Don’t politicize Miami-Dade’s economic development

There has been some misconception recently about the role of the Beacon Council and I’d like to explain our organization’s role.

After a year-long study, the council was formed in 1985 as a nonprofit with a corresponding nonprofit foundation. A key component was the creation of a dedicated source of revenue to ensure a stable funding source and quell pressure to divert resources from the budget each year.

The Florida Legislature enacted a “surcharge” on the countywide occupational license tax, now called Local Business Tax (LBT), to ensure this funding. Every company pays the countywide LBT, including the surcharge, based on its size and function. The Beacon Council receives about 28 percent of the total amount companies pay.

The surcharge limits and restricts the use of these funds so that they may not be diverted for purposes other than to promote job-producing investment in Miami-Dade County via a “comprehensive countywide strategic plan.” The funds are limited by statute in usage “to oversee and implement a comprehensive economic development strategy through advertising, promotional activities and other sales and marketing techniques.”

The funding is restricted and may not to be diverted to any other purpose not identified in the state law. Usage — such as grants, construction, loans or the dividing of funds — is not permissible.

We work with companies of all sizes. Over the last five years, 60 percent of all projects we completed were with companies of 50 employees or less.

We promote the entire county. We do not direct companies to locate in specific areas, although we do advocate for areas in need of investment. Companies make their final location or expansion decision based on where the facilities, infrastructure, access to market, labor force and their clients are located. Over the last five years, we have assisted 43 companies that have located in targeted urban areas.

Since 1986, we have helped 873 companies that have invested more than $3.38 billion, which has resulted in 87,374 total jobs for Miami-Dade County. These investments also have delivered tens of millions of dollars in new taxes for Miami-Dade County government, our public schools and local municipalities.

Last fiscal year we assisted 27 companies, which will create close to 3,000 jobs and $1.5 million in new taxes. The first quarter of this year, we have helped companies that would create close to 900 more jobs and an additional $4.4 million in new tax revenue. In just the last two years, our efforts will have resulted in the creation of nearly 6,000 jobs that will generate more than $6 million in new taxes.

Efforts to divert the Beacon Council’s resources to be divided equally between the 13 commission districts to other programs is clearly in violation of the law that created funding for the council. It will have a net effect, if approved, to severely restrict the organization’s ability to carry out its work.

It makes no business sense to disassemble this organization that has a track record of accomplishments and that is generating jobs and new tax revenue. The incremental taxes generated by this growth could be allocated to other programs.

Efforts to alter the organization to convert it to something similar to a government entity will alter our private-sector approach. It also could impact the organization’s ability to work confidentially, a key requirement for many companies looking to relocate.

The Beacon Council receives, in addition to the LBT proceeds, almost $2 million from private sector investors. The council’s budget pales in comparison to other economic development organizations from locales we compete against everyday.

I fear recent proposals may politicize this organization while diverting its limited resources for non-intended uses. The result will be Miami-Dade County being less competitive in our efforts to attract and retain job producing investments for our residents.

The often cited One Community One Goal economic development blueprint for our county, a Beacon initiative, also could be derailed if funding is reduced.

The work of the Beacon Council matters, as a recent Herald editorial stated. It matters, not just for the organization but, more important, for the community as a whole. It matters to job seekers and to business owners and even to those currently employed. Please support the Beacon Council’s mission so that we can continue to make jobs a priority.

Frank R. Nero is president and CEO of The Beacon Council.

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