Last week, Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed into law a bill that bars Florida's state or local governments from hiring firms that conduct business in Cuba or Syria. In a statement, the governor said: "The legislation I'm signing today is designed to prevent Florida taxpayers from unintentionally supporting dictators that suppress freedom and the rights of individuals."

Upon signing the bill into law, however, Gov. Scott also issued a signing statement that indicated the state could not enforce the law without federal approval. A political outcry ensued, however, and the governor backtracked, eventually stating that he would enforce the new law.

The firm at the center of the media spotlight surrounding this law was Odebrecht USA, which maintains offices in Coral Gables, Fla., and has worked in Cuba recently. Regularly among the top contractors in Florida, Odebrecht nevertheless faced the potential prospect of being barred from winning new public contracts as a result of the new law. The firm reported that it earned $122.7 million in 2011 revenue from projects in the Sunshine State. (The law makes an exception if a company announces a plan to end its business activity in Cuba; Odebrecht did not respond to ENR's questions about the firm's business plans related to Cuba.)

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Odebrecht estimates the value of the Airport City development at $800 million. The company is serving as developer and providing design and construction services for the project, which is under review by the Federal Aviation Administration. The project includes no public funding. (Image courtesy Odebrecht)

Odebrecht officials would not provide an interview to ENR, but instead issued a lengthy statement that included, "Odebrecht USA is fully committed to complying with all local, state and federal law."

An excerpted version is included here:

"Since 1990, Miami became Odebrecht’s home in the United States. Our first office was a modest ground-floor unit in a brick building near the Miami International Airport. In 1991 we won our first contract – downtown’s Miami Metro Mover. The project was a joint venture with Church & Tower, owned by Cuban-American entrepreneur Jorge Mas Canosa.

"In little time, Miami welcomed Odebrecht with open arms. As we began winning contracts in multiple states ... we took along the sensitivity that each state, each city and each neighborhood has its own specific culture.

"Miami has grown much since we first arrived, and we are fortunate to have supported that evolution through our work on landmark projects, buildings and facilities that have helped to redefine the city. When the American Airlines Arena erupts after an alley-oop from Lebron James to Dwyane Wade; when FIU football fans cheer their team on to victory in their very own stadium; and when a child watches the Nutcracker for the first time at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, it moves us to know that we have contributed to these moments. 

"MIA, in particular, is the most important economic engine the city has, and its success is critical to hundreds of thousands of families, generating more than 282,000 jobs and $26.7 billion in business revenue. We are proud to have partnered with MIA to build the recently completed South Terminal which opened for its inaugural flight on August 29, 2007. [Then] MIA and American Airlines asked us to step in to finish the troubled North Terminal expansion – a process that we managed to conduct without shutting down the airport, despite its complexity. Moreover, we are currently completing the AirportLink, connecting the airport to the existing Miami-Dade Metrorail System, as well as the MIA Mover, which will connect MIA to the Miami Intermodal Center.  

"Our newest proposed partnership with MIA, Airport City, is a unique project that will develop over 1 million square feet of retail, commercial, hospitality and entertainment space on unused land within the grounds of the airport. Odebrecht will be investing upwards of $800 million of its money into this project. 

"A study by the Washington Economics Group estimates that Airport City could create as many as 5,800 jobs and a total positive economic impact of $827 million during the development and construction phase of the projects, and as many as 10,000 permanent jobs for Miami-Dade County residents and an annual total economic impact of $1.63 billion when the business is operational.

"House Bill 959, recently signed into law, contains certain restrictions in respect of public contracts with governmental entities in the State of Florida. We are extremely proud of our 21-year track record of performance and community involvement in Miami-Dade County and throughout Florida, which is a testament to the unparalleled talent and commitment of our employees. Odebrecht USA is fully committed to complying with all local, state and federal law, and remains dedicated to working with our partners to provide outstanding service to each of our clients."

Engineering News-Record will have more on Florida's new anti-Cuba law in a future issue. What are your thoughts? We'd love to hear them!