Q. You said you live in Broward. You work in Miami-Dade. You are also a big advocate of treating both counties as one large economy.
A. We don’t accept the fact that this is one large market. If you go on the Turnpike or Interstate 75 on any give day, you’ll see how much labor moves north and south every day. To say we’re only concerned about what happens in Miami-Dade means we’re not going to be concerned about a significant part of our labor force. That’s just bad business.
Q. I once heard you tell a story about Miami-Dade celebrating some new business at the Port, and you had a different take on it. Can you share that?
A. I was at a meeting of the Beacon Council. They said, ‘We’ve got a great announcement. XYZ Cruise Company has agreed to move their shop from their home port in Broward to Port Miami.’ And we all cheered.
I said, ‘Well, that’s really great. But Port Miami and Port Everglades lost in that deal. And the only person who gained was the cruise company. Because we’re bidding against each other. That’s silly. Parts of the same market are bidding against each other.’
The airports have worked that out. The airport directors, maybe 10 or 20 years ago, got together and said: You know what, we in Miami have one kind of airport and we in Fort Lauderdale have a different type of airport. We’re really not competing with each other.
Q. Are Port Miami and Port Everglades two different types of ports?
A. Not now. Let’s see three years from now when dredge (of Port Miami) is finished. Miami could have one kind of client, and Port Everglades another.
Q. You mentioned the Beacon Council, which has gotten some heat lately from county commissioners questioning if the Beacon Council is doing a good job for the county. Miami-Dade pays almost $4 million a year to the Beacon Council, which is about 70 percent of the non-profit’s revenue. Is the county getting its money’s worth?
A. I’m not sure. The Beacon Council was designed to be a private-sector part of the county’s economic-development process. Part of the reason for that is we wanted to have a private-sector entity who could do our bidding out there in the market.
There is no question that the county writes a lot of checks to the Beacon Council. That’s a decision seven county commissioners could change whenever they wanted to. That’s what the Beacon Council has done for a long time — they’ve learned to count to seven. I’m certainly not in a position to question the County Commission. I think the Beacon Council would make the mayor happier — would be a stronger partner — if there was a partnership. If we worked closer together. We need to know what’s going on with a deal before it is presented to the board [of commissioners].
They will come over [to the mayor’s office] and tell us, “Next month, we’re going to take XYZ to the board.” And I say: “How about that? Didn’t know.”
We’re not in a position where we could be working as well as we could be.
Q. It doesn’t sound like a very friendly relationship.
A. It’s not unfriendly. It’s just not as productive as it could be. I think we could do a lot better if we had a closer relationship.
Q. Have you read the One Community One Goal plan?
A. They’ve done a good job. They’ve given us a good set of bones to implement. The consultants they hired from Texas did a fabulous job.
Now we have to figure out how to use the data they’ve given us. The real question is can we keep the people’s interest [in the plan] long-term. Historically, the answer has been no.
Q. What is an overlooked strength of Miami-Dade’s economy?
A. We are to Central and South America — and more and more to Asia — what New York is to the Old World, that is, Europe, and what San Francisco is to the Asian rim. A place where business gets done. A place where the banks and shipping ports are there together.
The new airplanes flying into MIA from China are coming in loaded with electronics. What’s going back are flowers and seafood from Latin America.
We’re poised to become a stepping stone, where goods and services go back and forth between Asia and Latin America.
Q. You’re relatively new to County Hall. What’s your favorite place to eat lunch there?
A. Lourdes Gomez, my colleague, found a great little French restaurant just on the other side of the courthouse building. It’s called Le Boudoir. 212 N. Miami Court.