$15 million to fuel Homestead aerospace show
By Ashley Hopkins
A major international aerospace show could take wing in two years, sprawling over 54 acres adjacent to the Homestead Air Reserve Base and fueled by $15 million from Miami-Dade taxpayers.
Plans rocketed forward last week when the county commission informally agreed to put up the money and land, based on the presentation by Frank Nero, CEO and president of the county's economic development organization, the Beacon Council, which has been piloting plans for the show.
Because the show targets November 2012 takeoff and the Beacon Council would have to present its case to aerospace industry officials a year prior to get them aboard, Mr. Nero was seeking county support. Aviation manufacturers are planning 2011-2012 budgets right now, he said, and organizers need "to ensure them that this show is going to go forward."
The commission agreed to aid with county manager's office staffing, to unearth funding and to pay to improve infrastructure on surrounding land after a study. The commission would vote on every allotment.
"Without this direct leadership we believe no further steps can be taken by the Beacon Council for the implementation of this initiative," Mr. Nero said.
After assessing needs, the $15 million would be dolled out of the county's economic development fund to improve land at the show's site, a project that's long been on the county's flight plan, County Manager George Burgess said.
None of the $75 million in the development fund has been allocated, but projects are in the works.
Many checkpoints remain prior to boarding.
While the Beacon Council has sought federal Economic Development Administration grants, it would need approvals from the Air Force and departments of Defense, State and Commerce, Mr. Nero told commissioners.
The Beacon Council is now setting up one-on-one meetings with aero-technology manufacturers to gauge their interest in participating in the show, which would be similar to those at Le Bourget near Paris and Farnborough Airfield near London. Mr. Nero said the Beacon Council is looking to contract with developers and plans to competitively bid out operational management.
"The Beacon Council is not going to run the show. I don't believe the county is going to run this show," Mr. Nero said. "We're going to need to work together to contract with a third party in order to ensure that it's successful."
The five-day event could pull in about 200,000 public attendees, house more than 800 exhibitors and generate up to $100 million in hotel reservations, day pass sales and parking, Mr. Nero said.
Commissioners seemed pleased about potential impact.
"There's no reason why we can't have it in Miami," Carlos Gimenez said. "If we're going to do it, we need to do it right."
Jose "Pepe" Diaz said he was extremely supportive and anxious to see the show bring attention to the area.
"I think it is an incredible, incredible benefit to Miami-Dade," he said. "By focusing us in the eyes of Central America and the Caribbean, that solidifies that we are the true gateway."