Asian businesses target of massive proposed trade mart in Miami-Dade
By Risa Polansky
Looking to lure Asian manufacturers, a new joint venture is considering Miami-Dade as potential home for a 2.5-million-square-foot trade center and warehouse/office complex.
A "Merchandise Mart"-style facility would no doubt draw interest from Asian companies looking to break into US and Latin American markets, local trade professionals say — but one warns that visa restrictions could hamper business or keep the facility from coming to Miami at all.
The Beacon Council is working to snag for Miami-Dade the operation and the 150-plus jobs that would come with it.
County commissioners last week initially approved a $180,000 incentive and are to eventually consider a separate $3.9 million payout.
The mystery firm is looking to develop a warehouse and office complex "that includes facilities to host trade shows for companies that will lease space from the firmů. The principal target market for the joint venture is Asian manufacturing companies seeking to enter or expand sales in North America, Latin America and the Caribbean," county documents say.
Local businessman Salomon "Moni" Terner confirmed his involvement via phone Tuesday but did not have comment this early in the process.
Though the firm is considering Miami, Panama and Brazil are also in the running.
Latin America could win out, fears Joe Chi, executive director of Miami-based China Latin American Trade Center.
As far as Chinese companies, "I think we would be flooded with them. It's a huge amount of interest," he said. But because in his experience it's been difficult for Chinese businesspeople to get visas to come explore opportunities or exhibit at trade shows, "It's a very big risk. Panama will probably get it."
Beacon Council CEO Frank Nero at the county meeting referenced "stiff competition."
He also said the facility could be a "game-changer" for the Opa-locka Airport area, where officials have been "trying for years to induce investment and job creation."
Locals have also long worked to create ties with Asia, said Ralph Gazit˙a, head of Miami logistics infrastructure company WTDC.
"We know the Chinese are interested in pre-positioning their inventory in Miami since we are the gateway to the Americas," he said. And "the infrastructure is definitely there to create those business opportunities."
Miami leaders over the years have both visited Asia and hosted public and private-sector officials here, Mr. Gazit˙a said, noting local ties with Tianjin, China, where FIU has a hospitality outpost.
A visit to the Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area, home to not only commercial space but also hotels, transit links and even a stadium, showed that "when they build a free-trade zone, they build an entire city," Mr. Gazit˙a said. "And in today's economy, having a very strong investment group that would be able to build 2 million some-odd square feet means additional jobs and business for Miami-Dade County, and it would be a definite positive impact for all of us who live and trade in Miami."