Miami business leaders think the local economy is doing well and will continue to grow — but they’re also worried about the city’s painfully slow-moving traffic and a lack of skilled workers.
That’s according to a new Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce survey released Wednesday .
Nearly 84 percent of the 237 business owners and CEOs who responded to the survey said they expect their business to be healthier in a year’s time. More than half said they expect to add staff over the next 12 months. The survey was conducted by accounting firm Kaufman Rossin.
“People are very excited about doing business here in Miami,” said Christine Barney, chairwoman of the chamber and CEO of the public relations firm RBB. “Miami is doing a lot of things right in terms of creating a business climate that fosters entrepreneurship and innovation.”
But there’s also room for improvement: Traffic was by far the biggest concern among those who responded to the survey, with nearly half listing it as their top complaint.
Miami is 10th on the list of U.S cities with the worst traffic and it’s getting worse — congestion was up 20 percent in 2015 compared to the year before, according to the traffic analytics firm INRIX.
“People have to have mobility,” Barney said.
Business leaders also expressed concern about a lack of qualified workers.
Construction companies have complained about a shortage of skilled trade workers since the latest building boom began. And the high-growth fields pinpointed by local leaders as promising job creators — which include aviation, information technology and trade and logistics — all require more educated workers than Miami currently can provide. About 79 percent of Miami-Dade residents have earned a high school degree compared with 86 percent nationwide.
The chamber survey also found that small businesses in Miami were less optimistic about growth than bigger ones. About 39 percent of companies with one to five employees expected to grow over the next year, compared with 72 percent of companies with 26 to 50 employees.
“That could be because the regulatory burden is relatively heavier on smaller businesses,” said Mekael Teshome, an analyst at PNC Bank who covers Florida. “If you’re a smaller shop navigating regulations, you don’t have the same resources to deal with as a big company. It takes up more of your time and energy.”
But Teshome said the survey accurately reflects positive overall trends in South Florida’s economy, including strong tourism and population growth.
“Consumers have more firepower to work with because of things like slower inflation and cheaper gasoline,” he said. “That’s translating into more business for local companies.”
Even local executives who didn’t participate in the survey echoed its results.
Julie Grimes, managing partner at the Hilton Bentley hotel in Miami Beach, said she is optimistic about prospects for the hospitality industry as increased tourism drives growth.
“Basically, the world has discovered Miami, and there’s no turning back,” Grimes said.
And Richard Behar, who runs the boys’ clothing manufacturer Capitol Clothing, said he expects to grow as the demand for American-made products increases. But it can be difficult to find local subcontractors with skilled sewing machine operators. All Capitol’s products are made in Miami.
“It was much easier when the textile industry was bigger here,” Behar said.