April 24, 2014

Around the State

| 10/1/1998
Port of Miami - A high seas fire and a federal indictment and fierce offshore competition haven't been enough to sink the Port of Miami. Through three-quarters of fiscal year 1998, the beleaguered port, historically one of Miami-Dade County's strongest economic engines, is showing revenue growth of more than 20%. The surprising increase at the state's largest port comes despite a slight drop in cruise passenger traffic and a rise in cargo tonnage of only 10%.

County officials are quick to credit Port of Miami Director Charles Towsley, brought in early this year from the Tampa Port Authority amidst a federal investigation of fiscal abuse and mismanagement at Miami's port. Former Director Carmen Lunetta resigned more than a year ago and now awaits trial, and the port stopped doing business with Fiscal Operations, a shadowy company contracted to operate the cranes and other port functions.

In his first few months, Towsley says, administrative procedures have been revamped, security tightened and long absent fiscal controls set up. A $60 million improvement package to accommodate mega-size cruise ships is on deck. The port also was praised earlier this year for its handling of the cruise ship Ecstasy's onboard fire, which broke out at sea with a full load of passengers.

But the port's stiffest challenge may come from a new, state-of-the-art, deep-water port in Freeport, Grand Bahama [FT, "Bahama Connection," August 1998]. The port, which hires non-union workers and has few government taxes or restrictions, can charge substantially less than Florida's. Towsley remains unconcerned. "We just have to do what we do best and not worry about who else is out there," he says. "There are so many opportunities that if we do our job the right way, there will be plenty of growth to go around." - David Villano

CORAL GABLES - United Airlines will open a regional accounting center here early next year. The center, which is expected to create up to 30 new jobs, will consolidate the company's Latin American accounting operations.

FORT LAUDERDALE - Superior Shade & Blind Co. plans to build a 120,000-square-foot vertical blind manufacturing facility. The company currently employs 300, and the new facility will create 85 jobs.

HIALEAH - Edwards Paper Company, a paper-products maker that currently employs 72, announced plans to build a 152,000-square-foot production and distribution facility that will add 40 new jobs.

MIAMI - Professional Modification Services (PMS), a Miami-based aircraft maintenance firm, will expand operations at Miami International Airport with construction of a new 170,000-square-foot maintenance facility. The expansion is expected to create 400 jobs.

Expreso Internacional Ormeno, a Peruvian transportation company, will launch daily scheduled deluxe bus service between Miami and Orlando. The company, which expects to employ 120 statewide within three years, will operate under the name Bus One.

Genetic Vectors Inc., a biomedical research firm that manufacturers quality assurance test kits for the food and drug industry, announced a $2 million facilities expansion plan, which is expected to add 30 new jobs.

Hidro-Grubert, an Argentine manufacturer of hydraulic lift equipment, purchased a 22,000-square-foot warehouse facility near Miami International Airport, where it will base its new Miami operations. The company expects to create 50 jobs.

MIAMI LAKES- Bio-Rad Laboratories, a manufacturer of analytical instruments, clinical diagnostics and life science research products, will relocate its Latin American headquarters from Palm Beach to Miami Lakes. The move will bring 25 new jobs to Miami-Dade County.

SUNRISE- Racal Data Group, one of south Florida's oldest and largest high-technology firms, will be sold to Los Angeles-based Platinum Equity Holdings for $48 million. Racal, which laid off 300 employees early this year, is expected to remain in Sunrise. No additional job cuts are planned.

WEST PALM BEACH - The board of PhyMatrix Corp. (Nasdaq-PHMX), citing spiraling healthcare costs, approved a plan to sell off its physician-practice management unit. The company, which posted nearly $350 million in revenues in fiscal year 1998, will concentrate on managing clinical trials for pharmaceutical companies.

The Port of Palm Beach announced plans to construct its first cruise ship terminal. The five-story, $12 million facility will open in early 2000 and is expected to accommodate excess business from Port Everglades and the Port of Miami.

Tags: Florida Small Business, Politics & Law, Southeast, Business Florida

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