DRUGS WE'D LIKE TO KEEP: A Miami-Dade pharmaceutical manufacturer, which is planning a $4 million remodeling and expansion of its facilities, has been granted $16,800 in Qualified Target Industry tax refunds by Miami-Dade County commissioners. Under the QTI program, the county pays 20% of $84,000 in state incentives for the firm to keep its expanded facility in the county, along with the 28 "high-quality and high-income" jobs the expansion is to bring. The company, whose name is concealed in county documents, also is being wooed by New Jersey, Tennessee and Massachusetts. The new jobs are to pay an average of $42,765 with an annual benefit package of $13,685.
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THE DOC IS IN: AM-PM HouseCalls, a 24-hour emergency medical service that promises to deliver health care within an hour, announced plans Tuesday to team with the South Florida Concierge Association and local hotel staffs to expand its hospitality partnership program for mutual training in caring for tourists, especially during hurricane emergencies. "When tourists are away from home, they tend to be very fragile and frightened," said CEO Ramsey H. Saffouri. A hurricane-preparedness program should help secure safety of tourists, Dr. Saffouri said. AM-PM HouseCalls, which is available in homes and at work in the tri-county area and in major cities nationwide, employs 27 doctors who serve Miami-Dade County.
TRUST FUNDS: The City of Miami has agreed to waive its interest in the half-mil property tax levied by Miami-Dade County's Children's Trust by authorizing an agreement among the city, community redevelopment agencies, the county and the trust allowing the use of incremental revenues derived from the tax against real property within agency boundaries.
MAJOR INDUSTRIAL DEAL: One of Miami-Dade County's most active industrial market players, AMB Property LP, expanded its presence in the Gratigny Central market last week, buying a 242,000-square-foot industrial complex at 3301 NW 125th St. for more than $21 million from Sternlieb Holdings Limited Partnership, founders of the Henry Lee Foods distribution company. The 15-acre site includes a 234,000-square-foot distribution center, 7,500-square-foot truck maintenance facility and five acres for trailer storage. AMB officials are in negotiations for a long-term lease with tenant Gordon Food Service, said Cushman & Wakefield senior director Brian Smith, who represented AMB in the lease deal and Sternlieb in the sale. AMB now owns more than 1.4 million square feet in Gratigny Central.
BANKING ON INCENTIVES: Miami-Dade commissioners last week unanimously approved nearly $1.6 million in economic development incentives in hopes of luring an international bank headquarters to a new 35-story office tower to be built at 1450 Brickell Ave. Miami is competing with Atlanta and Brazil for the bank's $37.3 million headquarters. The bank, whose name is concealed in county documents, would employ more than 200, averaging $130,000 in individual yearly wages and a $32,500 annual employee benefit package.
RED FLAG OF CAUTION: After a series of public embarrassments regarding county-funded projects gone awry, Miami-Dade commissioners last week unanimously passed a "red-flag" ordinance requiring County Manager George Burgess to report every 60 days on contracts, programs, projects and initiatives that are at risk. Qualifying projects are those that fail to reach major milestones or have funding or personnel problems.
FACES ON THE WEB: Miami-Dade Commissioner Javier Souto's proposal to place photos, resumes and salaries of newly hired and promoted county employees on the Internet escaped defeat in the Budget and Finance Committee last week when Chairman Joe Martinez, despite misgivings, decided that the full commission should hear it. Mr. Martinez cast the deciding vote in the 4-2 verdict even after quipping, "I know a lot of divorced people who would like to know the salaries" employees are making. For his part, Mr. Souto held up a glass of water and said county government "should be as transparent as this."
ALL OR NOTHING: Commissioner Jose Diaz went even further, suggesting that such information about all county employees should be on the Web. "I don't think we need to hide from anybody," Mr. Diaz said, noting his own staff's photos are on his Web site. "For god's sake — for $10 on the Internet, you can find out anything about anybody."
IT COSTS WHAT? While safety and privacy concerns were being debated on Mr. Souto's proposal for photos on the Web, Carlos Gimenez and other commissioners disputed the cost estimates given on a county memo based on 17,000 positions — including temporary and seasonal workers — filled yearly. "It's going to cost $125,000 to set up a Web page? And $91,000 a year to maintain?" Mr. Gimenez asked. "Can I get that contract?" Added Mr. Martinez: "I'll be your partner." Mr. Gimenez suggested that exempting 7,000 poll workers from the ordinance would slash those costs, which staff will reexamine.
CAR DEALER TO MOVE: A formerly contaminated 18-acre Superfund site at 7090 Coral Way will be the home of the Tamiami Automotive Group's South Florida Chrysler dealership to be built by Flagler Development Group. The property, east of the Palmetto Expressway, was vacant for 25 years and designated a Superfund site by the US Environmental Protection Agency, which defines such properties as abandoned land with a presence of hazardous waste — in this case, arsenic. The site landed on the toxic list after the closing of a lumber plant.
GOOD TO GO: The state's Department of Environmental Resource Management conducted a two-pronged study after the group bought the land in 2001 to ensure the site was suitable for development, said Tamiami Chrysler principal Carlos Planas. The department will also closely monitor water flow and other activity during construction, he said, which is expected to conclude in late 2008. Despite the Superfund distinction, he said he had rejected various offers to buy the site.
JUNGLE BUNGLE: Miami city commissioners, who are also community redevelopment agency board members, have unanimously agreed to assume the bulk of Miami-Dade County's $25 million loan to Parrot Jungle, although some commissioners said in the past they felt the county was using agreements such as this as bargaining tools to negotiate extending the agencies' lifespan and extending their boundaries. Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, chairwoman of the agencies, was not present for the vote.
WRAPPING IT UP: To tie up loose ends before its summer recess, Miami's city commission is to hold a special session in early August. The date, still to be determined, is likely to be Aug. 1 or 2, according to a city spokesman.
CHIPPING AWAY AT SMOKING: Coral Gables Commissioner Wayne "Chip" Withers began this month a three-year term on the state's newly created Tobacco Education and Use Prevention Advisory Council, designed to provide input to the Department of Health on anti-smoking and tobacco use initiatives. The 23-member council is comprised of people appointed by the governor, senate president and speaker of the house. Senate President Ken Pruitt appointed Mr. Withers.
GIRL POWER: Miami-Dade Expressway Authority board members have elected their first female chair — Maritza Gutierrez, president of Creative Ideas Advertising. She's to serve until February 2009.
PEDESTRIAN POSSIBILITIES: Miami-Dade Transit is to hold a July 26 public meeting for discussion of a pedestrian overpass over US 1 at the University Metrorail Station. An overpass would be funded by the county's half-penny sales tax and would feature elevators, stairs and landscaping. The open house and presentation are set for 4-7 p.m. at the Holiday Inn University of Miami, Alhambra Meeting Room, 1350 S. Dixie Highway. Details: (305) 375-5453 or email@example.com.