Some in city and county look for Marlins project to be local stimulus
By Yudislaidy Fernandez and Risa Polansky
The need for local jobs took center stage during Miami-Dade County's Marlins stadium vote Monday, with business leaders, unemployed construction workers and some commissioners rallying behind the now-approved $633 million construction project as the economic boost the county needs.
After last-minute changes by city and county commissioners, the deal opens the door for increased opportunities for local workers and small businesses once construction begins.
The Marlins say they intend to break ground in July.
One of the amendments city commissioners made during their vote last week was to strive to ensure that 50% of workers on the stadium construction job — and at the stadium, once built — are from Miami-Dade County; one-fifth of that 50% must be Miami residents.
Another aim is that 35% of firms hired as subcontractors be Miami-Dade County-based. The deal requires the Marlins to follow county small business inclusion programs, which generally aspire to hire 30% small businesses for contracts.
Larry Spring, City of Miami CFO, said at the city's meeting that a procedure would be included in the individual bid packages related to the stadium work with specific goals for the businesses to meet.
He said if the stadium developer doesn't meet those goals through negligence, the team would be required to pay 150% of the deficit missed as a penalty. But if the team shows it made concrete efforts and can show proof, it's off the hook.
Marlins President David Samson at the county's vote Monday pledged to include more local workers than the deal calls for.
"We are trying to get as close to 100% as possible," he said.
County commissioners at their meeting also worked to secure a place for local and small businesses in the project, amending the ballpark deal to include oversight and protection measures such as hiring an outreach administrator to help achieve local and small business goals and to audit the developer's hiring records.
Both the city and county pushed also to create opportunity for residents in low-income areas.
Legally, the contracts can call only for aims rather than fixed percentages, but Mr. Samson said he sees the goals not as aspirations but as "things that we will surpass."
He said it will take 65 different bid packages to build the stadium.
Commissioner Barbara Jordan urged businesses to "get registered" with the county's small business programs.
"We're going to have more than 60 bites of the apple," she said, assuring local and small firms that "you will have an opportunity to bid on some of this work and more than likely will be successful in getting selected on a number of them."
Mr. Samson promised 12 outreach programs within the next month at which businesses can get certified.
Miami-Dade's business-development programs — which have more than 1,200 small companies certified countywide — enable small businesses to participate in county purchases and contracts:
nThe Community Small Business Enterprise program serves companies in the construction industry that report three-year average gross revenues not exceeding $10 million, according to the department's Web site.
nThe Community Business Enterprise program applies to firms in architectural, engineering, surveying and mapping services with three-year average gross revenues not higher than $4 million.
nThe Small Business Enterprise program assists companies in the procurement industry — the sale of goods and services — earning three-year average gross revenues ranging from $2 million to $5 million, depending on the firm's size.
The county offers also a job clearinghouse to inform local workers of unfilled positions on county projects, Small Business Development Director Penelope Townsley said in an e-mail.
For the stadium project, the construction manager must submit a workforce plan and post any unfilled positions with the clearinghouse, she said.
For filled positions, the county will review the workers' names, addresses, and date of hire to ensure local participation compliance.
City commissioners late last year gave initial approval to a new ordinance for small business participation but have yet to take a final vote.
Assistant City Manager Roger Hernstadt said the city didn't want to put the ordinance in place before solidifying Marlins project goals to avoid contradictions.
The city put program guidelines on the "back burner" to let the baseball deal take its course, he said.
Now that the stadium has been OK'd, officials plan to bring the ordinance up for final approval.
It's designed to allow Miami-based small businesses opportunities to bid on goods and services and projects, as well as to have a shot at participating in larger procurements, Mr. Hernstadt said.
"It definitely will work in conjunction with the county's program," he said, adding that the city won't create a "duplicative registration process" for businesses.
To ensure local workers are on the job at the stadium and other sites, an official is to monitor the certified payroll and conduct field audits to check workers' drivers licenses or other identification "to see in fact that they are a city resident," he said.
Miami CFO Spring said the amendments requiring local participation apply also to constructing stadium parking facilities.
The job opportunities the stadium would bring became a main focus for stadium supporters as the deal got closer to a vote, coming to a fever pitch at the two government meetings.
Many construction industry workers voiced support for building the ballpark because it would provide local jobs.
The construction industry in South Florida has taken a hit in recent months with the economy going into a recession fueled by failures in the real estate and credit markets.
Beacon Council President and CEO Frank Nero told county commissioners that a year ago, 55,000 people held construction jobs in Miami-Dade.
Now, that number has sunk to fewer than 40,000, and "that is dropping every week," he said.
Other community leaders such as Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce President Bill Diggs, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce President Barry Johnson and Builders Association of South Florida President Ashley Bosch backed the Marlins ballpark because of job-creation opportunities.
Mr. Diggs said the project offers opportunity to put locals back to work, noting that many people present at the meetings were unemployed.
At the county meeting, city commission Chair Joe Sanchez called the stadium "a stimulus plan for South Florida."
Some pointed out flaws in the deal.
County Commissioner Natacha Seijas, who voted for the stadium, questioned whether the amount of actual business a company does here comes into play in addition to its address.
"So if they just have a business address but don't do any business here, then they have equal opportunity?" she said.
County Commissioner Joe Martinez, a stadium opponent, noted that certain aspects of a ballpark construction job could call for specialized workers who may not live in Miami-Dade.
Ken Johnson, a vice president with stadium construction team Hunt/Moss, said some elements, such as scoreboards or the planned retractable roof, require highly specialized workers, but "in almost all cases" the company hires local subcontractors.
Still, Mr. Martinez said, "there really isn't a guarantee of X number of jobs, or what type they'll be."
But in pitching the stadium project to commissioners early in Monday's meeting, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez said now is not the time to nitpick.
Whether it's 999 jobs or more than a thousand jobs, "it's a lot of jobs," he said. "It's a lot of good-paying jobs in an area that's suffering."
Details: Miami-Dade Small Business Development Department, (305) 375-3111 or http://www.miamidade.gov/sba/.