Beacon Council lures fewer companies, more investment to Miami-Dade
By Risa Polansky
Twenty-seven companies agreed to set up shop or expand in Miami-Dade this year with the help of the county's economic development arm & only four fewer businesses than last year despite a challenging economy.
And the combined capital investment the companies plan to make is nearly four times that of businesses that committed to moving or expanding here last year: $72.8 million promised in 2007 compared to the $276.3 million the 2008 companies pledged.
"It was achieved because some of the projects had some major expansions, and actually there was some new construction associated with it," said Frank Nero, president and chief executive officer of the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade's economic development organization.
Locally based Centurion Air Cargo Inc. is to build a new facility, making a $123 million capital investment, expanding by 432,000 square feet and creating 200 new direct jobs in three years.
Biomix Energy Corp., a new bio-diesel manufacturer, is to build a plant on the Miami River, making a $25 million capital investment and creating 60 new jobs in three years.
The Beacon also expects more new jobs to come out of this year's relocation and expansion projects than last year's.
Companies that moved or grew here in 2007 pledged to create 1,051 new direct jobs.
This year's bunch is set to add 1,235 direct jobs, as well as 670 indirect jobs.
Mr. Nero acknowledged that, in today's uncertain economy, "there's always that chance" that the companies can't complete their expansions exactly as planned.
"But many of them are already either under construction or about to go under construction," he said, including New Jersey-based BD Biosciences, a global medical technology company set to invest $21 million and create 36 jobs in three years; and Schering-Plough, which develops and manufactures pharmaceuticals, set to expand and add a new pharmaceutical product line in its Miami Lakes facility, making a more than $3.2 million capital investment and adding 28 high-paying jobs over three years.
Bio-Nucleonics, a local bio-pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturer, just relocated to a 7,000 square-foot facility in Doral and plans to create 33 new jobs in three years.
President and Chief Executive Officer Rosanne Satz said the company is on track to meet its expansion target.
"We're still moving forward full speed ahead," she said, noting that her industry is less affected by economic dips than other sectors.
"People are still getting sick, and our goal is to help people with cancer."
Miami is an ideal location to further this mission, she said, as local universities continue to expand their medical research and institutes such as Scripps continue making strides in the region — often a draw for bioscience companies looking to relocate.
Miami's proximity to the Americas also helps attract companies.
Spanish tile manufacturer La Escandella Group chose Miami because of its reputation as the gateway to Latin American and Caribbean markets, its international climate and its active import business, Managing Director Faustino Salcedo said in an e-mail.
The company is one of 10 Spanish companies to expand to Miami this year, according to Beacon Council records.
La Escandella now occupies 1,000 square feet of offices here and is planning a warehouse and yard.
A new chocolate factory is also on its way.
Local company Camrose Trading has partnered with a Brazilian family to bring Tierra Nueva, a cocoa and chocolate-product factory, to Miami.
"The cacao that we buy, we buy it in the Americas, and it [Miami] is the most logical entry point for the US," said Camrose President John Alexander.
He expects the chocolate factory to be up and running by the beginning of February.
Equipment is en route from Brazil now, he said.
The company, which plans to create 160 jobs and make a $12.4 million capital investment, is already hiring here, he said.
Mr. Nero said he expects the next batch of projects the Beacon Council is able to lure here could create more jobs than the companies that made deals this year.
"Our project numbers are a little bit down" — usually the council manages about 100 projects and is now working on about 83 — but in part because several are manufacturing operations, more jobs could result, he said.
The Beacon anticipates closing four projects by Jan. 1, sealing deals for nearly 500 new jobs, Mr. Nero said.
If the economic bottom doesn't fall out, the organization is on track "to have a relatively good year," he said.
The plan is "to continue to be very aggressive out in the marketplace. This is not the time to pull back."
A marketing campaign is under way, and the council plans next year to visit Europe on business missions.
To continue luring companies, "we need to continue to stress the diversification of the economy here," Mr. Nero said, as well as highlight Miami's international infrastructure and workforce.
Also, today's falling home prices and other dipping business costs mean "now is as best a time as any" to move to or expand in Miami.
"If they have the financing and resources," Mr. Nero said, "now is an excellent time to move."
The Beacon Council was to give the 27 new and expanded companies keys to the county at a ceremony this week.