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    November 15, 2019 by Clayton Park

    Security First celebrates its new HQ in Ormond Beach

    ORMOND BEACH — Despite the threat of rain, more than 1,000 people turned out to celebrate the grand opening of the new headquarters for Security First Insurance late Thursday afternoon.

    The four-story, 136,000-square-foot building at Ormond Crossings, along the east side of Interstate 95, is more than five times the size of Security First's previous beachside headquarters.

    Built at a total cost of $40 million, the building allows the growing insurance company to consolidate its work force, which now numbers 420 employees, in a single location for the first time in years.

    "It's great to be under one roof," said Locke Burt, who founded Security First in 2005. The company specializes in providing homeowners insurance in Florida. Today, it insures an estimated 350,000 homes, the second-most of any private insurer in the state.

    The company considered a number of potential relocation sites before agreeing in 2017 to buy the 48 acres where its new headquarters now stands from DeLand's Ford family, owners of the sprawling 6,000-acre Ormond Crossings development area just south of U.S. 1, on both sides of I-95.

    Security First's headquarters is the first building to be built on the long-proposed mixed-use development, which has entitlements to eventually bring thousands of new homes and 4.5 million square feet of commercial development to north Ormond Beach.

    City officials have hailed Ormond Crossings as the "future of Ormond Beach" because it has the most available land for growth.

    "We just couldn't be happier to be here and to remain in Ormond Beach, which is where the family has been since 1958, and where we want to stay," Burt told the cheering crowd while standing under the large wing-shaped awning over the new headquarters' front entrance. "I think that this can be a big anchor for the community and for the development of this area in Ormond Beach."

    Ormond Beach City Manager Joyce Shanahan agreed.

    "This is a great impetus for things on U.S. 1," she said. "We're looking for more great things to come."

    The company stands to receive $1.5 million in economic incentives from the state, Volusia County and the city for making good on its capital investment as well as its pledge to create at least 165 new-to-Florida jobs paying an average of $68,000 a year in salary and benefits by February 2022.

    Burt told the crowd, "Since we made that commitment, we've hired 200 employees at an average (annual) salary and benefits of $73,000, so we've substantially exceeded our commitment."

    Melissa Burt DeVriese, Security First's chief administrative officer and general counsel, said 20 more new employees are set to start in December, and that the company expects to soon fill an additional 10 open positions.

    Security First paid $38.3 million of the project's total cost, with the Ford family contributing $1.7 million for road and other infrastructure improvements, said Burt.


    Daytona Beach News Journal

    February 4, 2018 by Clayton Park

    WORD ON THE STREET - Ormond Crossings Owners See First Tenant As Key 'Catalyst'

    When Interstate 4 was being extended eastward into Volusia County in the early 1960s, DeLand's Ford family began buying undeveloped land along and/or near the planned the Central Florida-wide corridor.

    Lisa Ford Williams said her grandfather and father's intent at the time was to hold on to the land until developers could make them offers for individual parcels at the right price and with the right plans that could benefit the community.

    Today, more than a half-century later the family still owns much of that land.

    “Historically, we've been real estate investors, we're not real estate developers,” she said, explaining that her family remains steadfast in its belief that it's better to hold off for the right deals than to simply make sales for a quick buck.

    However, that long-term hold strategy isn't what the Ford family had in mind when it paid $21 million in September 2016 to acquire 6,000 acres in Ormond Beach and Flagler County from Minnesota-based Allete Inc.

    The hope, she said, is to finally carry out Allete's ambitious long-stalled plans to create a massive 3,000 acre development called Ormond Crossings on the south side of U.S. 1, near Destination Daytona.

    The project — 16 years in the making, delayed by the Great Recession and Allete's subsequent decision to exit the real estate development business—calls for building nearly 3,000 homes on the west side of Interstate 95 and 4.5 million square feet of commercial space on the interstate's east side.

    Joe Mannarino, Ormond Beach's long-time economic development director, has described Ormond Crossings as the city's “future,” with the potential to draw thousands of new residents and new jobs.

    Mannarino played a key role in helping the Ford family land Ormond Crossing's first tenant: Security First Insurance, which immediately agreed to buy a 48-acre parcel with plans to break ground on construction of its future headquarters campus on March 7.

    Williams said Security First, which recently began clearing 13 acres to make room for a four-story 133,000-square-foot headquarters building, is “a catalyst” that could kick start the rest of Ormond Crossings.

    “It's almost indescribable to me,” she said of seeing a portion of Ormond Crossings finally underway. “It's the catalyst for the overall property being developed,” she said. “It's very exciting for us.”

    Williams credits her father, Frank Ford, with coming up with the idea to acquire Allete's local real estate holdings, which includes 3,000 acres of undeveloped land in Flagler County, adjacent to the Ormond Crossings site on the planned development's west side.

    “He saw this great opportunity and we seized it,” she said, adding that her family, which has called Volusia County home for six generations, was familiar with the Ormond Crossings property.

    Williams said the land on the Flagler County side of U.S. 1 that her family purchased from Allete has been designated “[Lake] Swamp Mitigation Bank,” and will be allowed to return to its natural state to help offset the impacts of developing Ormond Crossings.

    As for who will step up to develop the rest of Ormond Crossings and when that happens remains to be seen. The Ford family has retained David Lusby, formerly with Allete, to continue to market the property to prospective developers, builders and tenants.

    Now that Security First is developing the first phase of its planned headquarters campus, interest in Ormond Crossings has picked up, Williams said.

    Also helping generate interest, she said, is the area's improving economy and the surge in commercial development currently taking place in nearby Daytona Beach, particularly in the area surrounding the I-95/LPGA Boulevard interchange where the 6,900-home Jimmy Buffett-themed Latitude Margaritaville active adult community and a Buc-ee's mega-sized convenience travel center and 120 pump gas station are among the projects in the works.

    With the area surrounding the I-95/Granada Boulevard corridor in Ormond Beach already mostly developed, “it's a natural progression” for the U.S. 1 corridor to be next, Williams said.

    “We feel this is just the beginning,” she said. ”We do expect more great things to come.”

    Clayton Park can be reached at clayton.park@news-jrnl.com or at 386-681-2470.


    Daytona Beach News Journal

    February 4, 2018 by Clayton Park

    First Step for Security First - Insurer's future HQ to get underway at 3,000-acre Ormond Crossings development

    Sixteen years after it was first proposed, work is finally underway at the massive Ormond Crossings development, which is expected to eventually have nearly 3,000 homes and 4.5 million square feet of commercial space.

    At least for the first building.

    Security First Insurance Co. recently began clearing a 13-acre wooded site that is part of the company's planned future 48-acre headquarters campus, the first development at the 3,000-acre Ormond Crossings.

    The company plans to officially break ground on its planned $30 million project, which will include a four- story, 133,000-square-foot headquarters building on March 7.

    A target move-in date has been set for May 1, 2019.

    “We want to be in before the start of hurricane season (June 1),” said Locke Burt, the company's president and CEO. “We have to be operational during a hurricane. The last two hurricanes (Matthew in 2016 and Irma last year) we had to evacuate,” he said, referring to the company's current beachside headquarters building at 140 S. Atlantic Ave. in Ormond Beach. “We don't want to ever have to do that again.”

    Burt said the company needs the new headquarters to consolidate its headquarters operations under one roof. Security First currently operates out of three locations: its longtime headquarters building on A1A, a leased portion of a former beachside Bank of America branch on East Granada Boulevard, and a leased space in Holly Hill.

    The Ormond Beach-based insurance company, which currently employs 295 workers, has also pledged to create at least 285 new jobs locally that pay an average of $61,000 by the end of 2023. It had 207 employees at the start of 2017.

    “We've blown past all our (hiring) estimates,” said Melissa Burt DeVriese, Security First's chief administrative officer and general counsel. “In 2017, we added 84 net new positions and we have 25 openings.”

    If the company makes good on its five-year hiring target, it stands to receive $1.27 million in performance-based economic incentives — $990,000 from the state and county if it creates 165 that pay an average of at least $52,044 a year by the end of 2021, and an additional $285,000 from the city if the number of new jobs created in Ormond Beach grows to 285 by the end of 2023. The agreement with the city requires the newly created jobs to pay an average of at least $61,000 a year.

    DeVriese said her company expects to grow its local workforce far beyond that initial hiring goal, with plans to eventually add a second 75,000-square-foot building and possibly more beyond that at its future headquarters campus. The company's faster-than-expected growth also prompted it to increase the size of the initial building at the planned headquarters campus, by adding an extra story.

    Security First completed its $2.25 million purchase of the future headquarters site in September. The planned campus is just south of the bend in the road where Broadway Avenue and Tymber Creek Road meet, just east of Interstate 95 and roughly a block south of U.S. 1. The campus will include dining facilities and a fitness center for employees as well as walking trails and a pond-like water feature. The headquarters building will be visible to motorists on I-95.

    Joe Mannarino, Ormond Beach economic development director, said Security First's planned headquarters campus at Ormond Crossings “will have positive impacts” on the U.S. 1 corridor on both sides of I-95.

    “I think you'll see all kinds of investors looking at that site,” Mannarino said of Ormond Crossings, adding that the development area includes land along U.S. 1 that could accommodate restaurants and neighborhood- oriented service businesses, as well as a grocery store. “As more housing gets built, there's going to be even more demand,” he said.

    Mannarino estimated that the construction of the first homes at Ormond Crossings, which would be on the west side of I-95, is likely two years off as more infrastructure is needed, including an overpass over the interstate to connect the two sides of the development. Mannarino, who began working to facilitate the development of Ormond Crossings ever since he got hired by the city in early 2003, said he has a sense of “tremendous satisfaction” at finally seeing a portion of the project being built.

    “It's a project that could set the framework for the entire 745-acre commerce park (planned on the east side of Ormond Crossings),” he said.

    “It's supposed to be a live/ work community so you don't have to travel far to go to work and it's supposed to be interconnected,” Mannarino said of Ormond Crossings.

    DeVriese said her company initially considered buying a portion of Ormond Crossings a couple of years ago, when it was still owned by Allete Holdings but said the Minnesota- based public company, which in 2016 announced its decision to get out of the real estate development business, was only interested in finding a buyer for its entire 6,000 acres in Ormond Beach and Flagler County.

    The Ford family of West Volusia finally stepped up to the plate, completing a $21 million purchase of the undeveloped land from Allete in late 2016.

    Mannarino immediately contacted Security First to inform the company that the new owners of Ormond Crossings were open to selling a portion of the land, which ultimately resulted in the insurance company's purchase of the 48-acre parcel.

    The News-Journal was not able to reach a spokesperson for the Ford family for comment.

    Burt and partner Harry Bleiwise founded Security First in 2005 after seeing a number of national insurance companies drop coverage of homes in Florida following the 2004 hurricanes. Security First offers homeowner, condominium-unit owner, renters and dwelling fire insurance policies. It has grown to become the second largest provider of homeowners insurance in the state in terms of number of policies (340,500 as of Dec. 31) and insures approximately 16 percent of all homes in Volusia and Flagler counties, according to the company.

    The building on A1A where Security First currently has its headquarters is owned by Burt and his wife Ann, who intend to either sell or lease it once the company moves to Ormond Crossings, he said.


    City of Ormond Beach

    October, 2017

    Ormond Crossings Planned Development

    Security First Managers, one of the largest insurance companies in Florida, has offices in Ormond Beach and other locations in Florida and around the United States. The company searched for a suitable site in Florida to consolidate its offices. Our Economic Development office worked with Security First Managers and Tomoka Holdings to carve out a 50 acre site to construct a 135,000 square foot office headquarters. Security First Managers estimates the construction value of the first phase of its office campus to be approximately $30 million and that it will provide approximately 285 new jobs within the next five years. Site planning and architectural plans are being finalized and a ground breaking event is planned for November. The project is expected to be completed in the spring of 2019.


    Daytona Beach News Journal

    April 19, 2017 by Clayton Park

    The Ormond Beach City Commission Tuesday evening gave the green light for development to proceed on the future headquarters for Security First Insurance along the east side of Interstate 95, south of US 1. The $25 million project, expected to begin construction this fall, would be the first built at Ormond Crossings, a massive 6,000-acre mixed-use development that has been in the works since 2002.

    Mayor Bill Partington — one of the commissioners involved in unanimously approving $285,000 in performance-based economic incentives for the Security First project — said he hopes it will encourage others to also become part of the commerce park at Ormond Crossings.

    “The first thing you see when you come to Volusia County (from the north via I-95) is Ormond Beach,” Partington said. “To have a great development like Ormond Crossings is critically important to creating a good first impression of our area.”

    Melissa Burt DeVriese, chief administrative officer and general counsel for Security First, said her company has already hired a project architect and general contractor.

    Securing the incentives — which are contingent on the company making good on its pledge to create at least 285 jobs over five years that pay an average of $61,000 a year — “was one piece of the puzzle” for turning the project into reality, DeVriese said.

    “We still have the permitting and engineering and survey work to do (before construction can begin),” she said. “It’s definitely the beginning of a long process.”

    The company also must add utility lines as well as extending a road to the 48-acre future campus, which will be built behind the existing businesses along the south side of US 1 that include a McDonald’s fast-food restaurant and gas stations.

    Lisa Ford Williams of DeLand-based Ford Properties, which acquired the Ormond Crossings site from original developer Tomoka Holdings in September, spoke at the City Commission meeting where she thanked the city for helping jump-start the project, which stalled during the Great Recession in late 2007 and never got back on track.

    “They (the Ford family) are really hoping this (Security First headquarters) will kick off a spate of development (at Ormond Crossings),” DeVriese said. “We do, too. We’d like to have some neighbors there.”

    Security First, which says it has outgrown its 25,000-square-foot headquarters on A1A in Ormond Beach, employs 240 workers and is looking to add more. The company, which specializes in insuring Florida homeowners, hopes to consolidate its headquarters and call center staff which are in multiple locations including a leased space in Holly Hill.


    Ormond Beach Observer

    April 18, 2017 by Emily Blackwood, News Editor

    City Approves $285,000 In Incentives For Security First To Kickstart Ormond Crossings

    Ormond Crossings is one step closer to becoming a reality after the Ormond Beach City Commission approved a $285,000 economic incentive for Security First Managers on April 18. The Ormond Beach-based and family-owned insurance company agreed to use the funds to construct its second headquarters in Ormond Crossings, a planned residential, commercial and retail development on North U.S. 1. 

    The new building will be located on 48 acres in Commerce Park, according to Economic Development Director Joe Mannarino, and the incentive program is performance-based, with SFM agreeing to create 285 new jobs at this location. That’s $1,000 per new job. 

    "I’m excited that after talking about Ormond Crossings for 15 years that something is actually happening,” Commissioner Troy Kent said during the meeting. 

    The development was originally proposed in 2002 as a planned business development for 3,000 acres. The footprint is a total of 6,000, but the 3,000 acres adjacent to it are in Flagler County and are being used as a wetland mitigation bank. Mannarino said the development is approved to have 2,950 housing units, 200,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, and 900,000 square feet of office space. 

    With the aid of the city's growth assistance funding, SFM plans to lease a new 100,000-square-foot office building in 2019, at a construction value of approximately $25 million. Mannarino said the company wants to break ground this fall. 

    "It's going to be a very modern building," he said. "It would begin to open up the roadway system, increase visibility for the rest of the park and make recruitment easier next time around."

    Melissa Burt DeVriese, the chief administrative officer of SFM, and Lisa Ford Williams, a representative of Tomoka Holdings (which is the company developing Ormond Crossings), were present at the commission meeting and thanked the city for the help with the project. 

    "Security First is the catalyst for things to really come to this location," Williams said. "It's a game changer for Volusia County and Ormond Beach residents." 

    Commissioner Rick Boehm and Mayor Bill Partington both acknowledged former mayor and state representative Fred Costello, who was a driving force in starting the project in 2002. 

    "It was a dream of his during his entire time on the commission," Boehm said. "He fought to have it happen. Like the rest of us, we’ve waited a long, long time for this moment to arrive."

    As for when Ormond Crossing could really come to life, Mannarino said the future is still unclear. There has been no discussion about any more future projects Tomoka Holdings might have, but he — and the City Commission — say that this is a start. 

    "It only takes a spark to get a fire going," Partington said. "This 100,000-square-foot building and retaining a local Ormond business run by a great family — I couldn’t think of a better combination." 


    Daytona Beach News Journal

    April 17, 2017 by Clayton Park

    After 15 years of waiting, Ormond Crossings finally appears set to become a reality.

    Security First Insurance has tentatively agreed to build a $25 million, 100,000-square-foot office complex that would become the first tenant at the long-planned 6,000-acre mixed-use development along U.S. 1, near Destination Daytona.

    But before it signs the dotted line on purchasing the site, the company, which specializes in insuring Florida homeowners, is seeking $285,000 in economic incentives from the city to defray some of the project’s infrastructure costs. Those costs include extending a road and installing water, sewer, electrical and natural gas lines. The Ormond Beach City Commission is scheduled to vote on whether to approve the incentives at its meeting Tuesday evening.

    Joe Mannarino, the city’s economic development director, said the city staff is recommending approval of the performance-based “growth assistance” incentives, which would be contingent on the company’s creation of at least 285 jobs over five years that pay an average of $61,000 a year.

    The Volusia County Council in February approved a $198,000 local match of those incentives, Mannarino said.

    Security First, established in 2005 by former State Senator Locke Burt and business partner Harry Bleiwise, already has its headquarters in Ormond Beach, in a 5-story, 25,000-square-foot office building at 140 S. Atlantic Ave. that Burt and his family own.

    Burt is the company’s chairman and president. Bleiwise is a silent partner who is not involved in Security First’s operations, said Melissa Burt DeVriese, Security First’s chief administrative officer and general counsel. DeVriese, Burt’s daughter, said the company has outgrown its headquarters building and has had to lease additional space in Holly Hill.

    Security First has grown to become one of the largest writers of homeowners insurance in the state with more than 350,000 customers. The company employs more than 240 workers, and has added 40 since the start of the year including four who started on Monday, she said. It also has staff in the Tampa area as well as in Sunrise. The future headquarters would allow the company to consolidate its operations under one roof, DeVriese said. The company expects to employ nearly 700 workers by 2030, according to documents filed with the city.

    The company hopes to break ground on the project this fall, with a target move-in date tentatively set for Jan. 1, 2019, she said.