Bob Solari provided the pros and cons regarding the varying economic needs of cities along the route of the proposed All Aboard Florida High Speed trains in the TC Palm May 23 2014
There are three tensions that help explain why the Fortress Investment Group, LLC, a $61 billion private equity firm — the ultimate parent of the All Aboard Florida high-speed rail project — believes that AAF is good and why the residents of the Treasure Coast do not.
The first tension is that the goal of Fortress is to maximize shareholder wealth. It knows how to do that. The CEO of All Aboard Florida’s parent company, Florida East Coast Industries, Vincent Signorello, is a South Florida Business Journal “power leader” and winner of the Journal’s 2011 CFO “Deal of the Year.” Mr. Signorello knows how to build wealth: “You must develop a crystal clear picture of where you want to end up and stay firmly in control of the smartest lawyers, bankers and accountants that you can find to execute your vision.”
The goal of most of us on the Treasure Coast is to secure the basic components necessary to have a good life in our community. Prosperity is one key component to securing a good life, and capitalism is certainly the best means to develop a prosperous society. Too often, however, firms such as Fortress make the maximization of shareholder wealth the end goal of their activities.
All Aboard Florida seems clearly focused on economic success, but is very unaware of the damage it will do to Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties. It is unfortunate that the leadership of Fortress does not seem to understand that its monetary gain is only possible by tearing apart the fabric of communities throughout the Treasure Coast.
The second tension is that between the dense, heavily populated mega-regions of Orlando and South Florida, and the low-density, low-population counties that make up the Treasure Coast. The economic needs and vision of the future of the Orlando and South Florida mega-regions are certainly not consistent with the needs and vision of the communities that make up our region. The mega-regions have a combined population of close to 8 million. The Treasure Coast has a combined population of less than 600,000.
The scale and scope of the mega- regions is such that their annual population growth approaches the entire population of Indian River County today. The mega-regions have chosen a path that leads to greater density and larger and larger projects. I wish them well — that is, until their projects, such as All Aboard Florida, negatively impact the low-density, low-population county that my wife and I have worked in and called home for a combined 88 years.
The third tension is that between the short-term goals of Fortress and the mega-regions supporting the high-speed train, and the long-term goals of Treasure Coast residents. Private equity firms such as Fortress generally focus on the short term. They have their eye on the next quarter and the next deal. They move in and out of deals and companies with speed and alacrity.
My friends and neighbors along the Treasure Coast have a long-term focus — for most, the rest of our lives. Our goals include not only finishing our lives here, but also doing what we can to leave our community a better place for our children and grandchildren.
An understanding of these tensions does not explain all we need to know about All Aboard Florida and the goals and objectives of Fortress. It may, however, help put them in a context to help us understand the issues better. It should help to explain why Fortress and the mega-regions believe that some 60 to 70 passenger and freight trains a day, 32 of them going through Treasure Coast communities at up to 110 mph, is a good thing.
It also helps explain why the coming of the same 60 to 70 trains a day is not looked upon as a component of a flourishing life by most residents of the Treasure Coast.
Bob Solari is an Indian River County commissioner