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Everglades restoration eyed as jobs engine

By Paul Brinkmann

The Details
Potential projects related to the Everglades range from the Kissimmee River to Florida Bay.
* Kissimmee River restoration, $28 million
* Picayune Strand restoration (Naples area), $24 million
* Indian River Lagoon project design (east coast), $4.5 million
* South Miami-Dade/Florida Bay recovery, $4.4 million
* Seminole Big Cypress Reservation, $3.5 million

Decades-old ideas to restore the Everglades have new life these days because of interest in creating jobs. But one big project has generated controversy and a clash between a federal judge and Congress. Potential federal projects in the Everglades could generate more than 3,000 jobs in the next few years, according to the South Florida Water Management District. Many jobs would be in construction, which is bleeding employment, and in related industries such as engineering and manufacturing.

Some projects would likely be funded by the Army Corps of Engineers out of the recent $787 billion stimulus package. Other projects have been included in the budget bill.The ideas have spurred references to the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Projects Administration in the 1930s.

“Just remember what the CCC and WPA did during the Great Depression. They built things in national parks to create improvements and jobs,” said John Adornato, regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association. Already, Deerfield Beach-based Moving Water Industries has landed a $13.6 million contract to supply pumps for the Everglades plans.

One of the biggest immediate projects could be a $60 million bridge along the Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41) in the Everglades west of Miami. The water district estimates elevating the highway and building the bridge could create 600 jobs. Any contractors that build highways or bridges could be considered for the project, said Bob Johnson, senior scientist with the National Park Service in South Florida. Everglades environmental groups are thrilled with the new attention the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, originally adopted in 2000, is receiving. MORE SouthFlorida.BizJournals.com

Wells Fargo keeping Wachovia brand name, for now

By Brian Bandell

The Wachovia Bank brand probably won’t be replaced by Wells Fargo this year as the banks gradually combine into a seamless organization, said Kathryn Dinkin, who was recently hired as Southeast Florida regional president for Wachovia.

San Francisco-based Wells Fargo has kept the Wachovia name prominent on its branches, offices and advertising since closing on the purchase of Wachovia on Jan. 1. The company has not announced major layoffs or office closings in South Florida – and Dinkin said it doesn’t plan to.

A 13-year Wachovia veteran, Dinkin said her primary goals are to retain all the bank’s customers and employees. “It can be confusing to customers if you rebrand before you can deliver on that brand,” she said. “We will do it very slow and thoughtfully.” When the acquisition was announced, Dinkin was Wachovia’s head of retail banking for the southeastern U.S.

She could have lived anywhere in the region when she got that job two years ago. She chose Miami. However, since being named to her new position, she feels like a new arrival. “I traveled every single day. I was only here on Saturdays and Sundays,” Dinkin said. “Now, I’m in a job that focuses on the local community.”

In her territory – Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties – Wachovia had 139 branches and $18.5 billion in deposits in June 2008 for a region-best 16.5 percent market share. It currently has 3,415 employees. Wells Fargo is in the process of filling its top position for Wachovia in Palm Beach County. MORE SouthFlorida.BizJournals.com

Biden in Miami to talk transportation

BY By Susan R. Miller and Bill Frogameni

Vice President Joe Biden came to South Florida on Thursday to discuss how President Barack Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package will impact transportation projects.

Biden was at Miami International Airport where he, along with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez and Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, toured the Miami Intermodal Center (MIC). The center will serve as a transit hub that will connect airlines, rental cars, busses, Metrorail and commuter rail.

On Monday, transportation officials broke ground on the MIA Mover, a $342 million light-rail people-mover system that, when completed, with connect the airport with the MIC. “I compliment the county and the city for being ahead of the curve in planning for the 21st century,” Biden said of the MIC. “When it’s all done, people believe this will be the Grand Central Station of South Florida.”

Biden said the MIC is one example of the hundreds of transportation construction projects nationwide that will receive funds from the stimulus bill. He repeated the administration’s message that the stimulus would create or save 3.5 million jobs. States have identified more than 5,000 highway projects costing $64 billion that could be awarded within 180 days. The bill will fund only $27.5 billion worth of these projects.

The Florida Department of Transportation expects to get $1.34 billion. Miami-Dade County expects to receive $260 million for transportation projects, including mass transit and road building. Broward County officials estimate the county will receive $40 million for mass-transit projects, though they had no immediate estimate for how much would go to roads.

In Palm Beach County, Palm Tran officials estimate they will get $20 million from the stimulus package. However, Palm Beach County Commission Chairman Jeff Koons said it is unclear how much the county will get for all transportation projects, or when they will get it.

Palm Beach County’s experience is similar to other counties’: They must follow bureaucratic procedures with the state and the federal governments before some of the money materializes. Diaz spoke before Biden, saying that transportation infrastructure is critical to South Florida’s future. “We cannot remain economically competitive with the rest of the world if our transportation systems are inadequate,” he said.

Diaz thanked Biden for his visit, but also welcomed back LaHood, who recently made a visit to Miami. “It is a special pleasure to welcome him back,” Diaz said. “Especially when he brings us a check.” SouthFloridaBusinessJournal.com

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