September 1, 2014

Economic Development: Unfinished Business- Southeast- Sept. 2003

Pat Dunnigan | 9/1/2003
James "J.T." Tarlton marks his first anniversary as chief executive of Broward Alliance, the county's economic development agency. But his work may be just beginning. Tarlton faces two major tasks in the year ahead: Marshalling the county's economic forces and rebuilding the alliance's dwindling membership.

He expects competition for new businesses to remain vigorous within the region, where the quest for companies has frequently led to accusations of cross-border raiding. While south Florida's economic development boosters have talked a lot about "a truce" recently among Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Tarlton says the cease-fire reports may be premature.

"I wouldn't call it a truce," Tarlton says. "Business is business. We're always going to be competing, but it's about relationships, trust and respect."

Though Tarlton doesn't eschew competition within the region, he believes the practice of luring businesses with incentive packages is more short-sighted than unfriendly. He says cities and counties should sell their locations based on how they can meet prospective businesses' needs. He knows he's fighting the conventional wisdom, he says. "They kind of look at me as if I have six heads."

Tarlton, a former technology industry executive who worked in global real estate planning for Citrix Systems in Fort Lauderdale, has a tough sell inside the organization as well. In recent years, the Broward Alliance has drifted through leadership turnover and declining membership.

The agency, which relies on dues for half of its $2-million budget, has seen its rolls drop from 400 to 280 over the past three years. Of Broward's 30 municipalities, only five are current members. The dropouts "looked at the alliance and didn't see where the alliance was going," Tarlton says.

To lure them back, Tarlton has redrawn the alliance's goals around four main areas: Development of the county's film and television industry, public relations, business development and investor relations.

Two staff jobs in workforce development and minority business development were eliminated, and their committees moved under the broader goals of business development.

Investor relations, Tarlton says, is about building specific benefit packages for members so they can justify the $1,000 to $20,000 cost of annual membership.

Tarlton says his interviews with some former alliance members led him to conclude that many simply didn't see what they were getting for their money. Revised membership programs will tout members-only databases, business leads and opportunities to accompany alliance leaders on outbound missions, he says.

IN THE NEWS

Boca Raton -- Wackenhut Corrections (NYSE-WHC) has announced a buyback of 12 million shares of its stock from Group 4 Falck of Denmark, which had been the company's major shareholder.

The entire contents of the American Media building in Boca Raton, quarantined since October 2001 after a photo editor died of anthrax, are scheduled for destruction by a Maryland cleanup company hired by the building's new owner.

Broward County -- A Broward Circuit Court judge has granted a temporary injunction barring the state from cutting any more citrus trees in south Florida until more precise laboratory testing can be done to determine whether suspected canker cases really are of the strain requiring eradication.

Deerfield Beach -- Chicken Soup series publisher Health Communications will soon have the ability to create its own hardcover titles with the purchase of a billion-dollar binding machine. Owner Peter Vegso told the Miami Herald that the company's first hardcover edition will be a collection of pieces from the popular Chicken Soup for the Soul series.

Hollywood -- Plans for condominiums, retail shops and a theater in the city's downtown Young Circle area have been put on hold to give the city time to catch up with an overall plan for the area.

The Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa has lost a property tax challenge filed with the city's Value Adjustment Board. Lawyers for the resort, owned by the pension fund of the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union, had argued that the resort was assessed unfairly for a period during which it was not substantially complete.

Oakland Park -- An administrative law judge has ruled that bulletproof vest maker Point Blank violated labor laws when it fired three employees and took other action against striking employees. The ruling is not final until the National Labor Relations Board in Washington has considered the company's appeal.

Palm Beach Gardens -- The 15-year-old Palm Beach Gardens Mall is contemplating a major makeover, the Palm Beach Post reports. Leasing manager Bob Ferris says plans may include a luxury section for high-end tenants like Gucci, Louis Vuitton or Tiffany & Co.

Pompano Beach -- The Florida Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal in the case of a 30-year-old dispute between city officials and two property owners who claimed the city cost them millions of dollars by stonewalling their hotel development project with endless and unnecessary delays. A jury awarded brothers Tom and Jim Stephanis $22 million in 1999, but an appellate panel reversed the award last year.

West Palm Beach -- A U.S. magistrate has granted class-action status to a group of vision-impaired voters who have sued Supervisor of Elections Theresa LePore, alleging a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act for failing to make audio voting machines widely available.

An apartment complex owner who claimed he was harassed by code enforcement officials after evicting the friends of a city building inspector was awarded $230,700 in damages by a circuit court jury in July. Among other things, landlord Jerry Ostry claimed he was forced to make expensive and unnecessary improvements.

Weston -- A recent U.S. Census Bureau estimate shows Weston and Miramar, along Broward County's western boundary, among the country's fastest-growing cities with populations over 50,000. The two ranked sixth and seventh respectively for population growth between 2000 and 2002, according to a report in the Miami Herald.

Tags: Southeast

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