I was in Palm Beach last week for the Palm beach Boat Show for the very first time, and certainly hope it’s not the last. Smaller and easier to navigate than either of the two majors (Monaco and Fort Lauderdale), the Palm Beach show benefits from its proximity to one of the densest concentrations of wealth in the US, if not the world. It’s such a gorgeous place in March, it makes me wonder why anyone would ever hold an in-water yacht show in Fort Lauderdale during hurricane season, when the bounty of climate, venue and local buyers in Palm Beach is profligate.

To learn a bit more about the area and the county, I met with Kelly Smallridge, CEO of the Palm Beach County Business Development Board and Chris Roog, director economic development at the Mayor’s office. They’re keen to dispel any notion that South Florida is a retirement community: Rather, they said, the incoming residents were increasingly the moneyed of the US North East, relocating to Florida in part to take advantage of the state’s minimal taxes (like no state corporate or personal income taxes, for instance). They pointed to the natural beauty of the place, to the historic The Breakers hotel and then to the economy, underpinned by financial services, aerospace and manufacturing. Adjectives like "youthful," and "innovative," were inserted into our chat where I'd otherwise have expected "conservative," or "peaceful." It's part of a message of course, but the point was clear: West Palm Beach is working to maximize the engagement of those who choose to settle here, even part-time.

As part of a business and economic development plan to elevate the status and perception of West Palm Beach, Smallridge and Roog are were working with local private business interests. One of those is the Huizenga family with The Related Group, who have advanced plans to convert their shipyard location into a marina and real estate site, in conjunction with moving yacht services north to a site in Riviera Beach. It’s been the plan all along, of course, but the superyacht business, happily has evolved into a major proposition, not only for the yard owners but also for yacht owners and crew.

At the Rybovich offices, Anthony Lacavalla—who’s managing the development through the various oversight process at the city, county and state levels—showed me the plans for the site. It’s a huge development that’ll bring perhaps a thousand new residents to the area on a site that marries hi-rise condos with a retail area and marina. The yachting services meanwhile will move north to a site at Riviera Beach. The Rybovich team, with support from the Palm Beach County Business Development Board and the Mayor’s office, is seeking permission to dredge the channel to enable the largest yachts access to the site.

The boat show itself was a great success (see my report on it on SuperyachtNews.com here) and provided an excellent venue for a series of compelling conversations about the state of the US market and options available to owners. Next, I'll be relaying some insights on yacht financing from Lisa Verbit of Bank of America and serial yacht owner Joe Vittoria.

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