Carlos Gimenez: Fostering entrepreneurship in Miami-Dade

I recently delivered the 2013 State of the County address at the Caleb Center in Liberty City. It was an opportunity to reflect on our community’s successes in 2012 and share my optimistic vision for our shared future. I also highlighted the areas where we must improve in order to build a sustainable community and a diverse economy that makes us a center for investment and commerce, and provides our residents good jobs and a high quality-of-life.

There are clear reasons for optimism:

County government is working smarter and more efficiently as it delivers critical services to our residents, while holding the line on taxes.

We have made smart changes to our county code to protect the public and the environment while cutting red tape at County Hall, allowing businesses to open more quickly.

The county’s parks, libraries, and cultural arts programs are world class and continue to enhance quality of life for residents of all ages.

Miami International Airport and PortMiami, the county’s two main economic engines, are setting new records.

Our vital tourism and international trade sectors are also achieving new milestones.

Our economy is heading in the right direction — the number of employed residents in Miami-Dade grew by 44,000 during fiscal year 2012, and construction cranes are cropping up across our beautiful skyline for the first time in years.

To sustain that positive trajectory, we must face the challenges that stand squarely between our community and the truly global center that we are destined to become. Two keys to our success are improved mobility and innovative, ideas-driven jobs that can bring a new dimension to our economy.

Mobility goes straight to the heart of residents’ quality of life, and the need to find common-sense, affordable solutions to our growing traffic challenges is pressing. Simply building more and bigger roads is not the long term solution.

Connecting Miami Beach, a modernized convention center, and the western suburbs to our vibrant downtown with innovative modes of transportation are critical first steps in this process of bringing greater connectivity to our community. I am reaching out to our state and federal partners — as well as the private sector — to begin a serious dialogue about how we can move toward new, affordable solutions that make our community a more livable place.

Also at the state level, I announced the creation of an Advisory Group on Property Insurance Rates and look forward to working with our commissioners to protect your families and homes from potential rate increases.

Fundamentally diversifying our local economy and creating a thriving culture of entrepreneurship is also of paramount importance. I am committed to adding new pillars to the framework of our economy, as outlined in the One Community One Goal initiative which I co-chair.

It starts with education and building a “K Through Career Pipeline” that connects our students to the workplace, so that they can hit the ground running with good local jobs after they graduate. Our partners in the education community — from non-profits, to public schools, to colleges and universities — care deeply about our children’s future and are on board with this mission. The results are beginning to show, particularly in the growing, ideas-driven fields of IT and entrepreneurship.

Fostering growth in technology and entrepreneurship at the local level is critical to our shared future and to ending the brain drain that sees our brightest young people taking their knowledge elsewhere. Realigning our existing jobs and economic development programs to elevate these new economic pillars is also vital.

The county is leading this effort by investing $1 million in The Launch Pad, an entrepreneurship accelerator in downtown Miami, which provides grants and free workspace to tech start-ups. Our valued community partner, The Knight Foundation, is fostering a burgeoning culture of entrepreneurship with its $2 million commitment to fund a new Miami office for Endeavor, a renowned global non-profit that mentors and supports promising start-ups. I’m hoping that the next Twitter or Facebook will be born here, and that we will become the next Silicon Valley. Of course, we will call ourselves Tech Beach.

These are indeed exciting times — optimistic times — for our hometown. The time has come for us to fulfill our potential as a dynamic global community that stands out on the world stage.

Thank you for allowing me to lead our community forward. I will continue to do so with honesty, transparency and respect for your hard-earned tax dollars. I’m asking for your help — it will take the shared efforts of all of us. Together, I’m confident that we will succeed.

Carlos A. Gimenez is mayor of Miami-Dade County.

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