Surviving tough economy

PORT ST. LUCIE — To survive in uncertain economic times, Treasure Coast businesses should partake in regional cooperation, consider self reinvention and look to others in similar industries for support, speakers at the annual Treasure Coast Business Summit said Friday.

Several economic development officials, high-profile businesses leaders and more than 80 local exhibitors attended the summit at the Port St. Lucie Civic Center on Friday.

“The message I want to give everyone today is the City of Port St. Lucie is open and we are business friendly,” said Port St. Lucie Mayor JoAnn Faiella. “We want to do everything in our power, today and in the future, for businesses to want to come here.”

Larry Pelton, president of the Economic Development Council of St. Lucie County, said that type of enthusiasm and optimism have helped the region grow into a research powerhouse.

“I have never worked in an area that’s more inviting and positive about bringing business,” Pelton said about the Treasure Coast. “In the last two years, our projects that we’ve closed in the county, including sustained amount of capital investments, exceeded Miami-Dade County.”

Local businesses networked in between the conference panel of business executives and community leaders who spoke throughout the afternoon.

“We have a presence on the Treasure Coast and we saw this as a way to get more exposure,” said Tom Klause, president of Jupiter-based A-1 Moving and Storage, who had a vendor booth at the event. “It’s a good way to get to know other businesses.”

Summit keynote speaker Frank T. Brogan, chancellor of the State University System of Florida, still owns a home in Port Salerno and led several local schools in Martin County before becoming the county’s schools superintendent. Brogan spoke about creating a greater connection between education and economic development.

“I want the cure for cancer to be found in the Sunshine State,” Brogan told the audience.

Brogan also spoke of how uncertain economic times have caused many Treasure Coast businesses to evolve and change strategies.

“No successful business looks like it did five years ago. Every business has had to reinvent itself, finding new ways to do old things,” Brogan said. “At the end of the recession, there’s going to be two places left. One of the quick and one for the dead. The ones who don’t reinvent themselves, sadly, will be in the category of the dead.”

During the CEO Forum portion, business leaders spoke about the challenges of thriving and moving forward in a difficult and uncertain economy.

Digital Domain Media Group, Inc. Senior Vice President and General Counsel Ed Lunsford said local community support is vital to his organization’s success.

“We could not have done this without the help of the City of Port St. Lucie,” Lunsford said, speaking of job creation and some of the state and local financial incentives the company has received to build its Treasure Coast studio. “The support from the community and its leaders has really helped our success.”

Richard Houghten, founder and president of Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies in Port St. Lucie, said cooperation between businesses is equally important for long-term success.

“We all have to pull through this together,” Houghten said. “That’s how we’ll make it, together.”

TD Bank’s Central Florida Market President Brian Ziemba said businesses’ growth and prospering also depend on the amount of risk an organization is willing to take.

“Our success comes from our strong risk culture within our organization,” Ziemba said. “Being successful takes strategic planning to move forward from a competitive standpoint.”

Christopher Morhardt, president and founder of Port St. Lucie-based Pharus Group, a business consulting firm, has organized the event for the past three years.

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