Internet tool to assist businesses in relocation research
By Lou Ortiz
Firms anywhere in the world that want to relocate to Miami-Dade County could instantly explore potential business ties here and know the proximity of suppliers and major highways — just from a click of a mouse.
The county mayor's office, the E-Services Department and staff of Commissioner Natacha Seijas are working on business tool called "Internet-based Geographic Information System for Economic Development" to do just that.
The business Web site is to be a one-stop information center of sorts for current and prospective businesses.
"If you're in Paris or London, you can tap into the site if you're looking to open a business in Dade County," said Terri Murphy, chief of staff for Ms. Seijas. "It's an excellent way to locate or relocate business."
The site, which is expected to be in operation in 12 to 18 months, is to provide an array of information to businesses, ranging from commercial and industrial property listings and listing agents to leasing and ownership information.
Firms could find out the square footage of a building, learn the distance from the property location to Miami International Airport, the Port of Miami or mass transit, "whatever you may need," said Mary Fuentes, director of the E-Services Department.
Ms. Fuentes said the county has been using GIS for 20 years, in part, for such things as crime analysis, identifying locations of sexual predators and garbage routing.
"It's a way of putting information together for special needs," she said. "GIS is used by 90% of county departments. For economic development, we're combining information into one site that has it all."
The county commission on April 8 approved a resolution for the GIS site, with five commissioners joining Ms. Seijas in sponsoring the measure.
The system is to also include information on competing businesses and support companies, plus demographics and social information, including infrastructure, according to the resolution.
"These features will assist companies to make business decisions relating to opening new stores, increasing workforce, and establishing a presence in Miami-Dade County," the resolution said, making "our community more competitive in the global marketplace."
The resolution says similar GIS programs have been started in North and South Carolina, California, Texas and Iowa.
The system is also expected to help governments, academics and economic development agencies.
The resolution calls for Mayor Carlos Alvarez to convene a working group of representatives from the Beacon Council, the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, Hialeah Dade Development Inc., economist J. Antonio Villamil and others to help design features for the system.
After getting the input "we'll have the features that everyone agrees will be useful," said Mr. Murphy. "We'll be working on this over the next year."
The county would like the system up and going "as quickly as possible," Ms. Fuentes said.
"The private sector needs information to make a decision where to locate or expand their business operation," Ms. Seijas said.
"I want Miami-Dade County to build a Web site that gives the business world instant access to the information."