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Home Run slugger Aaron Judge uses bats made on Treasure Coast

Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees is using a Chandler Bat made in Port St. Lucie
Sep. 26, 2022|

National Science Foundation’s $2.7 million award to fund electric vehicle consortium at IRSC

National Science Foundation’s $2.7 million award to fund electric vehicle consortium at IRSC

BY SUZANNE SELDES

National Science FoundationIndian River State College has received a three-year, $2,735,771 award from the National Science Foundation to establish a National Electric Vehicle Consortium to help alleviate an immediate shortage of skilled technical workers across almost every sector of the fast-growing electric vehicle industry.

The consortium will focus on manufacturing, installation, operations, maintenance, repair, vehicle conversion, safety and standards, and emerging technological advances within the EV sector.

IRSC will lead efforts that link academic, agency and industry experts across all EV disciplines, including 15 community colleges, 19 industry partners, two research universities, and NSF Advanced Technical Education Centers and projects.

Kevin Cooper, IRSC executive director of innovation and business development

Kevin Cooper, IRSC executive director of innovation and business development

“It is estimated that the 1 billion light-duty vehicles on the roads today consume one-fourth of global primary oil and contribute 10 percent to global greenhouse gas emissions,” says Kevin Cooper, IRSC executive director of innovation and business development. “A multidisciplinary National Electric Vehicle Consortium is critical to securing immediate and future needs in the nation’s EV workforce and helping address national resiliency and environmental goals.”
Workforce projections estimate that an all-EV industry will add 250,000 to 500,000 new high-paying jobs by 2030.

The consortium offers a venue for collaboration among training providers to support broad-scale outreach and community-building among educational institutions; industry, professional, trade, and regulatory associations; educators; and practicing technicians within the EV ecosystem.

It will document workforce needs, skills and competencies; collect data on academic programs and curricular resources; align academic programs and courses with the industry sector needs; and support institutions of higher education in adapting and establishing new EV programs.

“This synergistic EV consortium is designed with national solutions in mind,” Cooper continues. “It creates the first critical mass of experts focused on addressing the need for EV technicians in the U.S.”

National Electric Vehicle ConsortiumThe grant was awarded to IRSC by the NSF Division of Undergraduate Education Advanced Technological Education, which focuses on the education of technicians for the advanced-technology fields that drive the nation’s economy.

The NEVC at IRSC is scheduled to launch July 1.

See the original article in the print publication


Treasure Coast Business is a news service and magazine published in print, via e-newsletter and online at tcbusiness.com by Indian River Media Group. For more information or to report news email [email protected]

Jul. 1, 2022|

Small businesses can offer job candidates advantages when competing with larger companies

Small businesses can offer job candidates advantages when competing with larger companies

BY NANCY DAHLBERG

You have the business, you have the production, but you don’t have the people to make it all happen. Is this your business?

Imagine you’ve landed a big government contract but you can’t find enough workers to execute it. Right now, the talent shortage is affecting companies globally. In the fourth quarter alone, 15 million Americans resigned their jobs. This Great Resignation trend continues, according to Katherine Culhane, a business consultant at the Florida SBDC at Indian River State College.

Katherine Culhane, Associate Director for the Florida SBDC

Katherine Culhane has an extensive career in banking, including roles in management, business development, commercial lending and private banking. She has a master’s degree in organizational learning and leadership, is a certified professional behavioral analyst and is a Society for Human Resource Management senior certified professional. With more than 25 years of banking experience, Culhane serves as the capital access specialist for the Florida SBDC at IRSC. Contact her for more information on this and all SBA lending programs to help your business expand, grow and succeed.

As a small or medium company, you compete with larger companies that can offer higher pay and more benefits, but don’t throw in the towel just yet.

Small businesses are attracting and retaining talent by leveraging advantages that large corporations don’t have and offering attractive lures that big companies can’t necessarily match.

Culhane explains millennials and Gen Z candidates are seeking a work-place culture and company that focuses on their well-being. In fact, according to Gallup, it is their top priority. A company with a clear mission, workplace flexibility, healthy work-life integration and a management team that is committed to employee success are also top priorities.

“If employers are not committed to some or all of these workplace issues, they will struggle to engage, recruit and hire this segment of the workforce,” said Culhane, who specializes in human resources. “The good news is small businesses can have significant advantage in implementing and creating workplaces that will appeal to the millennials and Gen Z segments.”

Leveraging these workplace advantages, a small business can potentially compete with much larger firms, who may be offering better pay and benefit packages.

Most HR professionals agree traditional acquisition and retention strategies no long apply in this marketplace. Business owners have to be more innovative and creative in their recruiting process.

Millennials pioneered the social media movement and remain connected on-line 24/7. Improving recruitment success could as simple as being more innovative in using social media channels.

“Entire hiring campaigns can be created on YouTube,” Culhane said. “A recruitment video could include employee testimonials, cover perks and benefits and most importantly highlight the company’s culture.”

State colleges, such as Indian River State College, are good sources of talent and recruiting through career events, on-campus interviews and engaging students through internships, where students can get a chance to wear many hats.

Because recruiting is expensive and time intensive, employee retention is also a critical factor for small businesses.

What can small businesses do to build an organization so workers stay?

Small businesses can invest in employee growth opportunities by providing ongoing professional development training; creating an employee feedback program with legitimate follow through; and diving deep into exit interviews. Employee retention is another area where the small business operator can compete with the larger employers.

“Make no mistake, employee satisfaction is what enhances and fosters better rates of acquisition and retention,” Culhane said. “Small business owners, please get to know the culture and brand your business represents to your customers and employees just as well as you understand your cash flow and profit margin.”

INTERVIEW, SELECTION PROCESS
To save time, it’s a good idea to phone-screen a candidate first.

For the main interview, ask behavioral based questions, such as tell me about a time you dealt with a difficult client and how you resolved it? Or give me an example of a time when you had to conform to a policy about which you did not agree? Or tell me about a time you failed?

Make sure it is a structured interview process, with a set of standardized questions asked to all applicants.

Having a detailed job description is critical. People want to see the job, how enriching the job is and what is expected of them. And for the employer, it’s not only having a good culture but it is about finding the right candidate for the culture. You are looking to ensure that they match the organization culture and can fit in.

Always compare the candidate qualifications to the job description. Attitude is likely more important than technical abilities. Can he or she learn and grow on the job?

Once hired, onboarding of new employees in the right way is also important. People want an orientation to the company and to be introduced to colleagues. This is the time to set the right expectations of the job.

 FINAL CULHANE THOUGHTS, TIPS

Small business owners certainly must:

• Determine how to pay fair and competitive wages
• Regularly recognize employees for hard work and good job performance
• Provide continuous performance feedback
• Allow employees to develop a sense of security; feeling undervalued is always a top reason for employees leaving
• Ensure employees experience a positive environment, so they will become brand ambassadors and promote the company
• Provide employees with regular professional development training opportunities.

See the original article in the print publication


Treasure Coast Business is a news service and magazine published in print, via e-newsletter and online at tcbusiness.com by Indian River Media Group. For more information or to report news email [email protected]

Jul. 1, 2022|

Small business owners’ concerns with inflation and lack of workers hit record low

Small business owners’ concerns with inflation and lack of workers hit record low

BY NANCY DAHLBERG

Florida's Small Business Development CenterSmall businesses are gloomy about their future, with an index of future expectations plunging to a 48-year low. The top concerns: inflation and worker shortages.

The National Federation of Independent Business optimism index stood at 93.2 in April. The net share of owners expecting better business conditions in the next six months eased one point to a record low. Five of the 10 components that make up the small business sentiment gauge fell, as fewer owners said now was a good time to expand and fewer plan to boost inventories.

About 32% of respondents said inflation is still their biggest operating challenge, up slightly from March and the highest since the fourth quarter of 1980. That share has risen in six of the last seven months, NFIB data show. Monthly surveys began in 1986.

Frank Fink

Throughout his 48-year career in finance, Frank Fink has served in numerous financial and operations management positions. He advises clients on best practices for financial, supply chain controls and contracts. As a certified profit mastery facilitator, Fink leads clients through the intensive 16-hour Small Business Development Center’s financial training program. He holds degrees and certifications from Indian River Community College, Barry and Villanova universities.

According to the survey, more owners expected business conditions to worsen over the next six months. Still, the share of owners raising average selling prices eased slightly from March’s record high.

Labor quality was the second-biggest problem and planned compensation changes are still elevated.

“Small business owners are struggling to deal with inflation pressures,” Bill Dunkelberg, NFIB’s chief economist, stated. “The labor supply is not responding strongly to small businesses’ high wage offers and the impact of inflation has significantly disrupted business operations.”

Small businesses – nationally and locally – have had difficulty filling vacancies and don’t always have the same resources as large firms to attract new talent. While large businesses posted solid hiring gains in April, those with fewer than 50 employees saw a 120,000 drop in payrolls, the worst in two years, ADP Research Institute data showed.

“If the pandemic was not enough, now small business owners and operators are dealing with inflation, supply chain and workforce issues,” said Frank Fink, business consultant with the Florida SBDC at Indian River State College. “The good news is small business owners do not have to navigate this challenging marketplace alone.”

To Fink’s point, the Treasure Coast is home to multiple business assistance programs including the Florida SBDC at Indian River State College, which provides no-cost business consulting. From in-depth financial review to strategic planning sessions or one-on-one discussions with business owners to simply discuss and generate ideas in addressing current market challenges, the SBDC and its credentialed consultants are ready to meet.

For more information on scheduling a meeting with the SBDC, please email Katie Muldoon at [email protected] or call 772.336.6285.

See the original article in the print publication


Treasure Coast Business is a news service and magazine published in print, via e-newsletter and online at tcbusiness.com by Indian River Media Group. For more information or to report news email [email protected]

Jul. 1, 2022|

Minority businesses to watch

MINORITY BUSINESSES TO WATCH

Treasure Coast Minority Businesses to Watch 2022

Workshops provide Treasure Coast owners with tools to succeed

BY CHAUNCELOR HOWELL

Americans often start their own businesses to circumvent obstacles related to lack of education or experience needed to succeed in the formal economy.

Most minority-owned businesses operate under the premise of owner/operator and struggle to gain access to capital that will help sustain the business over a long period of time.

Historically, in comparison to other racial groups, Black and minority business owners possess fewer personal assets such as home ownership or stocks/bonds to generate startup capital for their businesses.

Scores of studies have shown that this deficiency results in less training, sharing fewer resources, important industry related information, and less human capital transfer over generations, according to the 2019 article Struggles and Strategies of Black Women Business Owners by T.M. Jackson and P. Sanyal in the Journal of Business Anthropology.

To help mitigate this circumstance on the Treasure Coast, the Florida Small Business Development Center at Indian River State College offers free resources available to minority business owners and entrepreneurs to help overcome most of these obstacles.

The SBDC routinely hosts workshops that cover such topics as business startups, QuickBooks, digital marketing consulting, international trade strategies and access to capital. If used properly, assistance from the SBDC can potentially better position minority owned businesses for long-term success and sustainability.

Another bonus for minority business owners is SBDC’s partnership with Indian River State College, which has satellite campuses throughout the Treasure Coast that host these workshops.

To learn more about how to start or grow an existing business, please visit the FloridaSBDC.org; email the Florida SBDC at [email protected]; or call IRSC at 772.336.6285.

Chauncelor Howell is president of the Treasure Coast Black Chamber of Commerce.


Maria Chambers

MARIA CHAMBERS
CNC Jamaican and Soul Food Restaurant

To provide the best food possible, that surpassed our customers expectation. Moreover, the restaurant creates superior customer service every time.

What is the most challenging part of doing business every day?
Keeping the door open on a daily basis.

How do you achieve a healthy work-life balance?
Faith in getting out doing what has to be done, regardless of what’s happening around you. Love what you do and you try and make it happen.

What led you to own your own business?
The love of doing what I do, having been in the industry with more than 40 years experience.

What minority-owned business on the Treasure Coast do you want to give a shout-out to?
CNC Jamaican Restaurant


Belinda McNeal-Chambers

DR. BELINDA MCNEAL-WALKER
Garden of Hope Learning Center
gohlearningacademy.com

The mission of Garden of Hope is to transform lives by providing hope and aspiration, support underserved communities and under-represented populations, and to promote academic excellence through quality resources and wraparound services that address the individualized needs of the whole child and family members.

What is the most challenging part of doing business every day?
The most challenging part of doing business every day is not having sufficient resources to meet the needs of the community.

How do you achieve a healthy work-life balance?
The essential element to achieve and maintain a healthy work-life balance is my personal relationship with the Lord. My spiritual relationship not only helps me maintain a balance, but it consistently reminds me of who I am. Therefore, success moves from just a component of hope or a simple desire to an expectation.

What led you to own your own business?
My desire to open my own business derived from my passion for teaching and serving. I believe that all children can and will learn. I also understand that in order to build capacity within the community we must embrace the family structure. My expectation is to meet the needs of the community and the people we serve by providing intensive wraparound supportive services to address the complex needs of the family. There is greatness in Fort Pierce.

What minority-owned business on the Treasure Coast do you want to give a shout-out to?
Eric Walker Patio Furniture Repair Service. I am so proud of you.


Al Johnson

AL JOHNSON
Jackson Hewitt Tax Service
office.jacksonhewitt.com

Jackson Hewitt provides year-round support to hardworking clients with innovative, low-cost tax solutions.

What is the most challenging part of doing business every day?
Prepared 4,000-plus tax returns this season. This was accomplished via relationship building.

How do you achieve a healthy work-life balance?
Goal setting and time management.

What led you to own your own business?
Motivated by my father.

What minority-owned business on the Treasure Coast do you want to give a shout-out to?
Jackson Hewitt Tax Service


Gary Palmer

GARY PALMER
Gary Palmer Sax | garypalmersax.com

Providing clients a pleasurable musical experience.

What is the most challenging part of doing business every day?
As a musician, due to COVID-19 protocols, it’s been difficult to do live performances.

How do you achieve a healthy work-life balance?
I bowl in several leagues for enjoyment.

What led you to own your own business?
Being a musician and recording artist, you want to ensure that your brand is important to you as well as your customers. I’ve created a corporation for that reason.

What minority-owned business on the Treasure Coast do you want to give a shout-out to?
Treasure Coast Black Chamber of Commerce


Kourtney Rincon

KOURTNEY RINCON
The Warrior Her Podcast

Access to information and a willingness to take chances will yield life changing results.

What is the most challenging part of doing business every day?
The most challenging part of doing business is learning to embrace continuous change. You have to be willing to move quickly, use data to your advantage and be OK with pivoting when necessary.

How do you achieve a healthy work-life balance?
Work-life balance for me is more about taking care of myself first. For me, that is working out, being creative, reading and weekly therapy sessions. I believe in a holistic approach to self-care and focusing on mental, physical and spiritual care of oneself to have the healthiest balance. I know when I’m out of alignment and can quickly identify where I need to improve when I find myself feeling overwhelmed.

What led you to own your own business?
I’ve always known I wanted to be my own boss but I wasn’t sure what that looked like. After opening a CrossFit gym in 2018 and failing miserably, I learned valuable on-the-job experience and that I had a passion for business. I want to create a legacy for my family and positively contribute to my community.

What minority-owned business on the Treasure Coast do you want to give a shout-out to?
Admired Image Beauty Salon, Bos Crab Spot, Jones Old School BBQ, Nails by Jasmine, Nailbar Studio, Poppin Curls & Beauty Bar and Island Girl Wings n Things


Bianca Lewis

BIANCA LEWIS
Bianca’s Cleaning

What is the most challenging part of doing business every day?
I was born and raised in Colombia, South America, with no college education but with dreams and passion to do better. After a few years of working in the medical field, I noticed the offices were not clean to the standard of medical offices, so Bianca’s Cleaning was born.

How do you achieve a healthy work-life balance?
I am customer-service oriented, organized and communication is the key.

What led you to own your own business?
The lack of college degree and to give my two girls a better future.

What minority-owned business on the Treasure Coast do you want to give a shout-out to?
The 22 employees of Bianca’s Cleaning team, all who are Hispanic.


Tessa Adams

TESSA ADAMS
Phatz Chick N Shack

We are the best buffalo wings restaurant in the nation. Phatz provides the best food, atmosphere and wing sauce in the nation. Stop by and grab anything from Chicken N Waffles to one of our delicious Tender Salads to our amazing Shrimp Tacos. And you can’t forget about our World-Famous Finger Lickin Wing Sauce that can be used on everything but mainly on the wings.

What is the most challenging part of doing business every day?
The most challenging part of doing business for me is finding willing workers with good work habits. All I really need for you to do is show up and be willing to learn. One thing I do know is how to teach you to do the job right.

How do you achieve a healthy work-life balance?
I have learned to trust the process I have put in place and to trust my leaders to carry out the vision of the company.

What led you to own your own business?
I had my son right out of high school and knew I did not want to be another statistic. I went to cosmetology school and after completing that I worked for someone for a couple of years. I learned the business, opened my own salon and ran it for 28 years. When I met my husband, we bought a building with a fully equipped restaurant to open Phatz Chick N Shack and it has been up hill ever since. I love creating jobs and teaching.

What minority-owned business on the Treasure Coast do you want to give a shout-out to?
I would like to give a shout to three minority owned businesses … Kinfolks Chicken and Waffle, Tasty Links and Sunrise City Café. They are great people, great owners and truly have a passion for what they do each and every day.


Jerome Rhyant

JEROME RHYANT
Tree Trimmers USA LLC

What is the most challenging part of doing business every day?
Starting a business is a significant achievement for many entrepreneurs, but I have found that maintaining one is the greater challenge. There are many common challenges every business faces, whether you are running a large or small operation. These include hiring the right people, building a brand, developing a customer base, identifying my weaknesses and hiring the right people to compensate for what I don’t do well. Great teams build dreams.

How do you achieve a healthy work-life balance?
We often think about work-life balance as a trade-off between time spent at work and time spent on other non-work activities. The idea of balance is easy enough to explain, but what does it mean? I find time to spend with family, friends and hobbies. Plan to combine work activities with leisure, social or fitness activities. I enjoy singing, playing music and ministry as hobbies.

What led you to own your own business?
After completing high school, I took a year off, prior to going to college. I took a summer job working for a body shop, where I had some prior experience and I enjoyed doing body work. I worked for two weeks and was told that I had a great attitude and good work ethics, but the owner didn’t think the paint and body work industry was a good fit for me. I was fired and was heartbroken for more than two weeks. I made a promise to myself, that I would never allow anyone to ever break my heart again over a nine-to-five job. I purchased a Cutlass car that I painted, remodeled and sold. I was successful in buying three other cars, one at a time, remodeling and reselling them for a profit. I began to recruit my former high school coaches, Coach Green and Coach Farinella. I talked them into hiring me to paint their cars. Prior to college I discovered I had a few things working for me, I could talk and I could sell. I was born to be an entrepreneur. After quitting college in 1982, I returned home and started a company, Today’s Painting, and have never looked back. I chose to hold on to my commitment to me.

What minority-owned business on the Treasure Coast do you want to give a shout-out to?
I want to give a shout out to a good friend and mentor, Vernon Dixon the owner of Dixon’s Check Cashing.


Chauncelor Howell

DR. CHAUNCELOR HOWELL
Treasure Coast Black Chamber of Commerce | tcbcc.biz

To serve as a business resource, a voice, advocate, of any entity with a focus on Black and minority business matters.

What is the most challenging part of doing business every day?
Recruitment

How do you achieve a healthy work-life balance?
Time management is a must and cannot be understated if a healthy work-life balance is to be achieved.

What led you to own your own business?
There was a gap that needed to be filled within the region at-large.

What minority-owned business on the Treasure Coast do you want to give a shout-out to?
As the TCBCC’s founder/president, I do not have a favorite minority-owned business, as I equally support them all.


Julissa Mercado

JULISSA MERCADO
The Skin Spot

What is the most challenging part of doing business every day?
When I moved to Florida without knowing anyone to pursue this career, I knew it wouldn’t be nothing short of challenging. I left everything I knew in New Jersey to follow a dream that I had no idea would actually take off. I funded everything with loans and borrowed money to open up the shop I have today. By a year and a half, I was able to clear my debt and invest in a piece of equipment that I only dreamed of ever affording. The tasks I undertook were challenging in themselves, but mentally I had to truly believe I could do it. And I did.

How do you achieve a healthy work-life balance?
When opening the shop, I feared not having security so much that I had no idea how to balance life and work. All I knew was if I keep working I’ll get closer to where I need to be. I found myself sick, overworked and burned out. I quickly learned that having boundaries for myself was the only way I’d be able to have longevity in what I do. My life hacks include extending myself the grace to take breaks when I need it and to ask for help when I need it as well. I make sure I get enough sleep; I take supplements to keep my gut health in check; I take lunch breaks, and actually use them to eat. Once I learned to take care of myself first, I was able to take care of people from a space of wholeness, which ultimately helped the business succeed.

What led you to own your own business?
After completing my undergraduate degree in women’s and gender studies, I knew I wanted to work predominantly in service to women, and more specifically women of color. This community has been historically under serviced and self-care was never an emphasis in the community I grew up in. Skincare became the vessel in which I was able to serve that community in the best and healthiest way.

What minority-owned business on the Treasure Coast do you want to give a shout-out to?
The Braid Dr and Poppin Curls and Beauty Bar.


Sergio Zeligman

SERGIO ZELIGMAN
Panda Contractors

Panda is in business to improve the lives of their customers by providing the highest quality products and workmanship and creating the best possible experience for them. Panda is also in business to improve the lives of their employees by providing personal and financial growth opportunities for them and creating long term profit growth, profitability and stability for the company.

What is the most challenging part of doing business every day?
Right now the most challenging part of doing business every day is the availability and increasing prices of materials. We understand that the economy is not the best and we need to be able to purchase and receive materials promptly and at competitive prices to meet our customers’ expectations.

How do you achieve a healthy work-life balance?
Work hard while at work and simply enjoy your life after work with the family. As a family-owned business it is important to dedicate time to your family.

What led you to own your own business?
Coming from a family that always had our own business it was just a matter of finding the business that fitted me. Been a civil engineer and a general contractor, it was just a matter of doing what came natural to me. I have always enjoyed creating and serving our community. Making our customers smile is our logo and it is exactly what we try to do every day.

What minority-owned business on the Treasure Coast do you want to give a shout-out to?
We use Rocha Lawn Care as our landscape company. They are very reliable and honest.


Stanley Campbell

STANLEY CAMPBELL
Eagle Force Associates Inc. and Martin Downs Golf Club & Resort

Our mission is to assist our clients in the design and deployment of intelligent systems, where man and machine interface and applications are designed to optimize the performance of each by providing the heavy lifting for many of the most difficult problems in computer science.

What is the most challenging part of doing business every day?
The most challenging part of doing business each day is learning how to say no to every opportunity that comes over without being dismissive. This is very important because you never know who will bring the next great opportunity. The way I approach this issue is to listen attentively. Evaluate the terms, conditions, means, methods and modalities of the opportunity and to state the reasoning behind why the opportunity may not be for me. Make it an educational moment in time, funding, ROI, governance, etc.

How do you achieve a healthy work-life balance?
Make the job fun, inclusive and understood at home. Build in recreation, travel and intelligent growth. Bring the family along when possible and leave the job at the office when possible.

What led you to own your own business?
Thinking that I consistently had great ideas and the discipline to follow them through.

What minority-owned business on the Treasure Coast do you want to give a shout-out to?
State Farm Insurance, H&R Block, WFLM 104.5 the Flame and Treasure Coast Lexus

See the original article in the print publication


Treasure Coast Business is a news service and magazine published in print, via e-newsletter and online at tcbusiness.com by Indian River Media Group. For more information or to report news email [email protected]

Jul. 1, 2022|

Charging forward

St. Lucie Battery and Tire on a roll

Doug Miller, president of St. Lucie Battery & Tire

Doug Miller, president of St. Lucie Battery & Tire, relies on having the space to warehouse one of the most varied tire inventories among independent tire dealers in the United States. Doug has led the company since taking the reins from his father, Joey Miller, a dozen years ago. MICHAEL P. SCHNEIDER

St. Lucie Battery & Tire experiences growth spurt during tough economic times

BY BERNIE WOODALL

St. Lucie Battery & Tire, at 54 years old, is about to experience another growth spurt.

Even without adding any stores, the Fort Pierce-based privately held company with 235 employees is poised to become one of the top 50 largest independent tire dealers in the United States as private equity and consolidation take out some of those with more than the company’s 17 outlets service centers.

Doug Miller, company president, says it’s a reasonable aspiration that in the next decade, St. Lucie Battery & Tire will double its number of outlets, and further diversify into commercial and agricultural centers in the state’s interior. Sixteen of its locations are in cities near the Atlantic coast from Sebastian to West Palm Beach, with a commercial and ag center in Okeechobee.

But, Miller, 51, says the company has no ambitions to become a national or even statewide Goliath.

“I can see fill-ins from West Palm Beach moving back north. We just added another location in Sebastian. I see [expansion] in Sebastian and further expansion into the Indian River County market, as well as possibly expanding our location in Okeechobee and, quite possibly, more rural markets, where our super center model plays well.”

In particular, he mentioned new full-service operations in rural but fast-growing cities, possibly in Clewiston, LaBelle, Sebring, Lake Placid, and others where farming and larger commercial vehicles need service, batteries and tires.

Battery comes before tire in the company name because batteries came first. Now, tires and tire services account for about half the company’s revenue, which Miller declined to disclose. Batteries and auto parts account for another quarter of the revenue, and labor makes up the rest, he said. Oil changes are not central to the business. Miller said most of the oil change customers are already in one of the shops for tire service.

The company’s revenue has doubled in the past decade, and average growth has been 10%, lower for 2020, the year when the economy was hit by COVID-19 shutdowns. No workers were laid off during the crunch caused by the virus. After a dip in 2022-23 2020/2021, revenue is seen rebounding to up 12% to 15% annually, Miller said. His business is somewhat insulated from economic downturns, because as consumer spending power weakens, people hold onto their vehicles longer, meaning more maintenance and replacement tires are needed. The average age of a U.S. car rose to 13.1 years in 2021, and pickup trucks to 11.6 years, for a combined 12.2 years, up from a combined 10.5 years in 2010, according to S&P Global Mobility.

St. Lucie Battery & Tire

St. Lucie Battery & Tire recently opened a new location in Sebastian, its 17th site. If the economy continues to pressure consumers, as experts predict, many will hold onto their vehicles for a longer period of time, meaning more visits to repair shops and tire dealers.

OVERCOMING JUNE FIRE
Doug Miller’s father, company founder Joey Miller, 80, has largely stepped away from day-to-day operations. Joey Miller was in the battery business in 1968, Doug Miller said. He says he knows that because his father was selling batteries already when the oldest Miller offspring, Mickey, was born that year. So the business goes back 54 years, even though it ceremoniously marked the half-century mark last year. By the time the business was incorporated in 1976, it had been selling tires for a few years. It was called St. Lucie Battery, which many people called St. Lucie Batteries, until about 1986 or 1987 when the “& Tire” was added.

Mickey Miller is the company’s executive vice president. Its general manager is Jeffrey Deans.

The business is still headquartered at its original location on western Orange Avenue, which in early June suffered an intense fire that destroyed less than a fifth of the company’s tire inventory.

“Eighteen-inch steel I-beams were twisted and sagging. The metal roof [of the shipping and receiving area] was melted,” Doug Miller said, adding that the intensity of the fire was increased when an area storing small batteries caught fire. The fire was mainly in an office section of the business. No one was injured, but there was more than $2 million in inventory and building damage, he said.

The fire caused a “fairly significant business disruption, but we’re going to figure it out and come through better than we are now,” Miller said.

One of the reasons St. Lucie Battery & Tire will rebound rather quickly is that it has three additional locations with warehousing space, he said.

y Miller, center, founded St. Lucie Battery & Tire

Joey Miller, center, founded St. Lucie Battery & Tire and brought his sons into the business when they were still young. Doug Miller, left, is now the company president, and Mickey Miller, right, is the executive vice president. This photo was taken about 2008.

GROWTH FROM DAY ONE
The first store was its sole one until 1982 when the company opened a Port St. Lucie store on Hancock Drive, followed by a downtown Fort Pierce location around 1985.

An April 1987 newspaper display ad announcing the grand opening of another Port St. Lucie store shows the company logo looking much the same as it does today, with a quote in italic-type separate from the logo: “You need a good price, but you also need honest, reliable service…” Today, the logo on the company’s website slbatterytire.com includes a shortened version of that same message: “Home of Honest, Reliable Service.”

Mickey and Doug were essentially raised alongside batteries and tires at their dad’s first shop at 5500 Orange Ave.

“My brother and I were fitted for brooms at a very young age,” he said.

“I think it was 1975 or 1976 when my dad built his first real shop. He started in the family’s chicken barn.”

Joey Miller and his family lived in a house “right next to the shop, behind his little grocery store,” said Doug Miller, a 1988 graduate of John Carroll High School.

By 2000, Doug Miller had bought the downtown Fort Pierce store from his father, then opened new outlets in Vero Beach and Melbourne. The Melbourne one was a casualty of the 2008-2010 recession. The company’s sales slowed then, but it was strong enough to take advantage of below-market leases to expand its footprint.

“After the recession was over, 2011-12, I opened three stores in one year. That was Sebastian, the Bayshore Boulevard [Port St. Lucie] store and Jensen Beach and we just kind of kept on rolling,” Miller said.

It was during this time that Doug Miller pretty much took the reins from his father as leader of the company, and became its majority owner. The bigger company and locations with storage capacities made it versatile, he said. Tire customers don’t want to wait for a shipment to come in.

They want same-day service, and the tires are usually in stock or can be borrowed from another company store.

There is a fleet of about 45 St. Lucie Battery & Tire trucks, including 10 dedicated to tire, battery and auto parts delivery to other stores or direct to the bigger customers at farm or work sites. Since its early days, 24-hour roadside service has been a feature, and there are about 20 service trucks, Miller said.

Goodwill among customers is important, and Miller says the company has thrived on that since its founding. Supplier relations are also key, which proved vastly profitable at the onset of the ongoing global supply chain problems.

After getting a tip from a rep of tire distributor Penn Tires who said foreign shipments were about to be scarce, Miller significantly hiked his purchases, leaning on the company’s warehousing ability.

When the supply chain issues hit, independent tire stores that rely on just-in-time inventory often left customers waiting, Miller said.

“We continue to be all-in because the supply chain is not fixed and it’s not going to be fixed anytime soon,” Miller said. “I don’t see normalization until, maybe, the end of 2023.”

St. Lucie Battery & Tire’s signature location

St. Lucie Battery & Tire’s signature location may be its third store, in downtown Fort Pierce, which opened in the mid-1980s. In 1998, the plain concrete building was fitted with a new roof of Spanish-style architecture matching neighboring historic buildings and serves as a gateway to the core downtown shopping district.

BUILDING AFFORDABLE HOUSING
The ability to keep high inventory levels differentiates St. Lucie Battery & Tire from other independents. In the 2021 rankings of the largest U.S. independent tire companies’ store count, it was 67th, according to the publication Modern Tire Dealer. Only the biggest one, Discount Tire, with 1,100 stores, offered more tire brands than St. Lucie Battery & Tire, which had 16 stores last year.

The company is often celebrated for its civic activities, which in recent years has included providing landscaping, sod and volunteers for Habitat for Humanity homes. Miller says he will continue to support Habitat, but much of the company’s efforts along those lines will shift toward building affordable housing, primarily for St. Lucie Battery & Tire workers.

The first round of five living spaces, houses that will be lease or lease-to-own with financing help from the company, and a rental duplex will go up in the next year, Miller said. After that, he hopes to build two or three houses per year. This is being done in the face of a housing cost crisis that makes it difficult for the average worker to make ends meet. It will also prove to be a good recruitment vehicle at a time when the highest-level auto and tire technicians are tough to get.

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Treasure Coast Business is a news service and magazine published in print, via e-newsletter and online at tcbusiness.com by Indian River Media Group. For more information or to report news email [email protected]

Jul. 1, 2022|

State’s economic strong recovery points spotlight on Treasure Coast

State’s economic strong recovery points spotlight on Treasure Coast

Tom Kindred leads a panel discussion

Tom Kindred, regional director of the Florida Small Business Development Center at Indian River State College, leads a panel discussion during the recent inaugural Small Business Success Summit in Tampa. INDIAN RIVER STATE COLLEGE

Treasure Coast small business owners and operators must be feeling a sense of déjà vu lately. With the recent supply chain issues, rising fuel cost and other assorted economic challenges, one cannot help but think back to the Great Recession.

With a zero-income tax policy and its warm weather, Florida has always been a popular state to relocate for people and businesses. Even with its popularity, the state is still susceptible to economic cycles, but since the Great Recession, it has experienced strong growth. The Treasure Coast has benefited from the state’s strong recovery and growth in the form of increased exposure.

The days of going unnoticed have ended.

The question for Treasure Coast small business owners and operators is how to leverage the region’s recent growth. Small business success will come to those operators who can look beyond the current economic situation and position the business to solve customer problems and take advantage of the region’s new opportunities.

Opportunity is defined as an appropriate or favorable time or occasion, a situation or condition favorable for attainment of a goal, a good position, chance, or prospect, as for advancement or success. However, opportunity viewed through the lens of an entrepreneurial mindset will look like an appropriate or favorable time to create new products, services and generate new business revenue.

In its most basic form, entrepreneurship is about recognizing problems and creating solutions. Small business and entrepreneurial success does not come from creating the next big idea — it comes from creating simple solutions to everyday problems. As new business and sometimes big business begin to move into the region, there will be problems, or shall we say opportunities, requiring simple solutions. Those who provide these simple solutions will reap the business benefits.

To position a business as a problem solver, a small business owner and operator needs to build an intrapreneurial culture within the organization. Intrapreneurship, aka internal entrepreneurship, is innovation within the organization. An organization that is consistently innovative will be dynamic and attract creative people. The business will have a stimulating environment that will be viewed as a great place to work. Hint, Hint — Looking for solutions to staffing issues?

Most importantly, a culture of intrapreneurship fosters business success by catching problems before customers, by recognizing and identifying market needs, by challenging conventional thinking and by engaging employees.

The future is here for the Treasure Coast marketplace. Even in an economic downturn, the region will continue to prosper and grow because the region is truly a great place to live, work and play.
To have a conversation about how to position a business as a solutions provider for the region, email the Florida Small Business Development Center at [email protected] or call 772.336.6285.

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Treasure Coast Business is a news service and magazine published in print, via e-newsletter and online at tcbusiness.com by Indian River Media Group. For more information or to report news email [email protected]

Jul. 1, 2022|

IN THE NEWS Summer 2022

IN THE NEWS

AQUAFARM RECEIVES JOBS GRANT

VERO BEACH — Lemnature AquaFarms, a plant-based ingredient supplier to the food market, has received a jobs grant as it expands its operations in Indian River County.

The grant was unanimously approved by the Indian River County Commission and pays up to $7,000 per new job created, based on the average wages paid to new hires. At least five new jobs must be created, paying a minimum of 75% of the county’s average annual wage. Based on county staff calculations, the company is eligible for up to $200,000 in grant funds. The award is paid out over a period of 3-5 years, after the jobs are in place and confirmed by county staff.

Lemnature AquaFarms has three locations in Indian River County, including its corporate headquarters, a research and development facility in Fellsmere, plus a large aqua farming and processing operation in western Indian River County. The company anticipates adding 46 employees to its base of 115 workers by the end of the year, at an average annual wage of $59,800, excluding benefits.

“We appreciate and value the partnerships with the chamber and its economic development office, and the board of county commissioners, as we build and scale our highly sustainable, plant-based food business and aquafarm within Indian River County,’’ said Frank Jimenez, CEO of Lemnature AquaFarms. “We believe in building innovative farming solutions to help accelerate the transition to a regenerative food system, while assisting our customers in the achievement of sustainability development goals through a more efficient agricultural process based on aquaculture.”

The company grows and processes the all-natural Lemnaceae aquatic plant, also known as water lentils, which grows in Indian River County. This aquatic plant doubles its biomass every 48 hours so harvesting can be done daily, year-round in the county’s tropical type of climate.

The company will be producing a plant-based protein and fiber to be included as ingredients in superfood drinks, protein powders and nutritional beverages. As a way to promote the company and its mission, Helene Caseltine, the chamber’s economic development director, arranged for the company’s CEO to give a presentation to the commissioners at their regular April meeting.

CORPORATE AIR OWNER NAMED BUSINESS PERSON OF THE YEAR

Rodger Pridgeon, left, and Lonnie Koyama

Rodger Pridgeon, left, accepts the 2022 South Florida District SBA Small Business Person of the Year from Lonnie Koyama of the Small Business Administration during the recent 2022 National Small Business Week Summit in Melbourne. SCOTT FINNEY

Rodger Pridgeon, owner and president of Corporate Air Inc., has been named the 2022 South Florida District SBA Small Business Person of the Year.

Corporate Air Inc. is a fixed base operator that provides fuel, aircraft maintenance, hangar space and charter jet services at the Vero Beach Regional Airport.

This year’s National Small Business Week awards celebrate the sacrifices and achievements of small business owners and their significant contributions to the economy and communities, according to J. Malcolm Richards, director of the SBA South Florida District.

“America’s entrepreneurs are doing their part to power our nation’s historic economic comeback,” Richards said. “Many small businesses were able to successfully pivot and with tenacity and resilience have not only survived the pandemic but have thrived. Corporate Air, under the leadership of Rodger Pridgeon, is a perfect example of such resiliency. These awards honor those in our community who have excelled in business ownership, demonstrating these virtues that are among the hallmarks of successful entrepreneurship.”

Debbie Petrell, senior vice president of Florida First Capital Finance Corp., nominated Pridgeon for the award.

“As one of many in our portfolio of exceptional small business owners, Rodger Pridgeon of Corporate Air soars as a trendsetting entrepreneur and community advocate,” Petrell said. “His leadership, innovation and commitment to the local community, both in the business and nonprofit sectors, is exemplary, and we are delighted he is this year’s award recipient.”

An aircraft maintenance technician by trade, Pridgeon grew up in western New York state and moved to Vero Beach in 1980, working for Chautauqua Airlines as director of maintenance.

Anticipating the airline’s withdrawal from the region, Pridgeon started an aircraft maintenance business on the side, transitioning into a full time job when Chautauqua Airlines closed its Vero Beach office in 1987. What began as a one-man company has grown to an award-winning, thriving business with 15 employees.

Running a successful and growing business wasn’t the only criteria considered for the award. Being an active contributor to the community was also a factor. Pridgeon served on the board of directors of the Children’s Home Society of the Treasure Coast for 10 years, including as board chairman for two years.

“Of course I’m honored to be recognized as the 2022 South Florida District SBA Small Business Person of the Year, but whether I am recognized or not, I will always continue doing what I love to do: Invest in my business, including the people who help make it happen, and in my community, which I love,” Pridgeon said.

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Treasure Coast Business is a news service and magazine published in print, via e-newsletter and online at tcbusiness.com by Indian River Media Group. For more information or to report news email [email protected]

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Jul. 1, 2022|

Bloomberg Terminals link students with financial world

Bloomberg Terminals link students with financial world

Bloomberg Terminals

IRSC Investment Club students explore use of Bloomberg Terminals in the new IRSC Bloomberg Finance Lab at the grand opening event on Wednesday, Feb. 23. The College has installed 12 Bloomberg Terminals, providing students with unparalleled coverage of markets and securities with information across asset classes — from fixed income to equities, foreign exchange, commodities and derivatives. INDIAN RIVER STATE COLLEGE

BY SUZANNE SELDES

Students studying at Indian River State College now have access to the platform used by the world’s leading banks, corporations and government agencies to view real-time global financial data, news feeds and messages.

The college has installed 12 Bloomberg Terminals, providing students with unparalleled coverage of markets and securities with information across asset classes — from fixed income to equities, foreign exchange, commodities and derivatives.

IRSC’s implementation of the terminals brings the real world of business and finance into the classroom. IRSC is one of more than 1,000 academic institutions globally — but the only one on Florida’s Treasure Coast — to integrate Bloomberg into the curriculum for its business and finance degree programs.

The new Bloomberg Financial Lab will also be used for financial literacy programs and Bloomberg certification courses, which the college expects to begin later this year.

“The opportunity to bring Bloomberg to our students provides an unparalleled resource in developing valuable financial and analytic skills that will differentiate and improve their competitiveness in the job market,” explains Dr. Prashanth Pilly, dean of the IRSC Business Division.

“Integrating classroom teaching with the real-world data, news and analytics available on the terminal better prepares our students for futures in the business and finance industries.”
IRSC’s subscriptions to the Bloomberg Terminal will serve as a resource for students and professors. It will enable students to become familiar with tools used in financial services, reinforcing classroom theory, while professors can use it to further their research.

“When a student comes to IRSC, they can expect a best-in-class education and our Bloomberg Finance Lab is another example of the outstanding resources that are freely available to them,” says IRSC President Dr. Timothy Moore. “At IRSC, students from every academic discipline have the opportunity to sharpen their financial literacy to help them succeed personally and professionally.”

Students of varying levels and study areas can familiarize themselves with the fundamentals of finance by taking Bloomberg Market Concepts. Upon completion of the program’s core concepts modules, students will receive a certificate of completion that can be added to their LinkedIn profiles and resumes to show their knowledge of the markets and the terminal.

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Treasure Coast Business is a news service and magazine published in print, via e-newsletter and online at tcbusiness.com by Indian River Media Group. For more information or to report news email [email protected]

Apr. 20, 2022|

New college program to offer graduating seniors free tuition

New college program to offer graduating seniors free tuition

High School students celebrate

High School students across the Treasure Coast join in on celebrating the IRSC Promise Program.

BY SUZANNE SELDES

In response to a pandemic that has disrupted lives and derailed plans for so many in the community, Indian River State College recently revealed its most significant investment ever in eliminating barriers to higher education.

At a special assembly for Fort Pierce Central High School seniors, the college launched the IRSC Promise Program — announcing tuition-free associate degrees for qualifying 2022 high school graduates from public and public charter schools in Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee and St. Lucie counties.

IRSC president, Dr. Timothy Moore

IRSC president, Dr. Timothy Moore

“IRSC exists to change the lives of those we are here to serve,” IRSC president, Dr. Timothy Moore, announced. “No matter your background, household income or grade point average, if you are graduating from a public or public charter high school in our service district this spring, you can earn an A.A., A.S. or A.A.S. from IRSC tuition-free. We are not going to let anyone fall through the cracks.”

Sponsored by the IRSC Foundation, the IRSC Promise Program comes at a critical time. One million fewer students are enrolled in higher education today than two years ago. Consumer prices are 7.5% above January 2021 and rising. For many students and families, the cost of college can feel out of reach.

“The cost of tuition should never prevent anyone from pursuing their personal and academic goals,” said Michael Hageloh, interim vice president for Institutional Advancement. “The IRSC Promise Program, backed by the strength of the IRSC Foundation and led by the vision of the college’s district board of trustees, will help countless individuals stay the course and earn the education they require to build the futures they deserve. It is the ultimate investment in our community.”

Seventy-six percent of IRSC students remain in their community after graduation, contributing to the local economy as workforce members and consumers.

IRSC Promise Program Pep Rally

Fort Pierce Central High School Cobras engage students at IRSC Promise Program Pep Rally. INDIAN RIVER STATE COLLEGE

The IRSC Promise Program aims to make college education broadly accessible. Students do not need to demonstrate financial need and there is no GPA requirement for acceptance to the program.

Once in the program, students must maintain full-time enrollment status during fall, spring and summer terms and maintain satisfactory academic progress as they pursue an Associate in Arts, Associate in Science or Applied Associate in Science Degree.

To take advantage of the program, eligible high school seniors must commit to IRSC by taking the Promise Pledge [available at promise.irsc.edu] by May 15.

Go to promise.irsc.edu or send an email to [email protected] for more program details and a list of upcoming information sessions.

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Treasure Coast Business is a news service and magazine published in print, via e-newsletter and online at tcbusiness.com by Indian River Media Group. For more information or to report news email [email protected]

Apr. 20, 2022|