems engineers, software developers and programmers making $30 an hour.
  3. Ultimate Care Inc. of Delray Beach has H-1B visas for 30 workers in Palm Beach County, mostly nurses and physical therapists making $24 to $28 an hour.
  4. Office Depot has 14 H-1B visa workers at its Boca Raton headquarters. They’re mostly tech positions paying $52,000 to $154,000 a year.

Employers say a shortage of skilled American workers forces them to turn overseas, and Silicon Valley companies have lobbied for years for more H-1B visas. During a visit to Wisconsin this week, President Donald Trump called for a “Buy American and Hire American” policy that would tighten the availability of H-1B visas.

H-1B visas “should include only the most skilled and highest-paid applicants and should never, ever be used to replace American workers,” Trump said.

Trump, of course, has been an avid employer of foreign workers through the H-2B visa program, which allows employers to bring in low-wage workers for seasonal work.

Last year, Trump won permission to hire 64 workers at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, including  19 cooks at $12.74 an hour, 30 waiters and waitresses at $11.13 an hour and 15 housekeepers at $10.17 an hour. Their visas expire May 31.

The highest-paid H-1B visa worker in Palm Beach County is the $300,000-a-year chief executive of the nonprofit Johnson Scholarship Foundation. The federal visa database doesn’t name names, but the head of the foundation is Malcolm Macleod, a native of Nova Scotia.

No. 2 on the pay list is the chief operating officer of Max Planck Florida, at $238,125. That position is held by Matthias Haury, a European scientist who joined the Jupiter lab in 2013.

Most of the H-1B visas are granted to workers with technical bona fides, executive experience, foreign language acumen or health-care skills that Florida employers are in short supply. But there are a few head-scratchers. Among FAU’s 14 H-1B visas, for instance, are work permits for a $60,000 assistant professor of English language and a $43,460 instructor of communications.

Four Florida contractors hit with fines after death at construction site

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The death of a construction worker in Kendall this summer led the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to hit four construction firms with more than $90,000 in fines.

While Florida employers posted a surprisingly good safety record in 2015, there remain workplace fatalities that could be prevented easily, federal regulators say.

Leonardo Javier Lopez-Montelo, 33, died in June after falling through an unprotected stairway and plunging 11 feet.

He was working at the Kendall Square housing complex. The opening was not protected by the required guardrails or cover, OSHA said — an oversight Lopez-Montelo’s employer knew about and ignored.

After investigating Lopez-Montelo’s death, OSHA fined four contractors at the Lennar project:

  • Southern Chills Inc. of Homestead: $46,641
  • SB Painting & Waterproofing Inc. of West Palm Beach: $17,460
  • Capri Construction Corp. of Miami: $17,459
  • Brothers Carpentry Corp. of West Park: $9,976


Nearly half of Florida moms are main breadwinner

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Fully 42 percent of American mothers were the sole or primary income earners in their families in 2015, the Center for American Progress reports, an all-time high.

By state, the share ranges from a low of 26.3 percent in Utah to a high of 53.5 percent in Mississippi. Florida ranks fifth-highest with a share of 46.8 percent.

The share of women as primary breadwinners has steadily increased over the past four decades, reflecting an increase in single-parent families and the decline of male-dominated jobs in manufacturing and construction.

Wages are rising, but just half of Americans have gotten a raise in past year


(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Nearly half of Americans say their pay rose over the past year — which means more than half of Americans didn’t get a raise, according to a survey released Tuesday. The findings follow a recent Labor Department report showing U.S. wages rose 2.8 percent over the past year.

Of the working Americans who say they’re making more money, some 37 percent stayed in the same position and got a pay raise, while 12 percent switched jobs.

American workers who didn’t get a raise or promotion were likely to be less educated, to work part time, or to be 62 and older.

“When it comes to rising incomes, it’s a case of the ‘halfs’ and the ‘half nots,’ with half of working Americans getting a raise or better paying job and half that didn’t,” said Greg McBride,’s chief financial analyst.


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.

Happy Labor Day? Most Florida workers make less than $30,000 a year

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Florida has boasted one of the nation’s fastest-growing job markets in recent years, but how good are those positions? Maybe not so good.

Fully 65 percent of Florida workers earn annual salaries less than $39,099, Florida International University’s Center for Labor Research & Studies reports.

Half of Florida workers make $28,236 or less. Only 20 percent of salary earners make $55,463 or more.

High-paying jobs are concentrated in management, health care and sales. White workers in Florida make significantly more than non-white workers, FIU says.

Palm Beach County workers get hefty raise

Most common jobs in Palm Beach County: Low-wage positions dominate the list

Five things to know about Florida’s job market

Palm Beach County’s banks continue to grow more financially stable. (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Palm Beach County’s unemployment rate rose to 5.2 percent in July, up from 5 percent in June, the Florida labor department said Friday. Summer is usually a slow time for the region’s job market.

The labor force grew. There were 703,864 people in the county’s official labor force in July, up from 695,481 in June.

No change for Florida’s jobless rate. It’s still at 4.7 percent in July, same as June.

Professional and business services still leads the way. The sector added 53,400 jobs statewide over the past year. Other gainers were education and health services ( up 48,800 jobs), leisure and hospitality (41,100 jobs), trade, transportation, and utilities (30,700 jobs) and construction (26,400 jobs).

The wage picture looks promising — finally. State economists don’t report wage data, but the U.S. Labor Department report for July says paychecks jumped 2.6 percent over the past year, the sharpest increase in recent memory.


See which Palm Beach County companies topped Inc. 500 list of fast growers

A workout at Orangetheory Fitness.
A workout at Orangetheory Fitness.

Four Palm Beach County companies cracked the Inc. 500 list of the nation’s fastest-growing privately held firms:

27. Blackstone Labs of Boca Raton. The nutritional supplements company’s revenue soared more than 7,500 percent to $9.7 million in 2015.

60. Orangetheory Fitness of Boca Raton. Row much? The fitness chain — which focuses on jacking up members’ heart rates — grew 4,300 percent to $47 million. Inc. lists the headquarters as Fort Lauderdale, but Orangetheory is moving its main office to a building in Boca Raton it bought earlier this year.

170. Florida Premier Realty of the Palm Beaches. The suburban Lake Worth brokerage reported 2,100 percent revenue growth, to $2.6 million.

409. Fresh Meal Plan of Boca Raton. A purveyor of paleo and vegan meals, this company saw sales soar 943 percent to $15.5 million last year.

All four were founded in 2010 or later, reflecting the Inc. 500’s focus on startups.

The top Florida company on the list was Tribeca Marketing Group of Hollwyood. Its three-year growth rate was an eye-watering 8,395 percent.

Inc. magazine’s annual list ranks companies based on their three-year growth in revenue.


Palm Beach County ranked No. 7 nationally in job growth, Census says


Palm Beach County had the seventh-fastest pace of job growth among the nation’s 50 largest counties, the Census Bureau said last week.

San Francisco County and Travis County in Texas topped the list. Each showed growth of 5.7 percent.

Palm Beach County posted the best showing among large counties in Florida, at 3.9 percent. It’s another mixed signal from Palm Beach County’s job market, which has combined strong job growth with weak wages.

Business Development Board wooing nearly 1,700 jobs for Palm Beach County

West Palm Beach skyline. Photo by Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post
West Palm Beach skyline. Photo by Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post

The Business Development Board of Palm Beach County is negotiating with 11 companies that would employ 1,669 people, President Kelly Smallridge said Thursday.

The biggest prize is a technology company code named Project P2P. The employer is considering a move to Boca Raton that would bring 838 jobs at an average salary of $55,000. The company would receive $6.1 million in tax incentives, including $5 million from the state and $576,400 each from the city and county. Boca officials this month signed off on their part of the package.

The Business Development Board also hopes to land Project Scandinavian, a financial company that’s considering a 260-person headquarters in West Palm Beach.