Merge Beacon Council with chamber, trade center

Stop the executive search! The Beacon Council should suspend the search for a new executive director. Now is an ideal time to explore a merger of the Beacon Council, the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and the World Trade Center of Miami.

By putting all of these economic growth interests under one roof, the private sector would be the majority stakeholders of a combined agency. With a controlling interest, the business community could set the course for restoring the prosperity of our region, free of the persistent buffeting by the public sector.

The very existence of the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade County’s public/private partnership for economic development, is ripe for review. It seems the Beacon Council is constantly the target for ridicule by elected officials, newspaper columnists, representatives of disadvantaged communities and small business owners. Simply changing the executive director will not stem the criticism.

Any attempts to reconfigure the Beacon Council as a government department should be strongly resisted. A new organizational framework for strategic economic development programming, led by the private sector, is the best path forward.

The decision in the 1980s to establish the Beacon Council as a stand-alone economic development organization may have been justified by the exigent circumstances of the day. At the time, drug trafficking was one of the top three industries in South Florida. Public officials in Miami wanted an agency with no other purpose than creating legitimate jobs.

In the 21st century, a stand-alone job-creation agency is an anachronism; the organizational structure is out of step with the interactive dynamics and collaborative nature of global economic activity. As nature teaches us, “standing alone” will get you culled from the herd.

The Greater Miami business community should take inventory of its economic development agencies and consolidate the operations. The Greater Houston Partnership was created when the Houston Chamber of Commerce, the Houston Economic Development Council and the Houston World Trade Association merged.

The Miami Herald recently reported that Houston had been selected as the third-best city in the nation for business. After visiting the Greater Houston Partnership offices last summer, I can assure you the private sector in Houston is completely in charge of the economic-development agenda. As one former city official candidly told me, “The business people are the brains behind operations.”

A combined agency would give the current class of corporate leaders and innovative entrepreneurs of Greater Miami the ability to focus their limited time and scarce resources on one strategic plan. South Florida does not have the wealth of oil-rich Houston or the Fortune 500 companies of Atlanta. Asking the private sector to support multiple agencies with redundant and overlapping goals is a luxury we cannot afford.

To compete in the global economy, Greater Miami needs to be smarter about pooling the talent and resources of its private-sector leaders.

A merger of the Beacon Council, the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and the World Trade Center of Miami would bring all of the private sector leaders together for a common purpose: building economic prosperity for Greater Miami. A combined agency could extend its reach and capacity by forming associations and alliances with the local chambers and economic councils throughout the region — like the Greater Houston Partnership has done in the Gulf Coast region of Texas, and the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce has done in Greater Atlanta.

A robust, independent economic growth agency led by the private sector could secure Miami’s reputation as a place for new beginnings. The Beacon Council should take advantage of this moment and encourage the leadership of the Greater Miami Chamber and the World Trade Center to participate in a roundtable discussion about an organizational merger.

The upcoming Goals Conference for the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce provides a perfect venue for a serious discussion of an organizational merger. Carpe diem, Corporate Miami.

Terry Murphy is a government relations consultant.

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