Reporting Natalia Zea
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – While funding for the proposed modernization of Sun Life Stadium hasn’t been finalized, the Miami Dolphins organization is moving ahead to makes sure the project, if approved, has a diverse local workforce.
On Thursday an ‘opportunity fair’ was held at the stadium, hosted by Sun Life Stadium and Operation 305.
Several hundred people put their names put their names into a South Florida Workforce database for jobs currently available at the stadium and for future construction jobs if the renovation plan is approved.
Carmen Brown, who put her name in the database, said she’s been looking for steady work for years.
“I’ve been right now cleaning houses, trying to keep a little dollar in my pocket,” said Brown. “I have no idea what’s available but I’m willing to work with whatever they have open.”
Nick Wallace, a construction superintendent with 40 years of experience, said he needs work so badly, he came to this event despite doubting its merits.
“I hope it’s the real deal. However the sub-contractors and contractors they do hire will pick and choose their own people, not the Dolphins,” said Wallace. “I’m afraid they’re just using this as a ploy to get money out of Tallahassee. I hope it’s not true.”
A folder each job applicant walked away with held a document encouraging them to vote in the May 14th referendum and approve the use of 7,500,000 dollars a year, adjusted annually for growth, from additional tourist room taxes to modernize the stadium.
“Over 4,000 jobs created with the stadium modernization are dependent on the project moving forward. So it’s absolutely appropriate,” said Eric Jotkoff with Miami First, a political action committee pushing for the stadium modernization.
Jotkoff said they’re planning to hold additional job fairs like this and don’t need to wait until the construction jobs actually exist.
“The modernization project of Sun Life stadium will create more than four thousand jobs and because we’re dedicated to using local contractors, local small businesses in Miami-Dade it’s something that’s important to build the pool of applicants and that’s what we’re doing today,” said Jotkoff.
Miami Dolphins CEO Mike Dee has said that their goal is to have seventy percent of the jobs created by the modernization project filled by Miami-Dade residents.
Operation 305 is an initiative among residents and businesses to ensure that proposed stadium renovation construction jobs stay within the community and the 305 area code.
“With Miami-Dade’s unemployment rate at nearly 10-percent, our community needs the thousands of jobs that the Sun Life Stadium modernization will create,” said Christopher Hodgkins of Operation 305 at press conference last Tuesday when the opportunity fair was announced.
Operation 305 was initially created to find local workers to build the Port of Miami Access Tunnel.
“What we hope to do is use as a model what we’ve done on the Port Miami Tunnel,” Hodgkins said. “We wanted the workforce and vendors and subcontractors to be a mirror of the community.”
Because of the deal reached between the county and the Miami Dolphins, the goal is to keep the jobs in Miami-Dade County, as opposed to neighboring Broward County.
While Dee said ten percent of the jobs will stay in Miami Gardens, where the stadium is located, other cities plan to reap the rewards of the project as well. Twenty percent of the jobs would go to those eligible for Community Development Block Grants, according to Dee.
“At the end of the day this is not just about inclusion. It’s about economic development in some of the most hard hit areas in our community,” said Bill Diggs of the Miami-Dade County Chamber of Commerce.
Several opportunity fairs are in the works to find qualified labor if the measure passes in Tallahassee and in the county.
On Monday, the Florida Senate voted in favor of a bill that grants a sales tax exemption and allows Miami-Dade County voters to decide on using tourist dollars to help pay for the renovations. The House must approve the bill but the clock is winding down as the Legislature is scheduled to end its session Friday.
If the bill is not brought up in the House, the measure will be defeated.
Early voting started Monday for the May 14 referendum.