GROWTH MICROSCOPE: Everyone's looking for answers to economic difficulties. The Miami-Dade County Commission is to weigh in Tuesday, with a resolution seeking to spend up to $150,000 having the Center of Economic Research at Florida International University run a county economic growth study that can take up to a year. The resolution, sponsored by commissioners Joe A. Martinez and Barbara Jordan, says the county is in "an approaching period of economic recession and distress." Mr. Martinez said in July he intended to change the scope of the resolution, eliminating the $150,000 allocation to FIU to allow in-house economists to conduct the study instead. But that intent isn't reflected on Tuesday's commission agenda.
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GAMBLING ON GROWTH: Another commissioner, Dorrin Rolle, wants a different growth study, keyed to the January referendum that allowed slot machines at three county pari-mutuel sites: a dog track, a horse track and a jai-alai fronton. He has a request on Tuesday's agenda for a county study to be completed within 30 days on the feasibility, benefits and costs of working with Miami Dade College to offer training and certification in casino jobs.
THINKING FORWARD: Tommy Hilfiger USA Inc. is to open its first freestanding store in Florida on South Beach in early November. In the midst of a shrinking retail market, the international clothing company has already secured its lot at 616 Collins Ave. and begun construction of the 12,000-square-foot store. "It's not the time to open (a store) up, but it's the time to negotiate leases and prepare for an improvement in the economy," said Steven Haas, chairman of the Miami Beach Visitor and Convention Authority. While the store is not expected to immediately cash in on its location, it will help define the Hilfiger brand along with nine other freestanding stores around the country.
SURINAM SERVICE: After 16 years, passenger service by Surinam Airways this week returned to Miami International Airport — now the airline's only flight to the US. The airline is to provide service twice weekly between Paramaribo, Suriname, and Miami, with a connection in Aruba.
NO USE PLANS FOR MUSEUM: County officials have no plans yet for the Miami Art Museum's site at 101 W Flagler St. when the museum moves to its not-yet-begun home in Museum Park, the remake in the pipeline for Bicentennial Park. Since the park project won't be done for about four years, the county hasn't looked yet at what to do with the county-owned space, said Owen Torres, a county spokesman. The county's Government Services Administration manages the site.
SPONSORSHIP PLEA: Miami's bid to lure corporate sponsors to the city's parks and recreation buildings has yet to bear fruit. Since the ordinance passed in March, the city has yet to ink deals with companies for naming rights. "I think passing the ordinance was a good thing, but it will take a while until we see the real benefits," said Ernest Burkeen, city director of parks and recreation. The city initially chased the idea in hopes of adding to park funds as the city gets ready to slash next year's budget $35 million. Mr. Burkeen said sponsorships are available — awaiting willing sponsors. "Anyone who is interested can identify the location they want… then we'll sit down and negotiate."
STREETCAR SLOWDOWN: Miami's bidding for a firm to work on transportation projects, including the Miami Streetcar project, is close to done, with HNTB ranking first, said Lilia Medina, city assistant transit coordinator. HNTB provides architecture, engineering, planning and construction services. She said the next step is to request approval of the first-ranking bidder from the city commission and nail down a contract. That firm is to "update funding scenarios for the project and other preliminary engineering components in the project," she said. Once this preliminary work is complete, she said, the intent is to return to the commission in the fall for an OK to open bidding for the firm to "design, build, finance, operate and maintain" the streetcar system. She said she's gotten calls from firms in Mexico, Toronto, London and other countries interested in rolling forward as contractor for the trolley line.
SHANGHAI TIES: The Port of Miami, which in the past 10 years has established 47 sister port agreements abroad, plans its first agreement with a port in Asia. If county commissioners approve Tuesday, the port will establish an alliance of cooperation with the Shanghai International Port Group Co. Ltd., home port for some of the largest shipping lines that call on the Port of Miami. China is now Miami's largest foreign trading partner. The agreements call for sharing information on cruise and cargo business, planned infrastructure, marketing research, and possible business ties to promote the paired ports. Exchange educational visits are also on the card: Port of Miami officials visited the Shanghai port in April 2007, spurring the agreement.
DOGGONE: Ties abroad are all well and good, but a pet hotel at the Port of Miami is a dog of an idea, county staffers have concluded. Don't count on boarding Fido at the port on your next cruise vacation. Ain't gonna happen. County commissioners in June voted to study a pet hotel at both the seaport and Miami International Airport as a money-raising idea in tight times. Since staffers couldn't find any other seaport with a pet hotel, they recommend we shouldn't be pioneers. Besides, they say in a report for the commission next week, who wants it? No demand, and no room in the port. But the idea might take off at the airport, because land is available and pet hotels at airports elsewhere in the state have been a big hit with travelers — including bone-shaped swimming pools for pooches.
DOGGONE TWO: On the heels of a successful 2004 TV reality series called "Miami Animal Cops," which is still being shown on Animal Planet, another moviemaker plans a series called this time "Animal Cops Miami" — not too original, but a new name nonetheless. County Manager George Burgess supports the idea: Anglia Productions would pay $50,000 a year into the county's Animal Services Trust Fund while filming county animal control officers on the road and animal shelter staff at work. Topics are to include animal cruelty, dogs running at large and dangerous dogs. Compelling TV stuff. And don't forget the fire department: its snakebite Venom Response Team is to be part of the series as well. County commissioners are to decide Tuesday whether it's a deal. The first series by 2005 was "generating at least five inquiries a week," county film chief Jeff Peel said then. "It's a great recruiting tool."
CULTURE ON THE MOVE: Back in January, when then TotalBank Chairman Adrienne Arsht pledged $30 million to the county's Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, then drowning in red ink, the center's name was changed to the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County and Carnival Corp. got its $10 million naming rights pledge erased and paid-in funds refunded. Now, as the county anticipates installments two and three of the gift from Ms. Arsht, commissioners are to vote Tuesday to rename the nearby Performing Arts Center Metromover Station as the Arsht Performing Arts Metromover Station. The resolution comes from Commissioner Audrey Edmonson.
TRUTH IN PACKAGING: Following public complaints that Miami-Dade surtax funds meant to add transportation infrastructure have been used for operating expenses and that uses of general obligation bond funds have been shifted from what voters were promised, county commissioners are to vote Tuesday on labeling to indicate the source of county spending. Commissioner Rebeca Sosa has on the agenda a resolution directing that titles of proposed ordinances and resolutions on commission agendas state whether spending involves transportation surtax or general obligation bond funds.
HOSPITALITY RECORDS: Record hotel room occupancy and rates were recorded for Miami-Dade from January through July. Miami ranked third nationally in occupancy at 75.8% (up a notch from the same period in 2007), and second in average daily room rate at $172.73 (up 2.3% from 2007), according to the latest report from Smith Travel Research, which compares and ranks the top 25 hotel markets in the US.
ACCESSIBLE ARMY CORPS: For the second year in a row, David Hobbie, chief of the regulatory division of the US Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville district, will travel Florida holding open forums. Topics include an in-depth discussion of the Rapanos Supreme Court Decision and how it continues to affect wetlands determinations, mitigation rulings and a question-and-answer session. The Regulatory Road Show will come Sept. 25 to the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Airport hotel. Sessions begin at 8:30 a.m. and are to finish by 3 p.m. Details: www.saj.usace.army.mil.
FAT CITY: Executives at the Coconut Grove powerhouse ad agency that handles, among other things, the Burger King and Domino's accounts, have come out with a book published by Brooklyn's PowerHouse Books called "The 9-inch diet," according to Monday's Advertising Age, bible of the ad industry. Alex Bogusky, Crispin Porter & Bogusky's chief creative officer who wrote with help from agency partner Chuck Porter, talks about "the twisted conspiracy that's making our country fat." The agency coined "meatnormous" for Burger King, which claims to be blindsided by the book. "It certainly seems like it should be a big deal to the corporation," franchisee Chris Ondrula told Ad Age. No sweat at Domino's, which said, in essence, have it your way.
ELECTRONIC DEPOSIT: Bank of Coral Gables, open two years, is soon to introduce remote deposit capture, which will allow customers to deposit checks electronically without visiting a branch. This will not only benefit existing customers but will also open the door to businesses outside of the Gables to conveniently use the bank, said President Terry Eden Best. The service should benefit businesses that receive a high volume of deposits, such as law firms and retail operations.
NON-PROFIT TRAINING: Black business professionals can learn about serving on boards of non-profits at a training session offered by C-One — Hands on Miami's Center on Nonprofit Effectiveness — and the Young Professionals Network, a Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce initiative, at 6 p.m. Sept. 4 in the United Way's Ryder Room, 3250 SW Third Ave. Topics include how nonprofits differ from the private and public sectors, board members' legal responsibilities, and the responsibilities of board committees and officers. A board match pool and networking with executives and board members from non-profits is to follow at 6:30 Sept. 11 at Circle of One Marketing's Midtown Design Studio, 2400 NE Second Ave., Studio C. Costs: $25 for Young Professionals Network members, $55 for non-members. Details: (305) 751-8648 or http://www.m-dcc.org
TAX TIME: About 1 million Miami-Dade property owners and businesses should have their notice of proposed property taxes in hand after the county's Property Appraisal Department mailed them last week. The mailing, which lists a property's value as of January, includes a newsletter outlining changes in Florida's property tax system as well as budget hearing dates for taxing authorities such as the county, municipalities and the Miami-Dade School Board. The notice reflects amendments voters passed in January. The homestead exemption allowance for properties with an assessed value of more than $50,000 has been increased from $25,000 to $50,000, and property owners can now transfer their homestead assessment difference — "Save Our Homes" benefit — from one property to another. The deadline to appeal values and file late exemption applications or agriculture applications is Sept. 17. Details: Property Appraisal Department, (786) 331-5321.
SHEIK'S VILLA ON SALE: Esslinger-Wooten-Maxwell Realtors has listed Villa Valentino, a 1910 landmark on South Bayshore Drive in Coconut Grove, at a price of $3,499,000. The 11-bedroom, 8-bathroom Mediterranean-style property, reportedly once home to silent film actor Rudolph Valentino, who gained fame in "The Son of the Sheik," recently went through extensive renovations to make updates without tarnishing its history. The 8,155-square-foot, two-story residence sits on a 25,000-square-foot lot.
TRIPLE PLAY: The Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce is to host its annual Chairman's Reception at 6 p.m. Sept. 4 at the Biltmore Hotel. The "Triple Play" is to include a networking reception, committee sign-up and tabletop business expo. Tabletop displays are $250. Tickets: $35 for members, $45 for guests. Details: (305) 446-1657.
CORRECTION: An Aug. 21 people item should have stated that Landy Labadie was named general manager of La Marea at the Tides South Beach.
CORRECTION: Achiever Marc Berenfeld's name was misspelled in last week's photo captions. He was also misidentified. Firm partner Emery Sheer was also misidentified.
CORRECTION: Last week's article on closings at 1060 Brickell should have quoted the price range for new apartments at $200,000-$900,000.
CORRECTION: New Downtown Development Authority appointee Hank Klein is to represent the Central Business District.