The Business Development Board of Palm Beach County hosted elected officials and business leaders on a bus  tour of companies in Western Palm Beach County to show appreciation to existing businesses that contribute to Palm Beach County’s economy. The day included exclusive tours in various business sectors including healthcare, manufacturing, agribusiness, and distribution and logistics. This collaborative effort allowed tour participants to express their appreciation and to experience an exclusive view of the unique, innovative companies right here in Palm Beach County.




The first stop was Wellington Regional Medical Center, which included a presentation by Dr. Richard Hays, Chief Medical Officer, followed by a walking tour of the Neuro-Intervention, Post-Partum, and NICU Units. Tour participants learned that the medical center is the only place in the western communities with a level 3 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, providing the ability to take care of the sickest and smallest babies. “The hospital has more than 1,000 employees and we continue to grow,” said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Richard Hays. “We feel that our goal is to become the real epicenter for high quality care in Palm Beach County. We’re introducing a lot of new high powered fields into the hospital.”


Sampling the cuisine at NuVista

The next stop was NuVista Living where Bus Tour Ambassadors were hosted by the CEO of NuVista, Robert Campion. Tour participants visited the post-acute rehab facility and the residential center. “This is the greatest generation living here. The people who are living here have fought for our country and our freedom,” said Marketing Director Dean Tendrich. ”We’re honoring senior life. People that walk through this door are looking for independence.”


Ben Boynton, BDB Vice Chair                                Caroline Villanueva, Florida Crystals                    Lunch in the Glades

During the bus ride to Belle Glade, Ben Boynton, Vice Chair of the BDB, discussed Palm Beach County’s agribusiness history through a narrative presentation. “There are a lot of major employers in the Glades and the entire region has a lot to offer.”  Everyone learned that Palm Beach County can feed 25 million people with rice for a year. It supplies enough lettuce to make a billion salads and over 350 million servings of green beans per year. The next stop was the Okeelanta Industrial Facility at Florida Crystals Corporation. Participants viewed the largest renewable energy plant in the United States from the top of the Co-Generation tower. “There are about 1,200 people that work at the Okeelanta facility every day,” said Caroline Villanueva, South Florida External Affairs Manager for Florida Crystals. She explained that many employees live in other cities, but drive to Okeelanta. Tour participants, local growers, and local government officials enjoyed a farm-to-table lunch at the Florida Crystals Corporation Hacienda.


Barbara Miedema, Sugarcane Growers Cooperative of Florida

After lunch, participants toured the sugarcane field and vegetable operations at Star Farms, and then went to the Sugarcane Growers Cooperative of Florida where they stepped inside the warehouse full of sugar.   Both tours were led by Barbara Miedema, Vice President, Public Affairs & Communications, Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida. “We’ve often been described as the heart or the DNA of Belle Glade,” she said. The sugar industry is Belle Glade’s single largest employer.

The next stop was at TKM Bengard Farms, LLC where participants learned about the family-based company’s operations and history. “It’s a small community and we all work really closely together,” said Stephen Basore, Director of Food Safety.  “It is nice that we get support from all the other companies, especially the sugar companies.”  Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay recognized all the companies with a proclamation from the Board of County Commissioners.


The final destination was ALDI’s 800,000 sq. ft. distribution center, hosted by Rafael Zamora, Director of Warehouse Operations. The BDB assisted the distribution center in locating its operations in Palm Beach County. “You can’t imagine how hard it is for any city in Palm Beach County to pull off a building of this magnitude and now they’re one of the major employers in the Village of Royal Palm Beach,” said BDB President and CEO Kelly Smallridge. The BDB understands the importance of recognizing companies that are already based here. It has completed four Business Appreciation Bus Tours in the North, Central, South, and West parts of Palm Beach County to express its appreciation to companies for their contributions to the region’s economy.