Florida posts another mediocre finish in Bloomberg Innovation Index


In the past decade and a half, local and state governments in Florida have spent $1.5 billion to build a biotech industry. They dropped an additional $100 million to spur a digital animation industry.

Despite the massive investment aimed at creating a high-tech economy, Florida continues to post mediocre showings in national measures of tech prowess. In the latest example, Florida ranks 34th on Bloomberg’s 2016 U.S. State Innovation Index, which measures states on such factors as tech employment and patent filings.

Florida ranked especially low on Bloomberg’s measures of economic productivity per worker and the concentration of workers in science, technology and engineering.

Massachusetts and California top Bloomberg’s list. Florida rated closer to Mississippi, which was at the bottom.

In a separate study released in October, Florida fell to 41st in the Milken Institute’s State Technology and Science Index for 2016, down from 37th in 2014. And Florida ranks 41st in the Palm Beach Post’s latest state-by-state ranking of National Institutes of Health grants per capita for the 2016 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30.

Massachusetts topped both of those lists.

Population growth is back: See where Florida ranks

The new Restoration Hardware "mansion" in West Palm Beach is under construction on March 21, 2016. (Kristina Webb / The Palm Beach Post)
(Kristina Webb / The Palm Beach Post)

For decades, population growth was a crucial part of Florida’s economy. The growth engine stopped during the Great Recession, but now people are moving here again.

Florida posted the nation’s fourth-fastest pace of population growth from mid-2015 to mid-2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Our 1.8 percent growth rate trailed just Utah, Nevada and Idaho. (Since the 2010 census, Florida’s growth rate ranks sixth.)

Texas had the largest change in raw numbers of people, adding 432,957 residents, followed by Florida’s gain of 367,525 people over the past year.

West Virginia and Illinois lost the most residents.

Losing money on urine testing, Rennova Health buys failed hospital in rural Tennessee

Scott County Hospital

In a dramatic change of strategy, urine-testing firm Rennova Health said Tuesday that it has paid $1 million for a twice-shuttered hospital in rural Tennessee.

West Palm Beach-based Rennova said it will buy the 52,000-square-foot Scott County Hospital and an adjacent 6,300-square-foot building out of bankruptcy. The 25-bed hospital closed in June 2016 after its owner filed for Chapter 11 reorganization — and a previous owner closed the facility in 2012, according to the Tennesseean.

Rennova said it aims to reopen the hospital during the second quarter of 2017. Scott County (population 22,000) borders Kentucky and shares in the economic struggles common to Appalachia. Per capita income is just $18,709, and only 9 percent of residents have a bachelor’s degree, according to the U.S. Census.

“This acquisition is further demonstration of Rennova’s efforts to grow our business in a direction that will secure more predictable, recurring revenue for the provision of health care services and our state-of-the-art solutions,” Rennova Chief Executive Seamus Lagan said in a statement.

Times are so tough for urine-testing firm Rennova Health Inc. that the West Palm Beach-based recently sent an e-mail warning employees that they might not get paid on their scheduled payday. However, the crisis was averted, thanks to a preferred stock offering this month that raised $12 million. Rennova (Nasdaq: RNVA) had 144 employees as of Dec. 1, most of them in Palm Beach County.

“We’ve had a very difficult year,” Lagan said this month.

Most of Rennova’s revenue comes from its Medytox unit, which tests urine for drug-rehab centers. Tougher federal regulation has roiled the market, Lagan said.

“That picture changed very dramatically in the past year,” he said. “There has been a lot of fraud in that sector.”

For Rennova, 2016 has included a sharp drop in revenue, the resignations of the CFO and the chairman, a lawsuit from the landlord for unpaid rent at company headquarters in West Palm Beach, a 90 percent decline in the share price and a delisting notice from the Nasdaq.

Floridians carry nation’s fifth-highest credit card burden



Floridians carry the nation’s fifth-highest credit card debt burden, according to an analysis by CreditCards.com.

The site compared average credit card debt to median income in each state. Floridians’ overall credit card debt ranks just 18th among the 50 states, but low incomes (41st nationally) raise the proportionate cost of debt. In other recent signs that not all is well for Florida’s working class, nearly half of Sunshine State moms are the main breadwinner in their households, and even in Palm Beach County, home to the highest wages in Florida, workers make less than the national average salary.

By dedicating 15 percent of income to retiring credit card debt, the typical Florida resident would need 18 months to get out of debt, and would pay $678 in interest along the way, CreditCards.com said.

Highest Credit Card Debt Burdens

1. Alaska (20 months, $992 interest)
2. New Mexico (20 months, $743 interest)
3. Georgia (18 months, $716 interest)
4. Texas (18 months, $712 interest)
5. Florida (18 months, $678 interest)

Lowest Credit Card Debt Burdens

46. Wisconsin (14 months, $421 interest)
47. Massachusetts (13 months, $482 interest)
48. Minnesota (13 months, $458 interest)
49. Iowa (13 months, $379 interest)
50. North Dakota (12 months, $370 interest)

Former Miami Dolphin Will Allen loses house, moves to hotel while he awaits sentencing

Will Allen
Former Miami Dolphins cornerback Will Allen stretches before a 2009 game. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)

Just when Will Allen’s downward spiral seems like it can’t get any worse, it does: The former Miami Dolphins cornerback lost his Broward County home to foreclosure and has moved into a hotel.

Last month, Allen pleaded guilty to four federal felonies for running a Ponzi scheme. And despite signing NFL contracts totaling more than $30 million, Allen is broke. Allen pawned a Rolex and three other fancy watches to a Hollywood jewelry store. He’s out of jail only because former Dolphins teammate Vernon ­Carey wrote a $20,000 check to bail him out.

One of the conditions of his release from jail is that he can’t change his address. So his public defender this week sought a judge’s permission for Allen’s move. Wrote Allen’s attorney:

“Mr. Allen’s home in Davie was recently foreclosed on (12/8/2016) and he and his family have been asked to vacate the premises. Mr. Allen requests the permission of the Court to change his address to a local hotel called the Staybridge Suites, Ft. Lauderdale-Plantation, in Plantation. Unfortunately, the Allen family has no other option at this point and it is an emergency situation.”

The foreclosure means Allen can’t take advantage of Florida’s generous homestead protections.

Allen’s co-defendant, 56-year-old Susan Daub of Coral Springs, also pleaded guilty to four felonies.

See more coverage:

Former Dolphin Will Allen: New twist on pro athletes in the poor house

Loan sharking law rarely enforced in Florida

Will Allen stiffed Pro Player Funding on a high-interest loan in 2010. In 2012, he started a company making high-interest loans to pro athletes.

Allen calls Jack Johnson deadbeat, Johnson calls Allen loan shark.

Former Dolphin Bryant McKinnie also defaulted on high-interest loan.

Read the SEC complaint.

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


After $3.5 million price cut, mansion in Jupiter’s Bears Club back on market

191 Bears Club Drive. Photo courtesy Billy Nash

The mansion at 191 Bears Club Drive in Jupiter didn’t find any takers at $13.5 million. Now the estate is on the market at $10 million and is getting a marketing push from its new listing agent.

“The property is priced appropriately,” said Billy Nash of Keyes Co. Realtors.

The 12,555-square-foot spread is owned by Marie Feldman. It includes a 2,000-square-foot master bedroom, a sauna and a hallway with built-in wall niches to display paintings.

Bears Club is the exclusive community that boasts a golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus and a 40,000-square-foot mansion owned by Michael Jordan.

Atlantic Avenue restaurant space on market for eye-popping sum

Buddha Sky Bar in Delray Beach.

Two years ago, the Buddha Sky Bar building at 217 E. Atlantic Ave. in Delray Beach sold for $5.9 million, according to property records. Now it’s on the market for $24.5 million.

Why the huge increase? Aside from a shortage of space in a bustling market, the seller says the recorded sale didn’t reflect the full value of the property.

“That was an inside deal between two partners buying each other out,” said Buddha Sky Bar owner Chris Licata.

The Atlantic Avenue market has commanded some premium prices. Last year, the buildings at 326 E. Atlantic and 400 E. Atlantic went for $19.5 million, or nearly $1,300 a square foot. If the 11,500-square-foot Sky Bar building gets its asking price, the deal will top $2,000 a foot.

“Buddha Sky Bar is the only three-story restaurant with views of Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach, where restaurant space downtown commands a premium due to limited supply,” said Marc E. Strauss, a broker at Marcus & Millichap who’s listing the building.

Sky Bar is offering a sale-leaseback. It says it’ll sign a 10-year lease for the second and third floors and a one-year lease for the first floor.

Delray isn’t the only place where high street retail has been fetching hefty sums. The Brooks Brothers building on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach traded for $2,800 a foot, and the Tiffany building on Worth Avenue is on the market for $2,400 a foot.

Royal Poinciana Plaza renovation could reshape Palm Beach’s Realtors Row

Hermes has leased space at Royal Poinciana Plaza in Palm Beach. Photo by Meghan McCarthy/The Palm Beach Daily News
Hermes has leased space at Royal Poinciana Plaza in Palm Beach. Photo by Meghan McCarthy/The Palm Beach Daily News

Royal Poinciana Plaza in Palm Beach is home to a veritable Realtors Row, but real estate brokers someday might move from the center’s retail space into the offices next door at The Slat House.

In addition to TooJay’s and Palm Beach Grill, Royal Poinciana Plaza is home to real estate firms Brown Harris Stevens, Corcoran Group, Douglas Elliman, Sotheby’s International and Valore Group. Luxe retailer Hermes Paris is moving into the center, part of an upgrade by Up Markets, which owns a controlling interest in the plaza.

The landlord said there’s no concerted effort to replace real estate brokers with more traditional retail tenants. But Mike Pappas, president of Valore Group owner Keyes Co., said Up Markets has mentioned a move.

Realtors covet retail space for its visibility and convenience. But office space is less expensive. And, Pappas noted, real estate brokers aren’t typical office users.

“That’s the dilemma,” Pappas said. “They’re thinking of us as office rather than retail.”

Alexandra Patterson, project manager for Royal Poinciana Plaza, said there’s no plan to move out Realtors.

“Each of our conversations is tenant by tenant and there isn’t one set of rules that we follow,” Patterson said in an e-mail. “As our conversations evolve, we are solely focused on finding the right space for each tenant.”

Perhaps tellingly, the “key tenants” list on the landlord’s website names Palm Beach Grill, House of Lavande, Sant Ambroeus and Haute Yoga but none of the brokers.

Pappas said national firm Keller Williams is among the brokers that successfully operates from office buildings rather than shopping centers. For Realtors, bricks and mortar isn’t as important as it used to be. Many brokers have been downsizing their offices as agents increasingly work remotely and market electronically.

But brokers who are fans of retail locations say the high street is the most effective place to operate a real estate office.

“You can’t really put a real estate office on the second floor and be successful,” said Douglas Rill, the owner of Century 21 Americas Choice who for years owned an office building a few blocks east of Royal Poinciana Plaza. “It’s the kiss of death.”


Publix center in North Palm Beach sells — but not to Publix

A very large inflatable grocery bag in front of the new Publix in the Belmont Plaza at 500 Belvedere Road in West Palm Beach, December 12, 2015. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)
Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post

The Northlake Promenade Shoppes in North Palm Beach just sold for $12.6 million, broker Avison Young said Tuesday.

The 83,000-square-foot center, anchored by Publix, is on 21 acres at the southwest corner of Northlake Boulevard and Federal Highway. Other tenants are CVS, Chase and BP.

The buyer is Woolbright Development of Boca Raton. Lakeland-based Publix has been an aggressive buyer of real estate, but not in this case.

“Publix has been extremely active in buying their own stores when available,” said David Duckworth, a broker at Avison Young. “However, with this project featuring such a valuable land component, it was a much better fit for a prominent developer like Woolbright Development to create maximum value for the center.”