They're wondering no more. Earlier this year, Navy officials announced that the "station" designation would return to the base, along with about 300 military personnel shipped out during the 1990s. The redeployment will nearly double the Navy's presence on the island, Navy officials say. The military is spending an estimated $110 million on new barracks, runway expansions, a new flight control tower and other projects.
"This will be a tremendous boost to the economy, not just through Navy spending but also, we hope, in the creation of civilian jobs," says Key West Mayor Jimmy Weekley.
Key West's redesignation is a response to the Navy's new Training Resource Strategy, a year-old counterterrorism plan. Key West's importance also increased following the Navy's decision to vacate Puerto Rico's Vieques island.
Many islanders feared that the base would be among dozens of installations mothballed during the next round of base realignments and closings -- known as BRAC -- scheduled for 2005. During three previous rounds, the Pentagon chose 97 major U.S. bases for closure and 55 for realignment. Among them: Miami-Dade's Homestead Air Force Base, Jacksonville's Cecil Field Naval Air Station and the Orlando Naval Training Center.
While some analysts expect Florida -- home to 21 major military installations -- to fare well during the next round, Gov. Jeb Bush is taking no chances. He's assembled an advisory council "dream team" of executives and retired military leaders to help maneuver through the upcoming process.
The state has also spent $15 million since 1999 to upgrade defense infrastructure and is emerging as a hub for joint military command and control. U.S. Central Command -- which oversees the Iraq war and other Middle East activities -- is based at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa; in 1997, the U.S. Southern Command, which directs all military activities in Central and South America and the Caribbean, moved from Panama to Miami.
IN THE NEWS
Coral Gables -- After considering other locations, United Airlines has announced that its Latin American division headquarters will remain in Coral Gables. The office employs 19 managers and administrative workers.
Miami -- Rio de Janeiro-based Blah!, which produces instant messaging and other products for wireless carriers, will open a U.S. headquarters in Miami. The move is expected to create at least 50 jobs by the end of next year.
Miami-based DHL Airways has changed its name to Astar Air Cargo following the carrier's purchase by a group of investors led by former Burger King CEO John Dasburg. Astar had been a part of DHL Worldwide.
In a sign of continued revitalization of the long-blighted urban area just north of Miami's central business district, developers Chad Oppenheim and Gregg Covin have announced plans for a 40-story upscale residential tower near AmericanAirlines Arena and Interstate 395. Meanwhile, a few blocks north, Netscape and Silicon Graphics founder Jim Clark and former Silicon Graphics CEO Thomas Jermoluk have teamed with Miami developer Paul Murphy to build Blue, a 36-story residential tower designed by Miami's Arquitectonica. Expected completion: August 2005.
With its acquisition of Insignia/ESG complete, CB Richard Ellis becomes a full-service commercial real estate provider with a major presence in several Florida markets, including south Florida, where it has 60 brokers. Insignia focuses on managing properties and representing tenants. CB Richard Ellis primarily works on property sales and represents landlords.
Miami Beach -- The National Civic League has named Miami Beach to its annual "All America Cities" list, one of only 10 nationwide. The designation recognizes cities that promote cooperative interaction among government, business and citizenry. Miami Beach is only the second Miami-Dade municipality to receive the honor, after South Miami in 1996. The county was honored in 1957 and 1962.
Miami-Dade -- Recognizing the enormous growth and increasingly seamless borders of southeast Florida, the Census Bureau has added Palm Beach County to the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) encompassing Miami-Dade and Broward, creating a statistical entity of 5.2 million people.
Overall crime in unincorporated Miami-Dade County dropped 2% -- with violent crime slipping 5% -- in the first half of 2003, continuing a trend dating to the late 1990s. Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas attributes the drop to the county's "Safe Streets" program that targets repeat offenders and to increased police funding.
Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach has filed a formal objection to plans by Kendall Regional Medical Center to build an 80-bed hospital in West Kendall. Kendall Regional then objected to Baptist Health South Florida building an 80-bed facility, the Miami Herald reported. Mount Sinai did not state a reason for its objection. Baptist planned to open its facility by 2007. Kendall Regional did not have a construction timetable. The objections
could delay the hospitals for years.
Opa-Locka -- Fledgling aircraft manufacturer Safire Aircraft -- founded five years ago in Palm Beach County -- will set up its headquarters and manufacturing facility at Opa-locka Airport. Although production is still years away, executives say they expect to employ as many as 1,000 by 2009, when the company hopes to be producing about 500 six-person, low-cost jets per year.
A VICTORY FOR PROPERTY OWNERS
MIAMI BEACH -- In a ruling that could have statewide implications, a state appellate court said that property owners can sue the city if officials place such burdensome restrictions on their land that they have stripped it of its development value, the Miami Herald reported. Miami Beach says it faces eight lawsuits from property owners who claim it attempted to thwart their development rights by imposing restrictive zoning regulations. The city hasn't decided if it will appeal.