HITCHING A RIDE: Promoters pushing Miami as the headquarters of a proposed free trade zone among nations of the Western Hemisphere hope to piggyback on trips by business leaders. Executive director Jorge Arrizurieta said the Florida Free Trade of the Americas organization is completing plans this week for trips to the 33 other countries working on creating the zone. Mr. Arrizurieta said he wants to team with Enterprise Florida, the Beacon Council and the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce on their international flight plans and have the organization put in a good word for South Florida. Miami is competing with Atlanta; Puebla, Mexico; Port of Spain; Trinidad and Tobago; and Panama City, Panama for the headquarters. The location may be determined as soon as next year and is as much a part of the negotiations as the creation of the zone, he said Monday.
Miami is a weekly feature of Miami Today, keeping readers ahead
of the news. Here are highlights from the most current edition.
SPEAKING OF TRAVEL: One such trip that will include efforts for the free-trade headquarters is the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce's upcoming flight to Santiago, Chile. Spots are still open for the Aug. 11 trip that focuses on the recent US/Chile free-trade agreement. Details: (305) 577-5456.
FREE TRADE PREVIEW: A rough draft of the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement can be accessed through a Web site created by Miami organizers of the Americas Business Forum and related ministerial meetings scheduled for November. The site, www.miamiftaa2003.com, will allow the international business community to submit papers stating positions on terms of the agreement, said Luis Lauredo, executive director for the events. The agreement would open trade among 34 nations in the Western Hemisphere. The Americas Business Forum will be Nov. 17-19, and a meeting among the 34 trade ministers will follow Nov. 19-21.
HINES BREAKS GROUND: International real-estate firm Hines has begun construction on 2525 Ponce de Leon, a Mediterranean-inspired 12-story, 250,000-square-foot office building in Coral Gables a block south of Miracle Mile on Ponce de Leon Boulevard. Law firm Adorno & Ross has agreed to lease space at the building, which is expected to spark development of a city block of condominiums, retail, parking and a public garden. Project completion is set for the third quarter of next year, Hines officials said.
FORWARDER ACQUISITION: Philadelphia freight company Stonepath Group has agreed to acquire Customs Services International Inc., a Miami international freight forwarder with $15.4 million in revenue last year. The transaction is to be completed within a month. Stonepath is to pay CSI $1.2 million cash and $200,000 in common stock.
RACEWORKS RELOCATES: Raceworks, promoter of the Grand Prix Americas street race though Miami's downtown, has moved its offices to Coral Gables. The company of about 13 employees moved out of 341 E Flagler St. to 232 Andalusia Ave. about a month ago, said spokesman Lee Sarmiento. The company plans to open a Miami office for three months in August to begin preparations for the next race, scheduled for Sept. 26-28. Raceworks has a license from the city to host the race for 25 years.
OVERTOWN PLAN: Habitat for Humanity of Greater Miami plans to build 34 homes in Overtown with a $1.4 million Knight Foundation grant. The grant is part of the foundation's five-year investment in Miami's Overtown and Little Havana neighborhoods and areas of Broward County. The foundation previously has granted $5.4 million to the Overtown Transformation Partnership, which includes Collins Center for Public Policy, Greater Miami Initiatives Support Corp. and Trust for Public Land.
PACER ACQUISITION: Miami-based nursing-home company Pacer Health Corp. has been acquired by INFe Inc. of Falls Church, VA, in a stock-swap merger. The new company will keep the Pacer name. Rainier Gonzalez, Pacer president, will become chairman and CEO following the resignation of INFe chairman and CEO Tom Richfield. Company stock will trade on the OTC Bulletin Board under the ticker symbol INFE.
SPREADING WINGS: Neighborhood Lending Partners of South Florida Inc., a Coral Gables-based lending group serving 28 South Florida community banks, has branched out to include Broward, Monroe and Palm Beach counties. The non-profit, established last year, is the South Florida affiliate of Neighborhood Lending Partners Inc., which has been active in the affordable-housing industry on the Florida West Coast for 10 years.
TOURISM APPOINTMENT: State Sen. Gwen Margolis has been appointed to the Florida Commission on Tourism. Sen. Margolis, representing portions of Miami-Dade and Broward counties, is the Senate's sole representative on the commission. She also sits on the Commerce, Economic Opportunities and Consumer Service committees in the Senate. She formerly was president of the Senate and chairwoman of the Miami-Dade County Commission.
TOP BANKER: Tom Noonan, president and CEO at BAC Florida Bank since 1998, has replaced Alberto Valdes as Florida International Bankers Association president. His three goals for his term, he said Tuesday, are increasing profitability of the association's members, helping them manage through transitions made necessary by the USA Patriot Act and related legislation and to dramatize the importance of Miami as a business center throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
COUNCIL APPOINTMENT: V. Manuel Rocha, senior counselor for international trade and government affairs at law firm Steel Hector & Davis, has been appointed to the Council on Foreign Relations, a non-partisan national think tank whose membership includes businessmen, foreign-policy experts and senior government officials. Mr. Rocha joined Steel Hector & Davis in November after leaving his post as US ambassador to Bolivia.
BAYFRONT BRIEFING: Bayfront Park Management Trust is to conduct a public forum on plans for the park at 10 a.m. today (7/3) at 301 N Biscayne Blvd. Consultant Daniel Biederman is to give the trust a report on his work on the project July 18.
NEW CHAIRMAN: The Miami-Dade Expressway Authority has elected accountant Darryl K. Sharpton chairman. Mr. Sharpton is chief executive officer of Sharpton Brunson & Co. "We have a clear mission to address the transportation challenges of our community," he said, "and a carefully designed five-year work program of more than $1 billion to do just that."
NEW TRUSTEE: Jorge L. De Cespedes, president of Miami-based Pharmed Group Corp., has joined the St. Thomas University's Board of Trustees. He is on the university's board of advisors and directors. A native of Havana, Mr. De Cespedes came to the US in 1960 through the Pedro Pan program.
HOTEL MERGER: Miami-based Cardel Hospitality Group Inc. and Jupiter-based Driftwood Hospitality Management LLC have merged. The new company, which will manage 23 hotels and resorts with more than 6,400 rooms around the US and the Caribbean, will be called Driftwood Hospitality Group. Carlos Rodriguez, former Cardel CEO who now is executive vice president of Driftwood, will continue working from Miami.
l be Nov. 17-19, and a meeting among the 34 trade ministers will follow Nov. 19-21.