Coral Gables Business Briefs

Small Business Grants, New Condo Towers, Changes at Amerant and Our First Unicorn

Perez Hoofs It

What do you do when you are faced with an impossible deadline to process $801,000 in grants for small businesses in Coral Gables, all of which are unaware of the opportunity, and all of which have to apply immediately? Do you mail them notices? Do you send out emails about the opportunity, or post it on social media? Not if you are Julian Perez. Faced with just six weeks to solicit, process and send applications to the county for the city’s share of CARES act funds, the city’s economic development director simply walked to every small business in town, urging them to apply ASAP. Took a couple of days. Got every penny dispersed, to 60 small businesses. 

Medina Becomes a Unicorn

Manny Medina has succeeded again. The Gables-based serial entrepreneur who developed data-center heavyweight Terremark and launched South Florida’s mega-tech conference eMerge Americas has created a “unicorn,” a privately-held startup valued at $1 billion or more and aptly named for its rarity. 

Medina said Feb. 9 his cybersecurity firm Appgate is getting
up to $100 million from a Chicago-area investment group, which values his startup at $1 billion. Appgate also plans to sell shares on Wall Street, merging first into a publicly traded shell company controlled by investor Jon Ledecky, co-owner of the New York Islanders hockey team. The deal is likely to close next quarter. 

Coral Gables Business
 Manny Medina speaking at eMerge Americas conference.

Cuba-born Medina spun off Appgate from Coral Gables-based Cyxtera data-center business in January 2020, partly to appeal to Wall Street. He figured different groups would be attracted to each segment: Appgate appealing more to tech investors and Cyxtera to those keen on long-term infrastructure. Appgate provides cybersecurity software and services to some 650 customers worldwide including international banks and government agencies. It expects revenues of $40 million in fiscal 2021, rising 50 percent annually through fiscal 2025. It employs some 360 people, the company says. 

South Florida has just a few unicorns. Among the latest: Miami-based REEF Technology, formerly ParkJockey, which mobilizes parking lots for food delivery, car rentals and other services. Medina also took his Terremark data-center business public and then, sold it to Verizon in 2011 in a $2 billion deal. — By Doreen Hemlock 

Amerant Evolves

It’s been a busy year so far for Amerant, the largest bank based 
in the Gables (assets: $8 billion). For starters, they are bringing
on a new CEO as Millar Wilson retires. Jerry Plush, formerly a partner at Pennsylvania-based Patriot Financial Partner, became CEO Feb. 15. Before departing, however, Wilson engineered the launch of Amerant Mortgage LLC, a joint venture between the bank and a team of industry veterans specializing in residential real estate. Amerant will retain majority ownership of the joint venture. The news follows disappointing numbers for 2020. While fourth quarter net income rose to $8.5 million, compared to net third quarter income of $1.7 million, the year saw a net loss of $1.7 million thanks to a $88.6 million provision for loan losses during the period. 

Coral Gables Business
Millar Wilson, CEO of Amerant, the largest Gables-based bank, is retiring.

Moving On Up

In some ways, the new building being proposed by Allen Morris is a bookend. Having built the stunning, iconic Alhambra Towers office building on Alhambra Circle, he now wants to build another monument, across the street from The Plaza Coral Gables project on Ponce Circle. The proposed 17-story building – Ponce Park Residences – will consist of 171 luxury condos with retail and restaurant space on the ground floor. The proposed structure will provide a public benefits package that includes $2.4 million for a .75-acre park, $1 million toward beautifying Fred B. Harnett (Ponce Circle) Park and over $330,000 toward the city’s parking fund.

Meanwhile, the less lofty (13 stories) but equally luxurious Villa Valencia recently topped off, with sales of $7 million in January (40 percent of the 39 units have now been sold). When finished, it will house the most expensive condominiums in the city, each offering environmental controls for purified air and water and circadian-cycle ambient lighting. Even if you are not a resident, you can enjoy the adjacent pocket park with a seven-foot bronze statue by renowned British sculpture Thomas Houseago. The building is expected to be complete before year’s end. 

Coral Gables Business
Ponce Park Residences