The Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

Needless fight hurts smart growth


OUR OPINION: Miami-Dade Commission should not reduce Beacon Council funding

Just as the Beacon Council’s far-reaching plan to pump energy into our economy by enticing businesses to relocate to Miami-Dade County was gaining traction, some members of the County Commission have thrown a monkey wrench into the process that could make everything grind to a halt — for no good reason.

The Beacon Council’s One Community One Goal plan is the most promising economic initiative in years, in terms of transforming South Florida into a mecca for key businesses that offer good-paying jobs. It wraps education, strong business models, job training and job diversification into a package that contains all the elements necessary to create a new economic vision for Miami.

And it’s already showing signs of success, including the retention and expansion of the global marketing firm Sapient. Its relocation to an office complex in Coconut Grove will provide an instant boost for one of Miami’s iconic neighborhoods, bringing 400 to 600 jobs that will generate more economic activity. That’s going to help most every business in the Grove and beyond, large and small.

That’s what the Beacon Council does. The public-private nonprofit partnership markets the entire county for economic development to create jobs. Since 1986, it has helped more than 800 companies that created nearly 60,000 jobs in Miami-Dade County.

Some or all of this, however, appears to be lost on Commissioner Sally Heyman, who wants to divert $1 million from the county’s $4 million contribution to the Beacon Council, using that money instead to supplement the Mom and Pop Grants program and allocate the funds to every commissioner’s district. Talk about a re-election strategy.

The grants program offers financial and technical assistance to qualified small businesses in the county, and that’s all to the good if it’s done right.

But the way Ms. Heyman proposes to go about it is short-sighted and counter-productive. Why take money from the Beacon Council? This money comes from a portion of the local business tax on every business in the county, regardless of size.

The Council receives only about 28 percent of the total. If the county wants to bolster the Mom and Pop grants, it could take the funds from the remainder of the $15 million raised by the tax. It shouldn’t knock the legs out from under the Beacon Council, which is designated by law as an economic promoter for the entire county.

Summarily removing one-fourth of the county’s allocation at this point in the budget year would cripple, if not paralyze, the Beacon Council’s operations, which will damage prospects for improving the local economy.

Nor is it accurate to portray this as a fight between “big business” and mom and pop operations, as other commissioners, including Vice Chair Lynda Bell have done. About 60 percent of the companies the Council helps have fewer than 50 employees.

Besides, who wouldn’t want, say, Microsoft to relocate here? Does any commissioner seriously think bringing major industries with high-paying jobs to Miami-Dade hurts small businesses?

The commission approved a resolution by Ms. Heyman proposing to divert the funds, giving the Beacon Council 60 days to respond. It should withdraw the proposal. This is a needless fight.

Helping the Mom and Pop grant program and allowing the Beacon Council to go about its job is a win-win for Miami-Dade County. Pitting the two against each other is a lose-lose proposal for all.

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