The past year may not have been the greatest for South Florida’s economy, but it was a good year in terms of recovery. Job numbers slowly improved, housing values continued to rise, the effort to diversify the job market inched forward.
Huge strides were made in improving local infrastructure. All the while, tourism was flourishing, and some long-neglected neighborhoods — particularly near downtown Miami — are undergoing a revival.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that the nation’s economy remains a hostage to political differences in Washington that threaten to destroy progress at the local level. Congress barely managed to avoid a fiscal disaster. Now, the threat of a government shutdown in two months over a debt ceiling dispute creates yet another needless political drama that places the future in doubt.
If Washington can ever get its house in order, there’s no reason South Florida’s economy can’t continue to improve in 2013.
Infrastructure. Giant strides were made in upgrading the Port of Miami by dredging the basin to accommodate larger cargo vessels and by building a tunnel that will connect the port to the mainland to ease traffic into the area and reduce congestion downtown.
Miami-Dade Transit opened the Orange Line to the new airport station at the Miami Intermodal Center just east of the airport. Plans for a passenger rail service from Miami to Orlando should accelerate downtown Miami’s renewal.
These investments will bring big dividends. The task in 2013 is to complete these jobs and keep improving our road system.
Securing the future. The Beacon Council released its One Community One Goal plan, a blueprint for our economic future. Among other things, it sets ambitious education priorities and corporate-recruitment targets.
The plan is just Step One in creating a new South Florida. Now it’s up to the community’s leadership to make sure they don’t drop the ball.
Biotech. Last year, we said diversifying the region’s economy was the top priority, with biotech among the leading industries that should make South Florida home.
It hasn’t been easy, as Jaap Donath, research director of the Beacon Council, told The Herald some weeks ago. Yet there’s been progress. The first building in a planned biotech office park near the U.M./Jackson Hospital complex is now close to 75 percent of full occupancy. Clearly, this will be an uphill climb, but the community’s leaders should remain focused on making this a reality.
Entitlement reform. Social Security and Medicare are at the heart of the debate over debt and the deficit. Democrats won’t like it, but President Obama has to lead on this issue. He must fend off efforts to gut these valuable programs but insist on sensible reforms that will lead to reduced federal outlays. It’s the only way to bring the budget into balance coupled with increased revenues.
There is much more we will be focusing on in 2013. Among the biggest issues: Will the promise of the Marlins Stadium to revitalize Little Havana be fulfilled? Will full-bore gambling come to South Florida, and will that be good for our community? The answers will help determine the shape of the new South Florida.
Coming next Sunday: Making the investments.