Homestead begins work on fiber-optic network, hires trade-zone chief
By Sherri C. Ranta
Homestead took two giant strides this week, beginning a fiber optic communications network and signing an operator for its foreign trade zone -both which could boost its economy via technology.
The 11-mile fiber optic ring will wire the city for broadband and lure businesses, said City Councilman Jeff Porter, chair of the Economic Development Committee.
"As always, our goal is for more businesses to relocate to Homestead," he said. "This is a big step toward achieving that goal."
Officials on Tuesday celebrated launching work on the ring that will link residents and the city's industrial park, Homestead Park of Commerce. Completion is expected in three months.
Homestead-based Latam Smartpark, under principal Roman Martinez, is partnering with the city to market and manage the fiber-optic ring and offer high-speed telecommunications products. Already the company expects to wire 700 homes in the KeysGate community.
We know how important technology is to attracting companies, Mark Coopersmith, director of information technology services, has previously said.
"We've talked in the past with several companies who were looking to relocate and who demanded broadband communications ability - which we never had - and now we will have that," he said.
Earlier this week, the Vision Council - Homestead and Florida City's economic development agency - announced Mr. Martinez will operate the area's 1,000-acre foreign trade zone.
Foreign trade zones let companies import certain merchandise without going through US Customs or paying duties.
Until April, the Rockefeller Group Development Corp. had run the zone while managing and marketing the Park of Commerce.
"We needed a partner who had experience in the import/export business and could operate the zone regardless of how the city decided to handle the park after the departure of Rockefeller," said Vision Council President Mike Richardson.
Vision Council approval is expected soon. Latam will pay more than $15,000 a year for the license.
"We've been talking to Vision Council for a while," said Mr. Martinez, whose interests include import/export businesses in Venezuela and a foreign trade zone in the Caribbean. "We thought we were the right fit. There were three or four seeking the license, but they were not in Homestead and didn't have the commitment to the area."
Latam Smartpark's new 20,000-square-foot building and headquarters is under construction near the Park of Commerce. Mr. Martinez said the company expects to move there in 2004 from Doral.
Vision Council Chair Robert Anderson said Mr. Martinez came in with a plan for the area.
"We found him to be a man that has done what he said he will do. He's been very inclusive of the city," he said. "Roman's experience and property ownership here fits all the things we need."