While the majority of local business leaders continue to be upbeat about Miami’s local economy, that optimism has started to wane.
According to the second annual Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s executive survey released Tuesday, about 57 percent of respondents across multiple industries said their business’ health is better today than it was a year ago. Last year, 63 percent of participants reported improvements.
This year’s survey received nearly double the response rate as the survey’s inaugural year, with 428 responses received. About half of the participants are from the legal, education, non-profit and professional services sectors. The survey was conducted by accounting firm Morrison, Brown, Argiz & Farra (MBAF).
The number of business leaders that expect growth to continue also dropped in 2016 by nearly 10 percent over 2015, to 74 percent of the survey’s participants.
Last year was a record year in various industries, while 2016 has seen those growth rates level off, said Tony Argiz, chairman and CEO of MBAF, and a past chairman of the chamber.
“If I had the grade it, last year maybe we had an A and now we are at an A-,” Argiz said. “Long-term, I think people still seem to be pretty optimistic.”
Some trends have carried over from 2015. Miami business leaders said their top priorities are the same as last year: finding qualified employees, developing new products and markets and staying on top of new technology.
Nearly half of the survey’s participants, 45 percent, expect to increase full-time staff this year. Last year, 54 percent of businesses projected staff growth.
If I had the grade it, last year maybe we had an A and now we are at an A-.
Tony Argiz, chairman and CEO of MBAF
“We continue to envision a Greater Miami region powered by dynamic entrepreneurs, cutting-edge technologies, an educated work force and innovative leaders,” said Mark B. Rosenberg, chairman of the chamber and president of Florida International University, in a statement.
The main gripe for the majority of respondents remains traffic and transit issues, and that may be because it’s getting worse. In March, Dutch navigation and mapping company TomTom compiled 14 trillion GPS reports in its annual report and ranked Miami as the seventh most congested city in the United States. Last year, Miami was No. 10.
Since the last survey, Miami’s top industries have also faced a number of headwinds.
The key tourism industry is navigating the compounded challenge caused by a weak Latin American economy, strong U.S. dollar, skyrocketing number of hotel rooms, a half-open Miami Beach Convention Center and the arrival of a local Zika epidemic.
In July, the county’s real estate market saw home sales fall by 20.8 percent over July 2015. Why? Lack of affordable housing for locals, a shortage in foreclosure inventory available for investors and a major drop-off in the number of foreign buyers.
Latin America and persisting traffic issues are among the biggest disruptor this year, Argiz said — apart from the election.
“When have we had this kind of election of two potential presidential hopefuls that aren’t really that well-liked, that kind of affects it, too,” Argiz said. “It has got to concern people when they see what their choices are and what the future holds. It affects business people, employees, and how they spend their money.”
To mitigate challenges, local businesses plan to focus their investments on marketing, technology and salaries, while taking advantage of what they consider to be the best aspects of doing business in Miami: its diversity and culture and the business community and its opportunities.
“Even though Miami is an international city, it is also a close knit community, which makes it wonderful to do business,” said one survey respondent. “It’s a great place to live too,” said another. “You don’t have to sacrifice lifestyle.”