CEO Connect: Moises Agami talks about rough weather, both in life and in real estate

Moises Agami is the chief executive officer of Valor Capital. His company is the development force of Serena by the Sea, in Clearwater, which is still under construction but completely sold out. And now, he’s setting his sights on expanding his vision to St. Petersburg, and beyond.

His company had revenue of $70 million in 2022, but is expected to more than double this year, to $150 million.

Tampa Bay Business and Wealth CEO and Publisher Bridgette Bello interviewed Agami in front of a sold-out, live audience at the Tampa Club. This transcript has been edited for brevity and length. 

See photos from the event here. 

What has it been like being on the cover of TBBW?

We’ve had a lot of fantastic outreach from a lot of partners, and friends, some of whom we haven’t seen or heard from in a while. In our company, we’ve seen a lot of traffic and we’ve closed a couple of deals, which has been fantastic. We’re very excited about it. Thank you very much for the space. We’re all very grateful to now count you, and TBBW, as our partner and we want to be partners with you for the long haul.

You’re working on some big deals, St. Petersburg obviously being one of them. I know there are at least two more that you’re going to let TBBW break when you can talk about them, is there one that you can talk about now? 

We found this city called Daytona Beach Shores. It’s a little strip right next to Daytona and we got to meet the mayor and some of the city council members; commissioners, they call them there. Fantastic people. It’s one of the only municipalities that is totally debt-free.

These guys took all of their power lines and buried all of their utilities underground. The voters voted to raise their taxes to pay it off and be debt-free. I think that’s just incredible. It’s a very awesome city that runs like a business operates, with clear goals and concepts. We’re very excited to join them and create a great impact in the community, we hope.

So, what are we doing in Daytona Beach Shores?

The idea is to do another residential project. It will be 87 units and it’s right there on the sand. It’s just a beautiful place. It’s one of these cities that I believe needs a bit of a push and a bit of revitalization, especially after the storm. In fact, if you watched the news, you saw our property. It’s one that was impacted by the storm because some of the infrastructure is just not up to where it should be. It needs a little reinforcing of the infrastructure and the systems they have out there and we are very excited to bring that to the area.

The storm didn’t scare you?

Not at all.

That’s interesting. I’ve had conversations with some developers in the area that said, “Whoa, not going there.”

I think as developers, the economy and storms are sometimes similar. They come and they go, and there’s always sunshine and cool weather at the other end. Storms exist and we now have the technology to weather right through them. It’s just a matter of applying proper engineering and getting it done. 

You’ve done two projects in Clearwater. One is coming up in St. Pete. Is Daytona your first kind of statewide expansion?

Yes. 

Well, that’s cool. You guys heard it here first. Very cool, congratulations.

You pried it out of me. I didn’t know you knew, so there you go.

We didn’t get to touch on this as much as we wanted to in the story, but you were very focused on having a call-to-action be a part of your story. And you were specific about the things that you felt were a call to action. I do a prep call with all the cover subjects a day or two before. And then I go back, and I read our notes. And in the notes, you said the exact same thing you said to me on the prep call. So, it’s not scripted. It’s from your heart, it’s from your gut, and it’s what you really believe. I would really like for you to share with everybody here, what your call to action is. 

I think it has layers to it. I can tell you that for us, our purpose as a development company coming to the United States is, first, to recognize that the U.S. is the most important market in the world. We want to bring that special flavor, that special sauce that took us 40 years to figure out. We believe that we want to build communities here, we want to form alliances and figure out how to get the best use and best value out of every plot of land and every project that we do, so that we can really enhance and improve people’s lives. 

Let me give you an example, coming from Mexico and other third-world countries, I had a business in 11 countries, nine of them third-world countries, with 3,000 staff members all around the world. I can tell you, I’ve suffered the effects of poor planning, poor vision and lack of alliances, and coordination, between the government and private sector. We want to be able to bring this coordination in, which is not the case in the U.S., there’s a lot of coordination, and there’s a lot of good planning going on here. 

But we want to push it beyond the next five to 10 years, or 20 to the next 100 years, where we’re really planning for what life is going to be like later. In the wake of this [COVID-19] pandemic, we find that we need to focus on more wellness-based design, people are looking for a better quality of life in their home and around their home. They [want to live in] places where they can live, work, play, really play, and have fun doing that. So, business-wise, that’s our call to action. 

I’m going to go back to the call to action and I’m going to paraphrase because you’re going to take it from here. Basically, you said, ‘Get off the couch.’ Right? ‘Stop watching TV.’ Finish it for me. What was the rest of it?

It’s up to you to make something happen, nobody’s going to come down and hand it to you and set you on the path to accomplishing your dreams. 

It’s really about getting off the couch. Turn off the TV. Get rid of the phone, put Facebook away and figure out what your passion in life is. I think it’s pretty hard to find your passion in life from the couch. It doesn’t really work out that way. You have to start with something maybe you like doing even just a little bit. Then you take a step and the next step until you eventually find something that you really love doing and that really fulfills you. 

So, I would say to all the entrepreneurs out there, and people who are chasing their dreams, or want to chase their dreams, just take the first step, go for it, and go as big as you can imagine, because the worst mistake that I’ve ever made was the mistake of not doing something that I should have done.

ABOUT ‘CEO CONNECT’

TBBW’s “CEO Connect” series is an exclusive, invitation-only, event that brings together the Tampa Bay area’s top business leaders to meet and mingle. Southstate was a presenting sponsor. The host sponsor was The Tampa Club.

TBBW’s video partner is Empowering Creative.

The evening begins with a cocktail reception for about 120 guests, followed by an interview with that month’s cover CEO.

Partnering with TBBW on future editions provides an opportunity to network with the area’s business elite, generate new business opportunities and increase brand awareness.

For information about event sponsorship opportunities, email Jason Baker at [email protected].

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