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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Jun. 23, 2006 16 years ago

Coffee Talk

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Hamburgers and postcards: What does the founder of a direct mail company and an executive of a fast-food hamburger company have in common?A magnet for Florida market: Salt Lake City-based MagnetBank wants to loan money to businesses in the Sunshine State.Building material costs still rising: Builders and consumers better get to used to steadily higher materials costs, according to Ken Simonson, chief economist for The Associated General Contractors of America. New Old Harbor raising capital for growth: A 3-year-old Clearwater bank that broke even for the first time in 2005 hopes to close at the end of this month on a public stock offering.Lee County schools foundation chief resigns: Darlene Ann Grossman recently resigned from the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools after building it into one of the county's leading charitable organizations.Commercial market still going strong: The National Association of Realtors in its latest Commercial Real Estate Outlook is predicting an improving commercial real estate market nationally at least through the end of the year.Special interests plague Babcock Ranch deal: West Palm Beach developer Syd Kitson says special interest groups deluged him when a bill for the state to purchase 74,000 acres of Babcock Ranch was passed on the final day of the legislative session.
by: Adam Hughes Staff Writer

Coffee Talk

+ Hamburgers

and postcards

What does the founder of a direct mail company and an executive of a fast-food hamburger company have in common? Both Tampa Bay area business people recently received national recognition from the American Business Awards, called "the business world's version of the Oscars" by the New York Post.

Adam Noyes, senior vice president of purchasing and operations services for Checkers Drive-In Restaurants Inc., won the Stevie Award in the best executive category at the June 12 ceremony in New York City. The 35-year-old Noyes has worked at the "nation's largest double drive-thru chain" since 1991. He has been an officer since 1998.

Three days after Noyes received the award, the Tampa-based company announced it's going private. Checkers' shareholders voted in favor of the merger agreement with Taxi Holdings Corp., an affiliate of Wellspring Capital Management LLC, a private equity firm. Taxi Holdings closed June 20 on the purchase of all of Checkers' outstanding shares for $15 per share in cash, a deal valued at $188.7 million.

Entrepreneur Joy Gendusa, CEO and founder of Clearwater's PostcardMania Inc. (profiled in the Feb. 18 edition of the Review), was a finalist in the best executive category.

Last year, Gendusa's company made it onto Inc. magazine's 2005 list of the 500 fastest-growing companies in America after revenue grew 290% over three years. In 2005, the direct-mail company had sales of more than $12 million.

+ A magnet

for Florida market

Salt Lake City-based MagnetBank wants to loan money to businesses in the Sunshine State. The bank recently wooed 30-year bank veteran Gus Trahan away from Bankers Bank to lead MagnetBank's correspondent lending in Florida.

MagnetBank will partner with community banks offering commercial real estate loans of $2 million to $3 million over the smaller banks' lending limit, Trahan says.

"It's all about the community bank and helping them grow their portfolios," says 53-year-old Trahan, who will work out of Tampa.

The bank, chartered as an industrial loan company, obtained $50 million in a private placement in 2005. Although it reports to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., it isn't as strictly regulated as traditional banks and will not have branches or tellers. It plans to start accepting certificates of deposit of $5,000 or more within the next six to 12 months.

MagnetBank Chairman and CEO Darrell Pittard created Premier Bancshares, which grew to $2 billion in assets before it sold to BB&T in 2000.

"The biggest challenge," Trahan says, "is getting the word out of who we are to community banks that need assistance."

The bank is establishing loan production offices in Salt Lake City, Atlanta and Raleigh, N.C., as well as in Tampa.

Other correspondent lenders in Florida include Bankers' Bank and Independent Bankers' Bank.

+ Building material

costs still rising

Builders and consumers better get to used to steadily higher materials costs, according to Ken Simonson, chief economist for The Associated General Contractors of America.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that while the producer price index increased only 0.2% in May, the PPI for construction materials and components grew 1.2% and 7.8% in the 12 months from April 2005 to May 2006 compared to the same period last year. Single-family residential materials went up 8% for the 12-month period and 16% for highway construction. Simonson predicts that the increases will level off but will continue to beat inflation for the near future because of high world demand.

The Associated General Contractors of America is the largest national construction trade association in the United States, representing more than 32,000 firms.

+ New Old Harbor raising capital for growth

A 3-year-old Clearwater bank that broke even for the first time in 2005 hopes to close at the end of this month on a public stock offering.

Old Harbor Bank is selling up to 800,000 shares of common stock at $17 a share. The net proceeds, expected to be around $12.7 million, will be used to continue the bank's aggressive branch expansion in Pasco and north Pinellas counties.

The offering announcement earlier this month brought down Old Harbor shares, which had been trading between $17.10 and $19.25 since late last year. Following the announcement, Old Harbor stock, with the ticker symbol OHBK, dropped below $17.

Through March 31, Old Harbor has accumulated $690,000 in net losses since its July 2003 founding. The bank has spent to open branches in Dunedin, Palm Harbor and Trinity. It is planning a fifth office in Belleair Bluffs.

Almost 80% of Old Harbor's loan portfolio consists of commercial real estate loans. The rest of the loans are made to businesses and consumers.

Barry K. Miller, 57, who has 35 years of banking experience, is chairman and chief executive of Old Harbor. Miller, whose 2005 salary was $150,000, previously worked at Mercantile Bank, Goldome Savings & Loan and their predecessors.

Lake Wales golf resort developer Lawrence Maxwell is the biggest Old Harbor shareholder, with nearly 9% of the common stock, as of March 31. Brian M. Jones, a former engineer at Intel Corp. and Paradyne Corp., and Gary F. Queen, a local real estate developer, have the biggest stakes among the bank's board of directors, with about 4% each.

Queen, 47, is also a director at another young local financial institution, SouthShore Community Bank. The Apollo Beach bank opened last year.

+ Lee County schools

foundation chief resigns

Darlene Ann Grossman recently resigned from the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools after building it into one of the county's leading charitable organizations.

After 16 years as the foundation's president and chief executive officer, Grossman says she's seeking a new challenge and wants to spend more time with her son, who has cancer. She built the organization from modest beginnings to a group that brought in $1.75 million in revenues for its 15 programs that benefit local schools.

The foundation's board is composed of influential executives in Lee County, including Bonita Bay Group CEO Dennis Gilkey, Investors' Security Trust President and CEO Charles Idelson, Oswald Trippe CEO Gary Trippe and Harlan Parrish, president and CEO of Colonial Bank.

+ Commercial market

still going strong

The National Association of Realtors in its latest Commercial Real Estate Outlook is predicting an improving commercial real estate market nationally at least through the end of the year. Overall vacancy rates for office space are expected to fall by almost 1% to an average of 12.7% in the fourth quarter compared to the same period in 2005, according to David Lereah, NAR's chief economist,

At the same time, office rents are set to rise nationally by 4.4% this year. The report says high construction costs are "putting a lid on speculative development," which is further tightening vacancy rates.

Industrial vacancy rates are expected to decline to an average of 9.5% during the second half of the year from 9.9% in the final quarter of 2005. Rental rates for industrial space are predicted to rise 1.9% this year.

Hotel occupancies are forecast to average 63.4% in 2006 compared to 64.5% last year, and revenue per available room is projected to grow to $72.37 in 2006, up 2.5% from $70.47 last year.

One of the exceptions to the improvement in the commercial market is in retail. Vacancy rates for retail space, according to the report, will increase slightly to an average of 7.6% in the fourth quarter of 2006, over 7.2% for the fourth quarter of 2005, because of what the report predicts will be an overall fall in consumer spending. Consumer spending is being curtailed because of higher energy costs and slower home appreciation. Average rents are expected to grow by only 0.7% in 2006.

Torto Wheaton Research and Real Capital Analytics provided much of the data in the report.

+ Special interests plague Babcock Ranch deal

West Palm Beach developer Syd Kitson says special interest groups deluged him when a bill for the state to purchase 74,000 acres of Babcock Ranch was passed on the final day of the legislative session. It wasn't pretty. Special-interest groups appeared seemingly out of nowhere and threatened to scuttle the $350 million deal with the state. Babcock Ranch totals about 91,000 acres and straddles Charlotte and Lee counties. Kitson plans to develop the remaining 17,000 acres into a residential community with nearly 20,000 homes.

One unexpected group muscling in on the last day of the session: the National Rifle Association. Under the plan for the state-owned land, only limited hunting would be permitted. Kitson didn't say how the dispute with the NRA was resolved.

"I hope you read the book when it comes out," he said.

+ Real Estate

Briefs to resume

The weekly regional real estate report will resume next week. Real estate editor Sean Roth is on vacation.

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