Last week: Last week was the 11th anniversary of the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti. It was an event that obviously changed the face of that country but also heavily impacted South Florida. When people don’t have jobs, much less homes, it is the responsibility of the successful neighbor to help in some way. I know that immigration is always a tricky subject, but this country was built on immigrants. Just days after Haitians celebrated their independence, they were put flat on their backs. The problems still exist today, but I’m hopeful for the future.
Looking ahead: Next week, you are going to “spend” $63 dollars that you didn’t budget for. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recently released the report “Failure to Act: Economic Impacts of Status Quo Investment Across Infrastructure Systems,” which quantifies how the persistent failure to invest in our aging infrastructure will cost the average American household $3,300 a year in disposable income over the next 20 years. Major sectors like manufacturing and health care are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of under investment, and these negative consequences will cascade over time. It’s high time to rebuild.
Last week: With all the craziness going on in Washington D.C., it is impressive to think it has been nearly 30 years since term limits went into effect for state legislators. The 1992 vote actually imposed term limits on federal offices as well, but in 1995, the Supreme Court ruled that states could not impose limits on Congress. For over 20 years, Florida has seen the benefits of the rotation of ideas and leadership in creating policies that match the dynamic changes in Florida. Maybe it is time for the voters to speak again and consider applying limits in D.C.
Looking ahead: Next week is the first week of committee meetings as the Florida Legislature begins preparing for the start of session in March. Currently, the House and Senate have different rules about making visits to their offices and social distancing will be required (for anyone that has ever ridden an elevator in the Capitol, you wonder how that is even possible), so committee weeks and session will be difficult for both legislators and constituents alike. If you want to speak with your legislator, they’ll be home the following week and one more time before session starts.
Last week: The story of 2020 may have actually just revealed itself this week when Congress passed the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act, which removes the antitrust exemption that since 1945 has allowed health insurers to disregard the basic free-market rules of competition that operate throughout the rest of the economy. The antitrust exemption, giving insurers combined negotiating power, puts pressure on providers to cut corners on service to increase the profits the health insurers can extract. This can provide social benefits for un- and under-insured people, along with benefits to small business. Maybe 2020 was trying to redeem itself.
Looking ahead: I think the story of 2021 will be how we rebuild, figuratively and literally, from 2021. As an engineer, you may think that I talk about rebuilding in the literal sense because it is self-serving, but you’d be wrong. Some of the greatest economic times in U.S. history were during times of great infrastructure expansion. Estimates place the return on investment for infrastructure spending somewhere between four and 10, because stable infrastructure allows people and businesses to invest in the certainties that quality infrastructure provides. Hopefully, infrastructure will be the first thing that D.C. agrees on a long time.
Last week: Recently, Bloomberg reported water joined gold, oil and other commodities traded on Wall Street, highlighting worries that the life-sustaining natural resource may become scarce across more of the world. Farmers, hedge funds and municipalities alike are now able to hedge against (or bet on) future water availability in California, the biggest U.S. agriculture market and world’s fifth-largest economy. The futures are tied to the Nasdaq Veles California Water Index, which was started two years ago and measures the volume-weighted average price of water. The January 2021 contract that went live Dec. 7 had two trades. Is this in Florida’s future?
Looking ahead: When Congress passes a stimulus bill this weekend, next week or in the future, it really does need to include clarity related to the PPP Loan proceeds. As is, once the loan is forgiven, the expenses that were covered under the PPP are not allowed to be deducted from your taxes, essentially making the amount of your PPP taxable. Depending on the type of business, this could cost from 26.5% to 38% of the loan value. For engineering and related businesses, these expenses won’t go into our multiplier which will impact contracts for years. That isn’t business relief.
Last week: “Water is the No. 1 issue that we will have to address going forward if we want to allow the state to thrive as it has” was a comment made by Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson last week to the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Cutting across all facets of our economy, the need for infrastructure helps tourism, housing, agriculture and every other industry that is key for Florida’s success. Even in this tough economy, maintaining, or even more so increasing, state and local funding for water issues is critical for short-term and long-term economic health in Florida.
Looking ahead: Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of manmade chemicals that have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the globe, including in the United States since the 1940s. These chemicals are very persistent in the environment and in the human body – meaning they don’t break down and they can accumulate over time. There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects. The State of Florida Division of Waste Management has developed a plan for a coordinated approach to these chemicals and every utility around the state is reviewing for compliance to ensure Floridians’ safety.
Last week: Seven years ago, a very hot social media trend was to find a bucket of ice water and pour it over your head, challenging someone else to do so. Hopefully you gave some money as well, but at least you were raising awareness for ALS, a devastating disease. Last week, Pat Quinn, the person who made the Ice Bucket Challenge famous, passed away. Pat was diagnosed in March of 2013, a month after his 30th birthday. Immediately after he was diagnosed, he decided he wanted to make a difference in the ALS community. RIP Pat.
Looking ahead: Statistics tell us there are currently more than a million job vacancies in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) industries, while at the same time only 16% of college students graduate in STEM fields or subjects. Demand for STEM jobs increased three times from 2000 to 2010 and that rate continues to increase. This coming Friday night, I’ll be participating in a virtual open house for Blanche Ely High School’s Engineering Magnet Program. As a graduate of this program, I can tell you firsthand that it has been changing lives since 1977. Check it out Friday. Go Tigers!
Last week: Rain, rain, go away … Even an engineer like myself was saying that after Fort Lauderdale experienced over two-thirds of its annual rainfall in October. Yes, there were many systems that were greatly taxed, but by and large, the infrastructure worked as designed. These systems were designed for a service life of 40 or 50 years and in some communities, they are at the end of their service life. We need to continue to invest just to maintain (and possibly improve) our situation. Next time you can’t leave your home or get to work, please remember that need.
Looking ahead: The COVID-19 pandemic has changed where and how kids learn. But civil engineers have adjusted so that they can continue to inspire students around the world. ASCE’s new virtual engineering experience, Dream, Build, Create, a series of outreach events in November through public libraries across the country, introducing engineering to people of all ages, especially families and children. The program includes free screenings of the award-winning documentary “Dream Big: Engineering Our World,” Nov. 10, 14, 17, and 24. ASCE is also organizing several virtual panel discussions where participants can join live conversations with a group of young, diverse engineers.
Last week: Last week included a relatively unheralded day called “Imagine a Day Without Water.” Started in 2014, the day is a national education campaign that brings together diverse stakeholders to highlight how water is essential, invaluable and in need of investment. Not all Americans have to imagine a day without water. More than 2,000,000 Americans live without basic access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Even in these divided times, 73% of Americans support investing in water infrastructure to increase resilience to climate change, even with a $1.27 trillion price tag. Let’s not turn “imagining” into “realizing” this loss.
Looking ahead: Next week, almost everyone will be talking politics, for good or bad. Next week, though, also includes a day that has no political bounds. In December 2015, the United Nations General Assembly designated Nov. 5 as World Tsunami Awareness Day, calling on countries, international bodies and civil society to raise tsunami awareness and share innovative approaches to risk reduction. By the year 2030, an estimated 50% of the world’s population will live in coastal areas exposed to flooding, storms and tsunamis. It may not sound important in South Florida, but there is a potential risk, so please pay attention!
Last week: This past week the Senate passed a 1-year extension of the FAST Act to ensure that surface transportation programs did not expire as scheduled on Sept. 30. While we should applaud congressional action that ensured vital surface transportation programs did not lapse, we should be disappointed that the extension maintained flat funding and failed to address the needs of state departments of transportation and transit agencies as a result of the pandemic. We can only hope that Congress uses this coming year to develop a bipartisan transportation reauthorization that increases investment and addresses the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund.
Looking ahead: The next round of stimulus can’t come along soon enough, especially if you are an airline worker. With the recent layoffs, the need for another $20 Billion (on top of the previously authorized $25 Billion) is critical for the long term viability of our skies. For those that feel corporate bailouts are too much, they must never want to be able to take another flight to go on vacation or visit a relative. Airlines run a business that is based on a delicate balance, including passengers and cargo, to ensure a seamless system. Let’s make sure America keeps flying!
Last week: Eleven minutes. That’s how long I was able to stay with my wife during the admitting process before her gall bladder surgery. I wasn’t able to come back for almost six hours. That’s another harsh byproduct of the pandemic. Fortunately for us, it was relatively minor surgery that went relatively well, but what’s it like for children or those going into much more worrisome treatments? The additional strain on patients cannot help their recovery process, and it means even more workload on the kind medical professionals that have additional mundane duties – I couldn’t even fill up her water jug.
Sean Dannelly, CPA, is the CFO for Chen Moore and Associates and a member of our firm’s executive committee. In 2007, Mr. Dannelly founded Paladin Global Partners, LLC as a partner and in that role, he oversees the accounting and financial aspects of the firm including providing audit assistance, strategic development for clients, developing succession plans, mentoring finance management, and establishing internal controls and infrastructures to maintain audit compliance. He is also President of Dannelly, Monteleone & Associates, P.A. firm where he is dedicated to meeting the needs of small and medium sized businesses through tax planning, financial reporting, and financial planning services. Mr. Dannelly received his Master of Accounting degree and Bachelor of Science degree from The University of Florida.
P.E., LEED AP
Shareholder & Corporate Secretary
Safiya Brea, P.E., LEED AP, is Secretary and Sr. Project Manager for Chen Moore and Associates. Her experience includes large neighborhood improvement projects, including the design of roadways, sidewalks, drainage, water and wastewater infrastructure. She is currently the Project Manager and main client contact for the Broward County UAZ 110/111 & 113 Water Sewer Improvements (an estimated $60 million infrastructure improvement project). In addition, she has managed projects ranging from thousands of dollars to multi-million-dollar, large-scale neighborhood improvement programs. Ms. Brea has managed and designed streetscape improvements, roundabouts, lift station, stormwater improvements and master plans, and booster station basis of design reports. Her duties include construction management, design work, water sewer modeling and project management for municipalities throughout South Florida. Ms. Brea received her Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Florida. She is currently on the board for the Florida Engineering Management Corporation and is a graduate of Leadership Florida Connect Class 8.
Ray Monteleone is President of Paladin Global Partners, a business management consulting firm, and Partner with Dannelly, Monteleone & Associates, a full-service CPA firm. Ray focuses on strategic management, problem solving, mergers & acquisitions, compensation consulting, growing companies, and senior executive mentoring for clients worldwide in industries such as healthcare, high tech, manufacturing, education, financial institutions and not-for-profit organizations.
As the President of the firm for over a decade, Mr. Moore has helped to grow our firm from three staff when he joined in 1999 to over 60 staff today. Mr. Moore has served in numerous leadership positions in engineering organizations, including President of the Florida Engineering Society, President of the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) of Florida and the Region 5 Director for the American Society of Civil Engineers. He volunteers with numerous collegiate engineering programs, including the University of Florida, Florida Atlantic University and Nova Southeastern University, and works with youth programs at the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Discovery and Science. Peter is a life member of Leadership Florida, the Florida Engineering Leadership Institute and Leadership Broward, where he is also a Past Chair of the Foundation. Mr. Moore also serves as a board member for Florida TaxWatch, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit taxpayer research institute and government watchdog for more than one third of a century which works to improve the productivity and accountability of Florida government. Mr. Moore served on the board of the Sailboat Bend Civic Association for several years beginning in 2006 where he used his job skills to assist the neighborhood with traffic calming and construction concerns. Mr. Moore received his Master of Engineering degree in Civil Engineering and Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Florida.
Jose L. Acosta
Jose L. Acosta
Jose L. Acosta, P.E., F.ASCE, is Vice President of Chen Moore and Associates. Mr. Acosta is responsible for business development and strategic planning for the firm. He also serves as Principal-in-Charge and Senior Project Manager for several significant public and private sector Clients. Mr. Acosta has over two decades of experience in various types of public and private sector civil engineering infrastructure projects. He has lead design teams for land development, water/wastewater infrastructure, roadway/transportation, and education/institutional projects throughout Florida. Prior to joining CMA, Mr. Acosta served as the director of engineering for a multi-discipline firm in Florida. Mr. Acosta has been a long standing leader in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), serving as a local branch President, chairing various state committees, President of Florida Section and as a Region 5 Governor, where he represented Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Mr. Acosta also served as President of the Cuban-American Association of Civil Engineers (CAACE) and is currently on their board of directors. Mr. Acosta served on the Industry Advisory Board of the Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering Department of the University of Miami and has worked as an adjunct professor. He was the recipient of the Broward Branch’s 2003 and 2009 Young Member of the Year Award. In 2008, the Broward County Chapter of the FES named him the Young Engineer of the Year. In 2011, the CAACE named him their Young Engineer of the Year. In 2015, Mr. Acosta was named one of the Top 40 Under 40 by the South Florida Business Journal. In 2017, ASCE Region 5 named Mr. Acosta their inaugural winner of their Engineer of the Year award recipient. Mr. Acosta was a member of Leadership Florida’s Cornerstone 37 Class and currently service on its Southeast Region’s Board of Directors. Mr. Acosta has Bachelor Degrees in Civil and Architectural Engineering from the University of Miami and a Master of Business Administration from Auburn University.
John B. Zumwalt, III, P.E., is a Founding Principal at Crossroads Advisory. In this role, he provides leadership advice and counsel to engineering and business clients. He is the retired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The PBSJ Corporation and its primary subsidiary company, Post Buckley Schuh & Jernigan, Inc. (PBSJ), a then nationwide consulting engineering company. Under his leadership, The PBSJ Corporation grew to be an $830-million-a-year and a 4,000-person company. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Rhode Island and was inducted into the URI Hall of Fame. He is a past President of both the Florida Engineering Society and the Florida Institute of Consulting Engineers (now ACEC-Florida).
P.E., LEED AP
Jason McClair, P.E., CFM, LEED AP, is Treasurer and Vice President of Chen Moore and Associates. Mr. McClair is responsible for the project operations and resource management of the firm. He is also the Principal-in-Charge for several key clients and serves as a Senior Project Manager for several important public sector clients. Mr. McClair is an expert in stormwater management modeling in Florida and has been the lead engineer on various stormwater master plans throughout South Florida. Mr. McClair also has over 20 years of engineering experience in utility infrastructure design, regulatory permitting, modeling for stormwater collection, water distribution, and sanitary transmission systems. Mr. McClair received his Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from the University of Florida.
Dr. Ben Chen
Dr. Ben Chen,
Dr. Ben Chen, P.E., BCEE, is the founder of Chen Moore and Associates (formerly Chen and Associates Consulting Engineers, Inc.) and serves as Chairman of the Board for our firm’s Board of Directors, where he is responsible for the long-term planning for the firm’s future. Dr. Chen has had a wonderful career, working on some of the most significant utility and neighborhood improvement projects in South Florida. Dr. Chen has also had a long-standing history of being a leader in the community as an advocate for infrastructure needs throughout Florida, but also as a philanthropist throughout South Florida. He has a served organizations in leadership positions of all types, including the Florida Engineering Society, Workforce One and on university advisory boards for Florida International University, Florida Atlantic University and St. Thomas University. Dr. Chen received his Master of Science and Bachelor of Science degrees in Civil and Sanitary Engineering from National Taiwan University before immigrating to the United States to obtain his Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Civil Engineering from the Virginia Polytechnic University.
Cristobal Betancourt, RLA, is Director of Planning and Landscape Architecture for Chen Moore and Associates. He has experience providing planning and landscape architecture design solutions for public and private sector clients. Mr. Betancourt leads a team that has extensive experience on significant municipal streetscapes, parks (including master plans), transportation projects, campuses, facilities and land development projects throughout Florida (from northern Florida to Key West). Examples of such projects include the implementation of the Complete Streets Master Plan developed by the Broward County Metropolitan Planning Organization, master planning for SunTrax in Lakeland, segments of areas on the Florida Turnpike and the incorporation of an existing street in the pedestrianized Lincoln Road Mall in South Beach. In addition, Mr. Betancourt is the principal for our LA Department’s efforts for the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) throughout the state. He and his team are well versed in designing for multiple modes of transportation including air, rail, roadway, and multimodal transit facilities. He has been the Project or Task Manager for districtwide landscape contracts, highway beautification projects and LAP funded projects. Mr. Betancourt completed his post graduate studies in urban design at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture and his Bachelor of Science degree in Landscape Architecture from Cornell University.
Brent Whitfield, P.E., ENV SP is the Director of Water Resources for CMA. Mr. Whitfield has worked for a variety of public sector clients at the City, County and State level. His experience includes tasks as varied as hydrologic and hydraulic modeling related to environmental and flood protection studies and detailed engineering design and construction oversight for roadway, water, sewer, and stormwater infrastructure. Mr. Whitfield has provided infrastructure solutions in various settings from residential neighborhoods to commercial airports. As a life-long resident of Florida, Mr. Whitfield has maintained a commitment to serving the community both professionally and personally serving as an appointed board member for a municipal advisory board with maintaining involvement in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the Florida Engineering Society (FES) and Leadership Florida. He serves as the chair of the water resources committee for the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) of Florida. Mr. Whitfield holds a Bachelor of Science Degree and a Master of Science Degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Florida.
William “Bill” Thorp has decades of experience as a Certified Public Accountant, eventually specializing in the financial management of the transportation industry. He served as the Deputy Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer of the Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise (FTE) as well as the Assistant Secretary of Finance and Administration for the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). Mr. Thorp attended the City College of New York from which he holds a Bachelor of Science degree and Master of Arts degree. He also attended the University of South Florida. Mr. Thorp is married and has three grown children and four grandchildren all of which he is very proud. His hobbies include fishing, photography and silversmithing.