Miami air show's takeoff needs clearance from grant funds traffic controllers
By Zachary S. Fagenson
The Beacon Council, the county's official economic development arm, is working to ensure that the Miami International Aerospace Show gets off the ground in 2012 but is awaiting several key steps, including leasing 54 acres in Homestead from the county, securing federal grant money and signing on a major aerospace manufacturer, before it can take off.
The county commission in early October informally agreed to put up $15 million to improve land adjacent to Homestead Air Force Base based on a presentation by Beacon Council President and CEO Frank Nero.
At the moment, the agency and the county are in talks as to how the county can pass over the land and what needs to be done to make it fit for a massive commercial air show.
"We've requested a site review committee, a county process to bring in various departments to identify what's allowable and what the requirements are," said James Kohnstamm, Beacon Council assistant vice president for business expansion, retention, recruitment and urban initiatives.
The agency hopes costs for any future studies, he continued, will be funded by a $400,000 grant it's applied for from the federal Economic Development Administration.
But the county's $15 million, which would come from general obligation bonds, is only a "placeholder" figure until all the site studies are done. The actual amount the site will need, Mr. Kohnstamm said, isn't yet set in stone.
The Beacon Council is to put up a 20% match to the grant and expects to find out this month whether it will receive the federal money.
Meanwhile, the agency is still courting major domestic aerospace manufacturers to sign on as a kind of title exhibitor, though the Beacon Council remains tightlipped as to which companies it's pursuing.
"That is our primary focus going forward," Mr. Kohnstamm said. "As to the specifics, I'll be able to provide you updates later."
Jean-Michel Caffin, managing partner for Axis Americas LLC and chair of the Beacon Council's aviation committee, was also mum on the flight plan.
Mr. Kohnstamm wouldn't say what the agency's deadlines are for securing big exhibitors, but the clock appears to be ticking.
During Mr. Nero's October presentation, he told commissioners manufacturers were then planning their 2011-2012 budgets and the council had to act to soon to ensure the Miami show was counted.
The hope is to put together the North American equivalent of the Paris air show, Le Bourget, or the Farnborough Air Show.
Planned as a five-day event, the commercial air show 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.
Though open to the public, the show would be largely geared to members of aerospace industry.
International media carefully watch shows like Le Bourget to see which nations or airlines buy aircraft and from which manufacturers.
And with a visit to Le Bourget on the horizon in early summer 2011, it seems the agency has special plans on tap.
"The governor's transition team has said that it might be a recommendation for him to attend, and we would welcome his participation," Mr. Kohnstamm said. "We will likely have a bigger impact on the show.… Attending more days of the air show, maybe arriving some days before and then of course coordinating meetings with certain targeted companies will all be part of that effort."
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