UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS: June unemployment claims reached nearly 8,000, a jump of 24% from 2001, the Beacon Council reported. With unemployment in the county estimated at 7.5% in June, the high number of claims could indicate a further slowing of the economy, the council said. The two most severely impacted sectors since Sept. 11, analysts report, have been the aviation and visitors industries. Despite strong growth in the US economy in the first quarter, Florida continues to experience declining unemployment, the council reported.
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PORT POSITIVES: Despite political and economic turmoil in Latin America, the Port of Miami saw cargo traffic increase 1.7% in the first half of 2002 compared to last year while passenger traffic destined for the Caribbean jumped 7.8% year-over-year, port statistics show. Port Director Charles Towsley said the port's well-diversified cargo shipments enabled it to sidestep the South America bust by focusing on increased shipments from the Far East and Europe. Mr. Towsley said he expects the growth levels to continue throughout the second half of 2002.
HOME SALES: Sales of homes in the Miami area dropped 4% in June compared to June 2001, the Florida Association of Realtors reports. The dip is offset by a 15% increase in the median sales prices of homes in the area to $191,900. Statewide, at 14,407 in areas surveyed, the association reports home sales were about equal in June this year to the 14,379 recorded in the month in the previous year. Prices rose 7% statewide. Nearby Fort Lauderdale also saw a 15% gain in average price in the period to $204,500. Homes with the highest price in the period, the association reports, were in Naples, where the median cost was $269,100, up 17% from a year ago.
SPACE OUTREACH: The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce announced it is offering a Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program funded by NASA that provides up to 40 hours of free technical support to member firms experiencing technical challenges. The program, said Robert Rodriguez, chamber chair, allows businesses "to access the technical resources of the US space program as well as aerospace contractors, NASA's field centers, universities and colleges." Publicists said the program, started in 1995, has resulted in more than 1,000 requests with resolutions realized in 700 cases nationally. Details: JoAnn Jedlinksi, (305) 577-5430 or Jackeline Gil-Rendon, (305) 577-5440.
STILL SHORT: Miami's Florida Economic Development Financing Authority - created last year to issue debt for housing, health facilities and special assessments - held its first meeting last week, said Robert Nachlinger, with plans to meet again Aug. 27. Commissioner Angel Gonzalez and Mayor Manny Diaz still need to fill two of three vacant seats on the seven-member group. Mr. Nachlinger said the appointments could be made at an Aug. 22 commission meeting and authority members could then name a seventh member to proceed with business.
EXTREME UPDATE: ESPN officials have "not officially finalize or determined" that Miami can land '03 and '04 ESPN X Games, said Jack Wienert, ESPN executive director. Mr. Wienert visited last week some Miami venues that would be used during the summer events. Bicentennial Park is a proposed site. "Everyone is working very hard to make this happen but no decision has been made as yet by ESPN senior management," he said. "We are excited about the City of Miami's interest in the coming games and have experienced a tremendous positive effort by the representatives of the mayor's office." Any announcement will be made at the conclusion of the summer X Games in Philadelphia Aug. 15-19, said Kelly Penton with the mayor's office. The games include skateboarding, inline-skating, BMX races and other contests.
GRAND POST: The Grand Prix Americas Miami just got a new president and general manager. Chuck M. Martinez will oversee daily operations, sales and promotions for the event Oct. 4-6 in downtown Miami. The three-day race will include a CART FedEx Championship Series, American LeMans and Trans Am. A 20-year veteran of the hospitality and event planning industry, he has coordinated events such as the Super Bowl and grand opening ceremonies for the $800 million Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa and the South Beach Food & Wine Festival. Co-founders of Raceworks, promoters Willy Bermello and Peter Yanowitch, made the announcement this week.
SEPT. 11 SERVICE: Miami International Airport is holding commemorative ceremonies at 8:15 a.m. Sept. 11 in Airport Terminal building's VIP short-term parking lot in front of a row of international flags. Ron Smith, manager of airports airside operations, is to preside. Pilots, flight attendants, airport employees and federal agents are invited to attend. A moment of silence is scheduled at 8:46 a.m., the time the first plane crashed into a World Trade Center tower. Details: (305) 876-7017.
FREIGHT EXPANSION: NNR Aircargo Service expanded by more than 24,700 square feet at 2186 NW 89th Place in Americas Gateway Park, reports Ron Berger with Insignia ESG, who represented the tenant in the transaction. He said the three-year lease was valued at more than $482,000. Michael Silver with CB Richard Ellis represented NNR in the deal.
CITY ASSIGNMENT: Miami Mayor Manny Diaz named Seth Gordon chairman of the City of Miami Arts & Entertainment Council. Mr. Gordon is managing partner of public affairs with the firm Gordon Reyes Diaz-Balart. The council is to advise the mayor and commissioners on arts & entertainment-related matters and act as a liaison for the city with various arts and entertainment organizations.
BEACH AWARD: The Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce this week announced it is giving Martin J. Gelb its Jan Pfeiffer Distinguished Service award at its annual dinner gala on Jan. 25 in the Fontainebleau Hilton, 4441 Collins Ave. Mr. Gelb is chairman of the board of Mount Sinai Medical Center & Miami Heart Institute and senior vice president & resident manager of Salomon Smith Barney in Miami Beach. He is also past president of the Mount Sinai Medical Center Foundation and Founders Club, and founding member and past chairman of the Young Presidents Club of Mount Sinai. Details: (305) 674-1300.
ANGEL TALK: The Florida Venture Forum is holding a presentation, "Positioning a Company for Venture Financing," from 8:30-9:00 a.m. Sept. 4 in the Tower Club, One Financial Plaza, 28th floor, Ft. Lauderdale. Alan Taetle, general partner with Noro-Moseley Partners, is scheduled speaker. Florida Venture publicists said it would be the first in a series of educational programs for angel investors. Seating is limited. RSVP. Details: (305) 446-5060.
JEWISH ACCREDITATION: The Jewish Museum of Florida, 301 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, received accreditation by the American Association of Museums, joining an elite list of institutions to gain the status. "This process was rigorous and demanding over several years," said Marcia Zerivitz, founding executive director. The museum collects, preserves and interprets the Jewish experience in Florida since 1763. Its core exhibit, "MOSAIC: Jewish Life in Florida" depicts the state's Jewish history and "Exodus Story through the Haggadah," running through Sept. 5, looks back 3,500 years at the graphics and text of nearly 200 books. Details: (305) 672-5044.
AVENUE REHAB: The Florida Department of Transportation announced work started Monday on Northwest 107th Avenue from Seventh Street to State Road 836 is expected to take 13 months. The $2.7 million project is the second and final phase of improvements to the road and includes installing drains, traffic signals, streetlights and signage. Road closures are expected between 8 p.m.-5 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 11 p.m.-7 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Bus stops may be temporarily relocated around work zones as necessary. Details: (305) 470-5349.
LEANING CHAMBER: With a debate on a strong mayor form of county government likely to come before the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce this fall, two of its leaders are leaning in opposite directions. Chairman Jack Lowell said this week he believes in the strong mayor style. But Barry Johnson, vice chair of governmental affairs, said: "We tend to believe things are working quite well as they are in terms of the effectiveness of the county manager." Creating a strong mayor could abolish the county manager post and strip the county commission of some powers. Commissioners voted against the concept in July.
TO DEBATE OR NOT: "Whether or not to support the strong mayor campaign will depend on the particular issues presented to the government affairs committee, but as of now it's not even on the radar screen," Mr. Johnson said, since the chamber has not scheduled a debate. Mr. Lowell said debate will come but may not produce consensus. Personally, Mr. Lowell said he favors a strong mayor because it would streamline leadership on broad issues, do away with commission turf wars and benefit the county. "It may not have been presented fairly to the commissioners," he said of their vote. He said if most members recognize benefits of the proposal, the chamber will probably take a stand.
ON THE BALLOT: Meanwhile, a legacy of a failed effort in the legislature to create a strong mayor remains on the Nov. 5 ballot statewide. While Rep. Carlos Lacasa failed to get legislators to enable a vote on a strong mayor, he did get them to put on the ballot a vote that would remove Miami-Dade's distinction as one of the state's 17 counties with home rule. That would let the legislature put local action items on Miami-Dade ballots.