They begin to take shape this month with the opening of a 30,000-sq.-ft. animal barn and an adjacent show ring and arena. Two other construction phases will add a horse barn, multipurpose building, additional show rings, animal buildings and an agricultural research center -- eight new buildings and 100,000 square feet of added exhibit space.
What's really colossal, however, is the goal behind the $7.5-million construction project -- establishing the 135-acre South Florida Fairgrounds in suburban West Palm Beach as an epicenter of international agricultural trade.
The new facilities, scheduled for completion in 2005, are being marketed to big agricultural producers and manufacturers as the ideal location for trade shows and conventions.
Charles Dunn is vice president of the private, non-profit South Florida Fair, one of the country's largest. He says he knows of no other facilities in the state where a manufacturer of farming equipment, for example, can showcase its wares in a setting big enough to allow for working demonstrations.
The fairgrounds are also ideally located for businesses targeting Latin American agricultural markets, he says. "It is a unique niche market," Dunn says. "The research has borne it out, and we're doing what we can to take advantage of it. Whether you're in Florida or Minnesota, if you're going to ship to Latin and Central America, somewhere along the line you're going to go through south Florida."
Such claims have drawn interest from organizations like Okeechobee-based Senepol Cattle Breeders Association, producers of a cattle variety uniquely suited for subtropical climates.
In October, fair officials met with international marketing specialists from the U.S. Department of Commerce to try to get the word out. They're also in discussions with the University of Florida and Florida Atlantic University to establish an agricultural research facility on the grounds.
Fair officials say they've got the numbers to back up their prospects. A study by Washington, D.C.-based Economic Research Associates projected the future economic impact of the 17-day fair and its added off-season ventures at $174 million in direct and indirect expenditures in south Florida.
Eventually, Dunn says, such trade shows could begin to rival the fair itself for revenue. "The further we get into this, the more opportunities we see."
IN THE NEWS
Boca Raton -- Wackenhut Corrections Corp. (NYSE-WHC) has moved its Palm Beach Gardens office to 35,668 square feet of space in the Arvida Park of Commerce. The 10-year lease is valued at more than $8.2 million.
Timeshare developer Bluegreen Corp. (NYSE-BXG) has purchased Fort Lauderdale-based telemarketing companies TakeMeOnVacation, RVM Promotions and RVM Vacations for an undisclosed sum.
Early next year, Fort Myers-based furniture chain Robb & Stucky will take over the 80,000-sq.-ft. building formerly occupied by Jacobson's department store at Mizner Park. Jacobson's left Mizner Park in September after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Boynton Beach -- A group of Orlando investors has paid $21.75 million for Motorola's 556,000-sq.-ft. factory. The investors plan to rent the property as warehouse and office space, including about 190,000 square feet leased back to Motorola, which has reduced its operations as a result of the sagging telecommunications industry.
Delray Beach -- City commissioners have agreed to contribute up to $75,000 in federal grant money to two non-profit organizations investing in Atlantic Grove, a $17.5-million project including townhouses, condominiums and street-level businesses. The project is being developed by the community organizations and developer New Urban Communities.
Fort Lauderdale -- The city's efforts to build a park on land held by a private developer with plans for a 38-story condominium have hit another snag. The Related Group, which successfully defeated the city's efforts to condemn the property under eminent domain, has filed a countersuit, alleging the city's actions and the resulting delays have financially damaged the project.
Miramar -- A reluctant city commission reached a deal that will bring a 175,000-sq.-ft. SuperTarget store to the city. Facing complaints from residents about the project's size, commissioners rejected a site plan for the store earlier this year but faced a costly legal battle with the developer. New terms include additional road improvements to the site.
Palm Beach County -- NASA's decision not to renew a space shuttle booster engine contract with Pratt & Whitney will result in 100 layoffs at the contractor.
Stuart -- A federal court judge has denied a golf ball maker's request for an injunction against Witham Field golf ball recycler Nitro Leisure Products. The company buys used golf balls recovered from course ponds and lakes then repairs and resells them. Massachusetts-based Acushnet Co. has filed a patent infringement suit against Nitro.
Martin County commissioners have given Adelphia Cable officials until next month to correct what they say are at least four violations of the company's licensing agreement with the county or face possible fines. Among other complaints, the commission says the cable company has not followed through on removing two outdated towers, bringing high-speed internet service to parts of the county and providing good customer service.
West Palm Beach -- County commissioners and court officials are scrambling to make up a budget shortfall blamed on the elimination of a controversial but effective collections court that used the threat of jail to force convicted defendants to help pay for the cost of their prosecution. The program, which brought in more than $800,000 according to one estimate, was ended last year amid criticism that it was unwieldy and unjust.
The city's Northwest and Pleasant City neighborhoods will have a stretch of new affordable homes by March as part of an effort to jump-start new-home development in the city's black neighborhoods. The project -- which includes 13 homes starting at $75,000 -- is a joint venture of Orlando-based White Oak Real Estate Development Corp. and the non-profit Northwest Communities Development Partnership, which will use a $1.5-million city loan for the project.
In the Spotlight
SUNRISE -- The city used a $250,000 incentive package to entice Vista Insurance Co. to move its headquarters from Hollywood to Sunrise, where it already has a branch office. Some civic boosters have decried the practice of such cross-county raiding.
FORT LAUDERDALE -- Mars Music has filed for Chapter 7 liquidation one month after filing for reorganization and two weeks after three directors and its CEO and founder, Mark Begelman, resigned. Mars listed revenues of $345 million last year.