Civic leaders proposed the initiative more than a year ago to buoy the county's shrinking agriculture industry. Environmentalists and citizen's groups latched onto the idea as a means of slowing growth in one of the state's fastest-growing counties. Palm Beach County attracts 20,000 new residents per year, creating enormous demand for the flat, well-drained lands within the Ag Reserve. Farmers, feeling the sting of NAFTA, have been willing sellers.
"Farming is becoming less and less profitable," groans Billy DuBois, a third-generation farmer who owns nearly 1,000 acres within the reserve. "I doubt my son will want to continue after I retire." Like many landholders, DuBois believes that a bond issue will encourage county officials to restrict development rights on his land, reducing its value. "They want to hold down prices," he says.
Such suspicions led county commissioners this year to hire a consulting firm to prepare an Ag Reserve master plan. The report, due next month, will envision how the reserve should look decades from now. But that vision worries some landowners as much as the pending bond issue. Steve Farnsworth, a Palm Beach County environmental analyst, says the possibility of zoning changes called for by the master plan is stirring landholders and developers to close deals quickly. "There's a lot of uncertainty," says Farnsworth. "And any time you face the unknown, there seems to be a rush to get things done under the existing rules." - David Villano
FORT LAUDERDALE - Amerijet International, one of Florida's largest international cargo airlines, will transfer its flight hub from Miami to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The company, which employs 470, promised to create 281 new jobs within six years in exchange for a package of economic incentives from Broward County.
Wayne Huizenga's Republic Industries (NYSE-RII), the world's largest auto retailer, signed an agreement to purchase Cross-Continent Auto Retailers of Amarillo, Texas. Cross-Continent was the nation's first auto dealership group to go public.
Omnipoint Communications, a cellular-service provider, opened a customer service call center and hired 250. The company, a subsidiary of Bethesda, Md.-based Omnipoint Corp., plans to employ 350 in Fort Lauderdale.
HIALEAH - Memphis, Tenn.-based Union Planters Corp. announced a purchase agreement for Ready State Bank, one of Florida's largest Hispanic banks. The deal will be Union Planters' fourth bank acquisition in south Florida in less than a year.
MIAMI - New York's Pulvermacher Inc., a maker of gift accessories, relocated its corporate headquarters to Miami's Sunshine Industrial Park. The move creates 20 jobs.
International hat maker Whittal & Shon relocated its manufacturing facility from New York to Miami-Dade County's Overtown area. The company will create 90 jobs with the move, and it plans to participate in the state's WAGES program and employ welfare recipients.
Newlong Latin America, a subsidiary of Japan's Newlong Machine Works Ltd., set up Latin American headquarters in Miami-Dade County. The company, a maker of large-scale commercial packaging equipment, will handle all sales and service for Latin America from Miami.
German-owned telecommunications firm LHS Communications announced plans to move its Latin American headquarters from Atlanta to Miami-Dade County. The company will create 35 jobs and bring $1 million in new investment capital.
Australian-owned Industrial Galvanizers America will open a hot dip galvanizing plant. The $6 million facility, which will serve Latin America and the Caribbean, is expected to employ 60 workers when completed in mid 1999.
Aircraft Modular Products, a maker of interior components for executive aircraft, is adding a 100,000-sq.-ft. facility adjacent to its existing plant in Miami-Dade County. The company employs 245 and expects to add 300 more jobs over the next three years.
WEST PALM BEACH- NorthBridge Productions, a producer of educational films for the TV industry, will open corporate headquarters here, employing 20 full time. Total company employment is expected to reach 50 next year.