Perspective is everything. When you’re outside looking in you see one thing, and when you’re inside looking out, you see quite another.
I’ve been looking out from inside the Beacon Council for about six weeks, and what I see inside doesn’t always match what others see while looking in. I’m working hard to retell the story so that others will see the strengths and successes as I have come to know them while being sure to honor the realities as others may have experienced them. Changing perception takes both time and trust.
The recent opinion piece about exploring the merger of the Beacon Council, the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and the World Trade Center left the reader with a few mistaken notions and as a person who has been both inside as well as outside of the organization, I’d like to share my own views.
• The first mistaken notion is that the public sector is “buffeting” the Beacon Council. The most important partner the Beacon Council has is the public sector; that has been a strength not a hindrance. You cannot do economic development in a vacuum; it is done in partnership with the public sector at both the staff and governance levels.
• The second mistaken notion is that the Beacon Council is “constantly targeted for ridicule”. The negative may be on what you focus, but the reality is that there are more cheerleaders and awards than negative comments. The past few months should not diminish the facts that the Beacon Council has brought more jobs, capital expenditures and credit to this community than is ever recognized by those detractors.
• The third mistaken notion and perhaps most important, no one has ever mentioned “reconfiguring the Beacon Council as a government department.” There has been clear and consistent recognition of the need to remain as a private entity to protect the confidentiality of businesses interested in locating to Miami-Dade County. The Beacon Council is led by a dynamic group of private-sector individuals in partnership with elected officials from around the community. It is the strength of that public-private leadership that makes a difference to companies looking to expand or move to this community.
While there is absolute synergy between the three organizations there are important distinctions that would not be served well by a merger.
Years ago when the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce was searching for a leader the same discussion took place, and we discovered a few things that made the notion of a combined organization difficult.
One, no one was interested in changing the current shape of their organization because it was clear that each provided a separate function within the community. Two, unlike Houston, which is always held up as a model of cooperation and has a large corporate base, Miami-Dade has only a few large, private-sector corporations and is made up of smaller corporations and entrepreneurs. Our largest employers, for the most part, are public-sector entities not large, private corporations.
The Beacon Council is not “standing alone;” it is working in partnership with many organizations, both public and private. It is so easy for someone not at all involved with economic development to believe everything they hear or read. Perhaps we should be better at telling our own story. It is easier to leap to conclusions than to examine facts. And the fact is that the Beacon Council, in concert with its private-sector leaders and public-sector partners, is working hard to strengthen and diversify the economic vitality of Miami-Dade County.
Because the Beacon Council markets the entire county to businesses, it is important to work with a wide variety of organizations; from the Coral Gables Chamber, Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce and the South Dade Chamber to the Aventura Marketing Council, among others. These are all valuable allies in building the economic base.
I can think of many entrepreneurs who have stood alone from the herd so that they could be heard; Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs, Susan Amat, closer to home; people who believed in their idea or product and marched to their vision. Why should the Beacon Council, the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and the World Trade Center be any different? Their goals are the same: a more vital community. Their strategies and strengths are different. The notion of One Community One Goal is more than a catch-phrase; it is a call to action. And it will take many voices and many organizational partnerships to make it happen.
Robin Reiter is interim president of the Beacon Council.