Miami aerospace mart backers make best case to Air Force
By Scott Blake
Greater Miami officials have made their best argument yet for why South Florida should host a world-class aircraft show aimed at drawing aerospace business and more tourists into the region.
Representatives from the Miami-Dade County Beacon Council, the county's economic development organization, were joined by Florida elected officials for a meeting with US Air Force leaders last week in Washington, DC.
Local officials are seeking Air Force permission to host the Miami International Aerospace Show at the Homestead Air Reserve Base, starting next year.
"We feel good about the meeting. I think we were able to respond to their questions," said James Kohnstamm, the Beacon Council's assistant vice president for economic development. "We hope to continue the dialogue."
Previously, the Air Force turned down the proposal, citing concerns about potential costs to the Air Force, insurance liability issues and setting a precedent for allowing civilian groups to use federal property.
However, proponents of the show presented details at last Wednesday's meeting to answer the Air Force's concerns. They are still awaiting a decision.
On Friday, the Beacon Council sent out a follow-up letter to the Air Force, requesting "an open dialogue" and possibly another meeting.
"I think we definitely hit those points home with them," Mr. Kohnstamm said about answering the concerns. "I think we took some great steps in showing the credibility of the project. I think they ultimately will see the advantages for the community and for the Air Force."
Last week's meeting on Capitol Hill was arranged by US Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican.
Also in attendance were US Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Doral Republican; US Rep. David Rivera, a Miami Republican; and aides to US Sen. Bill Nelson, an Orlando Democrat, and US Sen. Marco Rubio, a Miami Republican.
They were joined by Miami-Dade Deputy Mayor Jack Osterholt, Beacon Council Chairman Alan Becker, Beacon Council past chairman Jack Lowell, and Beacon Council CEO and President Frank Nero, among others.
Proponents hope to host a scaled-down air show in November 2012, followed by a larger show in 2014. Officials estimate the public portion of the show could draw 150,000 to 200,000 spectators. In addition, the commercial portion of the show could draw up to 30,000 aerospace industry representatives, military personnel and government officials.
"Ultimately," Mr. Kohnstamm said, "the decision will be made by the secretary of the Air Force."
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