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Steering toward the future

Steering toward the future

Bev Smith Toyota

Bev Smith Toyota’s current building will be completely gutted and expanded to 13,570 square feet, with the front portion extended outward. JOE DESALVO

Bev Smith begins renovations at Toyota site, plans new building at Kia dealership 


Bev Smith Automotive Group

Frank Gonzalez, Bev Smith Automotive Group vice president, and executive assistant Phelicia Traver are excited about the upcoming renovations. JOE DESALVO

A major renovation and expansion project at Bev Smith Toyota, located at 3350 South U.S. Highway 1 in Fort Pierce, will get underway this spring to accommodate continued business growth.

Frank Gonzalez, Bev Smith Automotive Group vice president, said the building will be completely gutted and then expanded. The front portion will be extended outward to where the customer parking spaces are located.

The renovation involves three firms having vast experience in similar automotive projects, several being Toyota dealerships.

MH Williams Construction Group in Melbourne is the general contractor. Patrick Swift of Penney Design Group in Bethesda, Maryland, is the architect. ID Automotive, based in Fort Lauderdale, will be managing the project for Bev Smith Toyota. 

Nick Hare, project manager for MH Williams, said the existing building will be expanded to 13,570 square feet. A new building, being built on the land to the north, will be 7,332 square feet.

Completion is anticipated for the end of this year or early 2024, Hare said.

Business will not be interrupted during the dealership’s transformation. Modular office space is in place and will serve as temporary homes for various departments, including management, sales team, service writers, service management, parts, body shop, trucks and rental. In addition, there will be a waiting area for customers in the trailers.

The offices in the renovated store will have a new look and feel.

“We’ll have brand new furniture and offices will be wrapped all the way around,” said Phelicia Traver, executive assistant to Gonzalez. “It’ll be set up a little bit differently.”

MH Williams and ID Automotive are excited to bring the design to life for the dealership group.

“MH Williams Construction Group is proud to have been selected for the modernization and expansion of the Bev Smith Toyota facilities to better serve their customers,” Hare said. “We look forward to working with the Bev Smith Automotive Group on this project and many more in the future.”

ID Automotive is equally proud to be involved, says Martin Meissner, program manager and program marketing director.

“We’re very excited to work with the team there,” he said. “It’s going to be a significant change to the face of the store to the customer — both inside and out. 

“It’s going to bring the facility up to Toyota’s current image guidelines nationally that they have,” Meissner said. “So, it’s going to be a whole new face to the store and I think the customer experience is going to be fresh and exciting.

“It’s going to be a great project for the community,” Meissner added. “It’s going to be a beautiful new store.”

Toyota has had a presence in the Fort Pierce area for more than 50 years — all in the same location at the south end of town. Nick Smith, who helped his father, Bev, make Bev Smith Ford of West Palm Beach one of the top Ford dealerships in the country, bought Fort Pierce Toyota in 1992. Three years later, he broke ground on a new dealership that would receive Toyota’s branded design.

Gonzalez was hired as general manager in 1997 and became a partner in Smith’s company in 2001. They opened Bev Smith Kia in 2006 at 5655 South U.S. 1 in White City.

renovation project

The completed renovation project will bring a significant change to the face of the Bev Smith store, meeting Toyota’s current image guidelines. PENNEY DESIGN GROUP


Bev Smith Kia

Bev Smith Kia, at 5655 South U.S. 1 in Fort Pierce, will be getting a new, more modern building after the renovations at Bev Smith Toyota, farther north on U.S. 1, are completed. JOE DESALVO

Plans call for the Kia dealership to receive a completely new building once the Toyota project is done, according to Gonzalez.

“It’s going to be very modern,” he said. “We’re going to expand the service area in the back. And bring used-car sales across U.S. 1 to the 10-acre property we own.”

Meissner confirmed ID Automotive will be involved with the Kia project in a similar role to that of the Toyota renovation.

“Probably in short order after we finish the Toyota store, and even before the Toyota store is done, we’ll be moving down the street and doing some work on the Kia site, too,” Meissner said. 

“They’re really investing a lot into their stores for the community and I think that’s really great,” he added.

As for MH Williams Construction Group being the general contractor for that job, Hare said, “No final arrangements have been made, but that is the intent of the owner and MH Williams.”

Bev Smith Automotive Group has 150 employees at its Toyota dealership and 75 at the Kia location, according to Gonzalez.

Gonzalez says there are no plans to expand the company’s presence in the area.

“We have a lot going on,” Gonzalez said. “So, taking on another store is not in the picture at the moment. Right now, we want to make what we have better.” 


3350 South U.S. 1
Fort Pierce
Phone: 464.8440
Website: bevsmithtoyota.com


5655 South U.S. 1
Fort Pierce
Phone: 465.8589
Website: bevsmithkia.com


See the original article in 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]

Feb. 20, 2023|

Island of possibilities

Island of possibilities

Bob and Sharon Lowe of Lowe’s International Realty Plus

Bob and Sharon Lowe of Lowe’s International Realty Plus have lived on North Hutchinson Island for 45 years. ANTHONY INSWASTY

Bob Lowe sold on North Hutchinson Island as longtime resident and successful broker


The Lowes enjoy giving a miniature LED flashlight

The Lowes enjoy giving a miniature LED flashlight with their business name to each client and visitor to their office, which led to Bob Lowe being known as ”The Flashlight Guy” around the Treasure Coast. JOE DESALVO

Most folks in their 80s living on North Hutchinson Island are well into retirement, enjoying natural amenities found on the beautiful stretch of the barrier island between the Indian River County line and Fort Pierce Inlet State Park. 

Retirement? At age 84, Bob Lowe chooses to remain active by selling this Treasure Coast gem to out-of-towners looking to relocate, especially from the East Coast, North Florida and South Florida. 

Lowe, you see, is president of Lowe’s International Realty Plus, located at 2901 N. Highway A1A. It’s the single-story tan building with the barrel tile roof that stands alone on the 9.5-acre lot at the corner of A1A and Marina Drive. 

Despite complications from hip surgery in 2017 that has him using a walking aid, Lowe refuses to slow down, working seven days a week from the office or home. 

Wife, Sharon, company vice president and licensed Realtor, has been her husband’s rock of support for 45 years. 

“It is hard to keep up with him at 84 and I’m 71,” said Sharon, who retired five years ago from Indian River State College after 42 years. “He just won’t quit. I often say to him, ‘Let’s just quit and let’s enjoy traveling’ and all that. He says, ‘I’ve got to stay busy.’ 

“This [their business] keeps his mind going and active,” she said. “He’s so active in the community. He’s not going to quit. No quitting.”


Lowe will have none of that when it comes to professional and community involvement. In addition to having served on state and area Realtor boards, he was elected chairman of the St. Lucie County Planning and Zoning Board in January and just served as chairman of the St. Lucie County Board of Adjustment. 

Lowe has also served on several community boards, including New Horizons, a drug, alcohol and mental-illness facility on the Treasure Coast. He’s also on the board of directors of the St. Lucie County Hundred Club. The organization provides direct financial help for spouses and dependents of law-enforcement officers and firefighters who have lost their lives or become disabled in the line of duty.

It was supporting the American Cancer Society years ago that enabled Lowe and Sharon to meet in the mid-1970s when the Chicago native was general manager of Nash Pontiac Cadillac on South U.S. 1 in Fort Pierce. 

Sharon, who came to Florida from Minnesota, likes to tell the story:

“I was doing a bike-a-thon for the Cancer Society and I stopped at Nash Pontiac Cadillac because I knew some of the salesmen,” Sharon said. “I said, ‘Would you sponsor me for this bike-a-thon,’ and they said, ‘No, we’re not going to do it, but our boss will.’

“So, they sent me in to meet Bob Lowe,” Sharon said. “He sponsored me for the bike-a-thon and when I walked out, he said to his sales people, ‘I might try to marry that girl.’ And, about a year and a half later, we got married [in 1977]. So, pretty crazy.”

There’s nothing crazy for what happened next for Lowe. 

It was after Lowe discovered that the dealership was being sold that he became a licensed broker in 1984. It was the start of a successful career that spanned three offices — Lowe Realty in the plaza at U.S. 1 and the North Causeway, and then Century 21 Lowe Realty offices in Sebastian and Vero Beach. 

Lowe sold those offices and opened Lowe Realty in the former strip center that stood behind the current office. It was in 2010 that Bob completed the build-out of a planned office for a project that fell through, and established Lowe’s International Realty.

Debra Madden is office and rental manager

Debra Madden is office and rental manager as well as a broker sales associate for Lowe’s International Realty Plus. DEBRA MADDEN


The Lowes are quite familiar with the island, having lived in Queen’s Cove and The Sands before moving to Breakers Landing 30 years ago. They saw the potential growth in their business by opening an office on it.

“No. 1, we lived on the island; we loved the island,” Lowe said. “We loved what the possibilities of the island could be when developed. 

“Our beaches are beautiful; we have fishing; we have a new bridge coming in; we have an airport with Customs; and plenty of golf courses [in the area],” he said.

First-year sales provided an omen of what was to come for the company.

“We did pretty well, but there wasn’t any competition on the island,” Lowe said.

Some refer to Lowe as “Mr. North Beach.” His reaction: “Sounds good. I’ve been here forever.”

Sharon calls North Hutchinson Island “a diamond in the rough, because people don’t realize it’s still so pristine and it’s going to stay that way.

“I think the values are just going to go up, that’s what our total belief is, especially when you see what Vero gets opposed to us,” she said. “I think there’s no place to go but up.” 

According to Realtor.com, the median listing price in North Hutchinson Island in December was $649,000, compared to $2.4 million in The Moorings community located north of the St. Lucie/Indian River county line on A1A. 

When it comes to addressing their clients’ residential, rental, waterfront and commercial property needs, the Lowes have a talented six-member staff. The team did $30 million in sales last year, mostly on the island … and mostly cash deals, according to Lowe.

As for 2023, “I think it’s going to be good; I really do,” Lowe predicted. “There’s still a shortage of homes. The prices dropped a little bit because of the financing [rising interest rates]. Now the interest rates are starting to go back down. And I think that the market is going to be good. The last half of the year is really going to be strong.”

Bob Lowe sold this 11.8-acre lot

Bob Lowe sold this 11.8-acre lot – zoned for a hotel, commercial and commercial hotel – to a Vero Beach-based investor. JOE DESALVO


As for commercial real estate, one has to trust Lowe’s track record.

“My real success in life has been as a commercial broker,” said Lowe, who also owns and operates Lowe Realty Corp. “I know what I know and that is commercial — hotels, casinos and the international business.

“The island has only one problem — there’s no place to open a business right now,” he said. “This is it [the 9.5-acre mixed-used lot on which his office stands] and the hotel site.”

Both properties were casualties of the destructive winds of hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in September 2004. 

Lowe has sold the property three times, but has yet to see it developed. It even comes with access to the Intracoastal Waterway via a canal in the back of it.

Designs for the property have already been approved by the county, according to Lowe. “Plans for the three-story complex include 70 units with shops below the front condos.”

“We’re hungry for it here,” Sharon said. “We’ve met a lot of people who are interested.” 

“It will sell because there’s nothing left,” Lowe added. 

It’s on the market for $7 million.

As for the former Holiday Inn site nearby at the northeast corner of A1A and Shorewinds Drive, Lowe sold it a year ago in December to an investor in Vero Beach. It’s 11.8 acres with 500 feet on the beach. 

“He wants $50 million for it,” Lowe said. “It’s zoned for 36 units an acre for a hotel, commercial, and commercial hotel. You can build condos, but they have to be part of the hotel. You can make a Marriott Residence and sell some as condos to make your money back. Then they control the rental of it.”


private residential community of Bear Creek in Linville, North Carolina.

The Lowes’ latest project is selling the 35 lots they bought in the private residential community of Bear Creek in Linville, North Carolina. They have already sold eight since the Dec. 28 closing. ANTHONY INSWASTY

What should be a game-changer for those aforementioned sites and residential property values on the island is the North Causeway Bridge replacement project that has been approved by the Florida Department of Transportation. 

The existing two-lane 2,100-foot-long bridge, constructed in 1963 and including a double bascule over the Intracoastal Waterway’s main channel, is being replaced with a high-level 4,152.5-foot-long fixed bridge crossing over the FEC Railroad tracks, Old Dixie Highway and the Intracoastal Waterway.

First approved five years ago, preliminary work has finally begun after several delays. It should be completed by the end of 2025.

“It will increase the [real estate] prices,” Lowe said.

Debra Madden, who has been with the Lowes for six years and serves as office and rental manager as well as being a broker sales associate, agreed.

“It will be the second largest [bridge to island, the other being the 17th Street bridge in Vero Beach],” Madden said of the bridge’s impact on the island’s real estate market. “It’ll be a destination. People will want to go over it.”

In the meantime, the Lowes have taken on a new project. They closed in December on 35 lots in Bear Creek in Linville, North Carolina. It’s a private, prestige residential community near Blowing Rock, Boone and Banner Elk.

“We did our honeymoon in Banner Elk and Beech Mountain, and that’s where we fell in love with North Carolina,” Sharon said. “So, we’ve had numerous homes up there and now we’re buying this project and trying to sell these lots.” 

“I think we’ll have all the lots sold in 18 months,” Sharon said. “That’s our goal and we already have sold eight since the Dec. 28 closing.”

Lowe is quick to share his principles of selling real estate so effectively and in Bear Creek’s case, so swiftly.

“Honesty. Integrity. And, satisfying the customer,” he said. “We’re very firm on that.”

Not to mention, visitors and clients can count on receiving the Lowe’s International Realty Plus LED mini flashlight from the Lowes.

“He’s known as the ‘Flashlight Guy’ all over Vero and Fort Pierce,” Sharon said with a smile.

With that said, Lowe is possibly shedding light on retirement plans?

“I’ve been blessed. We’ve both been blessed,” Lowe said. “I thank God every day. We talked about that this morning. I’m going to retire someday — I think sooner than later.”

Lowe’s International 

Realty Plus Inc.

Robert J. Lowe Sr., Broker/President

2901 N. Highway A1A

Hutchinson Island, FL 34949

Office Phone: 772.467.6500

Cell Phone: 772.559.1676

Website: lowesinternationalrealtyplus.com

Bear Creek at Linville, 

North Carolina

Robert J. Lowe Sr., Broker

Office phone: 828.742.0000

Cell Phone: 772.559.1676

Website: bearcreekinlinville.com

See the original article in 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]

Feb. 20, 2023|

Downtown Upswing

Downtown Upswing

Business is booming in the wintertime at downtown eateries

Business is booming in the wintertime at downtown eateries and bars. Cobb’s Landing, at the Fort Pierce City Marina, recently added additional seating under the cover of a thatched roof to its waterfront restaurant. The dining area, created by Seminole Tiki Huts, was built in Seminole chickee hut style, with cypress wood framing and a thatching of sabal palm fronds. RUSTY DURHAM

Downtown’s charm continues to attract shoppers, restaurant and bar patrons


Downtown Fort Pierce, like many other historical neighborhoods, is always in a state of flux. Businesses come in, some succeed while others fall by the wayside.

In recent years, the newcomers have outnumbered the failures, although there have been a few of the latter. Fort Pierce seems to have reached a steady-state period after a period of heady growth. According to reports by local merchants, shoppers are still discovering the charms of downtown and its small, independent stores that offer one-off boutiques, gift stores and eating and drinking establishments not found anywhere else.

This year’s Shop Small Saturday bears out the trend. The event, held on Nov. 26, the first Saturday after Thanksgiving, is intended to draw shoppers to areas like downtown Fort Pierce.

In 2021, nationally, 51 million shoppers participated in Shop Small Saturday, spending $20 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.

Merchants’ hopes for an even better event in 2022 seem to have held up, according to reports by merchants.

Shop Small Saturday evolved out of a 2010 partnership between American Express, the nonprofit National Trust For Historic Preservation and the mayor of Boston.

Sales in 2021 set records, but the numbers were still below pre-pandemic levels. A Lending Tree survey last year found that 53% of the U.S. population knows at least one small business that was forced to close permanently due to COVID restrictions.

Sweets Jewelers in Downtown Fort Pierce

Businesses such as Sweets Jewelers in downtown since the 1920s reported brisk sales in November. According to Jan Russell of Sweets, “it was just like the old days.” Russell’s grandfather, John Noelke, bought the jewelry store from the Sweet family in the 1940s. RUSTY DURHAM


Downtown Fort Pierce merchants reported sales increases above last year’s event by between 10% and 15%. Some stores did even better than that.

“It was almost 17 % better than last year,” said Becky Demanuel of the gift store Chic & Shore Things on Second Street. “Actually, it’s my second-best day of the year [saleswise]. The [event] really is a boost for the downtown area.”

Karen DeVries, owner of Chaney’s House O’Flowers on the corner of Avenue A and Second Street, said her sales tripled from last year.

“I think the advertising and people wanting to shop local businesses [was the reason],” she explained. “We kept advertising on social media and I think that just brought more people downtown.”

Jan Russell of Sweets Jewelers on Avenue A, whose family has been in business in the same spot since 1926, noted that “Downtown was busy. It was like the old days.”

For Beryl Muise, owner of the gift store Notions & Potions on Second Street, Black Friday this year was even better than Shop Small Saturday. Muise recorded sales 40% higher than last year.

“I think more people want to support shopping small and I think [these numbers] prove it,” she said.


Muise said she has seen a steady stream of locals who patronize her store. She is also looking to even better times ahead.

“Everyone downtown is very, very excited for when King’s Landing comes,” Muise said. “The hotel will make a huge difference for us. We’re realizing that locals want to shop in their own community and I think all the planned new development will continue to help us.”

While a couple of downtown businesses have closed in the past year [Whirled Inc., a gift and art store, and Honey & Co., a women’s clothing boutique], they’ve either already been replaced or are about to be. Sarah Jane and Co. replaced Honey and Loup de Loup, near Chaney’s and Sweets Jewelers, has expanded into double the retail space.

Muise, who is active in the Downtown Business Association, reports that all downtown retail spaces are filled and that there’s a waiting list for new vendors. She also confirmed what national surveys have found regarding downtown shoppers and their needs.

“My customers are younger, many in their mid-30s — and they tell me they want to shop at night after eating dinner downtown.”

The Kings Landing project

The Kings Landing project planned for downtown’s waterfront recently broke ground. However, before infrastructure can begin, underground foundation pieces for the old electric plant must be removed. AUDUBON DEVELOPMENT


Dale Matteson of Audubon Development that is building King’s Landing on the former city electric plant site reports steady progress despite encountering one major delay since he gained city approval for the scale and design of his housing, commercial and hotel development.

Even though the site has been the subject of a federally funded Brownfield mitigation project a few years ago, which cost Fort Pierce Utilities Authority about $8 million, a massive amount of underground concrete foundations from the old plant have been discovered. Matteson is covering the cost of removal of the concrete for now, but hopes to gain reimbursement from the city.

The concrete, once removed, will form the basis of a large offshore underwater reef, Matteson said.

Meanwhile, the developer is pushing ahead on a small development of 10 townhomes at the northern end of the site. The model unit there sold recently for $1.5 million, Matteson said. He hopes that unit can be completed by the end of 2023 and that the full 10 units will be finished within 18 months. The remaining nine lots went up for sale on Jan. 1, he said.

Meanwhile, the hotel component is still on track. Matteson is awaiting permit approval before he can begin installing site infrastructure. 

“I think by spring 2023 you’ll see the infrastructure [roads, utilities, etc.] going in,” he said.

Fisherman’s Wharf

The area of Fisherman’s Wharf that lies between the South Bridge and the port area is largely vacant and unused. A developer is interested in building a concierge boat storage facility and a retail/restaurant complex on the site. The preliminary plans have drawn some local opposition because the project would require the relocation of the popular Black Pearl boat ramp. ANTHONY WESTBURY


The iconic P.P. Cobb Building on Avenue A at Indian River Drive

The iconic P.P. Cobb Building on Avenue A at Indian River Drive in downtown Fort Pierce is likely the oldest such structure still in use in the area and remains a popular spot for visitors and locals alike. RUSTY DURHAM

The interest in potential buyers, Matteson said, has been fantastic. He said he has 157 reservations for 114 units and has firm commitments from six restaurant operators, plus three restaurants that will be part of the hotel.

And there’s a new trend coming to Fort Pierce.

“I guess the Treasure Coast has been busting for rooftop bars,” he noted with a chuckle. “It’s a great way for us to monetize unused space on the top of the tallest buildings. The bars will offer spectacular views.”

Another planned retail-commercial development in the early planning stages is a boat storage complex and residential and retail units on Fisherman’s Wharf, sited between the port to the north and downtown. 

Developer Chris Pulli is hoping to revitalize the rundown waterfront area with a concierge boat storage operation, restaurants, bars and live music with his $76 million project.

Pulli said he hopes the development provides a safe, family-friendly waterfront destination. It will include a public boardwalk, free public dockage, as well as retail components. There will also be additional parking for both the development and as a way to alleviate the parking crunch experienced in downtown.

Pulli said he is committed to involving the community in his plan. “I’m trying to honor the area’s past and heritage,” he said. He also plans to add a mentoring and internship program that will involve students from Westwood High School and Forest Grove Middle School.

So, while downtown Fort Pierce awaits the arrival of giant new developments, which should boost the attractiveness of downtown for locals and visitors alike, business still looks great for established merchants in the city’s core.

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]

Feb. 15, 2023|

Hooked on a system

Hooked on a system

Naturally raised tilapia

Naturally raised tilapia are being produced on an environmentally sustainable fish farm located on the west side of Vero Beach. ANTHONY INSWASTY PHOTOS

Vero Beach farm uses innovative process to raise market-ready tilapia


Michael Timmons and Andrew Dixon

Michael Timmons, left, and Andrew Dixon raise and sell genetically healthy tilapia using a recirculating aquaculture system developed by Timmons.

On the west side of Vero Beach, 15 acres of verdant farmland are producing an environmentally sustainable food product. And there is something decidedly fishy about it.

A vertically integrated tilapia farm is the latest venture by Michael B. Timmons, one of the world’s foremost authorities in aquaculture. He is recognized professionally and academically for his cutting edge work with aqua systems, but there’s also a dual purpose to his project, because he’s using his fish farming expertise to benefit the Vero Beach-based nonprofit, United Against Poverty.

Timmons’ farm, Atlantic Pacific Jade, focuses on fish-breeding genetics and has produced a healthy and protein-rich stock of farm-raised tilapia that can be mass produced and is environmentally sustainable. It is a nourishing, locally produced product made for the U.S. market.

For more than a decade, Timmons, a retired Cornell University professor, had taught short classes at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute as a visiting scientist at FAU. Timmons also is one of the founders of the Aquacultural Engineering Society and has served as its president.

Taking advantage of the farming-friendly regulations in Florida, he began APJ in 2019. In 2020, he met Andrew Dixon who was working on a USDA project at Harbor Branch attempting to breed bonefish in captivity for the first time. A graduate of the University of Miami in marine affairs, Dixon had common interests in the aquaculture world and Timmons hired him to be the farm’s fish manager. Together they have raised a lavishly nurtured line of tilapia, relying on a genetically healthy breed of fish that Timmons created, a lineage that stretches back nearly 30 years. 


Timmons’ research focused on recirculating aquaculture system technology. And he wrote the book on the topic. Recirculating Aquaculture, 5th Edition, known as The Yellow Book, is considered the industry bible for fish farmers worldwide. 

RAS recirculates water from fish tanks and does not discharge water into a stream, lake or ocean. The water quality value is reconditioned to nearly what it was when the water first entered the tank. Appropriate oxygen, carbon dioxide and ammonia concentrations are restored. This expertise of sustainable aqua systems naturally led Timmons to a practical environment, competing with farmers who conventionally raise seafood in ponds and net pens. 

The result, according to Timmons, has been the most advanced aquaculture technology in the world.

Some of the problems of mass-producing food are the overuse of pesticides, resource depletion and low nutritional quality. Timmons and Dixon use digital aquaculture technology to overcome these obstacles. The farm follows all organic practices. The meal fed to the fish is a high-grade, proprietary product sold by the global food conglomerate Cargill, containing a variety of ingredients including corn, soy meal and vitamin supplements. Using Timmons’ system assures water quality control, lack of contaminants, metals, or chemicals and, when coupled with a healthy diet, constitutes an organic system that produces healthy fish ready for market. 

Tilapia had acquired an unfounded bad reputation, according to both Timmons and Dixon. One of the negatives came from so many having been grown in China and underdeveloped countries where they don’t use all organic practices. 

“Tilapia are filter feeders,” Dixon explains, “so they’ll pretty much eat anything in the water.” If their ponds are below chicken farms, or pit farms, runoff with contaminants and antibiotics can flow into their ponds and into their diets.

Dixon oversees the tanks where fish are carefully cultivated

Dixon oversees the tanks where fish are carefully cultivated, maintaining an organic system.


Now in the process of taking over the business from Timmons, Dixon is set up for early, fast-breaking success with a large shipment of live tilapia leaving the farm soon. Timmons is aspiring to spend more time working with United Against Poverty and supplying its food subsidy grocery co-op with protein rich fish. 

Timmons regularly donates fish products to United Against Poverty, and according to CEO Gwendolyn Butson, “the fish products are popular among our Indian River Member Share Grocery Program.” With locations in Indian River and St. Lucie counties, the food program will be a continuing beneficiary of Timmons’ largess. “We are grateful for partners like Dr. Timmons who offer opportunities to provide nutritious protein products like fresh seafood, a desired staple at dinner tables across the communities we serve,” Butson says.

The farm’s genesis came when Timmons’ time at Harbor Branch was interrupted by COVID. A colleague there, Tim Pfeiffer, a USDA research scientist, urged Timmons to set up a fish breeding operation locally. He began the hunt for the appropriate property in Indian River County for a farm. He had designed and built several other aquatic ventures, including in New York’s Finger Lakes region and Beaver Dam, Kentucky. 


But Vero was a good place for his start-up. “It’s generally pro-business here,” Timmons says, “and colleges have programs with plenty of people in fish farming; the systems are technical and there’s a reservoir of technical people to hire. That was a big deal.”

And it wasn’t long before he found the perfect land. “Tim was bike riding one morning and saw the property up for sale,” Timmons remembers. “The next day, we bought it.”

The 15 acres required some heavy lifting to get it into shape. It had been a working vegetable farm with an artesian well and a 26-by-200-foot greenhouse with only the metal hoops and no cover. Overgrowth of vegetation was to the top of the green house and the property hadn’t been farmed in eight years. 

“It was back to a jungle,” Timmons says. With effort, the green house soon became the tanks holding area and the breeding and fingerling business was born. 


As Timmons the professor or Dixon the young fish manager will attest, the business of breeding fish for a processed or live-fish market requires patience and a lot of hands-on effort, because it’s complicated and time consuming.

The result of the 30-plus year genetic fish lineage that Timmons engineered is a viable and robust female fish that is extremely tolerant to low-oxygen, cold temperature, and ammonia, high concentrations of which would ordinarily kill tilapia. 

“They grow really fast,” says Dixon. “And some of them have a pumpkin seed wide middle, which gives a really nice filet.”

Atlantic Pacific Jade, soon to be called Dixon Aquafarms, does nutrient testing on the fish. And the purging tank, the final stop in fish-raising, maintains a constant flow of fresh, not recirculated, water that is as clear as an aquarium.

Fingerlings are young fish that are nurtured to become full-grown tilapia for market. But they can also be used to sell to other fish farms. The fame of Timmons’ genetic engineering attracts buyers on a regular basis.

Three or four male fish in a tank will typically service 15-20 females. Breeding is approximately a three-to-seven-day process. A female will lay a pass of anywhere from 300 to 1,500 eggs and the male will follow, fertilizing the eggs.

 “They’re mouth brooders,” Dixon says. Meaning that the female will pick up the eggs into her mouth and move them around inside.

 “She keeps rolling them to keep them from damage,” Timmons explains. “They will hatch in her mouth and swim there for a while, about seven days.”

The females are left on their own for a couple of weeks and then are taken to their own tank. The farmers then drain the tank to catch the babies. “The females are reconditioned to build up their body strength for eight weeks, in a separate tank. Two weeks later they go back to breed,” Timmons says.

A large sale of stock to the live-fish market is on the horizon for Timmons and Dixon just as the company is transitioning ownership. This will be Dixon’s first sale under his newly named venture, but Timmons will be working right beside him. 


The fish need to reach approximately 1.5 pounds for viable sale. In their final production stage, they are moved into the purging tank, which holds approximately 1,000 fish. 

“We bring their temperature down, and make sure their gi system is completely cleaned out,” Timmons says. The time in the clean-water purging tank also helps lessen a strong fishy taste.

Timmons, Dixon and their crew will basket the fish from the tank, weigh them, oxygenate them and place them in approximately 16 to 20, 250-gallon holding tanks. The fish are then loaded onto a truck and taken to a North Carolina broker who sells them to markets such as New York, Cleveland and Chicago.

It’s a cyclical business, according to Timmons. 

“Too many fish farmers producing too many fish brings the price down, then it’s difficult to manage profits. And companies go out of business, which creates another shortage and prices go up again.” But currently, “There’s a shortage of live tilapia,” Timmons says. 

And the American/Asian market relies heavily on live fish. Dixon says, “There are not a lot of tilapia farms in America and not that many hatcheries.”

The field expertise and practical application from years of research brings a successful farming endeavor to the area, plotting the future safety of food and supplying a protein-rich, sustainable food source. And it will continue to benefit United Against Poverty, as Timmons helps those in need stock their grocery program. 

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]

Feb. 14, 2023|

Fish farms a great catch for the Treasure Coast

Fish farms a great catch for the Treasure Coast

Farm-raised tilapia

Farm-raised tilapia are being produced in Vero Beach by Atlantic Pacific Jade, which plans to ship some of its stock to the live-fish market. The farm has donated fresh fish to a local nonprofit, United Against Poverty. ANTHONY INSWASTY

As demand for Florida seafood continues to exceed what the commercial fishing industry can produce, aquaculture — captively raising fish, shellfish and aquatic plants — offers a viable solution to expanding and sustaining Florida’s fishery and decreasing reliance on imported products and our nearby lagoon and ocean fishery.

One case of an aquaculture farm making scientific inroads is taking place west of Vero Beach at Atlantic Pacific Jade, soon to be called Simmons Fish Farm.

As Mary Ann Koenig writes in Hooked on a System beginning on Page 4, farm produced tilapia are being raised and sold for distribution to the U.S. market with enough available for donations to United Against Poverty. The operation is the brain child of retired Cornell University professor Michael B. Timmons, who developed a genetically healthy breed of the fish over three decades. The farm is managed by marine specialist Andrew Dixon, who is in line to take over the business.

One of the environmental friendly features of the farm is that it uses technology developed by Timmons to recirculate water instead of discharging it into another body of water. All the while, the farm remains intensely focused on both the quality of the water in which the fish are raised and the nutritional quality of the fish themselves.

It’s just one of a handful of aquaculture businesses on the Treasure Coast, which includes the Ithuba Shrimp Farm in Fellsmere and Aquaco Farms north of Fort Pierce, that have become part of a global solution to sustaining the world’s food supply.

Jade, Aquaco and Ithuba are also examples of entrepreneurs diving wholeheartedly into aquaculture. And with nearby research institutions such as FAU-Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, the Smithsonian Research Station, the Ocean Research & Conservation Association and the Florida Oceanographic Society, coupled with what some entrepreneurs perceive as Florida’s farming-friendly regulations, there’s no reason the Treasure Coast shouldn’t be home to more of these enterprises.

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]

Feb. 14, 2023|

Census Bureau service provides timely updates on business startups

Census Bureau service provides timely updates on business startups

Florida has seen unprecedented growth during the past two years in the number of new business starts. In 2020, more than 495,000 new applications were filed to start a new business — up 26.8% from the previous year. While these were staggering numbers, the pace continued at the same robust rate in 2021. Last year, there were more than 632,000 new business applications [another 27% increase year-over-year]. 

These same trends were happening across the entire nation, with new business creation booming in most states. Peer states, like New York, California and Texas, were also experiencing tremendous growth in new businesses, but none had growth as robust as Florida. As one of our partners, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, shared last year, Florida has been the No. 1 state for new business starts for the past two years. 

The 2021 county-level data was just released June 23. The county-level numbers are also used to populate county and regional policymakers dashboards.


U.S. Census Bureau

Business applications are easier to track and compare due to the launch of a standard data product by the U.S. Census Bureau. The Business Formation Statistics data series provides timely information on new business applications and formations in the United States. There are many perks of using the BFS as a real-time indicator for tracking the business environment, including that it is available at the national, regional, and state levels. However, the strongest asset of the data series is that it is available weekly, meaning you can regularly track where your state is compared to the previous year.

FL new businesses

Moreover, the data series tracks different types of applications. The overall application number is benchmarked against high-propensity applications. This group includes those that are from some key industry sectors, corporations, those with planned wages, and those that are hiring. All of the other sub-types of business applications are included in the overall business applications number. Examining it this way confirms that the majority of business growth is in those that are going into business for themselves as a non-employer or a sole proprietorship. The overall business number for our state reflects that trend as well — 2.4 million of 2.8 million businesses are non-employers. 

BFS are also available by county, but not in real time. The 2021 county-level data was just released June 23. The county-level numbers are also used to populate county and regional policymakers dashboards.

Last year, aspiring entrepreneurs were about 19% of the Florida SBDC Network’s clients, and startups [those in business less than three years] were about 30% of its clients. To some, that market segment distribution of clients may be surprising. After all, established businesses have been dealing with various external pressures like the pandemic, rising operating costs, supply chain and labor shortages, and now inflation. However, the flip side of the Great Resignation has been that advancing technology and cultural shifts in work-life balance have fostered a fertile ground for aspiring entrepreneurs. Ultimately, this means that the demand for Florida SBDC Network services is extremely high from all market segments of businesses and will likely continue to be throughout the year. 

Pulling together this data for the network, the Florida small business community and our partners through dashboards can provide a variety of insightful relationships, including where growth is happening most in earnest, how industries are growing throughout the state and how marketing teams can target these new entities most effectively. Florida might rank third in population, but it is proving to be No. 1 for businesses.


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]

Oct. 14, 2022|

Do your homework before buying an existing small business

Do your homework before buying an existing small business


Do you dream of owning your own business? There’s more than one way to make this dream come true. Some entrepreneurs launch a business from scratch, while others buy an existing business. There are certainly advantages to buying an established business, but is it the right move for you? Let’s find out.

Pros and Cons of Buying an Established Business 

If the idea of starting a new business isn’t your cup of tea, you might consider becoming the new owner of an existing business. Let’s look at the benefits and drawbacks of doing so.


An established business has done the hard work of setting up, establishing customers and generating revenue, so you will have less work to do. Contrast this to launching a startup, which will require a lot of capital upfront, as well as a lot of strategies and planning to be a success.

Another benefit is that you can have a clear understanding of what sort of revenues you can expect. Smart business buyers ask to see their accounting. Looking at the business’ financial statements for the last three to five years, such as cash flow statements, balance sheets, profit and loss statements, and personal and business tax returns can show how financially healthy the business is and has been.


On the other hand, you may not be able to find the type of business you are interested in for sale or at a price you can afford.

You may also inherit liabilities like debt from the owner, which can add to the cost of buying a business. In addition, you may not be aware of any issues with staff, suppliers, location or zoning until you take over ownership and see for yourself.

Consider why this person is selling the business. Is it because it’s flailing and they want to get out before the ship sinks? You don’t want to be the one to go down with the ship.

What to Consider Before Buying a Business

If you are considering buying a business, here are some things to consider.

What’s the Real Story?

It’s important to consider why small business owners sell their businesses. If they’re planning to retire, that’s one thing. However, if they have racked up debt and cannot afford to run the business, then that becomes your problem.

Find out as much as you can about the business. Don’t just look at the balance sheet; talk to employees to see how they like the company and how it’s run. Examine equipment to see what kind of shape it’s in.

What Will it Cost?

The purchase price is just one expense you’ll have in buying an existing business. If equipment is outdated, you may soon need to replace it. In addition, consider that some employees might leave when you take ownership, so you may need to invest in hiring new ones.

Also, consider other fees or licenses you may need to transfer or get in your name as a new license. Review the requirements for business licensing in your state so you know those costs ahead of time and can ensure you have the cash flow to cover all these expenses.

Is There Any Debt?

If the business has outstanding loans or other liabilities, what are they, and will you be responsible for paying them off? You may be able to negotiate this as part of the sale agreement so that you’re not saddled with debt, which may start you off on the wrong foot when it comes to building business credit.

What Work Needs to be Done?

You may be able to step into this business as a turnkey operation and do nothing more than put your name on your office door. Or you might have major renovations, hiring, training or purchases to make. Consider your new ownership as an opportunity to make design improvements if the location you’re buying is run down or in need of a coat of paint. A few cosmetic tweaks can communicate to customers that there’s a new owner eager to serve them well.

Do You Need Help?

You certainly can buy a new business but it may be helpful to hire a business broker. They know how to find the kind of business you’re looking for, and can help with due diligence and the negotiation process.

How to Buy an Existing Business

Now let’s look at the steps for how to buy a business.

Step 1: Do Your Due Diligence

It is your responsibility to learn as much as you can about the business. That means carefully analyzing financial records and tax returns or having a CPA or a consultant do it if you are not clear about what the owner discloses about the business’ financial health. You need to look at all the assets including intellectual property and be aware of all liabilities.

Also, check its credit history because you will be inheriting it. If the owner did not pay any outstanding bills, it will be reflected in the business credit scores and may affect your ability to secure future financing.

Step 2: Review the Business Plan

You’ll want to know as much as possible about business operations, so if the company has a business plan, ask to see it. This can give you insight into the previous owner’s vision for the company and you can see how well it is aligned with where the business is.

Step 3: Conduct a Business Valuation

The owner will have given you the sale price, but now it is up to you to do a business valuation to see how accurate that price is with the market value of the business. A business valuation should include both tangible and intangible assets, including real estate, monthly retainers, accounts receivable and debts.

A business broker, accountant or business consultant like Michael Bernard can help with these calculations. Ultimately, you’re trying to determine whether, at the asking price, you would be able to see a solid return on investment within a few years.

Step 4: Give Your Letter of Intent

This letter states your intent to purchase the business, though you can opt out if you decide it is not the right business. Some business owners won’t release tax returns and other financial information until you give them a letter of intent.

Step 5: Get Your Financing Together

We’ll cover this more in-depth in the next section, but before you can buy a business, you need to ensure you have enough cash to cover not only the sale price but also those costs you’ve calculated. If you do not have enough cash you may need to take out a small business loan.

Step 6: Sign on the Dotted Line

Sign the required legal documents to seal the deal. Once both parties have signed, the business is yours.

Financing Options for Buying a Business

Term Loan 

Banks and online lenders are willing to finance a business acquisition, if you qualify. You will need good to excellent credit for the low-interest rates.

SBA Loan

Another option is a loan backed by the Small Business Administration. These also offer low rates for those who qualify.

Seller Financing 

Some sellers, particularly those who are motivated to sell, may be willing to finance the deal. If you don’t qualify for a low-interest loan, this may be a good option. You may be asked to provide a down payment based on the asking price and then make monthly payments for a predetermined period of time.

Find the Business That’s Right for You 

Finding the right business that fits your needs and fulfills your dream will take time, but if you do your due diligence, you have the potential to build on top of a well-established business with your own unique flair.


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]

Oct. 14, 2022|

TCMA- Fall 2022

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 Magazine Inc. For more information or to report news email [email protected]

Oct. 12, 2022|

Modern-day land rush

Modern-day land rush

Food service distributor Cheney Brothers

High demand has led to record prices for land on which to build huge warehouses and distribution centers in the Treasure Coast. At Legacy Park in Port St. Lucie, more than 5 million square feet are developed, or soon will be, eventually employing more than 3,000. Food service distributor Cheney Brothers held a groundbreaking in April for its distribution center and food-service warehouse. CITY OF PORT ST. LUCIE

Region experiencing a boom in industrial land development


There is a land rush like no one has ever seen for large plots ripe for industrial development on the Treasure Coast.

Jeff Chamberlin is one of the most active real estate professionals who deal in the large parcels in high demand mostly west of the heavily populated areas.

Chamberlin thinks of the 1920s political pitch promising a “chicken in every pot” as a sign of prosperity when he thinks of this industrial boom.

“Here on the Treasure Coast, we’re going to get a million-square-foot warehouse at every I-95 interchange,” Chamberlin, president of SLC Commercial, said.

Chamberlin’s firm brokered the land sale for the Amazon distribution warehouse, which Amazon calls a fulfillment center, on 110 acres at Midway Business Park on West Midway Road near Interstate 95. 

Midway and I-95 is just one of the areas being developed for industrial sites. Others include the Kings Highway corridor near the Orange Avenue [State Road 68] interchange with I-95 and Legacy Park at Tradition in Port St. Lucie at Becker Road and I-95.

There is also a booming area for industry between the Treasure Coast International Airport and Kings Highway, where 37 acres recently sold for $5.2 million in a deal brokered by Coldwell Banker Commercial Paradise.


One of the major companies at Legacy Park is FedEx

One of the major companies at Legacy Park is FedEx. The company’s distribution center is shown under construction in October 2021. Amazon is at Legacy, too. Legacy Park developer Sansone Group said it is a two-hour drive from 8 million people and a four-hour drive from 20 million people. CITY OF PORT ST. LUCIE

Lifelong St. Lucie County resident Hoyt C. Murphy Jr., a Realtor with the firm, said the promise of an industrial land boom is not new. It’s been around since the late 1980s when I-95 was completed from Miami to the Georgia state line. The completion of the interstate along with the confluence of it and Florida’s Turnpike in Fort Pierce made the area logistically alluring to industrial developers.

When his firm did the site sale for the Walmart Distribution Center on Jenkins Road in Fort Pierce nearly two decades ago, Murphy said he figured that a wave of similar sales was in the offing, but that didn’t happen.

“Then, in the past three years, it’s gone crazy,” Murphy said. “… well over 10 million square feet of industrial facilities are under construction or in the permitting process” in St. Lucie County.

The $5.2-million sale Murphy’s firm brokered was at an average of $140,000 an acre. Five years ago, a generous estimate of the value would have been $40,000 per acre, Murphy said.

Chamberlin says land values for large parcels good for industrial development are $150,000 to $200,000 per acre, up from $90,000 and less several years ago.

It’s the location, land price and the access to major highways that lures big companies from Amazon to FedEx to build in the region.

“You can reach 65% of the population in Florida within two to three hours” of St. Lucie County, said Pete Tesch, president of the St. Lucie Economic Development Center, which has been instrumental in the process of developing the large land parcels.

Tesch said the county and the Treasure Coast benefits by the growth of the overall Florida economy, which he says would be the 15th or 16th largest in the world if it were its own country.

industrial real estate developers, map

A half-dozen industrial real estate developers, all with multistate footprints, are working on seven St. Lucie County sites. Higher prices and fewer large parcels south of the Treasure Coast has pushed developers to Indian River, Martin and St. Lucie counties. ST. LUCIE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL


There are precious few large parcels of land still open to industrial development in the more populated counties south of the Treasure Coast: Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach. Those are also the three most heavily populated counties in the state to make up its largest consumer market.

When there are such parcels in the largest counties south of the Treasure Coast, the prices are much higher, said Chris Dzadovsky, St. Lucie County commissioner.

As the consumer market shifts to delivery-to-home purchases, there is more demand for massive warehouses and distribution centers, Chamberlin said.

 “This is all new territory for us,” Chamberlin said. “It’s the advent of distribution being the new retail. Delivery to your home.”

W. Lee Dobbins, a land-use attorney in St. Lucie County, said that rather than put a distribution warehouse in South Florida or Central Florida, it makes sense to locate on the Treasure Coast in order to serve both of those big markets. 

When city and county and economic development officials work to land large industrial facilities, they use code words to help identify them but keep their details secret until sales are closed.

Elijah Wooten Jr., business navigator for Port St. Lucie, said a Project Green and a Project Apron both call for 1-million-square-foot buildings north of the under-construction Amazon 1.1-million-square-foot distribution center in the Midway Business Center.


Industrial land development is progressing on a smaller scale but is active in Indian River and Martin counties.

Phil Matson, community development director for Indian River County, said that there are about 9,000 acres of land for potential development in Fellsmere west of I-95 and north of State Road 60. And there is a 99-acre parcel ripe for development on Oslo Road and I-95 that was the former site of a state youthful offender prison.

There is major potential for industrial development on Oslo Road, in the southern part of the county, particularly once a new interchange at Oslo and I-95 opens in three years, Matson said. There is also a plan to improve Oslo Road from 58th Avenue to west of the interstate.

In northern Indian River County, an existing industrial park that is home to Triton Submarines has parcels available for development, Matson said.

In Fellsmere, there are several large land owners that have flirted with sales of large tracts, and some projects are in the planning stages, said Fellsmere City Manager Mark D. Mathes. Some of the acreage now devoted to citrus farming may become available, he said.

Land values are likely to continue to rise, and Fellsmere is located to take advantage of relatively low land prices and development expenses in an area close to growing Central Florida.

“If you want to get in, this is the time to get in. It’s about ready to take off,” Mathes said.

Chandler Bats

Not all companies coming to the Treasure Coast need huge warehouses. Chandler Bats, which makes wooden baseball bats for Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees as well as other Major League Baseball players, moved its headquarters and manufacturing plant from Pennsylvania to Port St. Lucie.


Martin County Administrator Don Donaldson said that while there is industrial activity in the county, there are no 1-million-square-foot mega-warehouses going up or in the planning process. For now, the largest parcels are zoned for agriculture and do not allow for industrial development.

But Chamberlin says it’s a matter of time that pressure will build to create those huge buildings along I-95 in Martin County. It may take longer than in St. Lucie County, but Chamberlin says he still sees a million-square-foot warehouse at every I-95 interchange from the Palm Beach County line to Sebastian.

Frannie Hutchinson, St. Lucie County commissioner and lifelong resident of the county, said she has sought to bring smart development to the county in her 20 years as commissioner. 

She said that there was considerable interest in the county’s industrial land until the recession around 2008 quelled it for a decade or so.

“We have been discovered,” Hutchinson said. 

The type of industrial development happening will help keep taxes down for homeowners and create jobs.

“These huge buildings are going to generate a lot of taxes and they are not going to add to the traffic in town,” Chamberlin said.

However, Dzadovsky is aware of the burden that the growth might cause homeowners.

“We have tried to focus on taking the pressure off the homeowners and diversify our tax base,” he explained. “When you are too reliant on residential rooftops to pay for your infrastructure, it puts too much of a strain on homeowners.” 


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]

Oct. 12, 2022|