Focusing on Home — Miami-Dade- March 2003
FT: The Beacon Council recently announced creation of the Local Business Priority Program, an effort to shift resources to the retention and expansion of existing businesses in Miami-Dade. Why the change?
REITER: It's not meant to eliminate that which we already do, which is to encourage businesses to move into Miami-Dade County. It's meant to supplement what we do. It's meant to look at local business and say: "You are very important to the vitality of our community; what can we do to help you grow?"
FT: How will this program function?
REITER: First, we are in the process now of surveying 2,000 large and small businesses to ask them what are their needs, what are their plans for growth and expansion and what role they see the Beacon Council playing, not only in staying here but in growing here. After we do that we will do one-on-one calls. Members of the Beacon Council staff as well as members of the Beacon Council board will meet with these businesses to ask them specific questions about their specific needs.
FT: As for relocations, what are the most critical issues leaders in Miami-Dade must address to make the county more attractive to out-of-town businesses?
REITER: Transportation is a key issue, which we've already begun to address. The second key issue is education, which we've also already begun addressing. And by education I not only mean pre-k through 12, but we're looking at what our colleges and universities are offering in terms of career advancement opportunities for people who need to retool their skills or re-energize their skills. That's a question businesses often ask. The next issue would be affordable housing.
FT: The concept of regionalism -- unifying south Florida into a borderless statistical designation for marketing, economic development and other activities -- is gaining considerable momentum. How can the Beacon Council work toward that vision?
REITER: I think the Beacon Council took the lead in that vision a few years ago when we started, along with our partners in Palm Beach and Broward County, the Internet Coast. The Beacon Council also took the lead in that when we developed the first concept of a regional agreement to keep business in south Florida. I really believe that the concept of borders in south Florida is only in the mind's eye of local community members. It certainly is not in the mind's eye of business leaders who are looking at south Florida as one great big region.
IN THE NEWS
Miami -- Laboratory products maker Beckman Coulter will trim about 40 jobs from its Miami manufacturing facility.
Transportation officials have proposed a massive complex adjoining the Miami Intermodal Center transit hub being built next to Miami International Airport. Planners believe the facility can support a conference center, 100,000 square feet of office and retail space and a hotel.
United Airlines will cut nine jobs at Miami International Airport. The airline is operating under bankruptcy protection.
Trade ministers from throughout the hemisphere will meet in Miami in November to discuss the formation of a Free Trade Area of the Americas. Although the exact date has not been set, the meeting will be scheduled around the Americas Business Forum being held in Miami Nov. 18-20.
The City Commission has given the go-ahead for a $281-million resort complex on Watson Island, a largely undeveloped chunk of land just off downtown Miami. Plans call for two five-star hotels, retail space and a marina.
Blaming lingering turmoil in Latin America, Germany-based Dresdner Bank Group has announced it will close the Miami office of its Latin operations, laying off about 140. The bank plans to scale back much of its operations throughout Latin America.
Miami-based Panamco (NYSE-PB), Latin America's largest soft drink bottler, has agreed to a buyout offer from Mexico's bottling giant Coca-Cola FEMSA. Panamco has struggled through reduced operating profits recently as economic conditions have deteriorated throughout the region, particularly in Venezuela.
Answerthink (Nasdaq-ANSR), the once high-flying technology consulting firm, is facing mounting allegations that it issued false and misleading financial statements from 2000-02. At least six shareholder suits charge senior executives with failing to disclose the dire condition of some of its clients, some of which were near bankruptcy. Officials deny the allegations.
Miami-Dade -- After announcing it might abandon its headquarters in west Miami-Dade, possibly relocating to Broward, Ryder System (NYSE-R) agreed to move to nearby Medley. The decision came after the county offered the transportation and logistics company about $2 million in tax incentives. Ryder is one of Miami-Dade's oldest and most respected companies. It employs about 800 in Miami-Dade.
Through last November, Miami-Dade led the state in monthly job growth in all but one month, reports the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation. Economic development officials say construction, retail, business services and health services are among the sectors leading the growth. Miami-Dade's unemployment rate dropped to 7% in November, down from 8.4 % a year earlier.
Commercial Real Estate
THE YEARS AHEAD
The average vacancy rate in downtown Miami's commercial market was 10.1% in the fourth quarter of 2002. In the city's suburban markets, the rate was 14.1%. Here's how the forecast for Miami's markets compares with Orlando's, Tampa's and other cities' nationwide:
Commercial Market Forecast
St. PaulFree fall18.5Sharp decline16.4Austin,
TexasSharp decline22.8Sharp decline17.8*2002-05 Source: Jones Lang LaSalle Owner/Investor Market Rating
Miami International Airport
MIAMI -- A former official at Miami International Airport with oversight of the facility's $5-billion expansion project has pleaded guilty to taking cash payments in exchange for awarding lucrative county contracts. Richard Mendez, former assistant director for facilities development, also admitted to a string of other charges stemming from related bribery allegations. He is the highest-ranking county official charged in an ongoing corruption scandal at the airport.