Why South Florida’s ‘fastest growing’ firms could signal recovery ahead

When Weiner, Lynne & Thompson P.A. made the South Florida Business Journal’s list of the 50 fastest growing law firms in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, it was good news for partner Michael Weiner.

But it was good news for South Florida, too, Weiner said.michael  Weiner

Land development is one of the Delray Beach law firm’s specialties. And from its perch atop the construction landscape, where it helps developers navigate the permitting process, Weiner, Lynne & Thompson can see the “spear’s edge” of development, well before any project breaks ground.

“If someone is nosing around for land in South Florida, we’re usually the second person they call” after the land’s owner, Weiner said.

And since a project usually takes three years from proposal to move-in day, busy times at development law firms mean a more robust business climate is a just few years away.

“I’m the canary in the coal mine,” Weiner said.

In this case, the canary is very much alive.

The Business Journal calculated companies’ year-to-year revenues to come up with its “fastest-growing” list, which also included a number of construction firms. Weiner, Lynne &Thompson’s revenue growth from 2011-12 was helped by bringing the 356-unit Gulfstream Gardens in Boynton Beach to fruition and shepherding a 153-unit Delray Beach development, which is still going through the permitting process.

And more construction is on the way for South Florida as the housing market’s recovery continues, Weiner said.

“We see others in the pipeline,” he said. “It looks as if the residential component of our economy is coming back strong.

“The demand’s built back up.”

But that doesn’t mean a return to the era of mega-condo development of the boom years. Nor does it mean more small, non-chain retail stores — the Internet is likely to beat them on cost and convenience. Demand for large office complexes is also likely to lag as telecommuting and digital information storage have cut back on the need for large office spaces.

What it does likely mean, Weiner said, is housing developments of the future will be smaller, probably clustered around restaurants, coffee shops and other places of conspicuous consumption.

“The one thing you can’t do on the Internet is eat,” he said.

Weiner, who’s been practicing in Palm Beach County for 25 years, had seen his share of the real estate cycle before the bust of 2008. So he’s seen his share of recoveries, too.

And, he said, this is what a solid one looks like.

“I think we’re making a nice, steady recovery,” he said. “I think we’ve just about got the Goldilocks effect.”

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