Beyond the Build

Beyond the Build

A Visit with Senator Bob Graham

I attended a real estate conference earlier in the week where former Senator Bob Graham spoke. His address was around five key factors contributing to Florida’s growth over the last several decades. I thought they were interesting on a broader level and wanted to share them here.

5 Key Factors Contributing to Florida’s Growth

  1.  The invention of air conditioning. According to Graham, who was born in 1936, the current population does not know what real hot is like. The first “air conditioning” was created by a Floridian doctor named John Gorrie. He used compressor technology to create ice, which he used to cool air for patients in his Apalachicola hospital. The patent was granted in 1851, but the technology didn’t make into the mainstream until many decades later. (Gorrie’s hometown is a favorite red fishing spot of mine, where I stay at The Gibson.)
  2. Eradication of the mosquito problem. Bob’s father was a state representative in Monroe County.  He said before mosquito control, one could be attacked by a swarm of insects and carried off into the swamps, never to be seen again.
  3. The Jacksonville, Tampa and Key West Railroad. In the late 1800s, Henry Flagler-Henry saw the East Coast of Florida as the “Riviera” of the U.S. He constructed a rail line from Jacksonville to Key West and built magnificent hotels along the way.
  4. Social Security. With the Social Security Act of 1935, retirees could leave their home states and come to Florida’s milder climate with the guarantee of  retirement income for life.
  5. Miami. It already sees itself as the center of the Americas. Once the Castro’s are gone, we will see continued growth for South Florida and Cuba.

After the presentation, I visited with Senator Graham, thanking him for his leadership all these many years before retirement. He told me that his wife thinks he’s busier than ever, and with a gleam in his eye said, “and we have 11 grandchildren.” This was probably what he is most proud of.

Senator Graham also told me that he thinks the current state of Congress–no cooperation, no reaching across the aisle. He sees current times as a place in the cycle, just like historical business cycles, and is confident things will get better. This was some of the best news I heard at the conference.


Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.