Beacon Council honors leaders, celebrates 25th anniversary
By Jacquelyn Weiner
The who's who of the Greater Miami business community celebrated area innovation and achievement last week at The Beacon Council's eighth annual Beacon Awards.
Held at Jungle Island's ballroom and outdoor veranda on Watson Island, the evening also celebrated the 25th anniversary of the organization, which is Miami-Dade County's public-private economic-development partnership.
Among those honored were Beacon Council founding chairs, Sidney Levin, Merrett R. Stierheim and Theodore J. Hoepner, who received the Judges' Special Award.
Before the ceremony, the three reminisced about the beginnings of The Beacon Council in 1985.
"Twenty five years ago, there was no single economic council in the county," Mr. Levin said. "There was no central intake."
While Miami-Dade County has much to offer, Mr. Levin said, the lack of a coordinated public-private sales force made it challenging to effectively market the area.
"While I was apprehensive about three [public-private] co-chairs, it was mutually supportive," Mr. Stierheim said. It "really resulted in a much better product."
Since its founding, The Beacon Council has helped more than 750 companies locate and expand, helped create more than 75,000 jobs and has brought more than $2.7 billion in new capital investment to the community, according to its Web site.
Its annual awards, presented at the event, seek to "celebrate the top individuals and organizations in our community," said Alexandra Villoch, senior vice president of advertising and marketing for the Miami Herald and chair of the Beacon Council.
A panel of past chairs went over "many, many nominees" to pick those most worthy of praise, she said.
Among recipients: Brian E. Keeley, president and CEO of Baptist Health South Florida, received the Jay Malina Award; Eduardo J. Padrón, president of Miami Dade College, received the Chairman's Award; and City Year Miami, a group that puts young adults to work mentoring students in disadvantaged neighborhoods, received the Education Award.
In addition, businesses in 10 industry categories were honored.
Among businesses looking to expand here is TD Bank, which plans to add 28 locations in South Florida, said Thomas J. te Riele, Florida market president.
"We're still looking to grow the bank," he said.
Another positive and possibly unique sign, Mr. te Riele said: "We're still lending money."
Hank Klein, vice chairman of Blanca Commercial Real Estate and board member of the Miami Downtown Development Authority, said he measures growth visually.
In the case of downtown, a big sign that condos are filling up is what Mr. Klein called "the dog effect," as more and more residents can be seen strolling the streets with canine companions.
"People don't drive into a section to walk dogs," Mr. Klein said. "People walk dogs because they live there."
And in the insurance business, Stephen Jackman, chairman of Seitlin Insurance & Advisory Services, said he sees growing interest among employers in establishing wellness programs.
"There's a lot of new business action in the area," he said.
By encouraging employees to keep healthy now, Mr. Jackman said, it cuts overall claims costs.
Another company that sees opportunity in healthcare is Noven Pharmaceuticals, said Jorge A. Lorenzo, senior director of new product commercialization for Noven.
"We're in a very competitive area," Mr. Lorenzo said.
Yet one thing that sets the company apart from the competition, he said, is the nature of its recent acquisition by Hisamitsu Pharmaceutical Co. in August 2009.
While other pharmaceuticals are downsizing their area presence, Noven may actually expand its headquarters as Hisamitsu looks to grow in the US, said Richard P. Gilbert, vice president of operations for Noven.
"We believe we're actually potentially going to be able to grow," Mr. Gilbert said.
Another issue the company will keep an eye on, he said, is the recently passed federal healthcare reform.
While there is some concern about how it will affect Noven, he said, consequences will probably remain unclear until the majority of the measures take effect in 2014.
A more pressing legislative issue that could have major repercussions is Amendment 4, said Carlos J. Gimenez, a land-use lawyer and lobbyist with Becker & Poliakoff.
On the 2010 ballot, Amendment 4 would allow voters to decide on comprehensive land-use changes.
Not only would this draw out the approval process, he said, stalling an important factor in economic development, it would be a costly change.
"It will cost Florida a lot of jobs," said Alan Becker, managing partner of Becker & Poliakoff.
Mr. Gimenez said a recent study by the Washington Economics Group found that passing Amendment 4 would probably lead to the loss of more than 250,000 jobs statewide.
It also "has the potential of wrecking us professionally," Mr. Gimenez said.
He questioned whether citizens would "really know what they are voting on" over land-use issues.