Board of Directors
The Florida Development Finance Corporation [FDFC] The FDFC is governed by a Board of Directors (“FDFC Board” or the “Board”) that are appointed by the Executive Office of the Governor.
Michael DiNapoli, Chair
J. Ben Watkins, III
J. Ben Watkins III was appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Cabinet as the Director of the Florida Division of Bond Finance in 1995. Director Watkins is well known and respected for his work in the municipal “muni” bond industry. He is an active member and has served in a variety of leadership roles on muni associations. He is a past vice chairman and board member of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB), former chairman of the Committee on Government Debt for the Government Finance Officers Association, and currently serves as a member on the National Association of State Treasurers and National Association of Bond Lawyers.
He has been nationally recognized for his contributions to the muni industry by receiving the Jim Lebenthal Infrastructure Champion Award (2017), the National Federation of Municipal Analyst Industry Contribution Award (2009), and the National Association of Treasurers Tanya Gritz Award for Excellence in Public Finance (2001).
Additionally, Director Watkins serves as the chairman and past president of the Economic Club of Florida and board member on the Municipal Code Corporation Board, Florida State University Coastal and Marine Lab Advisory Board, Maclay School Board of Trustees, and Tall Timbers Research and Land Conservancy Board.
Prior to his role as Director, he practiced public finance law with Sutherland Asbill & Brennan in Atlanta, Georgia. He received his Juris Doctor from the University of Florida and his Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Auburn University. A Florida native, Director Watkins and his wife Joy have two daughters and reside in Tallahassee.
Moshe Popack is the owner and president of YMP Real Estate Management LLC. The company has a market presence in six states including Florida, where YMP owns and manages several thousand multifamily apartment units, over a million square feet of office space, and several hundred assisted living beds.
Moshe is dedicated to supporting communities and promoting meaningful engagement on issues such as mental health, nutrition, education, and housing. He has launched several philanthropic initiatives and established the YMP Family Foundation which promotes healthy nutrition among young families and their children.
Additionally, Moshe is a board member of the Florida Assisted Living Association, an official member of the South Florida Business Journal Leadership Trust, and a member of the Young Presidents’ Association.
Taylor Smith, President and founder of Project Finance & Development Investments LLC ("PFDI"), specializes in the financial engineering, development and financing of diverse public and private sector projects throughout Florida and the United States.
Since 1998, Smith, through PFDI and other affiliated companies, has financed and developed charter schools, school concurrency projects, public roads, residential developments, mixed-use projects, parking garages, tax-exempt housing, government facilities and stand along daycare. The projects, many of which included tax-exempt financings, total over $1Billion. PFDI development projects have involved the creation of complex ownership structures with multiple public and private stakeholders including corporations, municipalities, county governments, school districts, state agencies and not-for-profit institutions. PFDI coordinated the establishment of all of the Florida Educational Facilities Benefit Districts in Florida.
Taylor Smith is a Florida native. After graduating from Spruce Creek High School in Volusia County, Smith attended Princeton University and conducted graduate studies as a Fulbright Scholar and a Harry S. Truman Scholar at the Australian National University. Since 1992, Smith has spent his entire career based out of Florida. Smith is an active volunteer leader and teacher in his Jacksonville community and also enjoys spending time with his wife, Kathi and two children, Taylor Jr. and Virginia.
Michael Quijano leads the commercialization strategy and implementation for the LATAM Region. In addition, his role also includes developing strategic objectives and managing corporate account relationships for National and Regional health systems throughout the U.S. In addition, Michael is the Managing Partner for a real estate investment company that focuses on small-to-midsize commercial properties and residential development.
Michael has 20+ years of disruptive medical device experience holding numerous roles varying from clinical sales and program development, capital equipment sales, and market commercialization. He has proven experience building and scaling commercial organizations focused on clinical and capital sales while driving procedure growth and building recurring revenue streams. His diverse background also includes 15+ years of real estate investment and development experience.
Michael completed his Master of Accounting from Florida International University and a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and Marketing from Lynn University. He lives in Miami, FL with his wife and three children and is active in various philanthropic organizations and initiatives impacting the Miami community.
Charbel J Barakat is an attorney specializing in corporate, finance, and real estate law. He currently serves as regional general counsel for a large publicly-traded homebuilder. Charbel was formerly associated with national law firms in Miami and New York City, where he represented leading real estate developers and institutional lenders in connection with complex corporate, leveraged, real estate, and project finance transactions, as well as in general corporate and financial restructuring transactions.
In 2016, Charbel was appointed to serve on the 2nd District Court of Appeal Judicial Nominating Commission, and was recently reappointed to a new 4-year term by Governor Ron DeSantis. He currently serves as the 2nd DCA JNC’s chairman. In 2018 and 2019, Charbel was recognized by the Tampa Bay Business Journal as one of the city’s Top Corporate Counsel.
Charbel is a graduate of The Johns Hopkins University and New York University School of Law and recently became a Jeopardy! champion. A native Floridian, Charbel lives with his wife and their two children in Tampa.
Rob Panepinto is an innovator who has always challenged the status quo of “good enough”. Rob has helped Orange County become a hub for technology, entrepreneurship, and creativity. He is passionate about the positive impact businesses and business leaders drive for their communities and is an active “civic entrepreneur” serving on multiple civic and nonprofit boards with a focus on diversifying the Central Florida economy and tackling its affordable housing crisis.
Currently, Rob is the Managing Partner and Chief Investment Officer for Govo Venture Partners, an early stage fund that invests in innovative companies in regulated industries or selling to governments.
Rob also serves as Director of Strategy and Partnerships for the UCF Innovation Districts and Business Incubation System. Rob is also the CEO of Entrepreneurs in Action, who manage a social venture fund that invests in local social enterprises, helping them create successful businesses and jobs while addressing community and global social needs.
Actively engaged in the Central Florida entrepreneurial ecosystem, Rob is the Co- Founder and Board Chair for the Rally Social Enterprise Accelerator, and a board member of the Orlando Tech Council and Starter Studio. He is also a Board Member and Past Chair of the Central Florida Foundation, the Chair of the Central Florida Housing Action Team and the Board of Overseers for Rollins College Crummer School of Business. Rob was named as one of the Orlando Business Journal’s inaugural Power Players in 2021.
Previously, Rob was part of the founding executive team for Connextions, helping them grow from a small manufacturing company to become an innovative healthcare technology and services company based in Orlando. Connextions had a majority recapitalization with New Mountain Capital in 2006 and was acquired by Optum Health in 2011.
Rob was a candidate for Orange County Mayor in 2018. Rob has a BA in Political Science from New York University and an MA in Public Communications from Fordham University.
He lives in Winter Park, FL with his wife, Stacey. They have two daughters, Ali (22) and Sam (20).