Written by Miami Today on April 24, 2003
Miami is a weekly feature of Miami Today, keeping readers ahead
of the news. Here are highlights from the most current edition.
UNEMPLOYMENT DROPS: Miami’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.3% in February from 7.8% in January, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Tuesday. Fort Lauderdale’s unemployment dropped to 5.6% from 6.1% in the same period. The national unemployment rate was 6.4%, and Florida’s rate was 5.0%. The number of unemployed persons in the Miami area dropped to 80,600 from 86,700 in January. The number of unemployed was 89,600 in February 2002, when Miami’s unemployment rate stood at 8.0%.
HOTELS SEE GROWTH: Miami-Dade County outpaced both Florida and the US in hotel occupancy rates for March 2-29, Tennessee-based Smith Travel Research reported. Room occupancy was 76.4% in Miami-Dade, compared to 75.2% in Florida and 60.6% in the US, all slight increases from a year ago. The news reflects the region’s rebirth of popularity among college spring breakers, said Stuart Blumberg, CEO of the Greater Miami & the Beaches Hotel Association. "I would not attribute it to any aggressive marketing campaign," he said, "just the fact that they’ve rediscovered us on their own."
STILL FOR SALE: Developers are still trying to sell a 203-room luxury hotel under construction at the $160 million Espirito Santo Plaza multi-use project on Brickell Avenue. "This will be behind us shortly," said Bill Ross, president of developer Estoril Inc. "We’re a motivated seller, (and) we have motivated buyers." The building is expected to be ready in early fall.
RESEARCHERS LEASE MORE: The University of Delaware’s Center for Drug and Alcohol Studies has leased an additional 872 square feet at Gables Corporate Plaza, 2100 Ponce de Leon Blvd. The research center now occupies 2,315 square feet, said John Erixon, a broker with Codina Group. The center promotes research and publishing on substance abuse. The center is one of the largest providers of drug-treatment services in Delaware.
NEW CONSULTANT: Hugh Simon, former Florida undersecretary of state, has opened consulting firm Simon International. After resigning his post in mid-February, he is helping US companies expand businesses overseas and international companies seeking a US presence. He developed a network of contacts and knowledge on US and foreign polices during 30 years in the foreign services. In February 2000, former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris named him to lead the Department of State’s international affairs office in Miami. He said he will serve the private sector, grow his Argentine wine-import company and speak on foreign policy. Details: email@example.com.
WHO’S TRUST WORTHY?: The nominating committee for the Citizens’ Independent Transportation Trust is to meet at 9:30 a.m. today (4/24) at the State Attorney’s Office, 1350 NW 12th Ave., Conference Room 418. The trust is being created to police spending of the county’s estimated $17 billion transit spending plan and will have significant powers over use of the dedicated half-cent surtax proceeds earmarked to pay for it. The trust is to be in place by June, county transit officials say.
MORE BUS RUNS: Buses will run twice as often on several routes beginning April 27. Monday-Friday stops will increase to every half-hour on routes 28, 35, 42, 52, 70, 72 and 104, according to the Office of Public Transportation Management. The improvements are part of the People’s Transportation Plan approved by voters Nov. 5. Other service improvements are scheduled for the next few months. Details: (305) 770-3131. For service information south of SW 216th Street, call (305) 891-3131. For information on the People’s Transportation Plan, call (305) 375-3481 or www.trafficrelief.com.
SURVEY DEADLINE: The Beacon Council, Miami-Dade County’s economic-development agency, is surveying hundreds of local firms for their outlooks on hiring, revenue and expansion as well as satisfaction levels with market access, government and quality of life. About 250 of a targeted 300 businesses have responded. The deadline is Friday. Results will be revealed at the council’s midyear meeting April 30 at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. Details: (305) 579-1300.
ARETE AWARDS: The Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust and the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce will present their ARETE awards April 29. The award recognizes organizations committed to the highest ethical standards and public service, said Robert Meyers, trust executive director. The event will be from 6-7:30 p.m. at Los Ranchos, 2728 Ponce de Leon Blvd. The 2002 winners were Jean Logan, president of Strategic Partners Consulting; Stanley Tate, owner of Tate Enterprises; the Center for Community Involvement; the Greater Miami Service Corps; and Carroll’s Jewelers. Details: (305) 350-0630 or www.miamidade.gov/ethics.
ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS: The Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust, Florida Atlantic University and the University of Miami will co-host the second annual South Florida Environmental Ethics Conference from 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m. April 25 at the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center, 2650 Sistrunk Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. The theme will be "Everglades Restoration and Communities." Frank Brogan, president of Florida Atlantic University and former lieutenant governor, will introduce speakers, including Barry Hill of the Environmental Protection Agency. Details: (305) 243-5723 or www.miamidade.gov/ethics.
SPANISH BUSINESS FORUM: More than 30 firms from Spain will come to Miami and Orlando next week for the Spain-Florida Strategic Partners Forum, which was announced in February during Gov. Jeb Bush’s visit to Spain. Hoping to create joint ventures and alliances, they will meet with Florida companies, which can register free for one-on-one meetings. Information and Spanish company profiles are posted at www.icex.es/miami2003. The event will be April 28-29 at Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables and May 1 at the Westin Grand Bohemian Hotel in Orlando. Details: (305) 446-4387.
PAN AMERICAN ALUMS: About 100 former employees of Pan American Bank are expected to reunite at 11:30 a.m. April 26 at the 94th Aero Squadron restaurant in Miami. The meeting marks the second company reunion since the bank was sold nearly 20 years ago to an entity that is now part of Bank of America. Pan American was founded in Miami in 1945 by Puerto Rican investors and prospered until its eventual sale in 1985, said Marcos A. Kerbel, a former bank director and Miami-based financial-services expert who is organizing the social. "Connections between people remain," he said, "even though the organization that once tied them together may not be around anymore." Details: (305) 632-7997.
ITALIAN EXHIBITION: The Italian Trade Commission’s "Ways of Producing: Italian Creativity and Design" kicks off today (4/24) with an opening reception from 6-9 p.m. at 3901 NE Second Ave. The three-week show encompasses furniture, lighting, marble, silverware, fixtures, ceramic tiles and home-furnishing fabrics. The final day will be May 10. Featured design firms include Boffi, B&B Italia and Kartell. RSVP: (305) 447-1400.
FREE TRADE: The International Roundtable at 5 p.m. today (4/24) assesses Miami’s battle to win the secretariat for the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Panelists are Ambassador V. Manuel Rocha, vice chairman of the trade ministerial meeting for Florida FTAA Inc.; Jerry Haar, director of the Inter-American Business and Labor Program of the Dante B. Fascell North-South Center at the University of Miami; J. Antonio Villamil, vice chairman of Florida FTAA and chairman of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors; and Harold "Ed" Patricoff, the County Commission’s representative to the Jay Malina International Trade Consortium. The panel, sponsored by the Beacon Council and Miami Today, will be at the Sheraton Biscayne Bay Hotel, 495 Brickell Ave. Reservations: Techy Fernandez, (305) 358-2663.