Mahaffey Tent & Awning Co. Inc.Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment November 22, 2013
On Thursday, a judge denied Ross Ulbricht bail after a prosecutor for the U.S. attorney’s office accused the alleged Silk Road mastermind with attempting to hire hitmen to kill six people. One of those targets led the biggest scam in the anonymous online drug market’s two-and-a-half year long history, conning users out of thousands of dollars on a day informally celebrated as a marijuana holiday.
While Ulbricht had already been accused of two for-hire kills, the four additional incidents presented in a New York district court by prosecutor Serrin Turner includes one hit commissioned against a former site vendor named “tony76.” Though his real identity remains unknown, tony76 is believed to have schemed users of up to a quarter million dollars last year in the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, according to claims by at least one Silk Road forum moderator.
In explaining the murder-for-hire against tony76, Turner portrayed Ulbricht as vengeful, hoping to reacquire the money that was supposedly stolen from Silk Road users. He is a “danger to the community,” wrote the prosecutor in a letter to the court opposing Ulbricht’s bail. “There is no reason to believe that he would not again resort to violence to protect himself.”
The details around tony76 remain murky, but Ulbricht’s alleged attempts to find and take out the vendor and his associates are not, according to the prosecution. Using previously unreleased evidence including online chat records, Bitcoin transaction logs and Ulbricht’s computer journal entries, Turner paints the 29-year-old former physics student as a man whose propensity for violence knew no bounds as he protected his illegal narcotics site and reputation.
Ulbricht is alleged to have been willing to pay approximately $730,000 to kill six people in less than six months. The supposed first hit was commissioned against former Silk Road employee Curtis Clark Green, who was later revealed to have faked his own murder by cooperating with federal agents. The second hit came against a presumed blackmailer, only known by the online name “FriendlyChemist,” who threatened to leak the real identities of Silk Road customers. No evidence was ever found supporting that murder-for-hire.
The case surrounding tony76 is perhaps more intriguing given Ulbricht’s alleged willingness to kill not only the vendor, but also his three associates, for misleading customers and taking money without ever delivering products. According to information logged from Silk Road’s forums, tony76 joined Silk Road in Jan. 2012 as user No. 133,324. At first advertising MDMA, ecstasy’s active ingredient, and heroin, he quickly developed a rapport among users as one of the site’s most trusted vendors.
“I have been in the game for over 20 years, so i [sic] can pretty much get my hands on anything so long as there is money to be made and a good solid demand for it,” tony76 wrote in his first forum post on Jan. 10, 2012. He also included his public GPG key, allowing anyone to send him encrypted messages, pointing to the email address email@example.com.
Known for giving away free samples early in his online vending career to up his reputation, tony76 said he only shipped to the U.S. and Canada. By mid-April 2012, less than four months after he first joined, tony76 had completed more than 500 orders, with 1,000 forum posts vouching for his services from various users.
“Tony76 has the best MDMA on SR hands down,” wrote a Silk Road user and vendor by the name “foxymeow”. Another user, “dotNorma,” wrote that the “packaging was awesome, very inconspicuous, blends in perfectly with normal mail”. User “undeniableDillema” said tony76 was very professional and that he could “look forward to many future orders.”
Tony76’s scam came on the day of Silk Road’s largest ever sale. On Apr. 9, 2012, Dread Pirate Roberts announced site-wide product discounts and prize giveaways on the 20th, more commonly known as cannabis holiday “4/20.”
“This 4/20, every 420 seconds, some lucky buyer will win one of our 420 great prizes! From $50 gift certificates to a brand new iPhone 4s, some lucky person will be chosen every 420 seconds to win a prize,” the Silk Road leader posted on the forum. He also wrote that one lucky customer would win a “trip for two with all the trimmings to paradise, all expenses included”.
In a post on the Silk Road message boards, tony76 announced on Apr. 17, 2012 that he would be offering 22 items during the 4/20 sale, ranging from cocaine to ketamine. He also revealed that it would be the first time he would be shipping to international buyers.
As the date of the big sale approached, tony76 began requiring that his customers “finalize early” in good faith, approving the deals before receiving their packages. That action allowed the money to be transferred out of Silk Road escrow and directly to the vendor. Tony76 justified his actions, claiming that scammers had reported missing packages in prior sales, resulting in bad reviews.
While plenty of sellers had great success on the 4/20 sale, negative reviews of tony76’s shipments began to flow in around items sold on that date. Customers complained that packages had not yet arrived and noted that tony76 was unresponsive.
Within a week, users accused tony76 of being a scam artist who never intended to ship any products following the sale. Some users assumed he had been arrested, while others claimed he had been planning it all along. Estimates of the Bitcoins stolen range in value from $50,000 to $250,000.
“If he ran into trouble and needed to bail, I hope it works out for him,” wrote user “Savannah” in the Silk Road forum’s “Tony76 Official thread.” “If he just decided to F everyone…. well, karma is a bitch.”
Tony76 last posted on the forum on Apr. 24, 2012, but according to Turner’s bail opposition letter, surfaced as a person-of-interest for Ulbricht almost a year after the 4/20 sale. In the court document, the prosecutor outlined a series of events, which supposedly tied tony76 to previous Ulbricht blackmailer, and murder target, FriendlyChemist. In speaking online with another user named “redandwhite,” Ulbricht was allegedly led to believe that tony76 and FriendlyChemist had been working together to scam Silk Road.
After performing “recon,” redandwhite–previously hired to kill FriendlyChemist–traced tony76 to a real name and address in Surrey, Canada where he lived with three others. After some back and forth, Ulbricht was supposedly convinced to kill all four individuals, sending 3,000 Bitcoins to redandwhite. At a then-price of $166 per Bitcoin, the total amounted to just under $500,000.
According to court documents, Ulbricht wrote in his personal computer journal on Apr. 8, 2013, “Sent payment to angels for hit on tony76 and his 3 associates.”
“That problem was dealt with,” redandwhite wrote to Ulbricht on Apr. 15, 2013.
Canadian authorities reported no homicides of any individual with tony76’s supposed real name around the Apr. 2013 time period. Nonetheless, authorities have used Ulbricht’s alleged inclination for murder against him. Denied bail, Ulbricht will spend Thanksgiving in a Brooklyn jail awaiting trial.Uncategorized | Leave a comment November 22, 2013 Uncategorized | Leave a comment March 27, 2013
(Jan. 1, 2011 – Dec. 31, 2011)
1. Population 2,516,515
2. MSW Management (tons)
A. Landfilled 1,796,489
B. Combusted 967,462
C. Recycled 805,079
D. Total 3,569,030
E. Total Pounds per Capita Per Day 7.77
3. MSW Collected & Recycled Collected Recycled
A. Minimum 4 of 8
1. Newspaper 193,346 19%
2. Glass 107,413 7%
3. Aluminum Cans 25,064 4%
4. Plastic Bottles 39,384 8%
5. Steel Cans 71,610 1%
6. Cardboard 372,362 51%
7. Office Paper 168,287 8%
8. Yard Trash 506,853 20%
B. Other Recyclables
9. C&D Debris 271,407 6%
10. White Goods 39,680 98%
11. Tires 30,778 74%
12. Process Fuel 0 100%
C. Other Wastes 1,742,846 23%
D. Total Recycling Rate (%) 23%
E. Adjusted Recycling Rate (%) 23%
F % Change In Waste Reduction Per Capita from Year to Year
F. % Change In Waste Reduction Per Capita from Year to Year
(A negative number indicates an increase in the MSW disposal rate per capita.)
Year MSW tons per capita % Change
2006 1.62 9%
2007 1.45 -11%
2008 1.20 -18%
2009 1.29 7%
2010 1.04 -20%
2011 1.10 5%
G. Participation in Recycling Units Percent
1. Single-family Curbside 487,989 72%
2. Multi-family Curbside 502,348 51%
3. Commercial 55,518
a) Scheduled collection 44.21%
b) On call collection 0.02%
1 Official 2011 Governor’s Office estimate.
2 From 2011 Municipal Solid Waste Data Report.
3 Counites must recycle a significant portion for a minimum of 4 out of 8 of these materials.
4 Some materials have been combined: Metals include Aluminum Cans, Steel Cans, Ferrous and Non-ferrous metals, and White Goods;
Other Paper includes Corrugated, Office and Other Paper; and Plastics include Plastic Bottles and Other Plastics.
5 The legislature established a goal of 30 percent for all counties with a population of over 100,000.
6 Participation means availability and usage of recycling services .
7Percentage of total county units (single/multi-family dwellings and commercial establishments) participating in recycling.
8 Includes apartments, condominiums and others.
9 May also include government and institutional.
* Calendar year data. Revised: 3/6/2013
20012002 200320042005 200620072008 20092010 2011
MSW Disposed per Capita
ISLAMORADA — On June 3, 2010, after serving 15 years for trafficking drugs through the Florida Keys, Jorge Cabrera walked out the doors of federal prison in Miami as a free and basically anonymous man.
So much had changed since 1996. He no longer was the notorious, dark-haired smuggler who did business with drug lord Pablo Escobar and made international headlines for photos taken with Hillary Clinton at the White House, Al Gore at a Coral Gables fundraiser and Fidel Castro in Cuba.
That part of his life had become a faded footnote. He was leaving prison as a graying but energetic 54-year-old, ready to start his next chapter with an empty bank account and no idea what he was going to do to make a legal living in a now-strange world.
“I couldn’t even ride in a car without getting sick. My body wasn’t used to it,” Cabrera said.
It took time, but the charismatic Cuban American got back on his feet. He returned to his roots as a go-getter entrepreneur in his hometown of Islamorada, dealing once again with bundles of merchandise. Only this time, it’s not marijuana or cocaine. It’s used cardboard.
“I’ve gone from bales to bales,” Cabrera said with a big grin.
Cabrera, who already had started a container business for construction debris, got into recycling after an old friend told him about his new business’ big problem. “The cardboard is out of control,” said Jorge Hoyo, who bought the Sunshine Cuban Café & Market three years ago.
Cabrera figured that other mom-and-pop businesses must be having the same problem. He conducted his own pilot program to see how much cardboard small businesses produced.
He went to his childhood friend, Betsy Jacocks, owner of the Trading Post market and deli in Islamorada, to borrow her cardboard compactor. She had the only small business in the island community that produced enough cardboard to justify the $15,000 piece of equipment. She bought her first one 25 years ago, and said she saves about $1,200 a month in waste-disposal fees. Cabrera determined then that cardboard could be profitable.
His office at Key Lime Rolloff Services, filled with pictures from the old days, is on an industrial lot on the bay side of U.S. 1, where he landed his own helicopter during the multimillionaire years when he wrote a $20,000 check to the Democratic Party that got him an invitation to a White House Christmas party and a posh fundraiser attended by Gore. That helicopter is long gone, but dry-docked on the lot is an old boat that he used to pick up drugs from airdrops off the shore of Colombia.
Now, Cabrera doesn’t need to conduct his business in secrecy. He happily posed for pictures in his mountain of cardboard, once boxes that brought tomatoes, refrigerators and Smirnoff vodka to the Keys, and now ready for compacting. About 50 bales of cardboard, stacked 12 feet high, awaited transport by tractor-trailer to recyclers in Miami. Cabrera says he gets paid $80 to $115 a ton, depending on the market.
Each bale has its exact weight written in marker on the side. They average about 1,000 pounds.
“I learned I had to weigh my own or I’d get cheated, just like when I smuggled,” Cabrera said.
Corrugated cardboard is nowhere near as good a moneymaker as drugs. During his Miami vice days, Cabrera said, marijuana fetched about $8,000 for a 40-pound bale. And 35 kilos of cocaine went for more than $500,000.
Cabrera has found out the hard way that recycling is not for those who want to make a quick buck. It has taken 2 ½ years to get to the point where he is now — breaking even.
He started with daily pickup routes that began at 5 a.m. and stretched 36 miles. Through trial and error, he discovered how to operate more efficiently and economically. He now builds his customers’ collection containers that look like large dog cages. Welding skills he learned in his youth have come in handy.
Cabrera, who runs around the tourist town in rubber boots and wears his hair in a ponytail, services about 160 local businesses.
His goal is to have 450 commercial customers. They are all handshake deals.
The big payoff is coming, Cabrera said: “Once I get the volume, I’ll be able to send the cardboard directly to Japan and China, where it’s like $135 to $200 per ton. It will be cha-ching, cha-ching.”
The road to legit has had its bumps.
“I didn’t care that people I’ve known for years were making fun of me for pulling cardboard out of dumpsters,” he said.
But Cabrera got angry when the legality of his business was questioned by an employee of Key Largo’s franchise solid waste contractor and also during discussions of an Islamorada volunteer committee that was formed to analyze the collection of the community’s trash and recycling with its solid waste franchise contract set to expire in September.
“Some people chose to hold my past against me and assume my recycling is illegal,” Cabrera said.
Cabrera, who has been in jail three times on smuggling-related charges, said he now makes sure he goes by the book. He secured the proper state recycling license and got Monroe County’s first specialty hauler license specifically for commercial recycling.
And as it turns out, Cabrera and his shoestring operation have collected almost as much tonnage of recycling as Islamorada’s garbage and recycling franchise contractor for the past decade, Veolia Environmental Services.
John Sutter, Islamorada’s director of public works and parks and recreation, said Cabrera’s recycling effort has been “ahead of the curve.”
Key Lime reported to the state it collected 511 tons of cardboard last year in Islamorada and neighboring Key Largo. Veolia had not reported its Islamorada recycling data to the state in years. When the numbers finally were added up this month for Islamorada, Veolia had collected just 687 tons of non-yard waste recyclables, which include glass, plastic and cardboard, for a rate under 10 percent.
“The village is nowhere near where we need to be on recycling,” Sutter said. “We need to start doing what’s right. People did not come to the Keys for the ballet. People came here for the environment.”
To improve, Islamorada is considering following Lee County and mandating commercial recycling, with businesses allowed to opt out by paying a fee. But Islamorada council member Mike Forster, owner of the popular Mangrove Mike’s Cafe, said businesses still would have the right to choose how to dispose of their own recycling.
“Mike has one of my cages in the back,” Cabrera said.
While the volunteer committee recommended renegotiating Advanced Disposal’s contract, the Islamorada Village Council decided the $3.5-million-a-year contract was too important not to be put out to bid. Guess who is working on making a proposal?
“I’m going for it,” Cabrera said.
While Cabrera has been a slick wheeler-dealer since he sold lobsters at a Miami gas station when he was 9, he credits the takeoff of his cardboard business to “Momma.”
Georgina Cabrera, who will turn 80 in April, drove her Nissan pickup truck from Islamorada to Key Largo always searching for businesses that were throwing their cardboard into the regular garbage dumpsters.
“I give them a card and say my son will pick up the cardboard for free,” she said. “This is easy for you.”
Said Cabrera: “Nobody could say no to Momma.”
It has not been a hard sell, considering Islamorada’s and Key Largo’s franchise contractors both charge for cardboard pickup. Veolia’s rates range from $66 to $366 a month.
Jacocks, owner of the Trading Post, was one of the few business owners in Islamorada who used to make a profit by selling her cardboard; because recyclers in Miami would pick it up because it was baled. But she says they wouldn’t show up when the prices dropped. Now, she gives all her cardboard to Cabrera.
“Jorge has been Johnny on the spot,” she said. “And I want to see him do well.”
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment March 20, 2013
Despite no advertised search and no public input, Opa-locka’s mayor and city manager on Wednesday announced they had hired a new chief to take the helm of one of the most scandal-plagued police departments in South Florida.
Former North Miami officer Jeffrey Key was hand-picked by Opa-locka Mayor Myra Taylor and City Manager Kelvin Baker. Less than a week earlier, both had denied Key was in line for the job. At the time, Key had already resigned from his old job, and North Miami Mayor Andre Pierre had issued a news release congratulating Key on his new position running the Opa-locka department.
In last week’s statement, Pierre also congratulated one of Key’s colleagues, Peter Cruz, saying he would join the chief as his deputy. The pair had already had their North Miami P.D. farewell parties.
Baker, however, said Wednesday that Cruz, who has a long history of internal affairs complaints, has not been hired — at least not yet.
Key, who started his career in Opa-locka, has no major blemishes on his record, and comes politically connected. He is the son-in-law of the city’s former mayor and police chief, the late Robert Ingram. He s the city’s 13th chief in 20 years, a reflection of years of turmoil within the city and its police force.
“Mr. Key is no stranger to Opa-locka. In fact he started his career in our community,’’ Baker said in announcing Key’s appointment at a news conference outside the Opa-locka’s city hall.
Key replaces Cheryl Cason, who recently retired. Cason, her arms locked with Key during the public announcement, said she was proud to pass her baton to Key, whom she encouraged to go into law enforcement more than 20 years ago.
Cason, hired in 1984, has had her tenure with the force marred by two failed drug tests and more than 22 disciplinary charges before she was named chief.
Key thanked the mayor, city commissioners and city manager, saying that he was honored to walk in Cason’s footsteps, and that his top priority was to reduce crime.
Ironically, as he was speaking to the media, thieves were smashing car windows about half a football field away, directly in front of city hall. No one, including the chief, noticed the crime as it was taking place. Two Miami Herald reporters discovered the break-ins to their cars after the news conference had ended.
Neither Taylor nor Baker would elaborate on the hire after the news conference.
Assistant City Manager David Chiverton was given the task of fielding questions about how the search for a new chief was conducted and how North Miami was able to announce that Key had been hired before anyone in Opa-locka professed to know anything about it.
Chiverton said that Key was selected from among several candidates who had approached the city on their own and several others to whom Baker had reached out. There was no public search, he said.
About a half hour later, Baker returned to where television reporters had been taking video of the two vandalized vehicles, in a parking lot directly across the street from city hall.
He was asked again to talk about the hiring process for the new police chief. He called the move to hire without a formal search “an executive decision I made,’’ based on “some of the challenges before us.’’ He declined to elaborate.
“I can’t get into the legal issues on why, but I needed to have someone in place immediately,” he said.
Baker’s thoughts on the burglarized vehicles: “It’s obvious we have our work cut out for us here in the city of Opa-locka.”
It’s not clear whether the city planned to keep Deputy Chief Antonio Sanchez, who came under fire shortly after he was hired in January 2012. Miami-Dade’s Police Benevolent Association had targeted Sanchez because he had been trying to root out some of the department’s bad cops.
Among them was German “G.B.” Bosque, a veteran police officer who has the worst complaint record of any police officer in the state. During his 20-year-career, he has been fired at least five times for incidents ranging from bungled investigations to complaints about excessive force, ignoring direct orders and keeping crucial evidence in the trunk of his patrol car.
Another Opa-locka police officer, Arthur Balom, has been jailed since being caught in a federal drug sting.
For years, Opa-locka’s police force has been ridiculed as the place where almost any cop, even one with a criminal past, could get hired.
Key acknowledged Wednesday that when he went to North Miami from Opa-locka he was mocked by fellow officers for coming from a department with such a bad reputation.
“Opa-locka is not the same place I left 20 years ago,’’ Key said. “It has progressed.’’
Key declined to say if he still planned to hire Cruz.
According to records obtained by The Herald, Cruz has a voluminous internal affairs file. Among the complaints: that he super-imposed fellow officers’ faces onto gay pornographic photographs and distributing them in the police department — an allegation that as dropped; conduct unbecoming of an officer for making derogatory comments about an officer’s wife; and disparaging fellow officers.
Key called Cruz “a viable candidate” for the deputy post.
On the effort to continue reform of the department, he said: “Everything has to be assessed.’’
Miami Herald staff writer Nadege Green contributed to this story.
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/03/20/v-fullstory/3297307/new-police-chief-same-troubles.html#storylink=cpy
For years, Pablo Oliveira dreamed of buying a property to house his high-end linen and furniture rental company, Nuage Designs, which has created settings for such glamorous events as the weddings of Carrie Underwood and Chelsea Clinton.
A few months ago, that dream came true, when Oliveira purchased a warehouse across the street from his current Miami location. He is now renovating the loft-like space with the help of a $2.1 million, 25-year small business loan.
“It allows me to own my own space as opposed to renting, and that will decrease my costs for infrastructure and allow me to build equity with time,” said Oliveira, who secured a U.S. Small Business Administration-guaranteed loan from Wells Fargo.
For small businesses like Oliveira’s, a loan can be the critical key to growing a business, as well as the kindling to ignite an operation.
Take Harold Scott’s fledgling Great Scott Security, which manufactures window guards in Hollywood that can open quickly in case of need. These window guards are designed for various types of windows, including those found at MaverickWindows.
When he was 13, Scott’s stepfather perished in a Georgia house fire because he couldn’t escape through heavy window bars. Scott made it his mission to fix the problem.
“I promised myself I would dedicate all my time to working on a solution,” said Scott, 60.
Now retired from a 23-year career in the U.S. Justice Department, Scott recently secured a $7,500 microloan from Partners for Self Employment. He used it to buy a computer and pay for marketing and other business expenses for his quick-release window guards, which have met national, state and Miami-Dade County fire safety codes.
During the depths of the recession, business owners often griped that gaining access to capital was their biggest hurdle. Saddled with bad loans, many banks were wary of making new ones. At the same time, both the value of collateral and the creditworthiness of many borrowers tumbled.
Now, at last, banks are starting to open their pocketbooks again, experts say, though lending is still not on par with pre-recession levels.
“There is no question that small business borrowing declined as a result of the recession and has yet to recover to pre-crisis levels,” said Richard Brown, chief economist for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., via email. “According to the Federal Reserve, total loans to noncorporate businesses and farms stood at just under $3.8 trillion in September, which remains below the peak of about $4.1 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2008.”
SIGNS OF GROWTH
In South Florida, more businesses are applying for loans and getting approvals from banks, according to lenders, officials at government agencies and leaders of organizations that help small business owners secure loans.
“Lenders are expressing a greater interest than they have in the past few years in terms of meeting the needs of the small business community,” said Marjorie Weber, Miami-Dade Chapter Chair of SCORE, which helps business owners put loan packages together and refers them to bankers.
Loan figures are indeed rising. During the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2012, SBA-guaranteed loans were up in both Miami-Dade and Broward counties, according to the SBA. In fiscal 2012, 449 loans were approved in Miami-Dade, totaling $213.3 million, up from 426 loans for $154.4 million in 2011. In Broward, 262 loans for $91.4 million were approved in fiscal 2012, compared to 257 loans for $102.4 million in 2011.
“We’re seeing some really good numbers this year — we’re up for the first quarter, both in loan numbers and dollars, over last year in our district,” said Jonel Hein, the SBA’s deputy district director, whose region includes 24 counties south of Orlando. “We find it as an indication that the recovery is still continuing. The more we see loans increasing, whether dollar amounts or the number of loans, it’s a positive sign for South Florida.”
Among the loans SBA guarantees are those for start-ups, equipment, commercial property and debt refinancing. About 75 percent of loans go to existing businesses, with the remainder going to start-ups of less than two years.
“There’s a lot we can do,” Hein said. “It’s whether the borrower can find a lender to say, ‘Yes.’ ”
Just watch kids jumping on wall-to-wall trampolines at Sky Zone Miami, an indoor trampoline park, for further evidence that the market is bouncing back.
Owner Juan Brandt got a $900,000 SBA-guaranteed loan at the end of July from Wells Fargo to fund the build-out and equipment for his new franchise, which opened in October in Doral.
Brandt said he contacted SCORE and was assigned an experienced accountant as a counselor, who helped him refine his business plan. SCORE also put him in touch with banks that were most active in SBA lending, including Wells Fargo.
Still, getting a loan is not for the faint of heart. Brandt said it took about four months to get his loan.
“Even having help from SCORE and having the right person at the bank, a terrific executive who believed in the concept and was willing to work with me, even so you have to jump through a lot of hurdles to get to closing,” Brandt said.
In Miami-Dade and Broward, as well as nationally, Wells Fargo ranked at the top of the list of SBA lenders last year, in terms of dollar volume.
“We have grown our resources in Florida, which we believe is an important state with a lot of small business owners who need financing,” said Hakim Kassam, Wells Fargo’s regional sales manager for the Southeast United States, based in Deerfield Beach.
The bank has four dedicated SBA lenders in South Florida — two in Miami-Dade, one in Broward and one in Palm Beach, he said, who work with about 70 relationship bankers who funnel them business. Two types of loans are most in demand: owner-occupied commercial real estate financing — like Nuage Designs’ — and business acquisition financing, Kassam said.
Chase Bank, which made the top of the list for SBA loans last year, in terms of loan volume, also has witnessed a rebound. Both applications and approvals are up, said Carlos Alzate, Chase’s market manager of business banking for Miami-Dade.
‘A TREMENDOUS INCREASE’
“What I’ve seen in the last year was a tremendous increase in loan origination for small businesses,” he said. In South Florida, the bank has 141 business bankers and three SBA specialists.
“As we look at financial statements for small businesses, you definitely see the improvement — not only sales are starting to increase again, but the bottom lines are increasing. You see little by little that businesses that may have had a rough year in 2009 and 2010 are starting to come out of it.”
One bellwether of the economy is the hiring of temporary workers, and CAREERXCHANGE, a staffing company with offices in Miami-Dade and Broward, is seeing its business grow with the recovery, said Suzanne Hodes, vice president and chief financial officer and one of the firm’s principals.
As a result, CAREERXCHANGE needed a larger line of credit, which it got from Chase Bank.
The company pays the workers that it places on a weekly basis, so it needed a $2 million line of credit to bridge the gap of 30 to 60 days that it takes to be paid by its clients, Hodes said.
“We don’t use our line of credit for everyday operations,” she said. “We use it just for seasonal surges.”
Other banks are also increasing their focus on small business lending. In South Florida, banks like TD Bank and BankUnited also ranked high in loans last year. And Bank of America said it wants to boost its loans, recently hiring more than 1,000 small business bankers across the country, including about 50 in South Florida.
SunTrust Bank is also seeing an upward trend and has added to its SBA-dedicated staff.
“We definitely see companies that are more healed than they have been,” said Jeff Nager, SBA division executive for SunTrust Bank, in Raleigh, N.C. “We’re seeing an uptick in the quality of the applications, the quality and the stability of the businesses. So we’re seeing some positive momentum in South Florida.”
As a result of the growth, SunTrust added a third SBA business development officer in South Florida at the beginning of the year. In all, the bank has 61 business and commercial bankers in South Florida, including those focused on SBA lending.
“Borrowers — small businesses and large businesses — have been holding cash, and it was the right thing to do in these economic times,” Nager said. “They have worked through that, and it’s time to start expanding again.”
Yet credit problems still haunt many would-be borrowers, creating difficult hurdles to surmount. “There are so many people who have ruined their credit that they can’t even approach a bank,” Weber said, citing such events as foreclosures or failure to repay personal loans. “There isn’t anybody who can borrow without a personal guarantee. If you mess up your credit, even though your business is doing fine, your personal guarantee behind that loan is no good.”
Sometimes, all a company needs is a small loan to tide them over, and microlenders may do the trick.
Microlender Accion provides financial education to help small business owners put together financial documentation to get a bank loan and also offers microloans itself from as little as a $500 to a maximum of $50,000, said Fabiana Estrada, Miami team leader and loan consultant for Accion.
“We are more flexible regarding credit scores, and we can lend to someone who is home-based,” Estrada said. “If you make cheesecake at home, and you need a new oven, you go to your bank, but they say you have not been doing it for two years, so they call Accion to help the client.”
Other lenders include community-based non-profit organizations, such as Partners for Self Employment, which made a microloan to Great Scott Security. In 2012, the organization disbursed $330,000 across 67 businesses, said Cornell Crews Jr., program director. Its loans range from $1,000 to $7,500. In addition to loans, the organization provides training and technical assistance.
Miami Bayside Foundation makes loans to minority-owned businesses based in the city of Miami as long as they are able to create jobs.
During the last couple of months, Executive Director Kathleen Murphy said she has seen a rise in completed applications. Only one new loan was approved last year, in addition to increases to two existing loans.
But already this year, two new loans have been approved and are expected to close soon, and more are in the pipeline, she said. Funded by Bayside Marketplace, the nonprofit organization’s goal is to advance economic development in the city through the support of minority businesses and education.
Viking Defense, a security staffing company, was the company that secured a Miami Bayside Foundation loan in August — $50,000 to cover the time delay in getting paid on its contracts.
Owned by husband and wife Ricky and Annette Brantley and in business for four years, the Miami company started out with one contract and now has 16. Viking Defense has 36 employees and staffs apartment and condominium buildings, office buildings, warehouses and construction sites, 24 hours a day.
Ricky Brantley, Viking Defense’s president and chief executive, learned about Miami Bayside Foundation from Weber when he attended a SCORE seminar she gave on how to get financing and outlined Bayside Foundation’s criteria.
“I raised up my hand and said, ‘I have excellent credit, I have been in business four years, and I need some help,’” said Brantley, 55.
Weber told him to meet with her after class. She put him in contact with Murphy, and within about a month, he got his loan.
“Now I am able to bid on bigger contracts, especially from the county,” Brantley said. “It would have been a tremendous bind on me to make payroll, to know they don’t pay for 30, 45, 60 days. It really helps us out a lot.”
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/02/17/v-fullstory/3239701/small-business-lending-rebounds.html#storylink=cpy
When Christopher J. Canidate was a kid growing up in South Miami, he and his friends would sneak into private pools on the other side of South Dixie Highway, because there was no place to swim in their neighborhood.
Now he’d like to see South Miami make good on decades-old promises to build a public pool in his formerly segregated section of town, so he can take his three kids swimming. But the way he sees it, the city can’t seem to get its act together.
“That’s crazy. This neighborhood really needs a pool,” said Canidate, 26. “We’re not like the other side of U.S. 1. We don’t have pools, so the kids go and sneak in other pools. You see them doing the same thing I used to do.”
Since the 1970s, African-American leaders in South Miami have been fighting for a pool. A few years ago, Miami-Dade County agreed to provide nearly $1.4 million to pay for the project, but city leaders’ delays while bickering over the design of the project and the maintenance cost very nearly led the county to yank the grant.
On Friday, after meeting with South Miami Mayor Phil Stoddard a few days earlier, County Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s office said it would hold off on taking away the grant, thereby giving the city more time to settle on a plan.
“We are going to grant them an extension on it,” said Vanessa Santana-Peñate, a spokeswoman for Mayor Gimenez. “In regards to how long, it may be six months or it may be longer than that. It hasn’t been determined.”
Since the neighborhood around Murray Park, 5800 SW 66 St., first asked for the pool, the city has lost thousands of dollars for failure to meet deadlines for the project. City commissioners have rejected several designs. Several contractors quit, and some commissioners questioned whether they city could afford to pay the pool’s annual operating costs, most recently estimated at $50,000. After the city failed to meet a December deadline, the county threatened to withdraw the grant.
The city already has spent about $200,000 on a design that won’t be used. Now the city is moving to hire a design-build contractor, and — for a fourth time — to try to make a deal with a construction company.
Community leaders have said that not having a pool endangers the lives of the children in the neighborhood, which has been predominantly African-American since the 1920s.
According to the National Institutes of Health about 1,500 children drown each year in the United States. The rates were higher in African Americans than whites. Researchers have cited the lack of availability of swimming lessons as one of the reasons for the racial disparity.
The county agreed that the city could use $100,000 from the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency to cover its share of the pool’s design and construction costs. CRA money must be used to benefit that area of the city.
Nevertheless, Vice Mayor Josh Liebmand and Commissioner Valerie Newman have been wary of the project, in part because, even with the county construction money, the city would still have to pay the operating costs. Based on the current estimates, the pool would lead to a roughly 10 percent increase in the parks department’s budget.
But Rodney Williams, the owner of a barbershop near the park, said he was relieved when he found out Stoddard and Gimenez had reached a deal for the sake of the safety of the children.
Like Canidate, Williams remembers his summertime adventures as a teen sneaking into private pools.
“We would go in our bicycles, and sneak in. They would call police, and off we went, running so we wouldn’t get caught,” Williams, 40, said. “No one ever got arrested for it, but it’s crazy that all these years have passed and we still don’t have the pool.”
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/02/15/3237227/public-pool-battle-continues-in.html#storylink=cpy
The Miami Dolphins took their Sun Life Stadium renovations pitch on the road Thursday, highlighting support from a county commissioner and the mayor of Miami Gardens, the team’s hometown for 26 years.
The politicians’ backing carries weight in the city that perhaps knows the Dolphins best.
But that neighborly history also has made some people in Miami Gardens skeptical about the team’s promises of economic benefits from the planned $400 million in renovations, about of half of which would be funded by taxes.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Barbara Jordan, Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert and Dolphins CEO Mike Dee stressed that upgrading the stadium to attract more international soccer games and concerts during the football offseason would employ more locals, bring customers to the city’s shops and restaurants, and spur development on vacant parcels nearby.
“When people come to a Super Bowl or a national championship in Miami Gardens, they eat on Brickell, and they sleep on South Beach. And they shop in our stores. They support our businesses,” Gilbert said. “That’s what this is about.”
He called the Dolphins “our largest taxpayer and a vital community partner.” The team sponsors some of the city’s biggest events, including the annual Jazz in the Gardens festival.
But that has not done much to assuage the concerns of others in the city, who say Miami Gardens has received little payoff from being home to the stadium.
“I’m a Dolphins fan, but I have to say, very honestly, there has not been an incredible windfall to this community,” said former City Councilman André Williams.
Williams said the city should draw up a marketing plan to lure sports fans and event-goers to nearby businesses, to ensure that any deal to receive county taxes makes sense.
The Dolphins’ proposed financing plan relies on a new annual $3 million state subsidy and a hike of county mainland hotel taxes to 7 percent from 6 percent.
The state money could go instead to public services, Jordan acknowledged Thursday.
“Those dollars do go to schools, and to roads and highways,” she said. But other teams receive state subsidies from sales-tax revenue they help generate, and the Dolphins deserve more of that money, she added.
“It’s bringing our money back to our community — I don’t see a problem with that,” she said.
On Monday, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, whom commissioners tasked with negotiating with the team, announced that the Dolphins had reversed their position and agreed to put a potential deal for tax dollars to a public vote — before May 22, when NFL owners will award the 2016 and ’17 Super Bowls.
As part of its campaign to drum up support, the team held Thursday’s news conference at the Betty T. Ferguson Recreational Complex in Miami Gardens, down the street from the stadium.
Dolphins players and coaches sometimes volunteer at the complex, Jordan said. But there was irony to the location: Ferguson, a former county commissioner, burst onto the political scene leading the opposition to the stadium.
Ten-year-old Miami Gardens, the county’s third-largest city, didn’t exist at the time. Instead, Ferguson rallied residents from the Crestview and Rolling Oaks communities. A homeowners association filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the county, arguing building the facility would break up middle-class black neighborhoods.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment February 15, 2013
Opa-locka commissioners postponed a vote Wednesday on whether to approve a new tractor-trailer terminal in the city after a group of neighboring residents objected to the project.
Zepol Holdings wants to build the terminal on 6.2 acres in the 3300 block of Northwest 135th Street. The site is now slated for commercial use, such as retail stores or offices, in the city’s master plan. But the owner wants the City Commission to change the zoning to industrial, which would allow the terminal.
The site would serve as an import/export distribution facility for goods going to and from the Port of Miami.
Neighboring properties include other industrial sites as well as a school and a church, with some homes and apartments nearby .
Commissioner Timothy Holmes, who sponsored the change, said that the terminal will create jobs.
But about a dozen neighborhood residents asked commissioners to reject the plan.
Johnnie Mae Greene said the stop would bring noise, traffic and pollution to her neighborhood.
“We are saying no to this once again,” Greene said. “No to the truck stop.”
One resident spoke in favor for the site. John Bryant said he has lived the community for over 30 years and agreed with Holmes that the terminal would be good for Opa-locka.
“This will bring much-needed revenue and jobs to Opa-locka,” Bryant said. “I stand in support for this.”
The City Commission delayed action after commissioners Dorothy Johnson and Luis Santiago questioned how the terminal would create jobs. They asked for more information about the site, its benefits to residents, and whether approval would amount to illegal spot zoning.
“Spot zoning” exists when a city zones a single spot for a use different from the land around it — such as a commercial site surrounded by single-family homes. If neighbors were to sue a city over a claim of spot zoning, they might win if they could show the zoning helps the spot’s private owner at the expense of the rest of the community.
In other action, the commission approved financing of a new street-sweeping vehicle, which will cost $48,015.48 per year for five years, with an annual maintenance cost of $12,000.
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