West Palm Beach to make aggressive push to develop, grow marine industry

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- City officials will make an aggressive push to develop and grow a marine industry centered near the Northwood Village and will approach key stakeholders during the Palm Beach International Boat Show, WPTV NewsChannel 5 has learned.

The industry generates billions of dollars annually and would grow alongside existing businesses, city officials said.

"We have over 6,000 employees in this area already. If we can start to attract more employers we are going to have a lot more employment … by clustering the marine industry," said Rachel Bach, a a consultant for the City of West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency.

Bach said the City would market city-owned properties near the Port of Palm Beach and use tax incentives to generate interest.

"We have had a rough time with the economic downturn and there is a lot more interest in development again," Bach said. "We have a lot of vacant, developable sites on the Broadway corridor that are just begging to be put back to use."

Mario Byrne, a marketing director at Rybovich, which maintains, repairs and refurbishes yachts, said the proposed development zone showed great promise.

"As we start developing a loyal client base, we think that it is just a matter of time before [new businesses] start setting up shop here," he said.

Byrne said the staff, contractors and customers of Rybovich contributed $133 million to the local economy last year.

City officials said Northwood Village, which has seen an infusion of new restaurants and retail after years of decline, would continue to grow with the development of a marine industry.

West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio was expected to personally make the case to stakeholders during the boat show, which starts tomorrow.

The redevelopment was expected to be incremental and begin to take shape over the next three to five years.

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