Written by Miami Today on October 6, 2005
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FOLLOWING FORM: Filling in for Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Joe Martinez last week at the annual Beacon Council meeting, Commissioner Katy Sorenson set aside her prepared remarks to tell the audience to "make sure the Beacon Council helps us" with creating a sustainable land-use policy, ensuring quality education and developing affordable housing – tasks seemingly far removed from the council’s charge to help build jobs. "I’m going off-script here," the commissioner noted, "but that’s my style."
MADE TO ORDER: Burger King plans to move in fall 2008 into the new headquarters Codina will build for the fast-food giant on LeJeune Road, Chairman Greg Brenneman said at the Beacon Council meeting. He said the corporation has a 15-year lease with several renewal options.
EMPLOYMENT SOARS: South Florida recorded the nation’s second-largest year-over-year increase in non-farm employment in August, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor reported last week. The Miami-Fort Lauderdale area added 80,000 jobs, second only to the 84,500 in the Washington area. This area was fourth in the nation in percentage increase of employment in the period at 3.5%. Las Vegas was first at 7.6%, Orlando second at 4.7%. The labor force here totaled 2.73 million, up from 2.63 million a year earlier, and 113,900 were unemployed.
RUSH ON THE BANKS: Florida leads the Southeast in new banks and thrifts chartered in the past seven years, according to investment banker Allen C. Ewing & Co., which compiled the figures for the annual convention of the Florida Bankers Association last month in Puerto Rico. Florida has added 71 financial institutions in seven years, with Georgia second at 51 and Virginia third at 20. Of Florida’s 250 financial institutions, the report says, more than 28% were added since the start of 1999.
MERGER SLOWDOWN: The pace in bank mergers and acquisitions in Florida will slow next year, Ewing & Co., forecasts, because there will be fewer potential sellers with higher price expectations. Mergers have reduced independent banks in Florida from 550 in the early 1970s to about 250 today, Ewing notes, and there were 36 transactions in the past two years, with 10 more announced this year. "By maintaining a growth rate in assets and earnings higher than those of the acquiring banks," the firm says, "a Florida bank should create greater long-term value for its shareholders than the value represented by a near-term merger."
HOMEGROWN GIANTS: Coral Gables is home to the state’s largest publicly traded community bank or thrift, BankUnited Financial Corp., with assets of more than $9.9 billion as of June 30, Ewing reports. The county is also home to three of the four largest privately held banking institutions in the state – Ocean Bankshares Inc., with more than $4.7 billion in assets; Commercebank Holding Corp., at more than $3.9 billion; and City National Bancshares Inc., at more than $2.7 billion.
KENDALL SIGN CHANGES: Additional parameters for permanent point-of-sale signs in the Downtown Kendall Urban Center District are to be weighed by the county’s Infrastructure and Land Use Committee at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. The county commission adopted the changes on first reading Sept. 22 by a 12-0 vote and sent the issue to the committee for a public hearing.
DINING DELIGHTS: The Americas Food and Beverage Show and Conference will be at the Miami Beach Convention Center Nov. 19-20 for the eighth consecutive year. Last year, it generated close to $1 billion in food and beverage sales. More than 400 companies from countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Italy, South Africa, Thailand and the United Kingdom are to exhibit. Details: (305) 871-7910.
WORDS TAKE WING: The South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Southwest Airlines and Miami-Dade County School’s Academy of Hospitality and Tourism are sponsoring an essay contest for Hispanic Heritage Month focused on contributions of Hispanics to travel and tourism. The top 15 contestants win a two-day trip to Washington to meet members of Congress. Winners will be announced during the Hispanic Heritage Celebration sponsored by the chamber Oct. 13.
LOANS EN ESPAOL: The Home Financing Center, a privately owned lending institution, is launching a redesigned Web site featuring a Spanish-language version of the online loan application. Creating a Spanish version of the mortgage loan application is part of the company’s initiative to target the Hispanic market. Details: www.homefinancingcenter.com.
GARDENS AND COURTS: Groundbreaking on the $480 million Island Gardens project on Miami’s Watson Island is expected this year after objectors lost the latest round of their legal battle against the city and the developer. "We have to clean up and remove utilities before we can do anything physically," said Mehmet Bayraktar, chairman and CEO of Flagstone Property Group. "The project should begin towards the end of the year." Two Miami Beach residents who challenged the city’s decision to issue a permit have delayed the project. The Third District Court of Appeal affirmed the decision of the appellate division of the circuit court, which had denied the neighbors’ claim last month, said the developer’s attorney, John Shubin. Plaintiffs attorney Sam Dubbin said they would seek a retrial.
REVELL JOINS BOARD: A Florida board led by a man who lost a race for state governor three years ago added a member this month. Walter Revell joins Tampa-based Hyde Park Capital as a director of the advisory board helmed by Bill McBride. Mr. McBride ran for office in 2002 but lost to Gov. Jeb Bush, who gained re-election. Mr. Revell, a former Florida secretary of transportation, joins John Sykes, Jerry Williams and Jim Cassady on the advisory board.
FIFTH-FLOOR FIT: Restaurant Services Inc., purchasing cooperative for more than 8,300 Burger King restaurants nationwide, signed a 10-year lease renewal to take over the fifth floor at Alhambra Plaza, 2 Alhambra Plaza, Coral Gables. The company had expanded considerably, employing more than 80 on two floors, said Bob Orban, senior vice president with Trammell Crow Co., which represented the tenant. He said Restaurant Services sought to "explore alternatives throughout Miami-Dade that would allow it to consolidate space to one floor, remain in a Class A building and meet parking requirements while minimizing out-of-pocket expenses." Steve Pattison, Restaurant Services CFO, said the 22,000-square-foot deal "solidified a very favorable occupancy cost structure for the next 10 years with no upfront cost to our firm." Lease value was not released.
MIAMI SEEKS THRILLER: Miami officials are still working to attract a major feature film intended for Louisiana but displaced by Hurricane Katrina, a film office spokesman says. Jerry Bruckheimer’s "DÈjý Vu," described as an action thriller, was to have begun in the Pelican State at the end of the month. "We’re working hard to get the film to come here," said Robert Parente, director of the city’s office of Film, Arts and Entertainment, "though other cities are under consideration, too." If the city lands the deal, filming is to begin as production of the film version of 1980s TV hits series "Miami Vice" wraps this month. Another major feature film could, in turn, follow "DÈjý Vu" – if the city lures both projects. "’DÈjý Vu’ would be in town for three months," said Mr. Parente. "Scouting is under way for another project that would start in the spring."
GABLES MOVE-IN: A global Internet fax-messaging company has moved its headquarters from Miami Beach to Coral Gables. Venali has a worldwide staff of 100, of whom 75 work at One Alhambra. The 9-year-old company also has offices in London, Munich, Singapore and the Ukraine. The company moved from 1680 Michigan Ave. last month.
CRUISES WITH A TWIST: When Miami-based Royal Caribbean launches the world’s largest cruise ship next year, there will be a bit of a twist. Passengers on a maiden voyage aboard Freedom of the Seas planned for May will have access to FlowRider – a 32- by 40-foot surfing simulator that packs wave power equivalent to 30,000 gallons per minute. Participants may practice standup riding or body boarding through a process the cruise company promises "has a quick learning curve." Details: www.royalcaribbean.com.
CANADA LOOKS AT US: The Canadian Consulate General is hosting a conference on economic conditions in South Florida 8:45 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday (10/12) at the Marriott Palm Beach Gardens. The meeting will include discussion of trends in information technology, construction, agro-technology and bio-science. Details: Jenny Navas, (305) 579-1623.
ARTFUL ENTRANCES: A subcommittee of Coconut Grove’s Business Improvement Committee is creating a plan to bring back the Grove’s arts roots. Subcommittee chairman Ricardo Dunin addressed board members last week about a marketing master plan to have art showcased on streets leading into the Grove. The plan is in preliminary stages, but a committee may be created to get art collectors and artists interested.
BRICK WORK: The Coconut Grove Business Improvement Committee has a $56,000 budget to hire a brick cleaner to clean the area’s brick streets and sidewalks, a project that has been a year in the making. "We’ve done a lot of work on this, and we need to move things along," said member Robert Mesriah. The next step is to seek bids.
SIGN OFF: Litter Buster, a cleaning unit in Coconut Grove, is asking the Coconut Grove Business Improvement Committee for help cleaning graffiti on signs and poles. The committee voted last week to have the City of Miami Public Works Department set up communication with Miami-Dade County to help remove and replace signs damaged with graffiti.
TREE TRIMMING: With Christmas around the corner, the Coconut Grove Business Improvement Committee is interested in lighting 50 trees with Christmas bulbs on Main Highway, Fuller Street and Commodore Plaza. Committee members voted last week to limit the cost to $60,000. They’re seeking a company that can set everything up before Thanksgiving.
CELLULOID DOLLARS: Miami is planning a film finance seminar to coincide with the community’s international film festival in February. "We’re moving forward with a plan to host a session to draw some of the elite money brokers," said Robert Parente, director of the Miami Office of Film, Arts and Entertainment, "to talk about the ins and outs of film funding. We may hold the seminar during the Miami International Film Festival." Fewer banks in Miami-Dade County than on the West Coast are familiar with film financing transactions.