April 23, 2014

Full-Throttle Competition- Miami-Dade- Dec. 2002

David Villano | 12/1/2002
Race fans worldwide who tuned in to the featured event of the inaugural Grand Prix Americas in October witnessed a fierce duel along the streets of Miami between winner Cristiano da Matta and runner-up Christian Fittipaldi. But they didn't see an even more ferocious duel still being played out in court between the promoters of the race and a competing group intent on halting it.

At odds are Raceworks, a company created by two Miami businessmen to stage the race, and Daytona Beach-based International Speedway Corp., parent company of racing heavyweight NASCAR. ISC also owns Homestead-Miami Speedway, which hosts Winston Cup races as well as the annual Grand Prix of Miami.

ISC claims Miami illegally awarded a contract to Raceworks without soliciting competitive bids. Raceworks counters that ISC is only interested in stifling competition. ISC has lodged one legal challenge after another in the past year. And while the company insists it would like to submit a competing street race proposal, it has never done so, despite an invitation from the city. ISC decided to abandon its effort to get an emergency injunction to prevent the race only two days before the Oct. 4-6 event.

"I can only suspect that ISC doesn't want any competition," says Grand Prix Americas President Chuck Martinez.

ISC's claims aren't totally without merit. Earlier this year a judge agreed that Miami failed to follow its competitive bidding rules; the judge voided the contract with Raceworks. The city then modified the agreement, calling it a license to stage the race, which does not require competitive bidding. The agreement allows Raceworks to stage the race for 25 years. The city also loaned the company $2 million for startup costs.

City officials "bent over backward to get this race done," complains ISC attorney Jorge Lopez. "No question, there was some backroom dealings going on." ISC has sued Raceworks and the city.

Part of the problem stems from the groups' affiliations. Homestead's Grand Prix of Miami speedway race is part of the Indy Racing League (IRL); Grand Prix Americas is associated with archrival Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART). The two groups feature similar open-wheel, Indy-style cars and draw similar fans.

Miami stands by its agreement with Raceworks and is happy to bask in the glow of worldwide publicity (an estimated 60 million viewers in 120 countries). Despite complaints of sluggish sales from downtown merchants, attendance for the weekend of racing events exceeded expectations. County officials estimated that race fans generated about $6 million in spending over the weekend; downtown hotels were sold out.

"We showed that a race can work in downtown Miami," says Martinez. "And I think that we'll soon see that there is plenty of room for both us and for ISC."

IN THE NEWS

Coral Gables -- The massive Village of Merrick Park mixed-use shopping and entertainment complex has opened. The Rouse Co. development includes 400,000 square feet of retail space, another 110,000 square feet of office space and 120 high-end residential units. Civic activists opposed the $600-million project, arguing that it would siphon shoppers from downtown's Miracle Mile shopping district and overrun the city's residential neighborhoods with traffic.

Miami Beach -- Wimbish-Riteway, one of Florida's leading high-end real estate brokerages, agreed to be acquired by Coldwell Banker, a subsidiary of Cendant Corp., for an undisclosed price.

Miami-Dade -- Hoping to enhance its bid to become the permanent home of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), Miami-Dade will host the 2004 gathering of trade ministers from 34 countries across the hemisphere. The October meeting will allow ministers to discuss negotiations for the much-anticipated agreement creating the FTAA.

The Beacon Council, Miami-Dade's public/private economic development agency, helped with the expansion or relocation of 36 companies within the county during the 12 months that ended in September. Those 36 companies plan to create more than 2,200 jobs and add about $128 million in new investment.

London-based P&O Princess Cruises has accepted a $5.4-billion takeover offer from Miami-based Carnival Corp. and will recommend the bid to its shareholders by Jan. 10. The deal will create a cruise powerhouse -- Carnival is the world's biggest cruise operator, and P&O is No. 3.

Paris-based Promoscents Inc., a marketing firm that develops promotional items using specialized scents, will open its U.S. headquarters in Miami. The company plans to create 82 jobs over the next three years.

Chicago businessman Skip Braver has purchased Cigarette Racing Team, one of the most recognized names in powerboats, for an undisclosed price. Braver announced plans to move the company from northeast Miami-Dade to a $6-million manufacturing facility in Hialeah Gardens.

Venetian Classic Décor, an Israeli manufacturer of environmentally friendly decorative products, has set up a Miami-Dade base of operations. The company plans to invest $500,000 locally and create 30 jobs.

Innova Advertising Corp., a full-service advertising agency based in Mexico, has set up a Miami office, creating 19 jobs.

The group behind a referendum last September calling for a repeal of Miami-Dade's law preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation has vowed a petition drive to force another vote. The measure was narrowly defeated in large part because of a massive media campaign by opponents. Referendum supporters were outspent 10 to 1.

Miami-Dade hotel occupancy has lagged Orlando's and Tampa's in the first half of 2002, with June occupancy off 9.6%, according to an Ernst & Young report. While north and central Florida benefited from domestic visitors, Miami-Dade suffered from declines in air traffic from Latin America.

The Association of Community College Trustees has named Miami-Dade Community College President Eduardo Padr?n national CEO of the year. He is the first college president from Florida to receive the award.

U.S. Century Bank has announced its Miami opening following a $22-million private offering -- the largest ever by a de novo bank in state history, according to the Florida Department of Banking and Finance.

Employment
JOB GROWTH LEADER

MIAMI-DADE -- Thanks to a strong construction industry and retail sector, Miami-Dade led the state in job growth through the first half of this year, gaining 5,500 jobs, or about 0.5% of its total a year earlier. During the same period, Orlando lost about 3,900 jobs, and Tampa gave up 2,300, according to the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation. Meanwhile, a survey by the employment agency Manpower found that 36% of Miami-Dade businesses have plans to increase their staffs this quarter.

Tags: Miami-Dade

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