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In the News — Miami-Dade- Jan. 2003

Key West -- Residents decided in a non-binding vote to hold a referendum on scrapping single-member voting districts for city commissioners. Some civic leaders oppose the measure, claiming at-large commission seats would reduce minority representation. Voters also approved a controversial city charter amendment creating an independent review board to investigate allegations of police misconduct.

Miami -- Only a year after opening, the Mandarin Oriental has become the first hotel in Miami-Dade since 1994 and one of only seven statewide and 130 nationwide to receive the American Automobile Association's Five Diamond Award status. The hotel's restaurant, Azul, also received the rating, becoming the first in Miami-Dade to earn the distinction.

Ryder System (NYSE-R) has decided to keep its headquarters in Miami, moving from the Doral area to a 230,000-sq.-ft. facility at the Beacon Station business park near the airport.

Miami Beach -- The nation's largest travel agent group -- the American Society of Travel Agents -- will hold its 2003 October conference in Miami Beach. An estimated 5,000 travel agents are expected to attend.

Miami-Dade -- Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas led a delegation of business and government officials to Quito, Ecuador, in the fall to promote Miami as the permanent seat of the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Penelas pitched his plan to a gathering of business leaders attending the Americas Business Forum.

Florida International University has announced plans for an $11-million expansion to its art museum. The expanded museum will be named the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Art, honoring two of its principal backers. Phillip Frost is chairman and CEO of Ivax Pharmaceuticals. The new museum will open in spring 2005.

Sportswear maker Fergo Universal Clothing will build a 15,000-sq.-ft. facility, creating 12 jobs.

Heavy machinery manufacturer Caterpillar plans to expand its Miami-Dade office by about 10%, increasing local employment to more than 200.

Miami-area employers are among the state's most optimistic about job prospects this year, with more than one-third saying they are likely to expand their payroll base in the first three months of 2003. Only 8% of employers statewide expect to add jobs, according to Manpower Inc.'s First Quarter Employment Outlook Survey.

In a significant shift in focus, the Beacon Council has announced that retention and expansion of local business will be its top priority. Miami-Dade's public/private economic development agency traditionally has focused on recruiting out-of-town companies and in promoting the county as a place to do business. The new measure -- the Local Business Priority Program -- comes as Miami-Dade's corporate tenants continue to flee to nearby counties that boast lower taxes, better housing and less traffic.

Crews have begun work on a new $137-million, 14-story federal courthouse in downtown Miami.

FLORIDA TRENDLINE?

Transportation
TRANSIT COMPARISON

Miami-Dade's main modes of public transportation -- from downtown's Metromover to the three-county Tri-Rail -- carry 82 million passengers annually around south Florida.

MetrobusMetrorailMetromoverTri-RailSystem size500 sq. miles21 miles4.4 miles71 milesFleet size640 buses136 cars29 cars20 carsAvg. speed (mph)12.4330.5210.9036Passengers Per day230,00049,52614,1858,000Passengers Annual
(in millions)62.0114.024.122.20Sources: Miami-Dade Transit Agency, February 2000;
Tri-County Commuter Rail Authority, May 1999;
The Beacon Council

Transportation
IMPROVEMENTS ON THE WAY

MIAMI-DADE -- Three years after defeating a similar proposal, Miami-Dade voters have approved a half-cent sales tax to fund a massive upgrade to the county's public transportation system. The tax is expected to generate $150 million annually and will make the county eligible for billions more in state and federal transportation funding. Planned improvements include an expansion of the elevated Metrorail system -- including a 17-mile east-west line connecting the Port of Miami to Miami International Airport and Florida's Turnpike -- and a doubling of the bus fleet to about 1,335. Other tax revenue will be distributed to the county's 31 municipalities for transportation-related projects. The increase puts the county's sales tax at 7%.