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‘Alligator’ Ron Bergeron leads lineup of Fried On Business heavy hitters

Many of you know that I love baseball. I relish the opportunity to relax and watch the Miami Marlins take the field in America’s favorite pastime.

Well, keeping with the baseball analogy, we had three power hitters on the Fried On Business program to talk about everything from Horatio Alger to real estate capital.

Local boy makes good

First up was Ron M. Bergeron Sr., better known in these parts as “Alligator Ron.”

He is the Founder & CEO of Bergeron Land Development, Inc., the Bergeron Family of Companies, and Bergeron Properties & Investment Corp. He is also a 2018 Horatio Alger Award Recipient.

“Florida is, in my eyes, the greatest state in America from sea grass to sawgrass. There are tremendous opportunities for businesspeople to invest in Florida,” Ron said.

You might remember that Horatio Alger was the 19th-century American writer whose young adult novels featured characters rising from rags to riches through integrity, hard work and determination.

Ron, by way of example, left home with $235 in his pocket. He bought a small tractor and started doing farm work for a few years.

At the age of 21, Ron noticed that the most successful people he knew were landowners, so he began buying real estate. In 1965, he incorporated Bergeron Land Development and began building driveways. He also began buying tracts of land that were in the path of development. His company would eventually build entire cities and major road systems and state highway interchanges.

It hasn’t been all work, however. Ron has also been active in public service, being appointed by governors Christ and Scott to serve as a Florida Fish and Wildlife Commissioner.

“I came from kind of a poor family – rich with love, which is the most important thing. But when you watch your parents, and you’re four year old, build their first house out of scrap lumber from Port Everglades, you stay very humble through life,” he said.

One of the greatest rewards of success he added, is having the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those around you. Ron does some 12 charity events annually at his ranch in western Broward County, which is essentially a theme park set in the 1800s. Those events host thousands of people.

The keys to rising above a humble beginning, he said, are simple:

– Discipline
– Determination
– Expertise: Learning how to do something better than the competition.
– Frugality: Living well within one’s means.

“When you start in business at 18 years old with a couple hundred dollars and then you’re 25 years old and a multimillionaire – but you still live in a house trailer for 16 more years – that’s called discipline and determination,” he said.

Ron decided recently not to run for the office of Florida governor. His receiving of the Horatio Alger Award will allow him to continue his philanthropic efforts on a larger scale, he said.

“It’s changed my life to be a part of that, and I’m very, very humble about it. I hope I can do more good things to make the world better,” he said.

You can follow his work online at alligatorronbergeron.com.

I’ve just scratched the surface of this tremendous interview. Click here to listen to all of it.

A hat in the ring?

Speaking of politics, my niece Nikki Fried is actively considering a run for Commissioner of Agriculture here. She came on the show to outline a bit of her vision for the Sunshine State.

“Florida is such a hub of innovation. Our growing society is so multicultural and diverse, and we need to make sure that we are allowing those different voices and different visions to come into it. The more diverse the ideas that are out there, you’re going to get more innovation, more job growth, more productivity among our workers,” she said.

“We need to do a better job of protecting those who have those types of visions and are thinking outside the box.”

In addition to protecting natural resources, Nikki said improving K-12 schools and universities should be a high priority for state government.

Now, back in my day, Homestead was part of the breadbasket of America. Today, it’s covered with apartments and townhomes. Same with West Palm Beach and Broward County.

Agriculture is continuing to give way to development. What can be done, I asked, to protect agriculture?

Nikki said NAFTA has hurt farmers across the state. Things are getting better, but more work needs to be done, such as promoting research and technology that can lead to new types of crops.

That, to some degree, translates into a national security issue, she said. We need to make sure we’re not overly dependent on outside sources for our vital food products.

Nikki said children and veterans will be a high priority for her time in office, if elected. She has spent more than 15 years working on various aspects of the state’s foster care system. She also believes veterans need more help getting re-engaged with society upon returning from the field.

I might be a little biased, but I think this was a great interview. Click here to listen.

Connecting real estate to capital

Last, but certainly not least, our new Fried On Business sponsor RealConnex stepped up for some time behind the mic.

I have a client who needs a few high net-worth investors to participate in a real estate deal. I only had two or three suggestions, but I pointed her to RealConnex.com, which connects real estate professionals with capital investment services.

Roy Abrams, CEO and Founder of RealConnex, said about $50 million has been spent in the last 3,5 years to develop the resource.

“We’re now about to launch our fourth and final version of the site,” Roy said. “It’s hyper-charged networking for professional real estate, connecting you to what you need.”

Thousands of investors are on board, he said, and the site is moving toward connecting about $1 billion in equity to deals this year.

There are several ways of connecting to capital on RealConnex:

1. Post your deal, with as much confidentiality as desired.

2. Self-syndicate the deal. RealConnex provides all of the tools necessary.

3. Connect directly to high net-worth family offices, depending on the sponsor and the parameters of the deal, through the exclusive Club Prive.

4. Concierge Service, an off-line resource that puts you in touch with an expert in the asset class and capital range that you need.

“Our view is that if you can’t find the capital on RealConnex, you probably can’t find the capital,” Roy said.

This is fascinating stuff. Click here to listen to the entire conversation.

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