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Front Page » FYI Miami » Fyi Miami

Fyi Miami

Written by on January 15, 2009


Miami is a weekly feature of Miami Today, keeping readers ahead

of the news. Here are highlights from the most current edition.

   STADIUM STUDIES: Miami’s city commission is to decide today (1/15) whether to give Professional Engineering & Inspection Co. $100,000 more for added environmental work at the 40-acre Orange Bowl Stadium site, where the county and city plan a baseball stadium for the Florida Marlins. The firm already got $700,000 for environmental work there. In 2007, a study found that a gas station once was on the Little Havana site. That area was treated and the remaining site deemed contaminant-free, but the firm is now asking for more money to do additional work.

   BEAL PUSHED BACK: Texas-based wholesale bank Beal Bank doesn’t expect to open its Coral Gables branch until May — about three months after a planned February start. "Architectural and design considerations have resulted in a brief delay of the opening of Beal Bank’s Miami branch. We are enthusiastic about serving Miami-area depositors, and we expect the new branch to open in May 2009," the bank said via e-mail. Its Coral Gables operation is to have four employees at a 2,000-square-foot office at 2610 Ponce de Leon Blvd. The bank reports it has capital of more than $400 million and assets of more than $1.1 billion as of March 31, 2008. As a wholesale bank, Beal does not offer retail services such as consumer loans and customer checking.

   FASHION FORWARD: The Beacon Council, Miami-Dade’s economic development arm, continues to push its new fashion and lifestyle initiative. The agency is working on a formal proposal to the chamber of commerce in Italy’s Lombardy region in hopes of joining forces to pursue the Beacon’s vision of creating a fashion and lifestyle hub here. The plan is also to submit the proposal to Italy’s country-wide fashion industry association. "It is the next step," Beacon President and CEO Frank Nero said. "There are potential opportunities for cooperative ventures here." Also, a delegation from Tuscany "indicated to us they’ll definitely do a [major, multi-day fashion] show here," he said, probably in January or February 2010. The focus would most likely be spring resortwear, but could also be broader to show a variety of collections, Mr. Nero said. The Beacon plans also to "start connecting the dots" with other brands from France, Spain and potentially other areas — even locally — in addition to Italian brands. During the next year or so, "we may see a series of smaller shows, smaller events spread out of the year," he said. "But the idea is ultimately to have a time period where we’d have a major fashion event here."

   SEEKING FASHIONISTA: As the council continues to work on its developing fashion and lifestyle initiative, it may "down the road" establish an in-house division or office, Mr. Nero said. "I think increasingly this is becoming a fulltime responsibility," he said. "We need someone who would have expertise and skill in this area in the fashion industry." It depends on the agency’s budget, Mr. Nero said, but "we’re toying with that." The Beacon is funded by both public and private dollars.

   WE ALL SCREAM FOR ICE CREAM: The nation’s third-bestselling ice cream brand is to arrive in South Florida Feb. 2. Blue Bell Ice Cream of Brenham, TX, is No.3 though it’s sold in only 18 states. Blue Bell has moved into a 29,000-square-foot temporary distribution center at 10491 N Commerce Parkway in Miramar to serve markets within about 100 miles of Miami. Blue Bell products are to be sold at Publix, Winn-Dixie, Albertsons and other grocery stores. The company plans to hire driver salesmen from the area in a 32-person crew. It’s introducing a new flavor next month initially to be sold only in South Florida. "Tropical Paradise" is a coconut ice cream with crushed pineapples, roasted macadamia nuts and a pineapple-coconut sauce swirl.

   HOSPITALITY HIRING: South Florida’s leisure and hospitality hiring is projected to drop 1.2% in 2009 from last year’s level of 258,000 workers, a forecast by the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Competitiveness says. Looking ahead, the institute projects regional hospitality sector employment drops of 1.1% in 2010 and 1.6% in 2011. The forecast is for employment numbers to go from 254,800 this year to 251,000 in 2010 and 247,800 in 2011. More immediately, the institute forecasts a full percentage point employment drop for the next two quarters compared to the same period in 2008. The forecast area includes Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Miami Beach.

   MAKING CHANGE: Just as Wells Fargo completes its purchase of Wachovia, local Wachovia chief exec Jorge J. Gonzalez has left the national bank. He last week joined locally based City National Bank of Florida as president after serving as Wachovia’s regional president here. Leonard Abess, formerly president, chief executive officer and chairman, said he will remain CEO of City National. Ramon Ferraz, who arrived from Spain in August after Spanish bank Caja Madrid bought a majority interest in City National, is to become the new chairman. Mr. Gonzalez’s charge is "to build the franchise and to direct the future growth of the bank," Mr. Abess said. "We’re going to grow rapidly, we’re going to expand around the state, and we need an executive who has the big-bank experience and a track record as a leader for growth." Expansion plans are to be developed now that Mr. Gonzalez has signed on, Mr. Abess said, adding that Mr. Gonzalez’s mother worked at the bank for 25 years. "He’s a second generation City National banker, and we’ve always said we’re a family bank."

   WASHINGTON WATCH: Miami’s Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts downtown is to present Jan. 20 a free video simulcast of President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration. Doors open at 10:30 a.m. for general seating. An organist is to perform a mini-concert on the theater’s "Mighty Wurlitzer" pipe organ at 11 a.m. The simulcast will air 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. To request seats, e-mail, limit two seats per request. Admittance is first-come, first-served. Details:

   GOING UP, AND UP: Miami-Dade County, a stellar performer in Florida’s economic constellation, will piggyback on immigration from Latin America and its small-business sector to rebound from the recession far more rapidly than the rest of the state, economist J. Antonio Villamil, dean of the School of Business of St. Thomas University, told the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon last week. "There will be a faster recovery and a more sustained upturn here," he said — but don’t expect help from Tallahassee to achieve it. Look instead, he said, to local civic organizations and local government for a boost. He said he expects the upturn in the latter part of this year — followed by a period of very high inflation in 2011 and 2012.

   MANN WANTS IN: A new candidate is joining the race for Joe Sanchez’s District 3 Miami commission seat. Beba Mann, vice chair of Miami’s Planning Advisory Board, announced this week she is running for the job. District 3 already has four formal candidates: founder and CEO of non-profit South Florida Sports League Guillermo "Willie" Chacon, former Mayor Joe Carollo’s brother Frank Carollo, Mavel Lopez and Pedro R. Diaz. Ms. Mann is appointing as her campaign manager Rebecca Wakefield, a former political columnist at the Miami Beach SunPost.

   HIGH NOTE: The Miami Downtown Development Authority was awarded $150,000 by the Knight Foundation Arts Partnership, a $40 million, 5-year initiative of the Miami-based John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, to transform the arts in South Florida. The grant is to fund the authority’s Downtown Concert Series designed to promote the arts and bring downtowners together with a slice of culture. Other recipients were Miami City Ballet and Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. The free concerts are planned for the second Friday of every month at 5:30 p.m. in Bayfront Park.

   MIAMI RIDES: Bike Miami returns Jan. 18 with a new biking route extended from downtown to the Miami riverfront. The city-sponsored event, a Miami Mayor Manny Diaz initiative to build a more sustainable city, invites cyclists, skaters and walkers to explore the city without producing CO emissions. Parts of Flagler Street and South Miami Avenue are closing from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the event. Details:

   CONFLICTS: After a November legal review, Maria Chiaro, deputy Miami city attorney, determined no conflict of interest existed with Nitin Motwani, Miami Worldcenter representative, sitting on the Downtown Development Authority’s board. Now the city is asking commissioners for a conflict of interest waiver. Commissioner Tomás Regalado was first to voice concerns. At that time, Ms. Chiaro e-mailed Mr. Regalado that no conflict existed. "We are informed that the person who appeared before the city commission (Mr. Motwani) was not the developer but an "agent’ who represented the developer," she said. Today (1/15) the City Manager’s Office is asking the commission to issue a conflict of interest waiver to Mr. Motwani, a development authority board member, to participate in the development agreement between the city and Miami Worldcenter, a pact the commission approved early last month.

   MOO MIAMI: The second annual Miami International Agriculture & Cattle Show March 20-22 at Tropical Park in West Miami will bring cattle breeders from North and South America and other parts of the world. The event is to feature live music, educational booths, agri-business and livestock product vendors, equestrian shows, dog obedience demonstrations and children’s activities. Details:

   MIND ON MARKETING: Doug Carrillo, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Tecton Hospitality and Desires Hotels, has been named among the "Top 25 Extraordinary Minds in Sales and Marketing" for 2008 by The Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International. He’s to be honored at the association’s annual Adrian Awards on Jan. 26. Desires operates eight area boutique hotels, including the Sagamore, The Betsy, Hotel Astor, The Strand, Hotel St. Augustine and Wave Hotel.

   BUSINESS LOOKING BRIGHT: Miami-Dade art icon Romero Britto designed the cover to this year’s "Miami Business Profile & Relocation Guide" produced by the county’s economic development arm, the Beacon Council. The annual publication serves to promote Greater Miami to business leaders in the US and abroad. It includes economic and demographic data, industry facts, business assistance information and contact directories. The guide, unveiled Tuesday, is available to the public for $15. Details: (305) 579-1300.

   CONFERENCE COLLECTIONS: The American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging annual conference, in town through Friday, anticipates more than 10,000 attendees and more than 24,000 total room nights with an economic impact in excess of $15 million. The event is hosted by the Eden Roc Hotel, Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay and Hilton Downtown. The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau is bidding for the organization’s 2016 Annual Conference.

   GUIDE TO I-95: Stan Posner and Sandra Phillips, authors of "Drive I-95: Exit by Exit Info, Maps, History and Trivia," will be in Miami on Friday updating the book’s Miami section. The husband-and-wife writing team is in the middle of putting out a fifth edition of the book, which has won national awards and produced more than 100 media interviews in 2008, according to the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. Details:

   FOOD FOR THOUGHT: AT&T’s Aspire Initiative awarded nearly $400,000 to the Miami Science Museum’s Upward Bound educational program. The grant, a tiny piece of the initiative’s $100 million pie, will help the museum engage underprivileged local youth in the sciences, encouraging them to stay in school and pursue post-secondary education in science and math. AT&T will pay out the money over four years. The funds will allow the museum to expand Upward Bound’s enrollment of ninth and 10th graders.

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