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Tech is a Hot Topic at Capital Analytics fifth anniversary of Invest: Palm Beach

on February 10, 2024 / by Nikki Cabus ,

Read Time 8 Minutes

Capital Analytics Associates LogoOn February 7th, Capital Analytics Associates, held the Invest: Palm Beach Conference highlighting insights and perspectives in the region’s business economy. 

Capital Analytics is an integrated media company that serves the needs of businesses, executives, investors and entrepreneurs through forging strategic connections and producing engaging, relevant and high-impact content. Their annual business reports have a global circulation and includes among its readers top executives working in real estate, finance, technology, trade and logistics, health, hospitality and others.

Attendees South Florida Tech Hub CEO Nikki Cabus, Burlington Stores VP of Engagement, Culture, and Community Impact Alex Price, and Research Park at FAU President Andrew Duffell

The report conducts a deep dive into the top economic sectors in the region, including real estate, construction, infrastructure, banking and finance, legal, healthcare, education and tourism. The publication is compiled from insights collected from more than 200 economic leaders, sector insiders, political leaders and heads of important institutions. It analyzes the leading challenges facing the market and uncovers emerging opportunities for investors, entrepreneurs and innovators.

Held at the luxurious boutique hotel, The Ben, on the waterfront of downtown West Palm Beach, Capital Analytics celebrated the official release of the fifth anniversary edition of Invest: Palm Beach with more than 200 business leaders in attendance. The discussions of the morning were pertaining to the key drivers impacting the present and future regional economy in Palm Beach County. The event included featured three panel discussions centered on the state of the economy, education and the future workforce, and transit-oriented development and transportation initiatives.

Panel 1: State of the Economy

Panelists included Andrew Duffel, President of Research Park at Florida Atlantic, Gary Lesser, Managing Attorney at Lesser, Lesser, Landy &Smith, PLLC, Kristin Turner, Senior Managing Director Palm Berach at RBC Wealth Management, and Carlos Diaz, Principal at Kaufman Rossin. The panel was moderated by Sandra Martin Ruiz, Regional Director at SBCD at Florida Atlantic. The panelists discussed how current trends will transform the makeup of Palm Beach’s economy and business.

Sandra, Gary, Andrew, Kristin, Carlos (left to right)

The discussion focused on how quickly Palm Beach County’s business economy is transformaing. Discussions that once used to only include industries such as hospitality and healthcare now must include technology and overall innovation. Panelist Andrew Duffell spoke about the excitement across multiple industry sectors and some of the organizations doing important work in the booming technology space, supporting entreprenurship, and providing resources for research such as South Florida Tech Hub, 1909, and Research Park at FAU.

Profile photo of Andrew S. Duffell, MBA

Andrew Duffell, President at Research Park at FAU

Andrew also spoke about the diversity of our region, easy access to Latin America, Europe and the Carribbean, and favorable business envoronment in South Florida. In the Invest: Palm Beach’s 5th Anniversay Edition, Andrew is quoted saying, “The population we have here in South Florida is key. We are completely diverse. No one group of anything or anyone dominated the demography of this region. That lends itself to curiousity and research. Anyone doing any kind of research, being sociologcal or clinical, wants and needs to be in South Florida in order to get a substantial cross section of the world’s profile.”

Through the Research Park‘s new international soft landings and second stage company development initiative, Global Ventures, second stage companies from around the world and United States will become profitable and sustainable companies that will positively impact South Florida’s economy.

For almost 40 years, the Research Park at Florida Atlantic University® has been home to technology companies and research-based organizations working to support scientific research at Florida Atlantic University with innovation and leadership. The Research Park aims to foster scientific research and technology-based development in Palm Beach and Broward counties and support the overall innovation across the South Florida region.


Panel 2: Prioritizing Education

Panelists included Valery Forbes, Dean of Charles E. Schmidt College of Science at FAU, Ralph Maurer, Head of School at Oxbridge Academy, and Linda Trethewey, Head of School at Rosarian Academy. The panel was moderated by Abby Lindenberg, President & CEO at Capital Analytics. The panelists discussed how Palm Beach County’s leaders are preparing students for the workforce of the future.

Abby, Valery, Lind and Ralph (left to right)

According to the 2024 randkking in, Palm Beach County boats some of the best private schools in the state of Florida including Donna Klein Jewish Academy (7th), Saint Andrew’s School (18th), Boca Prep International School (21st), The Benjamin School (22nd), Oxbridge Academy (23rd) and The King’s Academy (24th).

Exposing students to industries of interest, ensuring we train in transferrable skills, and helping our local talent understand the local opportunities avaiable to them here in the county and all around the region were topics of interest. The known issue of making sure companies are also paying competitive rates was also discussed as this leads to the brain drain in the region. Brain drain is when a large group of skilled workers leave an industry or an area causing the lack of important human capital. This is a silent killer that South Florida has faced for decades.

Linda Threthewey

Each of the panelists spoke of the transfer of students from one school to another and the great relationship between each of the institutions from primary to higher education. A common theme was the quickly advancing tech industry and interjection of coding, artificial intelligence and general STEM education programs within the classrooms. Linda Threthewey spoke about the fact that she is preparing students who are going to be in the workforce in 2060 and with the advancements in technology, she has no idea what the workforce may look like then or the technical skills needed. Shje believes in the important of “critical thinking, digital and technological competency, entrepreneurial spirit” that will prepare these students to become future leaders.

According to the Florida Department of Education’s 2021 – 2022 Annual Report, of the 217,640 total PK-12 student enrollment in the 2021-22 school year, 27,981 (12.9%) were private school students and 189,659 (87.1%) were public school students. The district’s minority enrollments is approximately 70% with almost half of these students coming from underserved communities.

Although their is a desire and need for private school education through academies, charter schools, and college prepratory programs, the real need is for digital access within vulnerable communities, standard incorportated STEM education for all k-12 students, and enhanced STEM offerings for both teachers and students alike in the public school system. More collaborative efforts between governments, NGOs, and tech companies are needed to bring innovative solutions to areas lacking infrastructure. Household income set aside, we hope to see the Palm Beach County School District represented in future discussions knowing that a huge majority of the county’s students are receiving a public school education.

Invest: Palm Beach does have a feature article with Michael Burke, Superintendent for The School District of Palm Beach County where he addresses the high enrollments rates, learning loss and education gaps, teacher shortage, and even legislation and funding.


Panel 3: Moving Forward

Panelists included David Dech, Executive Director of Tri-Rail at South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, Jonathan Hopkins, Executive Director at WPB Mobility Coalition, Valerie Neilson, Executive Director at Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency, and Todd Bonlarron, Assistant County Administrator of Palm Beach County. The panel was moderated by Ryan Gandolfo, Senior Editor at Capital Analytics. The panelists discussed transit-oriented development and infrastructure in Palm Beach County.

Ryan, Valerie, Todd, Jonathan (left to right)

This was a very interesting and important discussion addressing the increased growth across the entire county including downtown areas, lack of affordable housing, and limited land for new home construction within the county. Cities in the western communities such as Wellington and the county’s newest city Westlake are experiencing an influx of new residents, but with sky-rocketing home prices, even these communities cannot meet the needs of all incoming new residents forcing residents to look north.

According to US News and World Report, Port St. Lucie, part of the Treasure Coast just north of Palm Beach County, is ranked as the 5th fastest-growing city for homebuyers in the United States. Although, the city does not have have the business economy needed to employ its residents keeping them local. In multiple reports, including the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, has shared that over the past decade an average of 60% of workers who reside in St. Lucie County are employed outside the county with a huge majority traveling to Palm Beach County.

Both issues are causing longer drive times, congestion on the roads, a community dependent on cars, increased competition for those who live locally, and additional pollution in the area.

The introduction of Brightline was a very positive addition to the county’s transporation services between 2018 – 2023, but don’t address the needs of those living in the western communities, those coming from neighboring counties, and the underserved workforce who may need public transporation in order to get to work.

The panel discussed the lack of a Mobility Plan for connected and walkable cities like our sister counties to the south that give people access to jobs, healthcare, and other basic necessities and resources. They also brought up strategies and plans such as the Live Local Act, a comprehensive and far-reaching workforce housing initiative and the new Port St. Lucie Express, express buses from Port St. Lucie to the Intermodal Transit Center in West Palm Beach for as little as $3. All panelists agreed that education around the stigma of using public transportation is also necessary.

Todd Bonlarron

Todd Bonlarron educated the audience by stating, ” At the request of Commission Greg Weiss, Reltaed Companies, and others, the County Commission partnered with Related and going to Tallahassee to create some technology enhancements along the Okeechobee corridor. We’ve got about $3.5 million dollars in the state budget right now that we hope to bring back to help introduce some more of that advanced technology into our signalization here so that we can move buses, move cars a little more quickly and efficiently . . .”

He continued, “Investing in that technology and working together and looking at how we’re going to fund a lot of the big ideas that we have going forward.”

Technology was an important part of each of the morning’s panel discussions. Technology is changing. Change creates innovation. Let’s innovate together!

TOGETHER, we are #BuildingSoFlo!

Interested in checking out each of the panels for yourself? Panel 1 | Panel 2 | Panel 3

Tech is a Hot Topic at Capital Analytics fifth anniversary of Invest: Palm Beach