Vote for the FIU expansion on Nov. 4

If you care anything about quality college educations for our young people right here in our community, not to mention a major boost to employment and our local economy, vote for Florida International University’s expansion in the November 4th election.

Here’s where things stand now. The 86-acre property next door to FIU is currently owned by the county and is leased to the Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition as it has been since 1972. The Fair uses it once a year for their major event, the Youth Fair, and for numerous smaller events throughout the year. But that property would better serve more people in highly important ways if FIU is allowed to expand their educational facility onto it.

Under the proposed plan, 64 acres would be used for development by FIU, and 26 acres previously used for fair parking would be returned to Tamiami Park. Park activities, like youth baseball, basketball and football, would continue, with park improvements, and the 22 acre area with the fair buildings would remain. The Miami-Dade County Commission unanimously directed Mayor Carlos Gimenez and his staff to negotiate with FIU and the Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition to create a plan to relocate the Fair. Those negotiations continue.

The Fair’s lease runs through 2040 with extensions all the way out to 2085, and those who operate it have made infrastructure improvements to the site over the years, so to move the Fair would require that a suitable new site be found and made ready and Fair operators be reimbursed for their capital investments. That’s exactly what FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg has suggested previously and reaffirmed on July 22 in proposing a no-cost-to-the-county relocation of the Fair.

FIU will cover the $45-50 million in anticipated relocation costs. FIU’s campus is currently the smallest of the 10 traditional public universities in Florida’s State University System. It will graduate 12,500 students in the coming year, mostly local kids, and it provides financial support to nearly 39,000 students in the amount of $400 million. FIU can continue to grow and serve more students, but it is fast running out of room.

What’s at stake here? Besides providing college educations for so many deserving students, FIU’s expansion will also create thousands of jobs and a big boost to our economy. An independent consultant estimates that the expansion will bring an investment of $900 million in construction alone, an impact of $1.8 billion long term and a yearly economic impact of roughly $541 million.

Weigh that against the Fair’s full time staff of 40 people and a seasonal temporary employment of 600 folks for the 18 day run of the Youth Fair and you have some idea of what a difference that would make. Both FIU and South Florida would benefit.

FIU’s use of the adjacent property would allow expansion of the College of Engineering and Computing, academic and research space, health care partnerships, residence halls, a conference center, alumni center and a lot more. Allowing it to become the major institution it needs and deserves to be seems to be a win-win for the entire community.

So, people of Miami-Dade County please vote for FIU on Nov 4, for our children’s future and the area’s future economic growth.

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