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By Hannah Wallace December 31, 2005


GOING UP Bruce Williams Homes posted its biggest year yet in 2005, even while facing stiff competition from 15 of the nation's 20 largest homebuilders.

Helmed by CEO Britt Williams, the family-owned Bradenton homebuilder and developer laid the groundwork for this year's success by starting development on new Manatee County communities like Lexington and Northwood Park in 2004. With construction well underway, and without the hurricane-related delays of the year before, those new communities had all of 2005 to grow.

Williams sees a secure future for his company and for the Sarasota-Manatee homebuilding market. Fear of a real estate bubble has actually inspired developers to think ahead and build responsibly, he argues. "No one wants to kill the golden goose."

His biggest project to date, a 1,000-home Parrish community called Cross Creek, will break ground in 2006.


CHEERS John Saputo, owner of Gold Coast Eagle Distributing, deserves a cold one. After quenching the thirst of Sarasota-Manatee's ever-increasing population, Gold Coast, with 70 percent of the area's beer wholesale market, took the long-awaited step toward expansion in 2005. Just in time, too. Gold Coast's annual sales of nearly 5.7 million cases of Anheuser-Busch, Modelo and Bacardi malt beverages were taxing its 20-year-old north Sarasota headquarters.

In August, after a "frustrating" three-year search-"Everyone has visions of rezoning [their land] for condominiums," Saputo laments-Gold Coast purchased 22 acres in Lakewood Ranch, and is expected to complete its new headquarters by 2009.

With Anheuser-Busch's constant product innovation (including new beer/wine hybrids), Saputo doesn't worry about the market running dry any time soon. And, as Saputo ages "out of the industry's core demographic," he's mining a youthful perspective by working alongside Gold Coast's future owners: daughters Andrea and Bethany.


HEALTHY GROWTH John Williams moved from Chicago in 2001 to be vice president of sales at Bradenton's Gould & Lamb, then a two-year-old medical-financial services company with five employees and $300,000 in annual revenues. Four years later, Gould & Lamb earned $20 million, and Williams has been named president and CEO.

Thanks to recent changes in federal Medicare law, which awakened insurance providers and self-insured corporations to the new potential for saving money, Gould & Lamb succeeded mightily in its "cottage industry" of researching and evaluating medical claims. With only five major national competitors, according to Williams, the company has expanded to 15 locations throughout the country, and plans to add eight more by the end of 2008. Still, its roots remain in Bradenton. "We're a family-owned company," he says. "Bradenton fits our corporate environment."


QUICK RECOVERY It was one step back, two steps forward for HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Sarasota in 2005, says CEO Margaret Holloway.

The company's three Sarasota rehabilitation centers (along with the rest of the rehab industry) took a hit last year when Medicare began covering fewer orthopedic rehab patients. Fortunately, HeathSouth had already begun to look beyond rehab, identified a local need for urgent medical care and invested in building a fourth facility, HealthSouth Ridgelake. This acute-care hospital opened in June, just in time to combat rehab losses with new capabilities to treat patients medically.

The expansion was also part of a long-term strategy for complementary care. In the fall, HealthSouth broke ground on a new home for its main rehabilitation center, adjacent to Ridgelake near I-75 and Bee Ridge Road. The proximity of the two facilities, which Holloway says is almost unheard of, will allow them to collaborate and coordinate care. "The community is going to have a real resource," she says.

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