Miami-Dade commissioners spent little time Tuesday granting a $6 million rent break for Miami International Airport’s exclusive baggage-wrap vendor, approving an administration plan to provide financial relief in the face of outside competition.
Secure Wrap, which operates under the Safe Wrap brand at MIA, won the roughly 65 percent rent cut at the county-owned airport after an expedited legislative process that bypassed the normal committee airing and did not make the terms of the deal public until Monday evening. Secure Wrap’s main rival, True Star, objected to the last-minute proposal on Tuesday, saying it would like the opportunity to offer better terms.
“We are astonished,” True Star chairman Fabio Talin wrote in an email to Gimenez, “that there will not be a bid [and] no public hearing at all.”
One commissioner, Daniella Levine Cava, voted against the new contract, which lowered Secure Wrap’s revenue-sharing requirement from 52 cents of every dollar to 35 cents. MIA will also credit the company $2.7 million for rent owed so far this year, with much of that wiping out the $1.8 million Secure Wrap owes the airport in back rent.
The approved deal brought the latest twist in Miami-Dade’s luggage-wrap wars, which have been a reliable source of political drama from an airport amenity that’s largely unknown in the United States beyond Miami. True Star was in a similar situation several years ago, when it won a reduction in rent after facing steep competition from a company that was wrapping luggage off the airport property. That company was Secure Wrap, and it won the MIA contract in 2013 after Miami-Dade put it up to bid in exchange for giving a rent break to True Star (which used to operate as Sinapsis).
Gimenez circulated a memo last month suggesting a similar sanction for Secure Wrap: Miami-Dade would reduce its rent but put the contract up for bid in a year rather than allow it to continue through 2021. But Gimenez dropped that recommendation in favor of the plan approved Tuesday.
“This probably wasn’t worth the effort to rebid,” Gimenez said after the vote. Rather than put the contract up for another protracted competition, Gimenez said it made more sense to bring the rent level down to what the increasingly competitive wrap industry can support at MIA. “It was the right thing to do.”
Secure Wrap lost a fight last year to regulate luggage wrapped beyond its MIA kiosks in an effort to regain market share from cheaper competitors and home-wrap kits available at hardware stores. Gimenez vetoed that plan, and Secure Wrap promised to sue. At the time, Gimenez offered to renegotiate the company’s airport rent.
MIA officials said their own audit of Secure Wrap’s finances revealed a sharp drop in sales for Secure Wrap as outside competition increased. In exchange for the concessions, Secure Wrap loses the option for a two-year renewal in 2021 and agreed to reduce its fee to $15 from what MIA director Emilio González said was an average fee of $18.
The item didn’t surface at a committee meeting because Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz, chairman of the committee that oversees MIA, used his authority to request a waiver from Chairman Jean Monestime. When the matter came up at a May 12 meeting of the Trade and Tourism Committee, other commissioners joined Diaz in urging a speedy approval of a new contract with relief for Secure Wrap.
Nobody involved in the matter would take credit for the item being made public at the last minute as an add-on agenda item Monday night, rather than being included on the preliminary agenda released last week. Monestime blamed the committee waiver from Diaz, but Diaz said the delay came from Monestime’s office.
“There was no rush,” Diaz said.