Big business has made headlines in recent years for playing a role in solving community, national and global problems. Sometimes the corporations’ role is for social change. Sometimes, it is for humanitarian assistance. And, sometimes, it is to fill in the gaps where the government has fallen short.

There have been many instances of corporate involvement in all of these aspects over the last few years. 2 have recently caught my eye that are a bit out of the ordinary. The first, the Seattle City Council passed an ordinance levying a tax on large businesses in the amount of $275 per full time worker per year. The tax would be used to combat Seattle’s growing homeless problem. After pressure from 2 of Seattle’s largest employers, Amazon and Starbucks, as well of most of the Seattle business community, the Council repealed the tax just 1 month later. The opposition was to the “tax on jobs”. No one argued against the need to solve the homeless problem. Amazon and other companies shared concern about the problem and have contributed to programs on a charitable basis. Whether forced contribution to government programs to the effort is the answer was not the issue.

The other instance that caught my eye is Domino’s recent initiative to repair America’s infrastructure. The pizza chain announced last week that it would partner with American towns and cities to fix potholes. Initially, Domino’s has partnered with Bartonville, Texas, Milford, Delaware, Athens, Georgia and Burbank, California. Paved over potholes are then painted with the Domino’s logo and catch phrase, “Oh Yes We Did”. Is Domino’s solving a need that local governments can’t fund?

These are 2 new and unique approaches to long term corporate involvement in community issues. Historically, even recently, corporate involvement has been less direct, even when requested. It may have been in the form of influence. Calls for consumers for boycotts of companies that under pay employees, harm the environment or take unpopular stands politically have been going on for decades. Corporate boycotts could force companies to change policy or even pressure government officials by way of campaign donations or other methods. The corporate boycott works today as we have seen gun control advocates call for boycotts of advertisers of Fox News shows.

Along this same line of thought, corporations took a big stand to change policy following the Parkland shooting earlier this year when Dicks Sporting Goods stopped selling fire arms and Walmart changed its policies regarding fire arms and ammunition sales. These companies hope to send a message to customers and elected officials that new laws and regulations are necessary.

Robert Iger CEO of Disney and Elon Musk CEO of Tesla both resigned from presidential advisory commissions following President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, bringing the weight of their companies behind their objections to the new US climate policy. Could this corporate pressure have an effect on the policy? So far, it hasn’t. But, it could in the long term.

In Fort Lauderdale, about 25 years ago, Wayne Huizenga, then the owner and CEO of Blockbuster Video, recognized the city’s own homeless problem which the city had failed to combat. He organized the business community in Broward County to raise money to fund a homeless shelter in partnership with the County. This was the model of corporate involvement. It was charitable giving. Gather your friends, raise money and when possible, involve local government.

Things have changed. Maybe Seattle’s effort to tax business was not the best approach. But the target was correct. Corporations will get involved to help solve problems, clearly if there is something in return to them. Profit is one thing, publicity is another. Being a good corporate citizen is on the list, but that is likely far down the list. Corporate resources, financial and otherwise, far exceed governmental resources. For most necessary projects, government leaders should look to form Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) with local business to solve the problems the community faces. PPPs are successful in real estate developments and economic development and could be beneficial in this realm as well.

As for Domino’s and the pothole problem? Is it publicity stunt? Perhaps. But it is solving a problem in 4 cities. Maybe, down the road, more cities will be involved. This could be the 1st PPPPP (Public Private Pizza Pothole Partnership) ever seen!

At the end of every year, every one has a Top 10 list. As 2017 ends and we begin 2018, Florida Real Estate Law and Investment Blog is pleased to present its first ever Top 10.  This is my own Top 10 list of my favorite posts from 2017.  It is not based on number of hits or any other qualitative data that I received over the year.  Rather, it is my own list of favorite postings, the ones that I most enjoyed writing and the ones that I think might have the most impact or meaning.  I did receive a lot of positive feed back on many of these posts and, if you haven’t read them, I encourage you to do so.  They are worth a re-read.  I’d love your thoughts this time around.  Looking forward to 2018!

#10 – Proper Zoning Determines Property Value – Posted March 7, 2017. A simple discussion about the correlation between a property’s zoning and the value of the property and how knowing the zoning prior to entering a contract can help in negotiations.

#9 – Renewal Option Language Often Overlooked – Posted July 24, 2017. Lease renewal option language is important for tenants in planning for the future.  It should not be overlooked when negotiating the original lease.

#8 – Offset Language Puts Lender’s Hands in the Cookie Jar – Posted May 22, 2017. I liked this post because it told a good story about a good client to work for, the Girl Scouts.  We had a problem with the loan documents that could adversely affect thousands of girls and their cookie money which no one intended or wanted – and we solved it.

#7 – Could the Grenfell Tower Disaster Happen in the United States? – Posted July 3, 2017. After the fire, many of us wondered how something like this could ever happen and whether it could happen in the US.  The post looked at US building and fire codes in the projects.  Despite our laws and codes, are we protected?  As I am finishing this post, a tragic apartment fire killed 12 people in the Bronx.  The investigation is just beginning, but I think the answer is that we are not fully protected in older buildings.

#6 – 6 Protections for Real Estate Partnerships – Posted July 31, 2017. We talk about real estate every day.  This post outlines some of the protections that should be included when we form entities with partners to invest in real estate.

#5 – US Withdrawal From Paris Climate Accord Met With Resistance From Local Leaders – Posted June 15, 2017. I have blogged many times about climate change and sea level rise and will continue to do so.  This is a particularly important topic to us in South Florida.  South Florida leaders in particular reacted to the news when President Trump announced the US was withdrawing from the Paris Accord.  South Florida will continue to abide by the Accord as it battles rising seas and climate change.

#4 – House Flipper’s Attempted Purchase Exploits Elderly Woman – Posted December 18, 2017. Posted just a few weeks ago, this article has touched a nerve with many of my friends and colleagues.  We see and read so much about exploitation of the elderly, and this post talks about how the real estate industry is also involved.  Beware.

#3 – Riding Out Hurricane Irma – Posted September 18, 2017. This was the single biggest news event in South Florida in 2017. We were fortunate, compared to the people on the west coast and those in Houston and Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the Caribbean.  Nevertheless, we had our story to tell.

#2 – Smart Houses Make Me Feel Dumb – Or At Least Unsafe – Posted October 30, 2017. Amazon Key was the inspiration for this post, but it encompassed all the products that make your house “smart”.  How secure are these products?  I expressed fear about a loss of privacy, not to mention trepidation about Amazon’s physical access to your house.  A few weeks ago, there were news reports of the first hacks into Amazon Key.

#1 – Email Scam/Wire Fraud Hits Close to Home – Posted July 10, 2017. This post has probably generated the most attention.  Hopefully, everyone in real estate will be more diligent and we can stop the fraud and the scammers.  I should put a note on my calendar to re-post this at least once a year as a reminder.

Happy New Year everyone!

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