As a Miami native and someone that has devoted his adult life to improving our Miami-Dade community, I believe that we all must ensure that local cities perform at their absolute best. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, the County Commission, the Beacon Council and other major public and private institutions have worked diligently to prepare One Community One Goal (OCOG), a blueprint for the economic success of the county’s residents and businesses.
The strategic plan is a guide for growing jobs and creating long-term sustainable economic prosperity. More than 50 major organizations — including the county, our local schools and colleges, our largest private employers, and others — played key roles in designing the plan. But I would argue that our local cities have important roles to play as well, especially the city of Miami.
OCOG analyzes the growth prospects of various target industries and identifies seven in particular as being uniquely promising to our county, based upon our strategic location in the Americas, the likely growth of those industries globally, and our workforce’s potential. The target industries are aviation, creative design (including advertising, architecture, and film production), hospitality and tourism, information technology, international banking and finance, life sciences and healthcare and trade and logistics. The document then sets policy recommendations that the county, our educational institutions, and the private sector can aim to achieve as a way to grow these industries.
But just as important to these efforts is the role that each of our local cities can play to promote economic development, for the benefit of our residents and businesses, large ones and small ones alike. In fact, no city is better poised to support these efforts than Miami. The city is key to our region’s efforts to develop a strong business climate, create well-paying jobs, reduce unemployment, grow the middle class, decrease crime, and set a course for fiscal sustainability for years and generations to come.
Perhaps no modern economist is more illuminating on the fiscal potential of city governments than Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter. His work identifies the ways in which government units of all sizes — from nations to neighborhoods — can best use their competitive advantages to help the private sector create jobs. Inspired by his work, below are some of my suggestions for how Miami can play a critical role in local economic development:
• Invest in transit and transportation infrastructure. Promoting our Central Business District and other key locations as ideal places for offices and other business uses requires facilitating the transport of people, goods, and services, via public transit, roadways and even sidewalks. Working in conjunction with state and federal partners, the city is uniquely positioned to take the lead in making itself a premiere place to do business.
• Collect and present market demand data. Unlike most suburbs, central cities often are underserved by retailers, grocers and financial-services providers. Although Miami median’s income may be modest, pent-up aggregate demand for a number of goods and services is sizable. Proactively presenting that data to potential franchisees can help create local jobs and spur reinvestment in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
• Make land available. On the one hand, assembling large parcels in strategic locations is too complex, expensive and risky for many private firms. On the other hand, cities often accumulate small, virtually unusable parcels through abandonment or outright purchase. Miami is no exception. The city should assemble its various city-owned properties and make them available to potential businesses, following a transparent, competitive public process.
• Streamline city processes and reduce costs. Focus groups of residents and industry members can help pinpoint room for improvement in plans review, permitting, inspection and business licensing processes. We can reduce the excessive regulations that can delay everything from putting up an awning to building a new corporate headquarter.
• Increase police patrols in commercial locations, so that business owners and clientele feel safer doing business.
• Increase police patrols in residential neighborhoods. CEOs often locate their businesses near their homes. If they feel that the city is a safe place to live, they are likely to create their businesses in the city as well.
• Work closely with the school board and local colleges and universities to ensure that course offerings for students of all ages prepare residents and their children for future careers — not just jobs but actual well-paying careers.
• Support the activities of the various local entities throughout the area that promote entrepreneurship. Branches (formerly South Florida Urban Ministries), Partners for Self-Employment and Venture Hive, among others, have helped thousands of individuals prepare business plans and secure seed capital to start their own businesses, putting them and their families on a path to economic self-sufficiency. The city can support such groups through a combination of office space, funding and marketing.
Taking these steps can bode well not just for Miami but for the county as a whole, for years to come.
Ralph Rosado, executive director, South Florida Community Development Coalition, Miami