The Thrill of the Hunt

Carlos Herrera leaped up from Hialeah, took aim, and got himself a beauty: Homestead Air Force Base

While Herrera would probably be heralded as a hero in South Dade if he could sign up FedEx, some of his other options could be met with much less enthusiasm, especially if certain terms in HABDI's proposed lease are accepted by the county. Specifically, HABDI is asking for the freedom to sell to other companies portions of its development rights, in effect allowing instant profits without having made any investments.

HABDI consultant Alan Rubin maintains a close association with a firm that is very likely to have just such an interest. The company, the Galesi Group, is based in New York and acted as a consultant to Rubin when he prepared the Beacon Council's air base report for the county commission. "Let's not kid ourselves," Rubin says cautiously. "This is a very real process. Carlos Herrera and the HABDI team intend to be the developers. If they [Galesi or other potential investors] can help, then it would be smart to go out and get them."

Given their strongly expressed sentiments favoring a local developer, it's unclear how commissioners would react if HABDI were to sell its privileges to outsiders. But that potential problem is minor compared to a situation that could scuttle Herrera's plans altogether.

This past March, after much concerted lobbying by local officials and civic leaders, the Department of Defense announced that the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) would relocate to Dade County from Panama. If SOUTHCOM's commanders decide they want to set up shop at the Homestead Air Force Base, they undoubtedly will be given the property, which is still controlled by the federal government. (SOUTHCOM officials are expected to announce their decision within days.)

In the face of that threat, Herrera has been active in Washington as well. He has met with Air Force officials and has struck up a friendship with Sen. Edward Kennedy. (The two have met on several occasions recently and Herrera attended a private fundraiser in Kennedy's honor.) The senator is a Democrat and Herrera is a Republican, but Kennedy is also a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and could prove to be a powerful ally as Pentagon officials decide precisely where SOUTHCOM will be located.

That Herrera is mounting such an all-out effort should come as no surprise. "You have those who try hard," he says, "and those who try hardest. I'm not a brain surgeon. I'm not a super-intelligent guy. I never have been. But I always believed that if you work hard, you will succeed. I've not failed so far. So I don't see why I would fail now.

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