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Nice to hear. Miami really has great potential to host many TV offices and film studios. Tax incentives would help to bring even more and maybe attract a new TV headquarter or two.
 

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http://www.miamitodaynews.com/news/080131/story2.shtml

University of Miami details plans for massive life science park

By April M. Havens
The University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine has a 1.4 million-square-foot Life Science Park in the works and is looking for private investors and grants to help pay for it, the school announced last week.
The vast complex would rise on 7.2 acres on Northwest Seventh Avenue between Northwest 17th and 20th streets. School officials say they are completing acquisition of the land from the State of Florida.
The complex could house the University of Miami's sensory research institutes such as the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and the University of Miami Ear Institute, private biotechnology and life sciences companies from both the US and Latin America, and many or all of the university's 10 start-up biotech companies, according to medical school officials who spoke at a Beacon Council community breakfast at the UM Wellness Center.
Bart Chernow, vice president of special programs and resource strategy at the medical school, said the park would be a bridge for private life science companies and university researchers. The goal is to "translate discoveries into products that can help people," he said.
The university does that through its Center for Translational Research by both licensing its doctors' and researchers' discoveries to companies that can commercialize them and by creating its own start-up companies for inventions and findings.
For example, start-up Pique Therapeutics has patents pending for a lung tumor vaccine developed by Dr. Eckhard Podack. The vaccine has success in phase one clinical trials, Dr. Chernow said.
A rapid tissue processor, a machine that analyzes samples extracted during patient surgeries or biopsies, has been licensed to a Japanese company and is now on the market, Dr. Chernow said. The machine, which cut processing time from 12 hours to one hour, was developed by Dr. Azorides Morales.
Another discovery by Drs. Sung Hsia, Niven Narain and Indu Persaud, which has three patents pending, may lead to a topical treatment for melanoma skin cancer and muscle pain, Dr. Chernow said.
The university is working with architects on the Life Science Park, and Dr. Chernow predicts work to be underway in two to three years. It is to be built in thirds based on demand, he said.
Dr. Pascal Goldschmidt, dean of the Miller School of Medicine, said when he took his position at UM he "wanted to prove Miami could be become a beacon of medicine" and believes "nothing is impossible in Miami."
He envisions a year 2020 "Pan-American" economy, where Latin America becomes a vibrant partner in the life sciences and biotechnology industry and UM establishes research centers in countries such as Argentina.
Life science companies such as Schering-Plough, Boston Scientific, Beckman Coulter, Cordis, Noven Pharmaceuticals and others contribute to the biotech economy in the county, said Beacon Council President and CEO Frank Nero.
About 17,000 people are employed by more than 1,400 life sciences companies in the county, which contributes about $2.3 billion in total annual revenue, according to the Beacon Council.
Said Mr. Nero, "We ain't just tourism anymore."
 

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They are going to be developing the new Soilent Green at this campus! :puke:
 
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They are going to be developing the new Soilent Green at this campus! :puke:
Chuck, Spellbound, here's another one older than we thought! Well, some of us just like the old classics! Just like the music was bettter! :lol::cheers::banana:
 
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MIA stats for 2007:

http://southflorida.bizjournals.com/southflorida/stories/2008/02/04/daily25.html?surround=lfn

MIA traffic up in 2007
South Florida Business Journal

Passenger and cargo volumes at Miami International Airport grew in 2007, and the airport's economic impact increased, two reports from the Miami-Dade Aviation Department (MDAD) said.

MIA saw 33.7 million passengers in 2007, up 3.7 percent. International passenger numbers increased 5.5 percent to 15.5 million, while domestic passengers grew by 2.2 percent to 18.2 million.

International traffic accounted for 46 percent of total passengers handled for the year, rising one percentage point over 2006 and maintaining MIA as one of only two U.S. airports with such high international traffic ratios, the report said.

The airport handled 2.1 million tons of cargo, up 5 percent from 2006. International cargo increased by 5.8 percent to 1.8 million tons, and domestic cargo grew by 1.3 percent to 326,517 tons.

The international freight ratio rose to 85 percent of the airport's total figure.
 

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Tourism hits record level in Miami-Dade

Tourism hits record level in Miami-Dade

Posted on Fri, Feb. 29, 2008
BY DOUGLAS HANKS
[email protected]

Miami-Dade County posted a record year for tourism in 2007, though it fell short of expectations for international visitors, according to new statistics.

Roughly 12 million people stayed overnight in Miami-Dade last year, up 3.3 percent from the year before. The county sustained the growth in the fourth quarter, bolstering hopes that people will still vacation amid the economic slowdown roiling Wall Street.

Tourism officials had hoped last year would erase losses the 2001 terrorist attacks caused in the crucial foreign segment of the county's $17 billion tourism industry. In 2000, foreign tourists totaled 5.68 million, more than half of Miami-Dade's total overnight visitors. But last year, the foreign number hit 5.49 million last year. That was the second best year yet for foreign travel to Miami-Dade, but still short of expectations.

''We got pretty darn close,'' said William Talbert III, president of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitor Bureau.

He blamed the shortfall on post-9/11 security measures that make it harder for foreign tourists to get visas and are hurting international travel across the country. Talbert said a weak U.S. dollar has masked the effect of the visa hassles, noting Miami-Dade's 5 percent gain in European tourists in 2007.

''But for the difficult entry process, that European number should be 15 percent,'' he said. ``We 're on sale. They should be coming over here in droves.''

:cheers: good news!
 

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Nice news, and great for our economy. Keep the tourists and their money coming, we love you guys! Welcome to Miami!
 

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http://www.miamitodaynews.com/news/080508/story6.shtml

Planning advisory board supports river's marine industry
By Risa Polansky

Protect the marine industry on the Miami River, Miami Planning Advisory Board members told administrators last week in the first official action against recent moves to change the Port of Miami River element of the city's comprehensive plan.
They're sending the same message to city commissioners via a resounding no vote on an administration-crafted amendment to the plan that opponents say would leave the industry vulnerable to residential encroachment.
The amendment proposes renaming the plan's "Port of Miami River" element the "Miami River" element.
It reads, in part: "Development along the Miami River shall encourage residential and mixed-use development and continue to provide for water-dependent and water-related commercial, industrial and recreational uses along the Miami River."
The existing element makes no mention of residential use.
A goal included now, "to discourage encroachment by incompatible uses," would be eliminated through the city's proposed change.
"What is being presented to us might, in effect, eliminate the protections" of the marine industry, board member Ernest Martin said.
It's not the first time the city has tried to do it in recent months, said Andrew Dickman, attorney for the Miami River Marine Group.
"This is the third-type attempt that we've seen," he said, calling the first — a measure that would have limited marine industry protections to west of 27th Avenue — the "eviction item."
Administrators pulled it off the table and instead proposed an amendment that would have temporarily taken the protective river element out of the comprehensive plan altogether.
Mr. Dickman called it the "repealer item."
The city backed away from the idea last month and last week proposed the most recent: "the anything goes amendment," Mr. Dickman said.
Administrators maintained the idea of removing the word "port" and inserting the word "residential" is to promote mixed uses, not favor any one sector.
"We're not saying no to the river industry," Planning Department Director Ana Gelabert-Sanchez insisted.
The city wants to encourage other uses, she said, "as long as they coexist."
Board member Mr. Martin said taking the word "port" out of the element puts "residential properties over marine use."
Harold Ruck, the city's chief of community planning, said the "port" no longer exists.
Only 15% of land-use designations on the city's portion of the river are industrial, he said.
Advisory board member Betty Gutierrez called the city's presentation "misleading."
If you add up other non-residential land uses along the river, such as commercial, "those numbers indeed are the marine industry," she said.
Fran Bohnsack, executive director of the Miami River Marine Group, said that, of 998 wet slips along the 5.5-mile river, 74% are within Miami city limits. Of 350 dry slips, 69% are in the city. Sixty-five percent of the 306 commercial slips along the river are within city bounds, as are 76% of the 1,030 recreation slips, she said.
Without protection from the city, Ms. Bohnsack said, "they will be pushed out of the river."
River marine industry has already dropped from 80 acres to 37 due to land-use changes, Ms. Bohnsack said.
Recent appellate court decisions overturned three such commission-approved changes that would have allowed large-scale residential developments along the river.
Follow the protective river element of your comprehensive plan or change it, the court told the city.
Officials have maintained the court misinterpreted the plan, calling their attempts to alter it a move to clarify the city's original intent.
"I don't agree the courts have misinterpreted," board member Mr. Martin said.
"My recommendation to my colleagues is that our job is not to avoid adverse litigation."
Six of eight board members voted to recommend the city commission reject the administration's proposed change.
In separate votes, they agreed to amend the comprehensive plan to reflect industry-suggested protections.
The final decision is up to city commissioners. They are to vote today (5/8).
 

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http://www.miamiherald.com/103/story/528973.html

Lower office rates not likely until 2010 with completion of BFC, 1450 Brickell, and Met 2

BY ROCHELLE BRODER-SINGER
Special to The Miami Herald

Despite a slowing economy, companies looking for office space now will likely still have trouble finding deals on rent and high-end digs, especially in downtown Miami and the Brickell area.

Expect that to change in 2010, however, when three massive new towers add about 20 percent more offices to Miami's central business district. That could mean lower rents or more incentives from landlords, such as free rent or money for improvements.

THE MARKET NOW

Miami-Dade County remains strong, analysts say. The 8 percent vacancy rate in Miami-Dade is actually 2.5 percentage points better than last year, CB Richard Ellis reports.

''One of our challenges . . . has been identifying and securing Class A office space for our clients,'' said Scott K. Sime, CBRE's managing director in Miami-Dade.

But the downturn has had some effects. More companies are subleasing space as they shed workers and cut back on expansions. Tenants are signing fewer leases, and deals are taking longer.

That's especially true in Broward County, where the vacancy rate across all classes of office space was 12.3 percent for the first quarter of this year, up 5.4 percentage points from a year ago, reports CBRE.

That means more concessions from landlords in Broward, especially downtown Fort Lauderdale, said Tere Blanca, senior managing director for Cushman & Wakefield of Florida.

HOUSING TIES

Why the difference between Miami-Dade and Broward? More Broward firms are tied to the housing market, such as mortgage brokers and architects, Blanca said. Miami-

Dade's inter-

national firms aren't as affected by the U.S. slowdown, and no major buildings have come online recently.

The county still is seeing demand from insurers, wealth management firms, law firms and the like, said Scott Strickland, senior vice president in Jones Lang LaSalle's Miami office.

The law firm of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis can confirm the difficulties. The 35,000 square feet of Class A space it needed wasn't available until eight months after its lease expired. So Kirkpatrick & Lockhart spent the eight months in temporary space and finally moved into its offices in Wachovia Center in Miami in April.

''There isn't a wide variety of Class A buildings to choose from in South Florida,'' said the office's administrative partner, Daniel A. Casey.

CLASS A RATES

Rents in both counties reflect the scarce options: Net rental rates in Miami-Dade averaged $30.88 per square foot across all classes of office space in the first quarter of this year, from $27.40 a year ago (these figures do not include expenses passed through to tenants).

For Classes A and B, rates have jumped by more than 10 percent, says CBRE's Sime. In Broward, average asking rents hit $18.43 per square foot, up from $17.36 a year ago.

Forecast: Most think rents in Miami-Dade will continue rising, albeit more slowly. Broward rents will likely stabilize or even drop.

''We have experienced one of the greatest rent growth time periods in history,'' said Steven Hurwitz, an executive with Coral Gables' Continental Real Estate Cos. ``So by definition, we will definitely see the flip side of that.''

THE MARKET IN 2010

Fast forward two years, and the landscape will look quite different, especially in Miami-Dade. ''It's not a great time to be a tenant right now, but a wonderful time if you've got a lease expiring in two years,'' Hurwitz said.

That is when the three big buildings already under construction -- Brickell Financial Centre, 1450 Brickell and Met 2 -- bring 1.8 million square feet of new office space to downtown Miami and Brickell.

There aren't enough new tenants to fill all that space, Jones Lang's Strickland said.

''We've experienced the credit crisis and the [negative] turn of the overall economy, now you've got this lagging supply of 1.8 million square feet there, plus a bunch of buildings in the Gables and other places,'' Hurwitz added.

Miami law firm Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod's lease expires in 2010, and unlike Kirkpatrick & Lockhart, it had plenty of choices. All three Miami towers reportedly courted the firm. In April, the firm signed a 10-year deal with Brickell Financial Centre for 115,000 square feet, making that building the first of the three to announce a signed lease.

The lease is worth $58 million. Sources put rent, including expenses, in the low- to mid-$40s, rising annually. Developer Foram Group would not release specifics.

''You always get aggressive with your deals, and you do what you can,'' said Danet Linares, Foram's director of real estate services. ``Tenants know that when they are one of the first few big tenants it always helps them.''

Tim Weller, vice president of Met 2 developer MDM Development Group, believes the competition is healthy.

The 47-story Met 2 hopes to announce leases shortly, and a weakening economy has had little impact, he said. ``The national economic situation really isn't that much of a factor in companies making decisions for their long-term growth.''

Other significant developments opening in 2010 include The Allen Morris Co.'s 215,000square-foot Ponce de Leon Towers. CEO W. Allen Morris said he is finalizing a full-floor lease right now for a company out of New York and is negotiating with other tenants, some of whom would take multiple floors.

''A third are coming in from outside [the U.S.]; a third may be multinational companies or international companies; and a third will be people relocating from Brickell and downtown,'' he said.
 

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Miami tourism pitch changes from beaches and parties to high-cultured Miami society

I think this is a great idea and a step in the right direction for Miami.

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/breaking_news/story/530039.html

Art replaces skin in Miami's new tourism campaign, part of the destination's push for more affluent and sophisticated travelers.

Centered around the catchphrase ''Miami: Express Yourself,'' the print campaign features prominent local artists in surreal interpretations of Miami-Dade locales. The aim is to move away from the sculpted and slinky young models in the current campaign and reintroduce Miami as a refined destination awash in culture.

''We've created a more sophisticated image of Miami,'' said Rolando Aedo, marketing director for the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, which commissioned the new campaign. ``We're shifting from style to more substance.''

The strategy hopes to build on the popularity of Miami's new performing arts center and the annual Art Basel weekend, which centers on the country's biggest contemporary arts show. Overall, the campaign picks up on the notion that Miami is shedding its pop culture image of Miami Vice and hip-hop videos and emerging as a mature city holding its own in the area of high art.

''If I had said to you five years ago, Miami was going to be a center for art and culture, you'd have thought I was nuts,'' said Bruce Turkel, a partner in the Coconut Grove ad agency Turkel, which created the campaign.

In one ad, DJ Lauren Reskin, a Miami native, sits cross-legged before the city's skyline, with the buildings doctored to look like a stereo's equalizer. Another shows elderly men playing dominoes in Little Havana, surrounded by gleaming metal mannequins wearing dresses by local designer Rene Ruiz.

Skin plays a minor role in these images, an abrupt switch from the ''Fashion Forward'' campaign the bureau launched in 2003 that cast Miami as the setting for edgy couture ads. Sultry looks and skimpy clothing were the common denominators in those spots, while the fleshiest of the new batch features a man in knee-length shorts diving into an ocean of benches designed by Miamian Avner Zabari.

''A long time ago, I immersed myself in Miami,'' reads the quote from Zabari accompanying the ad. ``I have yet to come up for air.''

The high concept reflects a broader push throughout South Florida to lure more wealthy travelers as hotel rates continue to climb. With many budget motels lost to condominium conversions and upgrades this decade, hotels are charging on average between 50 and 60 percent more than they were five years ago, according to Smith Travel Research.

That's left tourism marketers to chase affluent travelers or risk losing business to competing destinations. Broward's tourism bureau is running television ads promoting Fort Lauderdale as luxury's new home and created a website promoting its priciest hotels: sunny.org/luxe.

The Keys also promotes itself as a low-key escape from a high-pressure lifestyle with its tourism tagline: ``Come as you are.''

But while room rates are up 41 percent in the island chain, Miami-Dade has seen a bigger shift: hotels there are charging 56 percent more than in 2003. Highlighting the push for a more refined audience, the tax-funded Greater Miami bureau will for the first time run its ads in a slate of high-end magazines including Architectural Digest, Gourmet and the New Yorker.

The campaign centers on art and design, with broad definitions for both. Hedy Goldsmith, pastry chef at Michael's Genuine Food and Drink in Miami's Design District, inspired an ad showing a giant strawberry being dipped into a giant pink fondue at the pool of the Raleigh in South Beach. Another shows children playing in the Key Biscayne sand, around letters designed by local artist Tao Rey.
 

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Miami drubs competition in TV dubbing in French and Portuguese

http://www.miamiherald.com/103/story/535174.html

When Kenny dies on Brazilian television screens, the final words of the cursed South Park character get their start in a cramped Miami recording studio.

That's where Paulo Carvalho voices the unlucky 9-year-old in muffled Portuguese for the Brazilian version of the raunchy cartoon.

In the same studio, Armand Berger faces the daunting task of sounding both awkward and French as he dubs dialogue for the American reality show Beauty and the Geek.

''High-pitched, very emotional, very fast,'' Berger said, describing the speech patterns of his nerdy first-season counterpart, Richard. ``You want to sound like him. . . . You want the people in France to feel what people in America felt when he was speaking.''

Their moonlighting work as bilingual voice-over artists -- Carvalho is a sound engineer, Berger a pastry chef -- highlights one of the more entertaining corners of Miami's place in the globalization trend.

As studios pursue more profits abroad with homegrown content, Miami's polyglot populace allows some producers to find cheaper foreign voices here than in target audiences' home countries.

Carvalho and Berger work for The Kitchen, a dubbing firm with a roster of voice-over artists and studios available for hire around the world. But it only owns a recording facility in Miami and another in Caracas, which opened three years ago.

''One of the reasons we built the Venezuelan facility is because it is cheaper to do Spanish in Caracas,'' Kitchen partner Deeny Kaplan said. ``On the other hand, we find it's easier to do native Portuguese and native French here.''

COSTS

Kaplan said a minute of French dubbing in Miami costs a client about $100, compared to $300 in France. But a minute of Spanish dubbing in Miami runs $42, compared to $30 in Caracas.

Cost is a big reason why Miami can't compete with the hemisphere's major Spanish dubbing centers, including Argentina, Mexico and Venezuela. Artistic concerns play a role too: foreign audiences don't like it when accents and inflections sound imported.

''They can detect when the talent is not based in the region,'' said Desiree Marquez, director of language customization for Discovery Networks' Latin American and Hispanic division.

Though headquartered in Miami, Discovery Latin America farms out almost all of its dubbing work to Central and South America.

Actors there ''are up to date in the language [in a way] that no one in Miami can really be,'' Marquez said.

Since Latin American audiences can span nearly two dozen countries, dubbing producers seek actors who can sound as generic as possible. ''There's this funny term in the industry: neutral Spanish. There isn't such a thing,'' said Zasha Robles, director of the Etcetera Group, a Kitchen competitor in Miami that does almost all of its dubbing work in Latin America.

Neutral Spanish is basically a Mexican accent, the legacy of that country's role as the first big dubbing center in the 1940s because of its proximity to Hollywood. ''Latin America was used to listening to the Mexican accent,'' Robles said.

`RESPONSIBILITY'

Even so, Miami does export some famous Spanish voices to Latin America.

Isabel Rodriguez Sarasa filled in as Hillary Clinton during presidential debates for live broadcasts by Telemundo and Univision.

''It's a great responsibility,'' said Rodriguez Sarasa, a Miami translator who spends most of her time interpreting for legal hearings and conferences. ``As a woman, I was very proud to do it.''

She auditioned separately for both jobs, and wound up the Spanish version of the former first lady for competing media outlets.

''Hillary, everybody knows. Everybody has a sense of what she sounds like,'' said Guillermo Santa Cruz, a Telemundo vice president. ``We had to find someone who met those expectations.''

But as Sen. Clinton's nomination prospects diminish, so does Rodriguez Sarasa's earning potential, since she would likely be cast as President Hillary Clinton's voice, too.

`KIDS ARE . . . SENSITIVE'

With more people listening to a show while cooking dinner or checking e-mail, consistency in dubbed voices becomes even more important.

That has given Miami Herbalife saleswoman Arianna Lopez a side career as the Latin American voice of Timmy in The Fairly OddParents cartoon. The Kitchen cast the 43-year-old about four years ago, and the show was spared the shift to Caracas for continuity purposes.

''Kids are particularly sensitive to that,'' said Tomas Rodriguez, head of customizations for MTV Latin America. ``The minute any voice is changed, they immediately pick up on it.''

The Kitchen also uses its Miami studio to dub Spanish telenovelas into French and into English, primarily for African audiences.

When French audiences see Americans at their worst -- during episodes of the COPS reality show -- the dialogue also is usually dubbed by The Kitchen in Miami.

The company hopes to recruit enough German-speaking South Floridians to pitch their low-cost dubbing to producers hoping to export content to that country, too.

'SOUTH PARK' JOB

The company's South Park work would be more costly in Brazil, given that country's regulations of the dubbing industry, union rules and other complications, said Ken Lorber, Kaplan's husband and CEO of The Kitchen.

Such concerns help explain Carvalho's three years as South Park's Kenny, who usually dies mid-episode only to be resurrected the next time the cartoon airs. He's also known for keeping his hood so tight that his voice comes out as a squeaky muffle.

''It's like this,'' Carvalho explains between takes. He pulls up the right sleeve of his shirt, and rattles off words in high-pitched Portuguese.

Marta Rhaulin, a singer from Brazil living in Sunny Isles Beach, tries to channel her home country while playing her South Park roles.

She voices two main characters: mild-mannered Kyle Broflovski and the explosive Eric Cartman.

''With Kyle, it's a Sao Paolo voice. Because it's more urban,'' Rhaulin said during a break from recording a South Park scene. ``Cartman is more Rio de Janeiro. It's more open-minded. He has a big personality.''
 

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From Miami Today, news on the Port of Miami, jobs, tourism, Civic Center and the Miami Beach Convention Center:

PORT SIGNS BIGGEST CARRIER: The Port of Miami will redevelop 81 acres at a $39 million cost in a lease approved Tuesday with one of its three cargo terminal operators, Miami-based Seaboard Marine. The county commission approved a 20-year amended lease with two five-year options for the company, whose 41 ships serve Central and South America, the Caribbean and other US ports. The company "contributes approximately $5 billion to the local economy," said port Director Bill Johnson. Seaboard is to pay $1.65 million up front. Work on the redevelopment is to begin immediately and be done by 2014. County commissioners were told the port would be guaranteed $9.6 million a year in revenues under the lease, with estimated actual revenues of $13 million. Seaboard's 70 sailings a month to more than 25 nations take more cargo in and out of the port than any other carrier, the company says.

INCREMENT FUNDS FOR JACKSON: A Civic Center Community Redevelopment Area might soon fund expanded health care services at cash-strapped Jackson Memorial Hospital. The Miami-Dade County Commission's Economic Development and Human Services Committee voted last week to ask the Public Health Trust, which oversees the county-owned hospital, about creating a new redevelopment area, larger than the Civic Center Community Center area now in the county's master plan, to expand health and technology economic development, create related office space and build high-density affordable housing for the area's healthcare workers. A key element: use of tax increment revenues in the new area to fund Jackson, which since 1991 has received funding from a half-percent sales tax addition and is guaranteed that county support will not be diminished as a result. The measure next goes to the full county commission.

CONVENTION CENTER PROGRESS: Though Miami Beach elected officials have placed localized projects ahead of a long-needed convention center revamp in the past, they voted last week to request qualifications for a company to design a Miami Beach Convention Center campus master plan. Miami-Dade County general obligation bond monies would fund it. The plan is "intended to "look outside of the box' at possibilities to make the facility competitive in today's convention and meeting business climate," city documents say. A revamp would include a ballroom, cited often as one of the center's greatest needs. The plan would also cover the current center site as well as some surrounding parking and Convention Center Drive between 18th Street and Dade Boulevard. Some county commissioners pushed for action at the center last month.

FILLED UP: Miami ended the first quarter atop national rankings for hotel occupancy, becoming the only visitor destination in the US to rise above 80% occupancy, says William Talbert III, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. "We led the nation in the Top 25 [markets] for the first quarter, and we were Number Two for average daily rates," Mr. Talbert told the Miami-Dade County Commission's Airport & Tourism Committee last week. Miami ended the first quarter last year in second place nationally for occupancy. Summer business is expected to sizzle as well, according to the bureau, which reports that the American Society of Travel Agents' 2008 Hot Spots for Summer survey ranked Miami Number Five among the most popular domestic summer destinations booked by travel agents. While the domestic destinations in the top 10 have remained the same since 2006, their rankings have not. Miami moved up two slots to number five, the bureau reports.

HOSPITALITY = JOBS: Job growth in the Miami visitor sector grew 1.6% in April from April 2007, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau reported. Employment in the leisure and hospitality industry climbed to record 107,000 compared to 105,000 in April 2007.
 

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More news on that BioTech park.

UM's bets on biotech future

By SCOTT ANDRON
[email protected]

Could Miami be the next Silicon Valley, the next Research Triangle, the next Boston for the biotechnology business?

Top leaders at the University of Miami medical school say the answer is yes, and they are planning to build a new Life Science Park near Jackson Memorial Hospital as a centerpiece of their bid.

The park will provide office and laboratory space for companies that collaborate with UM researchers, making it easier to turn scientific discoveries into commercial products. At 1.4 million square feet, it would be about the same size as the Dolphin Mall in West Miami-Dade.

''This is a really big project for Miami and for the University of Miami,'' said the dean of UM's medical school, Dr. Pascal Goldschmidt. ``It's way beyond the University of Miami, to tell you the truth. There's an opportunity to develop an area of the economy we have not been particularly strong at, but could be strong at.''

UM President Donna Shalala agreed, saying Miami's economy needs the kinds of jobs a bioscience industry can offer.

''Look, we're not going to attract heavy industry,'' Shalala said. ``We're not going to get major industry to move out of their community and into Miami. What we have to do is grow our own. . . . Our best shot is biotech. I feel very confident we can pull this off.''

That's an ambitious goal. Biotech -- the business of developing profitable products in medical and other life sciences -- is a growing industry but is now concentrated in a handful of major cities. An extensive 2002 study suggested that efforts to create new biotech clusters will be difficult at best.

Six years after the study, co-author Joseph Cortright says the situation hasn't changed: ``Can a university that puts more money into land, space, and equipment expect to grow a biotechnology industry? Our judgment is it is very, very difficult to do that.''

Not that everyone and their dog aren't trying.

FIVE REGIONS IN PLAY

In Florida alone, biotech parks or major biotech developments have been built or are in the works in the Gainesville area, Orlando, Tampa Bay, St. Lucie County and Jupiter.

In the latter case, the California-based Scripps Research Institute is building a campus, thanks in part to hundreds of millions of dollars in public money, something that is not in current plans for the UM project.

In Massachusetts, Gov. Deval L. Patrick wants to spend $1 billion on biotech research over 10 years, hoping to expand an industry already prominent in his state.

Phoenix, Buffalo, N.Y., and Huntsville, Ala., are making their pitches. Even Kannapolis, N.C., a city struggling to replace jobs lost in the textile industry, is building a biotech park.

SITE NEAR JACKSON

UM's park would sit on about 7.2 acres near Jackson and the medical school, between Northwest 17th and 20th streets and between Seventh Avenue and Interstate 95 in Miami. The university is buying the land, but a private developer will actually build and manage the facility. UM has chosen a developer but isn't naming the company until contract negotiations are complete.

Because of the prominent location beside I-95, the university wants the building to look good. ''This will become the face of the University of Miami medical district,'' said Dr. Bart Chernow, a UM executive and the medical school's point person on the Life Science Park.

The 1.4-million-square-foot facility would be built in stages, with the first roughly 200,000 square feet opening by 2011. The other stages wouldn't be built until there's demand for the space.

UM's medical school will lease some of the space for its own laboratories, Chernow said. But aside from that and the land, the developer will have to make the project profitable on his own.

''We want this built with other people's money,'' said Chernow, adding that the university is not asking for government money for the project at this point.

Besides labs and offices, the park could include businesses to serve nearby workers, such as restaurants or possibly a hotel.

CUTTING-EDGE GADGETS

The park would have shared high-tech gadgets useful to other tenants, such as a confocal microscopy unit (high-tech microscopes) and a gene-knockout lab (which would provide genetically engineered test animals).

And it would be constructed as a ''green'' building, meaning that it would be designed to conserve energy and otherwise be environmentally friendly. Preliminary concept drawings prepared for the university show a gigantic solar panel, or photovoltaic band, on the roof. But the actual building might or might not include this feature, depending on the developer and which architecture firm is chosen to draw the detailed plans.

The state Legislature recently agreed to allow the project to bypass the normal planning process for major regional development projects. The project would still require City Hall approval, however, and residents would likely have the opportunity to comment at a public hearing.

BUILDING AN INDUSTRY

Chernow points to several benefits of the project, such as helping UM increase its research funding, helping convert academic research discoveries into life-saving devices, and creating jobs for area residents, including those of nearby Overtown.

''The community that surrounds the campus should benefit from this,'' he said.

But like his boss, Chernow has a more ambitious vision. He figures San Francisco, San Diego and Boston are now the top three hubs of the biotech industry, and he wants Miami to become the fourth.

''I think we are capable of being the next cluster,'' he said. ``I'm cautiously optimistic.''

That part of the plan could prove a lot harder than just building a research park.

Cortright, an economic development consultant from Oregon, studied the geographic distribution of the biotechnology industry in 2002, and reported his findings in a report he coauthored for the Brookings Institution, a prominent Washington think tank.

The study's conclusion: The biotech industry is concentrated in a handful of cities, and everyone else is going to have a hard time breaking in.

WIDE-RANGING STUDY

Cortright and co-author Heike Mayer compared nine metropolitan areas with the most established biotech clusters -- Boston, San Francisco, San Diego, Raleigh/Durham, Seattle, New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Washington -- with 42 others, including Miami/Fort Lauderdale.

The comparison showed sharp differences between the top nine and the other 42 markets. For example, the top nine collectively received eight times as much National Institutes of Health research funding as the other 42. And the top nine generated 10 times the number of patents as the other 42 during the 1990s.

But Chernow says much has changed since the study was conducted in 2002. For instance, by 2006, UM's med school had 1,525 research projects underway, up 22 percent from five years earlier. And the school had $218 million in outside research funding in 2006, up more than 15 percent from 2001.

And clearly, the university has an impressive stable of leaders behind the biotech project:

• President Shalala. She headed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under President Clinton before taking the reins at UM in 2001. She recently completed the most successful university fund-raising effort in Florida history, piling up $1.4 billion in seven years. She's well-connected and charismatic, and has been pushing to raise the university's profile. A political scientist by trade, she has a Ph.D. from Syracuse University, and previously ran the University of Wisconsin at Madison, then the nation's largest research university.

• Dr. Goldschmidt. He was a senior administrator at Duke University's med school, before taking the top job at UM's Miller School of Medicine in 2006. Within a year, he had brought in a group of leading genetics researchers from Duke, along with millions of dollars in NIH research funding. Before he was an administrator, he was well-known in medical research circles for his work in the fields of cardiology and cell biology at Johns Hopkins University.

• Dr. Chernow. Goldschmidt hired Chernow, whom he knew from Johns Hopkins, and assigned him to be the point person on the biotech park. Besides working as a researcher and professor, he was the chief executive of GMP Cos., a Fort Lauderdale biotech firm.

DUKE RECRUITS

Goldschmidt says the university's success at recruiting the genetics specialists from Duke proved that ``Miami is a place where you can recruit great science and the people that perform it.''

He also pointed to Miami's connections with Latin America, which is also developing biotech industries, as an asset. And he said he has trips planned to Israel, China and Europe to recruit participants in the biotech park.

''This is a big project and I'm committed to make it work,'' Goldschmidt said.

And UM already has some doctors conducting ground-breaking research and converting it into commercial products.

UNIQUE DEVICES

Dr. Aaron Wolfson, for instance, has developed a device called a Gynocyte to treat cervical cancer. Unlike older devices, Wolfson says, his applies radiation more narrowly to the afflicted area, is more effective and easier for doctors to use.

And Dr. Camillo Ricordi, head of UM's diabetes research institute, is developing several inventions, including a device he says can implant cells that produce insulin and then protect them from rejection by the body's immune system.

South Florida also has several established pharmaceutical companies, including Stiefel Laboratories in Coral Gables, Noven Pharmaceuticals in South Miami-Dade, and Ivax, now a branch of Israel's Teva Pharmaceuticals.

INTEREST TO GROW

Steven Sikes, an entrepreneur who is working with Dr. Ricordi to commercialize two of his inventions, said Miami also has venture capitalists ready to finance new biotech start-ups, and he expects more to come.

Sikes, who has been advising UM on the biotech park, said he was skeptical at first but now believes Miami will become an important biotech hub, perhaps on a par with second-tier biotech centers like Raleigh-Durham.

''I can't say this is going to be anything like Boston or San Diego or San Francisco,'' Sikes said, ``but I really believe it could be in the top six in the United States.''

The trouble is, Miami isn't alone in these aspirations.

''Pretty much everybody wants that. There are many, many regions in the world trying to do this,'' said Lee Fleming, a Harvard University business professor who is studying how high-tech clusters form.

Fleming notes that Silicon Valley's technology hub formed naturally, not by deliberate efforts by universities or governments. Now, dozens of cities are trying to form biotech hubs, and Fleming predicted they will face an uphill fight against the established biotech centers, which could take decades.

''You have to go at it with common sense and realize you're competing with many other regions, and it's hard,'' he said. ``Everybody wants to pull this off. People should be realistic about making it happen. It's just not going to happen overnight.''

Cortright pointed to another key challenge: The nature of the biotech industry is such that a small number of patents lead to viable products and, of those, a handful generate most of the sales. Each effort to develop a product can mean years of testing, which may or may not lead to viable products.

A GAMBLE

''This is a lottery ticket kind of endeavor,'' he said. ``This is kind of an arduous long shot. . . . Most biotech companies lose money. Most biotechs fail. A few will be wildly successful.''

But that doesn't necessarily mean the biotech park is a bad idea.

''It kind of depends on what your objective is,'' Cortright said. If the university wants to attract more medical researchers and grant funding, the park will help. But, he said, if the university is hoping for a new industry that generates lots of jobs and tax income, then: ``It's a pipe dream.''
 

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One Brickell CityCentre
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Guys, someone said this on the "Miami and Chicago Skyline" thread of the City-Data Forum in response to something I said, and I thought you would appreciate hearing it as well:

"I was reading this book that ranked US cities per economic performance and importance in the world economy in a bookstore near the University of Chicago...it had cities ranked per size of the circle around the city......the biggest ones were around SF, LA, NY, Chicago, and, drumroll....Miami.....they consider it huge in terms of economic importance for the usa and the world. Maybe that is why the skyline looks like Chicago..."
 
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