Tri-county economic pact awaits OK from Broward agency
By Jaime Levy
Economic development officials in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties are pressing their Broward counterparts to OK an agreement regulating cross-county competition for businesses.
Although Miami-Dade's Beacon Council and the Business Development Board of Palm Beach have approved the non-compete pact, the Broward Alliance has not as yet signed - a gap that Broward officials attribute to the resignation of the person most involved in drafting the agreement, former president Chris Wood.
"We don't have concerns regarding the spirit of cooperation," said Jean Goodrich, interim president of the Broward Alliance. "It's simply that with Chris having left the company, now we're looking at clarifications in implementation, of daily matters.
"When are we going to give notification to each other? When, in fact, a company or client asks for confidentiality, how do we handle that requirement between the three development agencies -those type of day-to-day matters."
Frank Nero, president and CEO of the Beacon Council, said he hoped a Tuesday teleconference between the three organizations would clarify those issues.
"All they need to do is approve it. We have to have a substantive agreement between the economic development organizations, the county commissions. It seemed pretty clear to us and to Palm Beach. My hope is this is just a question of language.
"We can always resolve language issues and move on," Mr. Nero said. "The resolution more than speaks for itself. At the end of the day, either you're for regional cooperation or not."
The agreement calls for an economic development agency, if approached by a company in another South Florida county, to notify its peer organization within three days. It also requires the agency to confirm the company's interest in moving outside the region before offering incentives to lure it from its home county.
Another major point of the pact is that the three agencies would try to convince their respective county commissions to approve legislation mandating the terms of the agreement. But before the agreement will be passed to local government, all three economic development agencies must sign it.
Miami-Dade's Beacon Council approved the agreement on Feb. 8.
In addition to the economic agencies, Larry Pelton, president of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach, said the county commissions' approval would be critical to enforcement of the pact.
"Our county commission doesn't take incentive applications from companies that we haven't already screened - that's a major difference in Broward County," Mr. Pelton said. "As long as that's the case, we could never have a viable agreement between the three" development agencies without commission approval.
"If the Broward County commissioners say we don't want to be part of an equitable policy," Mr. Pelton said, "they're saying we don't want to play with regional issues with you."
In the meantime, members of the Beacon Council and the Business Development Board are together moving ahead with plans for regional cooperation, he said. For example, Mr. Pelton said, Palm Beach County staffers have changed the wording of incentive contracts to say that awards will not be granted to companies from Miami-Dade or Broward counties unless companies verify that they will move out of the region altogether without incentives.
Mr. Nero said he is looking ahead to more substantive regional issues.
"We and Palm Beach are way beyond incentive issues," he said. "We're looking at ways to brand South Florida. We think at the end of the day, Broward will be there."