Miami-Dade commissioners on Thursday briskly approved a $4.9 million subsidy package for a $224 million electric steel mill proposed by a partnership that includes a son of Mayor Carlos Gimenez, the largest award of its kind that the county has on record.
The proposal to rebate a portion of Esteel’s construction and equipment costs passed without discussion, including the two No votes from Esteban “Steve” Bovo and Daniella Levine Cava. Mayor Gimenez, who formally recused himself from decisions on son Julio Gimenez’s steel venture in 2017, was not present for the vote.
The award from the county’s Targeted Jobs Incentive Fund does not amount to any expenditure today, and the money may never be issued. The subsidy, a rebate on property taxes, only gets paid if the Esteel “micro” mill gets built, spends the promised $224 million on buildings and equipment, and creates 180 new jobs at agreed-upon wages. The proposed subsidy is the largest on for the fund since Gimenez took office in 2011 because none of the other awards was tied to a project that was planned to spend so much.
“This is a pretty big one,” said Leland Salomon, head of economic development projects for the county. “Not many people spend more than $200 million.” Records released by Miami-Dade on Oct. 9 shows one prior award from the incentives fund is larger than the Esteel award. In 2005, the commission approved a $5.3 million award to retain Burger King in the Miami area (that award would be worth $6.9 million in 2019 dollars).
The steel mill, which would use electric-powered machinery to convert scrap metal into rebar and other building materials, would go up on land currently owned by Miami-Dade. Julio Gimenez and partners won the right to purchase the 123-acre site outside the Homestead air base for $16.8 million after a May commission vote. In materials submitted to the county, the mill’s investors tout “green” technology that they say will eliminate the pollution and smog usually associated with steel production.
Julio Gimenez declined an interview request after Thursday’s vote. Earlier, he said the project would raise some construction funds through the federal EB-5 program, which grants green cards to foreign investors underwriting job-producing projects in the United States.
The recommendation to approve the award came from Jack Osterholt, a deputy mayor under Gimenez. There was no presentation before the vote.
Julio Gimenez, a construction executive, paired with Leroy Jones, a longtime county vendor, to lobby for the steel project, which is sponsored by Commissioner Dennis Moss, who represents the Homestead area. Another partner is Gustavo Lopez, who described himself as a steel-mill investor. He has not responded to interview requests.
Audrey Edmonson, the commission chairwoman, said after the meeting there was no need for more discussion.
“We understand it,” she said of the Esteel proposal. “You can’t punish the mayor because his son is involved in something. I just don’t feel that is right. If it’s good for that community, then let it go.”