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Miami Herald - Jun 6, 2005

New jobs may be a byproduct of industrial park partnership

A Liberty City industrial park has been selected as headquarters for a biotechnology training center, which could bring high-paying jobs to local residents, planners said.


A Liberty City business complex that was largely abandoned when companies fled after the 1980 riot will be home to a biopharmaceutical training center that could yield high-paying jobs to area residents, planners say.

The project at Poinciana Industrial Park marks the first major business construction in Liberty City in decades. Poinciana is at 2390 NW 79th St., in the shadows of the former James E. Scott and Carver housing projects.

The training center involves a partnership that includes Miami-Dade College, Florida A&M University, IVAX Corp. and a Massachusetts-based biotechnology manufacturer.

Next week, those entities will break ground on the complex. The project received a boost this week when the U.S. Labor Department awarded Miami-Dade College a $1 million grant for training programs and staff development associated with the center.

The facility will sit on 15 acres leased from the Miami-Dade Empowerment Trust. In addition to the training center, the park will include retail space and residential housing.

The centerpiece, planners say, is MediVector Biopharmaceutical Centers, a manufacturing firm based in Cambridge, Mass. The company will oversee training and manufacturing operations.

One tenant already on board: Jackson Memorial Hospital, which will operate a medical clinic providing services to area residents and clinical rotations for students.

Project principals estimate the new park will produce at least 1,500 high-paying jobs once construction is completed.

Craig Rice, vice president with Town Center Properties developers, would not give an estimate on the project's cost and said financing would be through a private lender. He did say that the first phase of construction, a 186,000-square-foot facility, would be completed in 2006.

The significance of such a project, Rice said, is being able to provide a foundation for residents to get employment that is going to be specialized.

''Skilled employees will get skilled-employee wages. By creating this park, bringing the biopharmaceutical industry to the area, we expect all of that to come true,'' he said.

Rice and administrators at Miami-Dade College noted that the concept for the park has a three-prong approach: The first part is to build the manufacturing facility. The second part is the educational component in which MDC and FAMU would train students who could work in those companies. Lastly, developers want to lure manufacturers of prescription medication and medical equipment.

MDC Wolfson Campus President Rolando Montoya said the college is already adding new degree programs related to the biopharmaceutical industry so students can take advantage of job opportunities.

Madeline Pumariega, dean of MDC's medical campus, said as word leaked out about the new park, the college received inquiries from out-of-area biopharmaceutical companies interested in learning about its curriculum.

''This can establish that section of South Florida as the corridor for biopharmaceutical activity,'' she said.

It's the latest of several attempts to draw business back to Poinciana. For years, the 90-acre park sat nearly empty. The perception of crime made potential business owners wary of opening their businesses there.

The mainstay is Leasa Industries, a minority-owned food processor, which moved into the park in 1989 and expanded a decade later.