Such demands are nothing new. Three years ago, when Wayne Huizenga threatened to move his Florida Panthers hockey franchise, the city of Sunrise lured the team to Broward County with the promise of a state-of-the-art, $192 million arena. It opened this fall. Basketball's Miami Heat used a similar threat to convince Miami voters to authorize a publicly financed arena downtown. The $185 million facility opens next year. "Having a major league sports team has become an attractive proposition," says Pat Fishe, a University of Miami economics professor. "Cities that don't have them are trying to entice them and those that do have them are trying to keep them."
Economic development officials in Miami-Dade and Broward counties have identified at least half a dozen municipalities interested in the Marlins. Miami Mayor Joe Carollo has floated the idea of building a stadium next to the Heat's new waterfront arena. How the dirt-poor city would finance a new facility is unclear.
Meanwhile, a baseball stadium in Homestead that local officials believed would lure a major league team for spring training now lies vacant. The Miami Arena, built just 10 years ago, may be obsolete when the Heat's new arena is built, and taxpayers may be paying off the debt long after it closes. Despite the prestige and other intangible benefits, not everyone agrees pro sports is the economic engine owners claim. "If people spend money going to a ball game they won't spend it going to the movies," says Broward County Commission Chair Lori Parrish, who has been lukewarm to proposals for attracting the Marlins. "I'm not sure that's the kind of proposition taxpayers should be asked to support." - David Villano
BOCA RATON - Casi-Rusco, a maker of security systems with sales offices worldwide, is relocating its headquarters to a new 130,000-sq.-ft. facility. The company expects to hire 50 new employees.
CLEWISTON - U.S. Sugar opened a 12-story, 300,000-sq.-ft. cane sugar refinery, the first in its 67-year-old history. In addition to turning out 1,800 tons of sugar daily, the refinery will generate 170 new jobs.
CORAL GABLES - Paris-based Club Mediterranee, which operates Club Med resorts worldwide, will relocate its North American headquarters here from New York and employ 160.
MIAMI - Direct mail firm TigerDirect will expand local operations and create at least 500 news jobs over the next four years. It is a subsidiary of Global DirectMail in New York.
Nextlink, based in Seattle, will open a regional sales office in Miami-Dade County, creating 200 jobs over the next four years. Nextlink offers local dial tone and long-distance phone service to small and medium-size businesses.
New Jersey-based Cendant Corp.'s $3.1 billion offer to buy American Bankers Insurance Group (NYSE-ABI) has been called off. Cendant's stock dropped nearly 80% since becoming embroiled in an auditing scandal last spring. American Bankers will receive $400 million to let Cendant back out of the deal.
Tech Data Corp. of Clearwater (Nasdaq-TECD), the world's second largest computer wholesaler, will expand its Latin American division in Miami-Dade County, creating 165 jobs.
Computer manufacturer and marketer Vitech America (Nasdaq-VTCH) announced a $13.8 million deal to sell equipment to Brazil's Federal Revenue.
New York's Brooklyn Bottling Co. is expanding its local bottling and distribution operations. The company, which specializes in ethnic soft drinks, will add 75 jobs.
MIRAMAR - Aviation Sales, a maker and distributor of aircraft parts, will relocate its headquarters from Miami to a new 545,000-sq.-ft. facility here. The company employs 3,700. Up to 600 workers will move to the new headquarters in southwest Broward County.
WELFARE TO WORK - More than $8 million in financial incentives to hire welfare recipients is going to five Miami-Dade County business development projects: Commercial Jet/Jobs for Miami ($930,000), the Cyberagent Urban Development Center ($1 million), marketing company Precision Response Corp. ($850,000), the Dolphin Mall ($1,875,000) and the Shops of Sunset ($750,000). The state Legislature allocated $25 million to the incentives program, which is part of WAGES (Work And Gain Economic Self-Sufficiency), Florida's welfare reform legislation that took effect two years ago.
The Dade/Monroe WAGES Coalition, which will administer the funds, also received $2,600,000 for the Jobs for WAGES Incentive Fund, which will be marketed to businesses by economic development group The Beacon Council. The five projects and the incentive fund could create a total of 2,170 new jobs specifically for WAGES participants, according to Beacon Council President and CEO Frank R. Nero.