South Florida Business Outlook
During the ForUM’s session on the “South Florida Business Outlook,” Seth Levine, an accounting lecturer at the School, discussed the new University of Miami Florida 50 Index, developed in partnership with S&P Dow Jones. Noting that Florida’s state economy would rank as one of the 20 largest in the world, Levine said the new index tracks the performance of all Florida firms in the S&P 1500 - about 50 companies. “We would like to turn it into an exchange-traded fund (EFT) one day, giving investors an opportunity to gain exposure to these companies,” he said.
Michael Mell, director of custom indices at S&P Dow Jones Indices, praised Levine for the initiating the new index. “This is an innovative approach,” he said. “No other university has come up with a concept like this.”
Because seven of the top 10 Florida companies in the index are based in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties, the new index provides a “decent barometer” for the region’s economy, Mell said. “The UM Florida 50 Index has outperformed the S&P 1500 this year,” Mell added. “That’s a compelling story for investors seeking to beat the broad market averages, and an inflow of funds to these companies could have a positive impact on the local economy.”
One of those growing Florida companies is Ryder System, which has an 80-year-history of providing transportation and logistics services, said Bob Brunn, the firm’s vice president for investor relations and corporate strategy. “Today, there are so many regulations regarding driver safety, and the costs of maintenance and repairs keep rising,” he said. “We have been able to achieve high single-digit growth by providing our customers with long-term outsourcing solutions.”
Brunn added that giving back to the community is one of Ryder’s fundamental values. “Companies need to contribute to the regions where their employees live and work,” he added.
Mark S. Walter, senior vice president and chief financial officer at Q.E.P. Co. Inc., a $300 million home improvement company based in Boca Raton, called the region a “fascinating market” for investors with many under-the-radar public and private companies in a wide spectrum of industries. “With the strength of the housing market, our business is outperforming the general economy,” he said. “Our customers for building supplies include Home Depot, Lowe’s and Lennar, but one of our challenges is allocating our resources to build our visibility in the marketplace.”
In response to a question about the impact of Cuba’s improved relations with the U.S., Walter said, “Clearly, there will be lots of opportunities from all the rebuilding that needs to be done. However, it will take time to develop the transportation, logistics, credit and finance infrastructure to support business investment.”