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Miami was an Amazon HQ2 finalist, but what comes next?

South Florida CEOs were asked: How should Miami and South Florida capitalize on the momentum earned from being named an Amazon HQ2 finalist?
South Florida CEOs were asked: How should Miami and South Florida capitalize on the momentum earned from being named an Amazon HQ2 finalist? TNS

We should leverage our location as a truly pan-hemispheric city, and highlight the interest shown by Amazon in Miami and South Florida. The fact that we were a finalist demonstrates the vibrancy of our city and region, our technological strengths, the diverse workforce, and the tremendous growth opportunities that exist here.

Dr. Edward Abraham, executive vice president for Health Affairs of the University of Miami and CEO of UHealth - the UM Health System

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We sincerely believe Miami and South Florida leadership should actually look internally at the reasons plus causes of the Amazon decisions. I am not a second-place sort of person and our community should not be either. To this point, time to take the blinders off and address the real issues, then fix them. We have a talent problem, transportation problem, corporate HQ problem and need to address the middle markets. The rest will come when ready.

Jim Angleton, CEO for Aegis FinServ Corp.

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Vying for the Amazon HQ2 offered an opportunity to examine closely our region’s strengths and weaknesses. Rather than put that information back on the shelf, we need to promote our strengths, including our economic vitality and global positioning, while addressing the factors that may have weakened our position, such as traffic congestion and affordable housing.

Wael Barsoum, M.D., CEO and president of Cleveland Clinic Florida

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The work force, and the weather. These elements were portrayed time and again in business media, and that hopefully has created a momentum that will lead to greater business relocation in Miami-Dade County.

Agostinho Alfonso Macedo, president and CEO of Ocean Bank

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Miami needs to take the good that became of this, which was a lean more toward collaboration and not allow for this to be the last time. We need to utilize that same energy to realize that Miami is already rich in companies and opportunities. As an example, many of the larger private employers of black people in Miami exist within the nonprofit sector. We need to realize that Miami will only be as great as its lowest earning citizens. We need to build up the things that will move them further up the earning ladder. We need to bolster affordable housing (without gentrification), we need to finally build a north rail line that will connect downtown to Miami Gardens, Opa Locka and other northern metro Miami-Dade cities. We need to build a real pipeline between FIU, UM and FMU, Barry and St. Thomas. We need to fund an intensive articulation agreement between the schools that will allow for corporate-based internships. We must find a way to retain our college graduates in Miami.

Bill Diggs, president, The Mourning Family Foundation

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Being a finalist for Amazon’s HQ2 was a major accomplishment. It was a shout out to the world that we have most of the ingredients required to attract a behemoth company to move to South Florida. Having said that, we all know that we have issues that need to be resolved in order for us to actually land large enterprises that select Miami as their home. It is time to take real stock of where we are and what we really need to do to make South Florida the most attractive choice for any company making the decision on where to locate. It will require deep thought, significant financial investments, and an amazing marketing and branding campaign to get there, but if we execute, we will win in the long run!

Brett Beveridge, CEO and founder of The Revenue Optimization Companies (T-ROC)

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In the nonprofit field, we talk a lot about “mission drift” and “grant chasing.” This occurs when an organization shifts away from its core mission in an effort to secure funding or grants. The same concept should apply to Miami and South Florida in terms of business development opportunities. We cannot be all things to all people. As a region, we must be clear about our strengths and pursue opportunities that are aligned with those strengths. Regardless of the outcome of Amazon HQ2, the key is to be clear about what we have to offer as a region, and be unrelenting in demonstrating the strengths of our diverse and thriving community.

Chelsea Wilkerson, CEO of Girl Scouts Tropical Florida

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Applying for the Amazon contract alerted the world that South Florida was not only open for business, but a major player in the game. Now that we have everyone’s attention, we should continue to focus on recruiting big businesses to the area. With our great weather and diverse community, we are a perfect breeding ground for expansion and growth.

Dorcas L. Wilcox, CEO of Miami Bridge Youth & Family Services

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The fact that South Florida was one of 20 regions or cities shortlisted from 238 submissions made to the online retail giant is no small feat. Among the features that attracted Amazon to the region are the cost of living, access to a talented and educated workforce, high incentives, and access to international airports. Although our region didn’t ultimately win the bid, all of these features still make South Florida an attractive location for many businesses. We can lure other businesses by building on the same strategic approaches used to engage Amazon. Since its bid for Amazon, the region has had even further developments — port expansion, as well as growth in the information technology and real estate industries, making us one of the most attractive locations for companies inside and outside the United States. Stakeholders should collectively strategize on how to capitalize on this momentum.

Gregory Adam Haile, president of Broward College

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We have become a world class city but continue to have significant challenges consistent with cities that have experienced rapid growth and expansion over a relatively short period of time. We should prioritize addressing those challenges, including education, affordable housing, economic opportunity, and infrastructure. Community, government and business leaders need to work together to develop solid actionable plans and time-lines for improvement. Creating accountability and visibility around those initiatives,and focusing on the continuing effort to attract top talent to the area will drive our continued success.

Jorge Gonzalez, president and CEO, City National Bank

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South Florida has many competitive benefits compared to other regions. We need to continue to market what makes us unique. To make it even better our leadership needs to keep raising national awareness, deepen partnerships with higher education to create a competitive workforce, and institute business-friendly government policies.

Louis Hernandez Jr., CEO, of Black Dragon Capital

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I am not sure that Miami and South Florida enjoyed any significant momentum. I think that it was encouraging that Miami and South Florida were considered. I also think that Miami and South Florida have a great deal to offer to commerce and industry and major employers. I think we should stick to our knitting and focus on attracting new economy industry and employers.

Paul Singerman, co-chair of Berger Singerman

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Stay the course. I do not believe there is anything we can capitalize on when you lose a competition. That being said, I feel losing the Amazon HQ opportunity may be a blessing in disguise. I strongly believe that Florida, especially South Florida, sells itself. We are a culturally diverse international community which enjoys incredible weather year-round and as a state, we have relatively low sales tax and more importantly, we have no state income tax. Those variables alone will afford Florida a unique opportunity to have a net sum gain in regard to immigration/migration of about 325,000 people per year.

James “Jimmy” Tate, co-owner and president of TKA-Evolution Apparel and of Tate Capital, and co-founder of Tate Development Corp.

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Miami and South Florida can greatly capitalize on the momentum from being named an Amazon HQ2 finalist. Miami has been credited for its business-friendly environment and highly skilled and multilingual pool of workers. South Florida is home to everything an expanding company would need: access to talent, local support for growing and expanding businesses, incentives, and access to transportation like the new Brightline express intercity rail system. This is the best time for Miami to attract other companies looking for a second home base by showcasing everything the city has to offer. By living and working in South Florida, residents and business owners have more money to invest since we do not have a state tax.

Rashad D. Thomas, vice president of business connect and community outreach for the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee

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I think Miami is the ideal city for Amazon HQ2 and the city should utilize this opportunity to showcase South Florida as a true global hub for businesses.

Manny Angelo Varas president and CEO of MV Construction Group

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Also see:

▪ Miami lost Amazon’s HQ2. Still, the area looks more attractive than ever, experts say at Jan. 29 event

▪ Amazon cancels plans for New York site. Miami officials say tech giant remains welcome

▪ South Florida leaders hope for another look from Amazon after report

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