Around the State- Southeast- July 2001
Port Everglades' cruise business is booming, but at the Port of Palm Beach, the terminal is empty.
By David Villano
Late last year, Broward's Port Everglades set a U.S. record, county officials claim, by boarding 87,000 cruise passengers in a single week. By the end of fiscal year 2000 (Sept. 30), the port boarded 2.7 million passengers, ranking it the world's third-largest cruise port behind Brevard County's Port Canaveral and the Port of Miami.
But Port Everglades has its sights on being No. 1. By the end of fiscal year 2002, port officials expect 3.7 million passengers -- a 37% increase over two years. Revenue growth is expected to be up 46% to $24.5 million.
Port officials are quick to point out that much of the passenger growth will be in the coveted multiday cruise segment. Typically, such passengers are out-of-towners who boost the local economy by combining a cruise with an overnight land visit. Last year, about 58% of Port Everglades' cruise passengers embarked on multiday cruises. That figure is expected to jump to 70% in 2002.
But a few miles away at the Port of Palm Beach, such optimism doesn't exist. Despite a new $30-million cruise terminal and office complex, the port has been hard-pressed to land any ships. In 2000, the port accommodated about 588,000 passengers. That figure will decline substantially as the port lost two of the three day-cruise vessels operating there.
Palm Beach port officials downplay the decline. The expansion, they point out, was designed to attract multiday cruises, not more gambling boats. To that end, marketing manager Jarra Gould says she is targeting the smaller, upscale cruise lines whose passengers will buy into the Palm Beach mystique.
So far it's been a tough sell. While port officials are touting an agreement with Miami-based Seabourn Cruise Line to sail its Seabourn Legend vessel from the port beginning in December, Seabourn spokesman Bruce Good says the company changed its mind months ago. "When you have passengers expecting a certain level of service, you need to look at where the best facilities are," says Good. "For now, Port Everglades works just fine for us."
The Palm Beach port now hopes to bring in Navy ships and is courting European lines.
"We're a small port," says Gould. "But Palm Beach has a uniqueness, and that's what we are trying to sell."
In the News
Boca Raton -- NetByTel ["Shunning Dot-coms," March 2001] has received $18.1 million in a second round of venture-capital funding. The internet technology firm lets companies cut call-center costs by replacing people with a voice-recognition system.
Coral Gables -- BankUnited Financial Corp. (Nasdaq-BKUNA) is looking to expand its Florida operations and is preparing to sell 5 million new shares to finance the effort. The stock sale would raise about $60 million. "We are anticipating further expansion, and not just in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach," says Alfred Camner, BankUnited's chairman, president and CEO. "We are looking at other areas of the state."
Lauderdale Lakes -- Chalk up a victory for used-car lot owners. In a 3-2 vote, city officials decided not to ban the businesses from Lauderdale Lakes even though the measure was initially supported in April. Commissioner Levoyd Williams says the ban was sought to make way for redevelopment.
Fort Lauderdale -- The president of Payday Today USA.com Inc. faces charges of running a Ponzi scheme that duped investors out of $10 million. A federal indictment charges David Lhoir, also known as David Wynn, with soliciting investors in Payday Today over the internet, claiming the company loaned money to 3,800 check-cashing stores in Florida. Instead, according to the indictment, 40% commissions were paid to Lhoir and sales representatives. He faces up to five years in jail and a $250,000 fine if convicted.
AutoTerminal.com Americas has opened a 45,000-sq.-ft. headquarters and terminal at Port Everglades. The company says it will ship up to 3,000 cars a month to buyers in the Caribbean and Latin America.
Generic drug maker Andrx Corp. (Nasdaq-ADRX) has been hit with a lawsuit by attorneys general in 15 states and the District of Columbia, accusing it of conspiring with Hoechst, the maker of brand-name blood pressure drug Cardizem, to keep a generic version off the market. The suit seeks damages of at least $100 million. Florida is not a party to the suit, but a spokeswoman for Attorney General Bob Butterworth says the office is investigating whether the company violated Florida antitrust laws.
Port Everglades Executive Director Paul deMariano has resigned halfway through a three-year contract at the request of County Administrator Roger Desjarlais. Though county officials did not elaborate on Desjarlais' motives, port spokeswoman Ellen Kennedy says deMariano's replacement will be someone "who is more attuned to the county government's needs."
Paul Lehrer has left Collier-Lehrer International, one of Fort Lauderdale's largest real estate brokerage firms. The company would not say why Lehrer, the company's founder, was leaving, only that his departure was by mutual agreement.
Hollywood -- The Swerdlow Real Estate Group will sell off six major retail properties to a California real estate investment trust in a $280-million deal expected to close by summer's end. The properties include Oakwood Plaza, a 1 million-sq.-ft. retail, restaurant and movie theater complex in Hollywood, the Hollywood Mall Plaza, the Kendale Lakes Plaza in Miami, Cypress Creek Station in Fort Lauderdale, Cross County Plaza in West Palm Beach and Millenia Plaza in Orlando. The buyer is Price Enterprises of San Diego.
Southern Security Bank of Hollywood announced that it plans to buy "certain assets and assume certain liabilities" of PanAmerican Bank of Miami for an undisclosed amount. Southern Security has $34 million in assets and three branches -- in Hollywood, Miami and Boca Raton. PanAmerican, with $30 million in deposits, has one branch.
Palm Beach Gardens -- Global Technovations Inc. (AMEX-GTN), which makes equipment for analyzing the condition of a car's engine by testing oil, transmission fluid and gearbox fluid samples, has struck a deal with Jiffy Lube to begin offering its MotorCheck technology at Jiffy Lube oil change centers. Initially, plans call for up to 300 on-site analysis units around the country by the end of the year.
West Palm Beach -- HEARx Ltd. (AMEX-EAR), an operator of hearing-care centers, is merging with Helix Hearing Care of America Corp. in an all-stock transaction. HEARx shareholders would control 58% of the combined company.
Extended Stay Moving
FORT LAUDERDALE -- Extended Stay America (NYSE-ESA) is moving its headquarters from Fort Lauderdale to Spartanburg, S.C.
The company employs more than 6,400, including about 200 in its Fort Lauderdale headquarters. The lease for a major portion of its south Florida space expires at the end of the year.
The Price of Success
Times are good in Coral Gables, but voters are unhappy about an ever-expanding business base.
By David Villano
By most measures, Coral Gables is the envy of Miami-Dade's 34 municipalities: Low crime, good schools, a high bond rating (AAA) and one of the lowest property tax rates in the county. Much of that is owed to an aggressive push over the past decade to position the city of 42,000 as the "corporate capital of the Americas." More than 150 multinationals, including such giants as Texaco, Lucent Technologies and Yahoo!, have set up Latin headquarters here.
But not everyone is happy. In what played out as a referendum on growth and development, voters in April threw out all three city officials seeking re-election -- two city commissioners and four-term Mayor Raul Valdes-Fauli. The challengers appealed to concerns that Coral Gables has sold its soul to developers, trading its sleepy, small-town charm for an ever-heftier business tax base.
"Development has been coming fast and furious, and quite a lot of people are asking if the benefits are being outweighed by the negatives," says newly elected Mayor Don Slesnick, a labor lawyer and longtime member of the city's planning and zoning board.
Political observers say the seeds of voter discontent lie in the bitter citywide battle over the Village of Merrick Park, a $285-million mixed-use complex of shops and offices approved two years ago on public land not far from the Miracle Mile shopping district. Opponents believe it will siphon business from downtown merchants while increasing traffic in residential neighborhoods. Valdes-Fauli and a majority of commissioners championed the project despite fierce grass-roots opposition.
"This experience generated an awful lot of animosity toward the (city) commission," says Irene Secada, a political consultant and Coral Gables resident.
Charges of arrogance and indifference to residents' concerns were raised again last year when commissioners approved a controversial plan to build a $16-million annex to city hall. Opponents called it wasteful overindulgence.
Slesnick and the two winning commission candidates ran on similar platforms: Openness in government and a more measured approach to growth. During his first day in office, Slesnick halted construction of the city hall annex. A citizens committee is reviewing options for the site. Slesnick also plans to review a handful of projects by private developers on city-owned land.
"We're realizing that quality of life is not better just because your mill rate (property tax) is low," says Slesnick.
In the News
Miami -- The cost of airport expansions and upgrades now under way will exceed $6 billion, according to a Miami International Airport report. In 1992, when the expansion plans were first announced, officials pegged the cost at $1.6 billion. That number jumped to $5.4 billion by 1999 after the planned addition of a new runway, two new terminals and the expansion of another. Officials say a larger, more efficient facility will help the airport regain market share it is losing to nearby Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport.
Gov. Jeb Bush removed Miami-Dade School Board member Demetrio Perez Jr. from office after the politician was indicted by a Miami federal grand jury on 21 counts of mail fraud, making false statements and conspiracy related to the Section 8 rent subsidy program. The charges stem from a lawsuit against the former city commissioner by a former low-income tenant. Perez runs a chain of schools called Lincoln-Marti, named after U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and Cuban patriot Jose Marti.
Telefonica B2B, an arm of Spanish telecommunications giant Telefonica de Espana, will cut 140 jobs at its Miami headquarters, leaving a staff of 20. With funding tight in the internet sector, analysts say the cost-cutting move was widely expected.
The first trade office from a Central or Eastern European nation has opened in Miami. Czech Trade, operated by the Czech Republic's Ministry of Commerce, will promote trade and business opportunities in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Spain's Showmania.com, a company that promotes entertainment industry personalities via the internet, has opened a Miami office to help it reach Spanish-speaking markets in the U.S. and Latin America. The company expects to create 75 jobs.
U.S.A. Floral Products (OTCBB-ROSIE), which had hoped to capture much of the U.S. market for cut flowers, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and is selling its remaining operations. The 4-year-old company was founded by Robert Poirier and Washington financier Jonathan Ledecky, who was also among the principal backers of UniCapital, the Miami-based heavy-equipment consolidation company that filed for bankruptcy protection last year.
In response to weak demand for cargo services, New York-based Atlas Air has laid off 48 workers at its Miami office. Atlas Air is Miami's largest cargo carrier.
Dedienne Corp. of Toulouse, France, a maker of aircraft-maintenance tooling and support equipment, has opened a Miami office. At least 15 jobs will be created.
The Miami Herald Publishing Co., which publishes the Miami Herald, the Herald and El Nuevo Herald, will cut its workforce by about 10%, reducing its full-time payroll to 1,620. Included in the cuts will be 40 positions currently not filled. Employees will be offered early retirement and voluntary buyouts. The cuts are part of a companywide effort by San Jose, Calif.-based Knight Ridder to maintain profits amid falling ad revenues and rising newsprint prices.
Miami-based Ivax Corp. (AMEX-IVX) is ramping up its production of cancer-fighting Taxol, a generic version of Bristol-Myers Squibb's medicine, after regulators approved an additional raw-materials supplier and manufacturer for Ivax. The drug maker has sold $120 million worth of Taxol since October and has been trying to expand production.
Horn Capital Realty, which specializes in structuring sale/leaseback financing, is moving its headquarters from Dallas to Miami. The company has handled investments and debt-and-equity placements for Blockbuster Entertainment, Eckerd Drug, Kmart, Home Depot, Taco Bell, Wal-Mart and Walgreen Drug Stores.
Opa-Locka -- Running a deficit of nearly $1 million, the city of Opa-locka has laid off 35 workers and reduced the workweek of its remaining employees to 35 hours. The city of 15,000 is among the poorest in Miami-Dade. Meanwhile, the Miami-Dade County Commission voted not to study the feasibility of expanding Opa-locka airport ["Grounded," August 1999]. Aviation department officials argued that the underused facility will be needed to relieve overcrowding at Miami International Airport, but the plan faced opposition on two fronts: Nearby homeowners who objected to increased noise and backers of a commercial airport at Homestead Air Force Base who hope a federal lawsuit will overturn an Air Force decision to oppose the project.
Political misconduct: Ex-commissioner Pleas No Contest
MIAMI-DADE -- Former Miami-Dade Commissioner Pedro Reboredo, who resigned last April, pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of misspending public funds. He will pay a $25,000 fine and serve six months' probation. He is the third county commissioner in four years to be forced from office as a result of misconduct allegations.
Reboredo, whose plea agreement does not prevent him from running again for political office, was accused of lavishing aides with unearned raises and vacation time.
Meanwhile, former Miami Police Chief and City Manager Donald Warshaw has pleaded guilty to charges that he defrauded a children's charity of nearly $70,000. He will be sentenced to at least six months in prison. Warshaw was accused of embezzling from the Do the Right Thing charity, which he helped found in 1990.