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Miami Today News - 12/23/04 -

Beacon Council hires urban-initiatives director

By Tom Harlan

The Beacon Council, Miami-Dade County's official development agency, plans to increase visibility of its urban initiatives program.

Charita Allen, a former PR consultant with a Miami-based law firm, this month was named assistant vice president for the program. She is to oversee a program that helps businesses expanding or relocating to targeted areas such as empowerment zones.

Under the urban initiatives program, the council provides businesses looking to enter these zones with incentives such as tax refunds to ensure they grow and help increase jobs in the area, Beacon Council officials said.

Ms. Allen is to work with the Urban Initiatives Task Force, volunteers who advise the council on ways to encourage businesses to develop in certain areas that would create jobs.

In addition to current efforts, Ms. Allen said she is to work with county and state officials to add a program that would reduce sales taxes for businesses that locate in empowerment zones.

Carlos Leonard, Beacon Council assistant executive vice president, said the program would provide developers looking at the area 100% sales tax exemptions on materials and allow retailers to collect 50% of the current state sales tax.

The latter would help smaller businesses compete, he said, adding that sales tax funds would also be used to improve the empowerment zones.

In addition, Mr. Leonard said the council is working to establish a retail customer service center to train county residents how to obtain entry-level jobs. Developing areas, such as Midtown Miami, are going to need workers, he said.

The hiring of Ms. Allen, he said, represents the council's emphasis on urban initiatives.

Ms. Allen, who has held sales and marketing roles in Fortune 500 companies and worked in non-profit fundraising, said she looks forward to working with community leaders to find ways to create additional jobs in the county.

She said, "Ultimately, what we are looking to do is create jobs.