Broward at decision day on 3-county, business-development pact
By Frank Norton
The cooperative benefits of shared economic development in South Florida hang in the balance as tri-county in-fighting drags on in a 4-year-old battle to end inter-county competition, say politicians and business executives.
A so-called no-compete pact, seen as a cornerstone of tri-county economic cooperation, would ban the use of public revenue to entice companies to move from one county to another. Although each of the counties' economic development agencies have broadly approved the proposal, serious differences remain over its wording.
"We've been unable to yet agree on a statement to move ahead on several areas of cooperation. It's getting to the point of being ridiculous," said Frank Nero, president & CEO of the Miami-Dade County's Beacon Council.
Mr. Nero said the Broward Alliance, that county's economic agency, has repeatedly stonewalled the process by refusing to adopt Miami-Dade's and Palm Beach's version of the bill, which bans all relocation incentives.
Instead, the Broward Alliance has approved a softer measure that would allow incentives to companies relocating within the region in certain cases.
"This is not brain surgery. Either you want to do it or you don't," Mr. Nero said. "Palm Beach and Miami-Dade have agreed and once again Broward has not. We're done talking. We just need a simple declarative statement."
That statement could come this week, according to Joan Goodrich, acting president of the Broward Alliance. If it does, planners will schedule an early October meeting to iron out a final resolution to go before each of the three county commissions.
If the Broward Alliance further delays the issue, the other two counties will move ahead without them, Mr. Nero said. "Either walk the walk or stop talking the talk. You're never going to get there with this insidious turf war," he said.
Larry Pelton, president of the Palm Beach Business Development, said the Broward Alliance has yet to fall in line with a comprehensive version of the proposal.
"They are not looking at the region," he said. "Collectively we've got a great story to tell industry. I have not given up on the possibility of mutual marketing by the tri-county development agencies."
Pending an agreement on the no-compete pact, some South Florida leaders see the next step as creating a unified economic development agency that could develop a marketing plan to pitch the area to investors and companies. Advocates of a regional approach say a shared economic development agency could help forge South Florida's myriad business and industry strengths into a single robust market of greater scale, security and legislative clout.
A shared agency would consolidate efforts and ultimately drive business growth, Miami-Dade county commissioner and regionalism advocate Jimmy Morales said.
Ms. Goodrich said she agreed that shared marketing is the next step toward regional integration but the alliance would support incentives to the extent they bring new jobs to South Florida. She said the three agencies would resolve the incentive issue by October, then move ahead on a regional marketing strategy.
She declined to comment on how the issue over the no-compete pact would be resolved. Those close to the process said negotiations might hinge on whom the Broward Alliance names as its new president and CEO in September.