Tri-county business development pact in the works
By Jaime Levy
Trying to bury tension over businesses looking to move across county lines, the economic development agencies of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties are circulating a resolution outlining tri-county rules of etiquette.
Among its requirements is that officials notify within three business days the economic development agency in the business's home county if approached by a firm looking to move within the region.
"Beginning about three years ago, the three economic development organizations worked together for the first time in 20 years. At that time, we'd talked about all the things in this agreement, but it was never written on paper," said Holly Wiedman, executive vice president of the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade's economic development agency. "Because of the miscommunications on recent projects such as Delta and Carnival, all three felt it was a very good time to get back together, make it legal and have the document signed."
A cross-county quarrel began in late 2001 with news that Broward was offering incentives to lure Delta Airlines from Coral Gables. Soon after, a possible move by Carnival Cruise Line from Miami-Dade to Broward fanned the fires.
The pending resolution, drafted by representatives from all three agencies and passed Friday by the Beacon Council's board, is a signal the groups are ready to make peace.
The other groups: Broward Alliance and Palm Beach's Business Development Board plan to vote on the pact this month. Once those agencies OK it, according to the resolution, they are to lobby each county commission to adopt it.
Other practices called for in the resolution include:
* After learning of a company's interest in a cross-county move, the affected economic development groups must coordinate meetings to give the county potentially losing the business the chance to address issues underlying the company's interest in relocating.
* Before offering incentives to a business relocating across county lines, the potentially gaining economic agency must substantiate the company's consideration of locations outside South Florida. Then, the economic agency from the company's current county must agree, in writing, that the company is eligible to receive county-supported or -funded incentives. If the two groups cannot agree, the agency from the uninvolved county would determine whether the business is, indeed, eligible.
"That really underscores this partnership of the three counties, where all three are always working together," Ms. Wiedman said.
* Each county's economic organization will treat any information it receives from its peers as confidential and will afford the same level of protection as provided to inquiring companies, unless the company has not requested confidentiality.
* The economic development groups will meet regularly - not less frequently than once per calendar quarter.
Overall, said Broward Alliance President and CEO Christopher Wood, the economic development agencies must keep in mind that "the key driver behind this is the business community.
"What we're attempting to do, to a certain extent, is to regulate the government's interface with the business community, and the investment and movement of the business community," Mr. Wood said. "That has to be properly balanced so we have a win-win situation. The ultimate goal is to retain jobs and investments in the region. We don't want to have a company not move to South Florida because we weren't in the position to respond successfully to their requirements."