Tom Hanks and the merengue rarely factor into economic analysis, but they both briefly combined to highlight a thriving sector in South Florida’s economy.
The Oscar winner traveled to Doral in June 2011 for the morning broadcast of Despierta America, Univision’s hit morning show. Eager to promote his Larry Crowne comedy to almost 800,000 daily viewers, Hanks listened amiably as the hosts bantered in Spanish. Then, seemingly looking for something to do, he followed host Chiquinquira Delgado to the weather map and danced a Latin beat while Delgado reported on the day’s high temperatures.
“Gotta love Univision,’’ Hanks tweeted later that day. “What a fun hour that was. Peppers for breakfast. Que Bueno!”
Hanks’ infamously awkward Doral detour — the You Tube clip has more than 1 million views — helps explain why television broadcasting ranks as one of Miami-Dade’s thriving industries in an obscure federal database of labor statistics.
Along with lawyers, warehouse workers, cruise ship crew and art dealers, television broadcasters enjoy a much larger footprint in the local workforce than they would in the typical U.S. economy, according to a 2011 survey of businesses nationwide conducted by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In Broward, boat dealers, manufacturers of communication equipment, call-center operators, real estate agents and racetrack workers hold top spots on the BLS list of employment workhorses.
The scoring — known as a location quotient — rarely gets much attention amid the monthly look at which local industries are adding and losing jobs. And with the quotients measuring even the tiniest nooks of the $260 billion local economy, sometimes the statistics can seem more novelty than insight. (Case in point: Broward’s 86 professional musicians represent an industry roughly 60 percent below the national average, according to the BLS.)
But together, the measurements offer another way to consider the inherent strengths and weaknesses of Florida’s largest economy as business and government leaders plot strategies to recover from one of the worst recessions in South Florida history. The hope is to remake an economy seen as too reliant on tourism and construction, and recruit the kind of industries that can maintain high-paying jobs even in a downturn.
“Diversity of industries is important,” said Phillis Oeters, chair of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. “You don’t want to rely on one or two sectors to drive your entire economy.”
But which industries are thriving, and which trail the pack? Location quotients offer one way to answer that question.
Essentially, the location quotients measure an industry’s share of the workforce compared to the national average.
When a local industry’s share of workers matches the national average, that local industry receives a location quotient of 1. Anything smaller indicates an industry under-performing compared to a typical U.S. economy. Anything larger suggests that industry is something of a stand-out in terms of employment.
Of course, the numbers don’t tell the whole story. A large location quotient can mean an industry glutted with too many competitors, while a low score can show potential. And some scores simply capture the circumstances that make South Florida a particularly good fit for an industry. (For example, Miami-Dade’s floral-warehouse industry is about 10 times the national average, thanks to the flow of flowers from growers in Latin America.)
By putting local industries in a national context, the statistics highlight some predictable pros and cons about the local economy, along with some surprises.
• Lawyers have plenty of company in South Florida.
Broward and Miami-Dade’s legal industries are larger than the national average, with a location quotient of about 2.25 That means the legal industry accounts for more jobs in South Florida than it does in Orlando (1.8), Atlanta (1.2) and even the New York area (1.8).
Miami’s cadre of lawyers tied to international trade and finance help boost the legal ranks in the region, given the number of mergers, real estate purchases and loans for Latin American companies and individuals that are closed in South Florida.
New York remains a hub for Latin American deals, particularly on large corporate bond transactions. But cheaper legal fees in Miami and short flights to Latin capitals have made Miami a natural for negotiating deals tied to Latin firms, said Francisco Cerezo, head of Foley & Lardner’s Miami office.
Cerezo heads the firm’s Latin American practice, which formally launched last year in the Miami office. It now employs about a dozen people, roughly half of the firm’s Miami staff.
“There’s a migration of lawyers from New York who find Miami a more attractive place to work out of,’’ he said. “It’s just a really natural alternative.”
• High-tech manufacturing fares well in Broward. While South Florida’s manufacturing industry is between 20 and 30 percent of the size it was just five years ago, pockets look promising. In Miami-Dade, the making of medical devices stands out as a manufacturing sector with a location quotient of 1.95, almost double the national average.
Tech powerhouses Motorola and Research in Motion, which makes Blackberry, helped boost the employment share for the manufacturing of communications equipment in Broward to about three times the national average.
“The last three Blackberries were designed here,’’ said David Coddington, head of business development for the county’s economic development agency, the Broward Alliance. “People don’t realize that.”
That sector took a significant hit in recent weeks when Motorola Mobility parent Google dismissed 170 workers from the company’s Plantation office. But other firms continue to thrive. Marware is a Hollywood company that creates covers and cases for tables and cell phones. The company claims the best-selling case for a Kindle not made by Amazon, and has been profiting from the rise of the iPad and iPhone for more than a decade.
“We’ve been in every Apple Store since the very beginning,’’ said marketing director Ronnie Khadaran. “Once the iPod came out, it put us on the map in a really big way.”
• Sea legs can be resume-builders in South Florida.
In Miami-Dade, no industry has a bigger location quotient than does deep-sea passenger transportation — a category that includes cruise lines such as Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean. That location quotient: 70.
The labor statistics confirm that South Florida’s oceanfront, waterways and sea lanes have created thriving industries throughout the local economy. In Broward, the 500-some workers listed under marinas constitute a sector that’s 200 percent larger than the national average. (That’s compared to 60 percent larger in Miami-Dade.) Boat dealers, responsible for more than 1,000 jobs, play an even more outsized role in the economy — about 500 percent larger than the national average.
South Florida remains well behind the pack when it comes to building a biotechnology-research industry, a celebrated target for new high-paying jobs.
In Miami-Dade, “research and development in biotechnology” makes up such a tiny portion of the workforce that it trails the national average by 90 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That follows a trend of South Florida’s research industry generally not matching the strength seen elsewhere in the country. In Broward and Miami-Dade, the broader scientific research category trails the national average by about 85 percent.
That category covers well-paying research jobs in DNA, cloning, proteins and chemistry that metropolitan areas across the country are trying to lure their way. The average biotech researcher makes $115,00 a year, according to federal statistics.
The research category only covers private-sector scienitists, and not researchers in colleges and universities. And there are other categories loosely grouped under the “life sciences” label that look promising for the region, and which bring in salaries well above the average South Florida wage of $46,000 a year.
Broward’s medical-lab industry is about 160 percent larger than the national average, and the typical worker in that sector makes $56,000 a year. In Miami-Dade, companies that make surgical instruments make up an industry that’s 60 percent larger than the national average. The typical worker in that industry makes $73,000 a year.
But the region’s tiny footprint in the industries that carry the formal “biotechnology” name shows the uphill climb ahead as that sector attracts more attention from leaders.
“We never said it would be easy,’’ Jaap Donath, research director for Miami-Dade’s Beacon Council, said of building a bio-tech industry. “But we think we have the will to do this.”
The “life sciences” industry — an umbrella term that generally refers to healthcare, medical research and related fields — looms large in both Broward and Miami-Dade’s blueprints for economic growth. The Broward Alliance and the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade’s economic-development agency, both cite life sciences as a target industry for relocation subsidies and other help in attracting new firms to the region.
In Miami-Dade, the first building in what’s planned as a biotech office park has increased hope that Miami’s large hospital cluster and ties to foreign economies will make the city a hub for the lucrative research industry. The University of Miami Life Science and Technology Park still has two floors to fill in its first building, but the interest from budding foreign firms has backers convinced that the momentum will build in the coming years.
“We see the potential from what’s there, and what’s coming,’’ said Joseph Reagan Jr., vice president of Wexford Science and Technology, a Baltimore firm that built the first Life Science park building under a development deal with UM. “Boston may reach to northern Europe and the West Coast to the Pacific Rim. But nobody else [but Miami] has the connection to Central and South America —and to Europe as a whole.”
Wexford is negotiating to build and manage the second of five buildings planned for the university-owned site near the Jackson hospital complex, which includes UM’s own hospital. The second building is slated to be a hotel and conference center aimed at visiting doctors and Latin Americans traveling to Miami for medical care.
“The university has a big sponsored-research budget,’’ Reagan said. Biotech is “a market that is growing stronger. And it’s one we’ve seen get better during the last four years we’ve been down here.”
A high location quotient isn’t always a good thing. An outsized industry can mean too much competition for existing businesses if the demand isn’t there for their services. Sometimes, an industry operating below its potential can be a ripe target for corporate recruiters, who see a low location quotient as evidence of room to grow.
“I ask: Which occupations do we have plenty of, and which don’t we have that many of? That may be what we need,’’ said Bruce Hoch, managing director of DCG Corplan, a New Jersey firm that wrote Broward County’s 2010 targeted-industries study.
Hoch used trends in location quotients as one tool in crafting that study, which urged Broward’s business recruiters to focus on 10 broad categories when trying to lure companies to the area. Manufacturing and sales of computer equipment got dropped from Broward’s targeted industries list thanks in part to a declining location quotient, while financial services got added thanks to the region’s relatively large banking footprint.
A similar study in Miami-Dade, the Beacon Council’s One Community One Goal plan, used location quotients to help cull target industries with potential.
The plan includes about 140 industries grouped under seven broad categories. The study’s authors calculated a location quotient for each category. The lowest went to Information Technology, which is about 60 percent below the national average. The highest: Aviation, at 150 percent larger than the national average.
Donath, the Beacon Council’s research director, said an industry’s relative strength in Miami-Dade was just one factor in the One Community’s selection of favored industries. Local and national growth trends played a large role in the making the list, which includes much of the healthcare industry as well as broadcasting.
Statistics show overall employment in South Florida’s healthcare has gone up 10 percent since 2008. Employment in television broadcasting is down 8 percent — roughly equal to the overall hiring slump in South Florida’s economy. That’s also about on par with the 6 percent decline in the national TV industry, according to federal statistics.
But Spanish-language media appears to be on an upswing in South Florida. This month, Univision announced it would create a new studio for a 24-hour cable network it plans to launch with ABC. Target employment: 350 new jobs.
The joint venture moves Univision into the English language broadcasting for the first time, but also signals the continuing rise of South Florida’s Spanish production industry. The U.S. hub for producing telenovellas, South Florida is also home to both the No. 1 (Univision) and No. 2 (NBC’s Telemundo) Spanish broadcasters in the country.
On a recent morning at Despierta America, more than 30 people crowded behind the cameras as host Johnny Lozada interviewed fitness expert Claudia Molina about low-calorie snacks. Off to the side, Mexican telenovella star Brandon Peniche sat with shirt half unbuttoned, waiting for his segment. And producers Karina Rosendo and Heydi Peralta monitored four television screens and a computer monitor to track which parts of the show seemed to be gaining traction.
“It’s like a car. The velocity is the number of clicks per minute,’’ Peralta explained, pointing to a digital fever chart showing when the show’s mentions online skyrocket. “She lets me know what works and what doesn’t work,’’ Rosendo said.
Peralta has been working at Univision for three years, while Rosendo left her CNN job in Atlanta seven years ago to join the Doral-based network. They’re part of an expanding staff at Despierta, which grown payroll amid ratings growth and increased pull in Hollywood.
“Everybody doesn’t have three jobs like they used to,’’ said stage manager Javier Aviles, 39. “ We didn’t used to have set designers. We did it all ourselves.”
An earlier version of this article contained an incorrect description of Francisco Cerezo’s position in the Miami office of the Foley & Lardner law firm. Cerezo heads the firm’s Latin American practice, which is based in Miami.