Today, what is now known as the City of Palm Beach Gardens is a unique presence in the county and state landscape, a signature city rich in diversification with a population that exceeds 52,000 and continues to grow.
Jack Nicklaus once said, “Achievement is largely the product of steadily raising one’s level of aspiration and expectation.” ‘The Golden Bear’ could have very well been referring to his success as a golfer, yet his adage fits any visionary’s outlook on life. Success is measured by embracing convictions and transitioning them into realities. Such was the case for one such entrepreneur, John D. MacArthur.
A multimillionaire businessman, MacArthur took it upon himself to create a city in northeast Palm Beach County, Florida, in the 1950s, by purchasing 4,000 acres and developing it into a concept of his own. It was not long before the population grew, making Palm Beach Gardens the fastest growing municipality in the nation. From 6,000 in 1970, the population more than doubled to 14,000 by 1980.
It offers any business interests an ideal location with both I-95, the main north-south Interstate Highway running through the city, and Florida’s Turnpike, an over 300-mile highway system that is one of the busiest in the country.
The city is served by two airports, the North Palm Beach County General Aviation Airport, twelve miles to the west, and Palm Beach International, fourteen miles to the south. The Port of Palm Beach is also located eight miles away for regional port activity.
In addition, rail lines also run through Palm Beach Gardens making the city, “situated very well with regional transportation,” says City Manager Ron Ferris. With year-round temperatures averaging around seventy degrees, he adds that the city is, “located in probably one of the best climates you could possibly hope to locate a business.”
Diversification is the operative word for the city. Cities such as Palm Beach Gardens that embrace and encourage diversification are positioning themselves for intelligent growth, which subsequently leads to more business opportunities, a competitive advantage and a better quality of life.
“We have long attempted to diversify our economy with our targeted industries,” states Director of Planning and Zoning Natalie Crowley. “We want to be diversified so that we can provide as much opportunity as possible for high-wage jobs. Do we want to continue to have these industries flourish and grow? Absolutely. We want them to be focused on our target industries.”
There is a strong presence in Palm Beach Gardens in a number of sectors including, bioscience, aerospace, high technology, education, and life sciences. The city is also home to several high profile companies including TBC Corporation, one of the world’s largest merchants for private brand tires; Biomet-3i, providing medical and dental supplies; and Scripps Florida, a biomedical research facility.
The city is excited about the recent announcement by United Technologies Corporation (UTC) Building and Industrial Systems that it will be building its new facility in the city along the I-95 corridor. The UTC site will be a world-class building technologies center showcasing innovative and intelligent solutions to the global building community.
The company is investing $115 million and will bring close to four hundred new jobs to the city by 2020 with an average wage of $85,000. It is anticipated that UTC’s presence will generate interest from other companies wanting to locate in the city and will further solidify Palm Beach Gardens as a technological hub. “This is going to be one of those projects which put Palm Beach Gardens on the map when it comes to engineering and technical skills,” says Mayor Eric Jablin.
The facility is expected to be completed next year and asserts Mayor Jablin, “UTC is going to be a catalyst for even more development.”
He notes that, “Our city is committed to creating a very diversified economy,” and with its targeted expedited permitting program, the city managed to get UTC its necessary permits in fifty-eight days. “That’s a record in our city.”
Other local and state incentives are contributing to the city’s successful diversified business climate. “We have a very rich incentive program,” the mayor adds. One such successful economic development incentive program is its ad valorem tax exemption program established in 2012. This incentive offers qualified new and expanding businesses a partial to one hundred percent exemption from property taxes. The exemption remains in effect until 2022. Palm Beach Gardens also has no applicable state income tax.
Mayor Jablin indicates that additional grants and loans are available for business start-up, relocation or expansion and that the city offers a, “point person of contact to shepherd these companies through our entitlement process.”
Mayor Jablin explains that the city has built strong relationships with key partners on the business development board of Palm Beach County, the state of Florida and economic development agency Enterprise Florida, a “public-private partnership between Florida’s business and government leaders”.
“All of these are business and economic development assets to our city,” he says. Such partnerships are crucial in aiding companies that wish to expand or relocate from out of state. “So we’ve done a lot to attract business in our city and our county. We’re on the cusp of a great boom in our city. We’re really excited about it.”
Partnerships with local universities help shape the future for new and existing companies by assessing current and future needs. Collaboration with researchers at local universities and colleges enable access to innovations and the latest studies to allow a competitive edge, as many host business incubators for new businesses.
For example, the Research Park at Florida Atlantic University is a technology business incubator less than forty miles from the city that assists start-ups with business development and guidance.
Along with two additional universities in the city – Nova Southeastern University and Palm Beach State College – companies are assured that there is an educated, skilled workforce, when and where they are needed.
Palm Beach Gardens’ Media Relations Manager Candice Temple speaks of the city’s partnerships with these universities. “We have a good relationship with the local college … the colleges and universities themselves deserve the credit for positioning their students to take advantage of those opportunities when companies come here.” She says that Palm Beach State College, for example, “has created education tracks that would really make their students eligible for some of these jobs in life science fields and also in biotechnology.”
Palm Beach Gardens is not only experiencing a boom as a technological hub, but other newly constructed or under-construction projects – commercial, residential and school builds – are further adding to the city’s appeal. “In general, it’s a very exciting time from a construction perspective,” notes Natalie.
Newly completed residential projects included 224 multifamily units at The Hamptons and 75 townhomes at Trevi at the Gardens, both completed in 2014. Completed schools include the Franklin and Meyer Academies also completed last year. On the commercial side of activity, the Palm Beach Orthopedic Institute and Palm Beach Gardens Plaza redevelopment are also completed. There are several other projects currently under construction or review.
“We have seen a large increase in construction and permit activities over the last few years,” adds Natalie, indicating that the redevelopment of Palm Beach Gardens Plaza, a prominent retail centre, “represents how redevelopment can be done well in the city.”
The recently approved Alton commercial development is a trademark project to consist of 682 acres with a mix of business, recreational and residential tenants. It is affiliated with the overall master plan of the UTC location. “This 682-acre parcel of land used to have a residential land use designation,” says Natalie. “The city took it upon itself to change that designation to mixed use, which provided the opportunity for the master plan to be approved for four million square feet of employment centre. UTC is a prime example of how that change has developed as a result of the city’s proactive action that we have taken to diversify the economy.”
Certainly the city of Palm Beach Gardens has some very affluent, well-maintained gated neighborhoods, but low to moderate income homeowners are part of the city’s landscape as well. For those communities that need assistance with upgrades and rehabilitation, the recently approved $177,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) will provide that support.
The funds were recently released from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development once the city reached a population of 50,000 last year.
Natalie explains that there are a large number of single-family homes, constructed in the 1970s, in traditional neighborhoods. The grant money enables homeowners with a gross household income of fifty percent of the area median – about $56,000 – to receive CDBG funds for such revitalization projects as roof, landscaping, home accessibility, plumbing and electrical upgrades. “It helps create great neighborhoods, and businesses do benefit from a secondary perspective. The CDBG is a great tool.”
Not to be neglected among the city’s work and learning arena is the freedom to play and play well. The city is one of the top locations in Florida’s golf capital: The Palm Beaches. With fifteen immaculate golf courses, Palm Beach Gardens is headquarters of the Professional Golfers’ Association of America (PGA), and some of the most famous names in golf call the city home. The city is also home to the Honda Classic played at its National Resort and Spa.
Other amenities include shopping at Downtown at the Gardens. The open-air, non-vehicular retreat boasts a diverse array of restaurants, specialty shops and live entertainment. The indoor Gardens Mall is also a popular world-class mall offering some of the finest stores in all South Florida.
There is a wealth of other activities such as fishing charters and tours, kayaking, snorkeling and spas. And for the nature lover, Frenchman’s Forest and Loxahatchee Slough Natural Areas provide a retreat from the civilization.
John MacArthur had a vision for his city almost sixty years ago and he would be proud to call Palm Beach Gardens home today. Ron too has his own vision for the city. “When we see our city, we set our sights on becoming an internationally recognized city in which people experience a very unique lifestyle. People and companies come here to stay. They come here because we’re unique in every way – in living, in learning, in working and in playing. There’s no place on earth like the city of Palm Beach Gardens.”