Miami to seek funds, amenities for hosting World Economic Forum
By Paola Iuspa
The nonprofit World Economic Forum is focusing on Miami for a regional meeting and the city's commissioners vowed Tuesday to start lining up funds to pay for security and sponsors to foot the bills for convention sites and other arrangements.
The meeting for the Americas could be held next May or June if local officials come up with an enticing offer, said Paul Smyke, senior adviser for the group and based in Cambridge, MA.
The forum, a nonprofit agency based in Davos, Switzerland , has 1,000 members who are scholars, business leaders, scientists and politicians.
Mr. Smyke said about 600 could attend the potential Miami meeting to discuss education, business and e-commerce, cultural issues and creation of a hemispheric free-trade pact.
Throughout the year, he said, the forum meets in different regions and annually shares the collective findings at a members-only meeting in Davos.
Antonio Villamil, CEO of the Washington Economics Group and a member of Miami's International Trade Board, told commissioners the prestige of hosting the forum will have a price.
While the state would serve as official host of the event, the host city must meet many terms outlined in an invitation package due to forum planners by early September. Otherwise, the event could be postponed, Mr. Smyke said.
The proposal will include hotel room availability, security arrangements, meeting sites and social events, Mr. Smyke said.
The venue for the meetings, he said, "are usually offered by the host. We expect that some company from Miami's private sector could offer a reception."
He said attendees and the forum are responsible for travel expenses.
City commissioners asked City Manager Carlos Gimenez and Chilton Harper, executive director of the Miami International Trade Board, to start working with state officials to find funds to cover costs that will be incurred during the two-day event.
Commissioner Arthur Teele said it could cost "hundred of thousands" to provide extra police for the event because of possible protests.
"We have to anticipate and be prepared," he said.
Because the forum does not represent particular interests in the way the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Bank or the World Bank do, its meetings have seldom caused problems, Mr. Villamil said.
Mr. Smyke said although other cities in the Western hemisphere could handle the event, forum members are specifically interested in meeting within Miami's city limits and that it is the group's first choice.
"Our focus is Miami," he said. "Many of our members conduct extensive business activities throughout the Americas. They asked to look into having the meeting in Miami."
Back in March, when Secretary of State Katherine Harris first announced that the forum was planned for October, Coral Gables was selected as host. A few months later, the event was postponed indefinitely, because details associated with security and hotel rooms were not in place.