South Florida took major steps toward making its economy more agile and forward-looking in 2012 to ensure that it can compete in the new global economy.
The communitys taxpayers seemed in a better frame of mind as the year ended, having voted to invest in both the future of our schools and our schoolchildren and in building the facilities that can keep South Florida competitive in the race to attract convention business, a mainstay of the economy.
But as the year comes to an end, politicians in Washington remain gridlocked over taxes, the national debt and entitlements, casting doubt on the direction of the entire nation.
Economic indicators continue to point upward on a variety of fronts, from housing to automobile sales to consumer confidence. Yet it often seems as if the political parties particularly the most intransigent members of the GOP are doing their best to make sure the recovery remains stalled by refusing to agree on a fiscal deal.
Uncertainty and the fear that the country is headed over some sort of fiscal precipice are the most significant reasons for the failure of the recovery to achieve liftoff. The next few days will tell the tale, and we can only hope politicians come to their senses before the economy derails.
If Washington can get its house in order, there should be no reason for South Floridas economic picture to keep from getting brighter.
• As the Beacon Councils One Community, One Goal project made clear, a strong educational base is the key to future success. This year, Miami-Dade Public Schools won one of the nations most prestigious awards, the Broad Prize, to confirm its continuing improvement. Voters backed such excellence by approving on the November ballot a $1.2 billion bond referendum to fix aging schools.
• To promote educational development, an Academic Leaders Council consisting of the Miami-Dade Public Schools superintendent and the presidents of the countys colleges and universities formed in August, with FIU President Mark Rosenberg as chair.
• In Miami Beach, voters also seemed confident of the future. They approved a one-cent hotel bed tax to ensure that the 55-year-old Miami Beach Convention Center will become more competitive with other destinations. Without the facility upgrade this new income will generate, this area cant compete for big national conventions.
• Throughout the county, major advances were made to improve critical infrastructure:
A new line was added to Metrorail, connecting the rapid-transit system directly to MIA, which itself boasts new and improved facilities and terminals.
Work continued on dredging the Port of Miami to accommodate the bigger cargo ships of the future.
In 2013, the port will host the Cargo Summit of the Americas, bringing renewed focus on Miamis importance as a major trade center of the Western Hemisphere.
And the tunnel from the mainland to the port is also moving ahead.
All of these projects are crucial to the future of this community. We are witnessing the creation of a new South Florida day by day.
Coming Friday: Protecting our most vulnerable citizens and our national treasures.