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Miami-Dade commissioner gets apology after calling out county's economic development agency

The chairman of Miami-Dade's top economic development agency apologized to County Commissioner Lynda Bell on Wednesday, a day after Bell publicly called out Beacon Council leaders from the dais.

"I feel very bad, personally, about any bad feelings you have about the meeting we had Monday," Joe Pallot, chairman of the Beacon Council's board of directors, said at a meeting of the commission's economic development and social services committee. "We really do want to work with you."

"I appreciate the apology," Bell said. "I think it may have come from the wrong person, but I do appreciate it."

Piped in Nero: "I echo anything my chairman may have said."

On Tuesday, Bell had said Pallot and Beacon Council President and CEO Frank Nero treated her and her staff "very rudely and disrespectfully" in a private meeting Monday, held in part to discuss Bell's proposal to renegotiate the 27-year-old Beacon Council's open-ended contract with the county.

Bell and other commissioners said they want more oversight over the agency, which they say does not do enough to help small businesses in their districts. More than half of the Beacon Council's annual funding comes from $3.7 million in county funds stemming from taxes paid by local businesses.

Nero told the group of commissioners at Wednesday's gathering that more than half of the agency's work is with businesses with fewer than 50 employees.

He also said that while cities and unincorporated neighborhoods within Miami-Dade may compete for new businesses, the Beacon Council focuses on competing with other cities -- ranging from Orlando to Atlanta to Sao Paulo -- to attract companies. Those firms then choose where in Miami-Dade County to set up shop, such as when ABC News and Univision announced last week that their new network will be headquartered in Doral.

"We try to get them in Opa-locka Airport. We try to get them in South Dade," Nero said. But he added that the county and the state don't offer enough incentives to make those prospects attractive. "We don't have adequate incentives -- I wish we did."

Commissioners also heard from other economic development agencies at the bequest of Commissioner Rebeca Sosa, the committee's chairwoman.

"I think that working on the personal relations...is appreciated," Sosa pointedly told the Beacon Council.

"What we can't do is assume that if someone is asking questions and wants to dive into an issue that there's a witch hunt going on," Commissioner Esteban "Steve" Bovo said, defending Bell. "I don't think that's the case at all."

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