Business Monday

CEOs assess South Florida’s economy for 2017

An employee welds a steel part in the metal fabrication area at the Everglades Boats manufacturing facility in Edgewaterin January 2016. Members of the Miami Herald CEO Roundtable were asked: Job growth in Miami was slow this year, compared to other areas of Florida, thanks to a recession in Latin America and Zika. What do you expect for South Florida’s economy in 2017?
An employee welds a steel part in the metal fabrication area at the Everglades Boats manufacturing facility in Edgewaterin January 2016. Members of the Miami Herald CEO Roundtable were asked: Job growth in Miami was slow this year, compared to other areas of Florida, thanks to a recession in Latin America and Zika. What do you expect for South Florida’s economy in 2017? Bloomberg

This week’s question: Job growth in Miami was slow this year, compared to other areas of Florida, thanks to a recession in Latin America and Zika. What do you expect for South Florida’s economy in 2017?

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I anticipate South Florida’s economy in 2017 to be slightly stronger than 2016, as this past year has been one of “wait and see” to a certain degree due to political uncertainty. With the election behind us, Zika seemingly no longer a threat to our region, and the Fed increasing the interest rate — and is expected to do so again marginally, which may cause cautious decision-making in the market — we foresee no drastic or worrisome lulls in activity. With pro-growth messages coming from the incoming political administration, the stock market has reacted positively, and the same seems true for much of the business world. So, barring any unexpected geopolitical occurrences, I am optimistic that 2017 will roll out with a slight increase of business volume over last year.

Donna Abood, principal and managing director, Avison Young

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While Florida’s economy is expected to accelerate at a faster pace than the nation’s, I am expecting Miami’s economy to grow but perhaps not quite at the same pace. Existing home and condo sales declined slightly and some developers have elected to delay projects or cancel sales. Miami’s hotel industry will remain impacted by global woes in Brazil but domestic tourism should be strong as long as Zika stays at bay. Some businesses are in a “wait and see mode” with the changes in the White House but I don’t think an unpredictable president will stop the momentum.

Laurie Kaye Davis, executive director, South Florida, The Commonwealth Institute South Florida

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I expect that South Florida will benefit from the momentum of job growth within Florida, which over the past six years reached a record high of 9.3 million employed, and nationally, which also over the past six years reached a record high of 152 million employed. The expected federal deregulation and continued diversification of our international business interests beyond Latin America should also fuel continued job growth.

Albert E. Dotson Jr., partner, Bilzin Sumberg

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While there have been some areas in Florida that experienced slow job growth, healthcare is a different industry. We continue to experience growth over prior years and this is evident through the hiring of more personnel and the expansion of medical programs and services that we provide to the community. There is much optimism for the economy to grow in South Florida and across the country, and I’m on the optimistic side.

Aurelio M. Fernandez III, president and CEO, Memorial Healthcare System

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I have high expectations for South Florida’s economy in 2017. With the expansion of the cruise and marine industries and the opportunity for increase commerce and trade, I expect the economy to grow. The region has evolved to a point that it will continue to attract domestic and international visitors, corporations and capital.

Elaine Liftin, president and executive director, Council for Educational Change

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I expect a relatively flat year in our sector. Zika has had a negative impact on the travel and tourism industries in 2016, but we are committed to working with other business leaders to come up with a long-term solution. We don’t want Zika to rear its ugly head again and affect tourism like what we just experienced. We also will be working with new business and leisure segments abroad to mitigate the loss of certain markets. My family’s company has been in Miami for 50 years, so we’ve been here through the good times and the difficult times. And what we’ve learned is that Miami is a very resilient place. Zika, like others short term troubling issues, will wither away and we will be back to robust growth sooner that what the skeptics say.

Diego Lowenstein, CEO, Lionstone Development

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I am still very bullish on many aspects of the South Florida economy. While Latin America still has a significant impact on our market, we continue to see new residents and investors from many parts of the world including strong migration from the Northeast United States. We have seen significant appreciation in our high-end residential values over the last few years, but Miami is still relatively affordable when compared to New York, London, Los Angeles, and other world class cities.

Jay Pelham, president, TotalBank

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South Florida responded responsibly to Zika and has been sensitive to the plights of our neighbors in Latin America. I believe 2017 will be a year of positive progress, socially and economically.

Larry Rice, president, Johnson & Wales University North Miami Campus

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For the restaurant industry in South Florida, future prospects seem positive due to a large amount of price competition that will help stimulate the economy. A few of the incoming president's programs will help to put more money in people's wallets, resulting in a lot more trade coming from Latin America in 2017. Tourism will also continue to grow within the state because several lots small towns in Florida are starting to put themselves on map as vacation destinations.

Eddie Rodriguez, CEO, JAE Restaurant Group

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We hope it will start to speed up. This will increase job growth and wages. From the nonprofit side, this will increase donor confidence, which in turn increases contributions.

Alex Rodriguez-Roig, president, Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade

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Overall, I believe that we will see modest growth in Miami in 2017. The County/City needs a little time to digest the many projects that came online from 2014-2016. Notwithstanding, I believe that certain neighborhoods, notably Downtown Miami, will witness remarkable changes in 2017 due to improved transportation (Brightline, TriRail) and significant private investment. Going forward, improved infrastructure will be critical to maintaining a positive trajectory for our economy.

Vincent Signorello, president and CEO, Florida East Coast Industries

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I believe our economy is resilient and will bounce back in 2017. Latin Americans, Canadians and Europeans as well as Americans love coming to the Miami area for its culture, cuisine, beaches, and shopping.

John Tanzella, president and CEO, International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association

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Our firm has experienced back-to-back years of moderate gains, and the market is long overdue for significant growth. The challenge for many industries will be hiring the right talent, as our region continues to lag in this regard. At Singer Xenos, we always have jobs available, but often have trouble finding qualified employees to fill them.

Faith Read Xenos, co-founding partner, Singer Xenos

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See past columns of the Miami Herald CEO Roundtable:

▪ CEOs discuss their resolutions for the New Year

▪ CEOs: Trump, ugly politics among the biggest surprises of 2016

▪ CEOs’ top request for Trump’s first 100 days: ‘Unity’

▪ CEOs won’t tolerate ugly comments in the workplace

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