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Guest donaltopablo

Miami effort backed by UPS

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A little bit of a shock, but UPS is favoring Miami for the FTAA headquarters. This is probably very good news for Miami, if this free trade assoication even happens, since it adds another large corporate booster on their side, where they are obviously in the lead.

Miami effort backed by UPS

Trade center battle forces a hard choice

By DAVE HIRSCHMAN

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

When Atlanta boosters pitch the city as the best choice for the Free Trade Area of the Americas headquarters, they trot out representatives of all the big corporations here, save one: UPS.

That's because UPS, the world's largest package delivery firm, is backing Miami's bid to attract the FTAA -- a potentially lucrative prize that promises up to 15,000 white-collar jobs, $500 million a year in economic activity and the prestige that comes from being the trade center for the 34 countries that make up the Western Hemisphere.

It's an uncomfortable position for UPS, usually one of the city's most conspicuous and effective advocates. The company's employees and foundations gave away $9.6 million in Georgia last year, contributed more than $50 million to the United Way -- more than any other U.S. firm -- and its top executives serve on boards for the Carter Center, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 100 Black Men of Atlanta and other area nonprofits.

"We're heavily invested in both cities," said John Flick, a UPS spokesman at its Sandy Springs headquarters. "Whichever city is named, we'll support. But we're a global company. We make decisions based on strategic benefits, and Miami has been our gateway to Latin America since 1989."

UPS has spent more than $30 million upgrading its Miami hub, where it operates an extensive air network throughout Latin America and the Caribbean with dozens of daily flights. UPS has 3,900 employees in the Miami area and has endorsed that city's efforts to attract the FTAA headquarters since 2001 -- long before Atlanta entered the race.

UPS has made it a point not to lobby for either side since Atlanta launched its FTAA drive this year. Miami is widely regarded as the favorite for the FTAA headquarters because of its deep cultural ties to Latin America, its bilingual population and extensive trade and financial links throughout the region.

Strong backing

Atlanta's energetic campaign to win the competition relies on hometown icons such as Coca Cola, Delta Air Lines and BellSouth to use their Latin American clout that comes from having heavy investments there.

Jose Ignacio Gonzalez, head of Hemisphere Inc., a nonprofit corporation formed to win the campaign for Atlanta, said strong corporate support from the business community has made the city a contender.

"The support we're getting is tremendous," he said. "Why would I be concerned about any particular corporation if I have a ton of others backing our campaign? The question is whether we really have strong corporate backing in Atlanta -- and the answer is unequivocally yes."

Atlanta's other high-profile FTAA backers -- Sam A. Williams, president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce; Carlos Martel of the Georgia Department of Industry Trade and Tourism; and Mayor Shirley Franklin -- didn't return calls about UPS' stance.

The FTAA is scheduled to go into effect in 2005, but the process could be derailed by a trade dispute between Brazil and the United States over U.S. farm subsidies. Bush administration officials have proposed making bilateral deals with the countries involved, a development that would make a trade center unnecessary.

Other cities seeking the FTAA headquarters include Panama City, Panama; Puebla, Mexico; and Port of Spain, Trinidad.

Broader benefits

Paul Lapides, director of Kennesaw State University's corporate governance center, said UPS is making the right choice by favoring its Latin American operations center over corporate headquarters.

"UPS has a duty to make the best decision for its shareholders and customers," he said. "With so many of UPS' commercial assets in Miami, there's no question that Miami is the best location for the company."

Lapides said he'd be alarmed if UPS, or any other public corporation, chose the parochial interests of its top executives over the broader benefits to the company.

"If Atlanta wants to be a world-class city, it will respect UPS' decision to do what's best for its shareholders and customers," he said. "It would be wrong for UPS to do anything else."

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