The Beacon Council, Miami-Dade County’s public-private economic development arm, celebrated its 30th anniversary Wednesday, touting its efforts to diversify the region’s economy and help create a local tech hub.
Nearly 500 local business people and politicians attended the lunchtime event at the Hilton hotel in Blue Lagoon.
“This is proof that public-private partnerships work,” said Larry Williams, the Beacon Council’s president and CEO. “Thirty years ago we were ‘Paradise Lost.’ Now we’re a global, world-class city.”
Since its founding, the organization has helped nearly 1,000 companies relocate, expand or retain employees in the area, created more than 65,000 jobs, and added about $4.6 billion in new capital investment to Miami-Dade’s economy, according to figures provided by the Beacon Council.
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During the event, outgoing Beacon Council chairwoman Donna Abood, principal of real estate firm Avison Young, ceremonially passed the gavel to new chair Ernie Diaz, regional president for TD Bank, whose one-year term has now begun.
“My focus is simple,” Diaz said. “I want to prioritize growing better-paying jobs, developing local talent and assisting stable companies in Miami-Dade County while continuing to engage collaborations with partner organizations that benefit our community.”
This spring, the Beacon Council launched the Talent Development Network, which will create paid internships for students at local companies.
And over the last year, the council said it has helped 44 companies relocate, expand or retain local jobs. Twenty percent of those companies were in the technology sector, reflecting South Florida’s growing tech scene. Before the recession, less than 10 percent of companies helped by the Beacon Council were in tech.
The event leaned on the strong Back to the Future theme with a DeLorean, the time-traveling car from the popular movie series that also launched in 1985, parked outside the hotel. (The car belongs to the Miami Auto Museum.) The event date, 10-21-2015, was the same as the year the movie characters entered via their time machine.
And emphasizing the tech sector’s recent contribution to South Florida’s economy, a locally built drone hovered briefly above attendees in the hotel ballroom taking video of the event.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Esteban Bovo, who spoke at the celebration, pointed out one thing that isn’t flying: Miami’s traffic.
“It’s a challenge on all of us to deliver transportation solutions for future generations,” Bovo told the crowd. “And if you expect the politicians to do it by themselves, you’re greatly mistaken.”