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Written by on April 1, 2009

FYI

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

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

   IMPENDING ANNOUNCEMENT: Florida International University is to have a new president April 25, when the Board of Trustees Presidential Search Committee plans to announce Modesto A. Maidique’s successor. Mr. Maidique is stepping down after serving since 1986. The committee Tuesday reviewed a recent compensation study that examined presidents’ compensation at 22 institutions comparable to Florida International. It showed a range between $609,000 and $758,000. A position profile on the university’s Web site says salary will be "competitive and commensurate with experience." Interviews with finalist candidates are to begin April 19. In addition to the committee and university administrators, university faculty, students, alumni and community leaders are to have a chance to weigh in at on-campus events that week. Details: http://presidentialsearch.fiu.edu/

   LOW ON LOANS: After the Miami-Dade commission, led by Dorrin Rolle, in January instructed the county administration to develop a bailout loan plan for small businesses affected by the recession, staff has come back with a plan to simply promote current programs and partner with other entities with similar goals. Mr. Rolle had asked administrators to identify gap funding, set loan caps and establish how to ensure repayments to the county. But the county budget won’t allow new programs of such scope. "The county must look for ways to support private businesses in our community, particularly our smaller companies, while at the same time recognizing the county government’s fiscal constraints," the administration’s report says. The county is keeping an eye on the federal stimulus package for opportunity to lend to small businesses. The plan in the meantime is to team with the Small Business Administration for counseling resource assistance and to promote the nearly $3.3 million available for fixed assets and working capital loans through existing county loan programs.

   TO GIVE OR NOT TO GIVE: The Omni Community Redevelopment Agency’s board, made up of Miami’s city commissioners, deadlocked 2-2 on granting the Miami Woman’s Club close to $2 million for repairs needed to win its 40-year recertification of the historic building at 1737 N Bayshore Drive. Tomás Regalado and Marc Sarnoff voted no; Angel Gonzalez was absent. The board agreed Monday to continue the item to next month to get Mr. Sarnoff information on the club’s active membership and how many members have donated toward renovation. Noreen Timoney, club president and wife of the city’s police chief, said Tuesday the grant, the first installment of which the agency awarded last year at $1.8 million, is to fund the recertification. She said renovations total about $12 million and the club has raised $350,000 for it. She said the club plans more aggressive fundraising once the recertification is granted.

   PARTIAL SETTLEMENT: The Overtown Community Redevelopment Agency board has asked to remove one of three sites from a city suit against Miami-Dade County. The city claims the county wrongfully seized the three Overtown sites. Two were slated for affordable housing. The board voted to remove the site behind Overtown’s Lyric Theater and hand the land to the theater so it can expand and build offices for the Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida. Executive Director Jim Villacorta said the next step is for the city commission to approve partial settlement, which is expected because commissioners make up the agency’s board. The most-awaited vote is that of the county commission, the third party in the suit.

   STOLEN SIGNS: Miami Commissioner Tomás Regalado, who is in the running along with colleague Joe Sanchez and others for Miami mayor, asked State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle to investigate stolen and damaged campaign signs. He wrote her last month requesting an investigation of 140 signs he said were stolen, vandalized or destroyed in the past month, costing his campaign more than $3,000. He said he has spent more than $10,000 to place more than 3,000 signs in preparation for the Nov. 3 election.

   COURTHOUSE OK’D: The Miami City Commission last week approved a development of regional impact for Miami-Dade County’s 3.4-acre Children’s Courthouse planned downtown at 112 NW Third St. Miami’s planning board included conditions such as more public art on walls and in plazas and landscaping along parking area, which the county accepted. Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones requested that the courthouse consider employing Miami residents because employment is becoming a huge issue for city and the project is to provide many jobs. Chairman Joe Sanchez said the project was long overdue because the current building "was a shame." The county leases the old courthouse at 3300 NW 27th Ave. from the state. He said: "I am glad to see we are going to go from the worst to the best."

   UNEMPLOYMENT UP: Miami-Dade County’s unemployment rate hit 7.5% in February, up six-tenths of a percentage point from the month prior and 2.8 percentage points from the same time last year. Non-agricultural companies in Miami-Dade lost 39,400 jobs between February of last and this year. Construction industry employment fell 19% during the year. Retail trade, professional and business services and finance and insurance also took hits. Hospitals, education and government saw some growth. As unemployment continues to rise, some legislative leaders have signaled they may refuse $1 billion in federal stimulus funds that could help about 250,000 Floridians with dwindling unemployment benefits, citing strings attached: the state would have to allow more jobless residents to receive unemployment benefits, as well as pay for the program after a year. The state could decide, however, to sunset its authorization of the additional benefits.

   THROWING OUT THE FIRST BALL(S): Busy moments are in store for whomever the Miami Marlins have behind the plate as the team inaugurates its new stadium on opening day 2012. The system of rewards that characterizes Miami-Dade politics ensures that the receiver can expect that ceremonial first pitch to come again and again and again. "I want to see quite a few first pitches," Marlins President David Samson said on sports radio host Dan LeBatard’s show on 790 the Ticket last Wednesday. He said he wants all city and county commissioners who voted for the project to take the mound and make a toss. And, he said, it goes without saying that Mayors Manny Diaz and Carlos Alvarez will each get a chance to chuck one. But Mr. LeBatard wanted to know about those commissioners who voted against the stadium. "You know, I guess we’ll see what happens," Mr. Samson said. But, he added, you only get a dozen balls in a box.

   WHAT ABOUT A BONUS?: Mr. LeBatard, a former Miami Herald sports columnist, theorized that Mr. Samson’s efforts had been key to enriching the value of the Marlins’ franchise by at least $200 million. Wouldn’t that, he asked, merit a bonus? The club president dodged the dollar value question as deftly as Marlins slugger Dan Uggla would a brush-back pitch. But a bonus? Well, yes, maybe, said Mr. Samson. "When bonus time comes at the end of the year, I hope my name is on the list." If not, getting the stadium approved is reward enough, he says. "My bonus is to leave a legacy to the community."

   INCLUSION ENFORCEMENT: Contractors that don’t meet small-business inclusion requirements should have to submit make-up plans in order to remain eligible for Miami-Dade projects, Commissioner Dorrin Rolle says. He is to propose at a commission meeting Tuesday that the county require such plans. Those that fail to comply with their make-up plans "without good cause" would be suspended from bidding on or participating in county contracts for six months, his proposed legislation says. Make the mistake twice, get suspended for a year. Three times, and the company would be subject for debarment. In a recent local small business inclusion move, Florida Marlins officials pledged last week to strive to ensure 50% of workers hired to build their newly approved stadium are from Miami-Dade County.

   CHECKING UP: In a similar vein, Commissioner Audrey Edmonson at Tuesday’s meeting is to ask administrators to examine how the small business department is achieving its objectives. Her proposed legislation would require a report within 90 days explaining how the department establishes its goals and how it monitors compliance.

   HEALTH-TRUST HEAD: The Public Health Trust, a volunteer policymaking body of the Jackson Health System, has named John H. Copeland III chairman. The trust is made up of 15 volunteers and two county commissioners who set policies for the operation of Jackson Health System. Mr. Copeland is managing director of the Copeland Companies, a group of Miami-based family businesses. He joined the trust in May 2002. The other new officers named were Angel Medina Jr., group president and area executive of Regions Bank’s Southern Florida market, as vice chairman, Georgena D. Ford, as secretary and Marcos Lapciuc as treasurer.

   KEEP IT CONSISTENT: The Florida Legislature should create an insurance re-construction appraisal formula to ensure industry consistency and fairness, Miami-Dade Commissioner Katy Sorenson says. She is to propose at a commission meeting Tuesday that the county commission join the Village of Palmetto Bay in urging the state Legislature to do so. Her proposed measure asserts that arbitrary action by private companies "will result in higher insurance premiums to all insured, thus pricing many residents and property owners out of the insurance market."

   BOWLING BREAK: Amid market conditions most called tough but not devoid of opportunity, local commercial real estate professionals took a break from hitting the pavement to hit the lanes. The Realtors Commercial Alliance of Greater Miami and the Beaches met last week at Splitsville Luxury Lanes & Dinner Lounge in South Miami to network, bowl and get some perspective from speakers Barbara Liberatore Black, founding principal of CresaPartners; Michael Fay, president of Colliers Abood Wood-Fay; and Ronald Kohn of Kohn Commercial Real Estate, the group’s president elect. The experts emphasized the importance of proactively reaching out to former and prospective clients and encouraged fellow industry players to work in teams to make deals. "Buyers and tenants are very hard to find right now, but very easy to work with," Mr. Kohn said. "There are opportunities out there, but you have to look for them."

   HOMEGROWN ADVISER: US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has named Florida native Max Holtzman as his senior adviser. He was most recently an adviser to the Obama campaign in Florida and a principal of the Coral Gables-based Holtzman Group, where he helped provide strategic consulting to multi-national companies doing business in the US. Mr. Holtzman received a degree in agricultural economics from the University of Florida and a law degree from the University of Miami.

   GABLES STIMULUS: The City of Coral Gables says it has received more than $600,000 in federal money for two infrastructure projects. $500,000 is to be used for repairs to the city’s sewer infrastructure, which will include replacing several miles of pipe and repairs to the city’s pumping stations. An additional $142,500 has been provided to build pedestrian bridges next to the Hardee, Granada and Maynada bridges where traffic has created safety concerns for crossing pedestrians and cyclists. City spokesman Maria Rosa Higgins Fallon was unaware when construction would begin and how many jobs the money would help create.

   MADE FOR TRADE: The Florida Foreign Trade Association hosts the 13th inbound-trade mission from the Dominican Republic on April 20 and 21 at the Miami Free Zone, 2305 NW 107th Ave. in Doral. The program offers the chance for local businesses to meet one-on-one with a diverse array of Dominican companies ranging from medical-supply companies to meat distributors. Details: www.ffta.com.

   BERMUDA BOUTIQUES: Miami-based Tecton Hospitality is to manage two sister properties along Bermuda’s South Shore: Grape Bay Beach Hotel and the Surfside Beach Club. The Surfside Beach Club features 38 cottages and suites on five acres of natural cliff-side terraces and gardens. Grape Bay Beach Hotel has 24 rooms that overlook the coast of the South Shore. Locally, Tecton is parent company of Desires Hotels, which operates eight area boutique hotels, including the Sagamore, The Betsy, Hotel Astor, The Strand, Hotel St. Augustine and Wave Hotel. The Bermuda properties are to become part of the Desires Hotels modern boutique collection in 2010, according to a news release.

   TECHNOLOGICALLY SOUND: The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce honored the winners of the third annual Technology Leaders of the Year Awards last week. The awards highlight individuals who have excellent technological hands-on experience and whose management of technology resources or innovations has made an outstanding contribution to their organization and community. Recipients were: Best Up & Coming Technology Innovator — Silvia Yaniz, FarawayFriends.com; Best Use of Technology — Bart Chernow, University of Miami; CIO/CTO — Massaud Sedigh, World Fuel Services Corp.; Technology Infrastructure & Resource Management — Pete Pizarro, eLandia Group; and Top Technology Student — Lisa Firestone, University of Miami.

   MIAMI DELEGATION: Miami Dade College President Dr. Eduardo J. Padrón has been named to the board of Washington, DC-based Business-Higher Education Forum. The organization, which also includes the chairmen of Pfizer Inc. and KPMG as well as the presidents of Brown and Georgetown universities, works "to advance innovative solutions to our nation’s education challenges in order to enhance US competitiveness." Dr. Padrón was recently named to the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s Miami branch.

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