October 24, 2014

Around the State

| 7/1/1998
DELRAY BEACH

After just 16 months, Sunbeam Corp. (NYSE-SOC) is relocating its corporate offices from Delray Beach to a site just west of Boca Raton. The new facility will accommodate a headquarters work force that jumped from 100 to 250 following the acquisitions of Coleman Corp., First Alert and Signature Brands.

Travel Services International (Nasdaq-TRVL), a travel services distributor, signed an agreement to acquire Miami-based The Cruise Line Inc. for $12.5 million. Cruise Line is the nation's third largest independent cruise distributor with expected 1998 gross cruise bookings of $65 million.

FORT LAUDERDALE

Republic Industries (NYSE-RII), owner of the AutoNation USA used-car superstore chain, reached an agreement to acquire Grand Rapids, Michigan-based used-car outlet Driver's Mart for $40 million in cash. Eight of Driver's Mart's 12 outlets will be converted to AutoNations.

Air Alaska, an aircraft leasing company that already holds a majority interest in Miami's Pan Am Air Bridge airline, reached an agreement to acquire Paradise Island Airlines. Like Pan Am Air Bridge, the commuter airline services the Bahamas from several south Florida cities. Terms were not disclosed.

Woolworth Corp. agreed to purchase Sports Authority (NYSE-TSA), the nation's largest sporting goods retailer, for $760 million in stock and assumed debt. Woolworth already owns Foot Locker and Champs sporting goods chains. Sports Authority headquarters will remain in Fort Lauderdale.

MIAMI

Mercedes-Benz, which recently announced a merger with Chrysler Corp., is moving its headquarters for Latin America from Stuttgart, Germany, to Miami. New York City and S?o Paulo also were considered. Twenty workers will be transferred from Germany and as many as 80 other positions will be filled locally over the next two years.

The National Leadership Conference will hold its 20th annual national convention in Miami in the spring of 2000. The conference, which brings together officials from community leadership agencies, will attract more than 1,000 delegates to the area.

SUNRISE

Advanced Fibre Communications, a California-based hardware manufacturer for the telecommunications industry, opened a 15-person engineering facility here. The company expects local employment to top 50 by the end of 1998.

QUEEN CONCH

Old-Timers Complained...

... that a way of life had ended in 1985 when state and federal officials banned the harvest of queen conch from Florida waters. "Dinner was never more than a stroll off the beach," recalls Harry Bethel, a Key West city commissioner and third generation islander. "Sometimes we'd just wash off the slime with sand and sea water and bite right in."

Despite complaints, the conservation measure is proving successful. Researchers monitoring the conch population off the Florida Keys report a threefold increase since 1992. Two decades ago, researchers say, over-fishing and environmental conditions nearly wiped out the mollusk. "Our goal is to reopen the (conch) fishery," says Bob Glazer, a marine biologist at the Florida Marine Research Institute in Marathon. "We now have hope that this may happen."

While conch was never a major commercial industry, fishermen often supplemented their income by selling the decorative shell to tourist shops and the tough, rubbery meat to local markets. The current market price for conch meat, imported from the Turks and Caicos Islands or Jamaica, is about $7.00 per pound. Bethel is now urging state regulators to open a conch mini-season for recreational divers followed, perhaps, by a limited commercial harvest.

But Lee Schlesinger, a spokesman for the Florida Marine Fisheries Commission, says it may be too early to support such a measure. More research - particularly on conch reproduction cycles - is needed. Bethel objects, saying locals have waited long enough. "From everything we hear, (conch) are thick in the waters out there," says Bethel, who sports a conch-shaped tattoo below his heart, "There are already so many regulations nowadays that you need a law degree more than you need a fishing license."

- David Villano

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

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