WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The marine industry in Palm Beach County continues to grow, fueled in large part by a $375 million development along the Riviera Beach waterfront, Palm Beach County officials said Thursday at a press briefing at the Palm Beach International Boat Show.
“The new development will include shops, restaurants, a boardwalk promenade and marina facilities and will generate hundreds of jobs and bring a significant economic boost to our county,” said Michael Kennedy, president of the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County and moderator of a five-person panel discussion about local efforts to promote marina development.
The panel members were Bob Healey, president and CEO of the Viking Development Corp. and chairman of Viking; Pat Healey, Viking company president and CEO; John Smundin, marina manager of Palm Harbor Marina; Rick Morgan, president of Old Port Cove Holdings Inc.; and Mark Crosley, executive director of the Florida Inland Navigation District.
The Viking Development Corp. is the master developer of the 26-acre marina district.
Viking has acquired about 50 percent of the area and invested about $50 million in Riviera Beach real estate, according to Tyler H. Alten, vice president of Viking Developers LLC. The project is expected to generate about 500 construction jobs during the next few years, he said.
Both Bob and Pat Healey painted a positive picture for Palm Beach as a marine hub, stressing that both Viking and its service facilities in the area, as well as the other marine businesses, will continue to thrive and grow.
“Our five-year plan is that we will build 65 boats this year, increasing that to 100 boats in five years,” Pat Healey said. “This growth is going to be transferred into Palm Beach County.”
Viking, in Palm Beach County, employs 175 workers in two service centers and runs the Riviera Beach Maritime Academy, as well as Viking Developers LLC.
Old Port Cove Holdings and Palm Beach Harbor Marina also delivered positive news at the 45-minute discussion.
“I am happy to report that for the past two years our occupancy has grown by 15 percent on an annual basis, to the point where we are operating at full capacity,” Smundin said. “We are also investigating adding another 1,000 feet of dock space, primarily for megayachts. And in addition, we will have a hotel of 100-plus rooms.”
Old Port customers “are now coming back more quickly,” Morgan said. “This year we have seen a significant change of mentality from our guests. They are much more committed. They are signing many more annual leases or seasonal leases, so we see this industry rebounding. All you have to do is take a look through these windows.”
The panel was asked to identify some of the challenges they face. The proposed high-speed rail project All Aboard Florida and its increased closures of bridges was cited, along with government regulations and the impact on water access of the development of condominiums and retail.