Business Monday

The most important issue facing South Florida this year? CEOs say it’s traffic

Morning traffic heads east on the Dolphin Expressway. MDX motorists paid an average of $628,000 in tolls a day in 2016. Several members of the Miami Herald CEO Roundtable said transportation infrastructure the most critical concern in 2017.
Morning traffic heads east on the Dolphin Expressway. MDX motorists paid an average of $628,000 in tolls a day in 2016. Several members of the Miami Herald CEO Roundtable said transportation infrastructure the most critical concern in 2017. cmguerrero@elnuevoherald.com

This week’s question: What do you think is the most important issue facing South Florida in 2017?

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One of the most important issues facing Miami is transportation. With growth — which is a wonderful problem to have — unfortunately comes traffic. The traffic in Miami has come to a point where it is negatively impacting our positive growth due to the lack of infrastructure necessary to provide support. Thankfully, the All Aboard Florida system will be very helpful in the north/south direction and I am hopeful that specific plans will soon be implemented to further address infrastructure, namely with the east/west traffic patterns.

Donna Abood, principal and managing director, Avison Young

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As a South Florida resident, one of the issues that worries me greatly is traffic and the reality that the situation keeps getting increasingly worse. It is obvious that real estate is booming and that we live in a highly sought after location, which is good for our economy and my business but if we don’t deal with the traffic or public transit issues, we will become gridlocked. I am very thankful to see projects like Brightline, that will help this situation across county lines.

Adelee Cabrera, Regional Director, Starr Catering Group

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In general, the lack of investment in infrastructure and people; education, long-term care, transportation infrastructure and environmental protections. It’s hard to pick just one issue but because it took me 2 1/2 hours last week to get to Fort Lauderdale, I’m going with traffic gridlock. South Florida residents waste at least one week of work annually because of traffic congestion. Time is money, not to mention the emotional toll on both the employees and the employer.

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

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While South Florida has experienced unprecedented levels of growth and investment, our transportation infrastructure continues to lag. Strides are being made to address this. However, the entire community must prioritize public transit to reduce our dependency on automobiles. This will require those who profess that a solution must be found but complain that the solution can’t be “in my backyard” to become less influential on our transportation policy, while those championing equitable expansion of mass transit options that connect business and residential centers become the guiding force behind the implementation of our mass transit strategies.

Albert E. Dotson Jr., partner, Bilzin Sumberg

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From the healthcare industry perspective, we are facing much uncertainty. The lack of funding from the federal government is of great concern for all providers because we are anticipating significant cuts. This will challenge many hospitals in South Florida to assess and search for ways to create more efficiencies and evaluate the scope of services that they currently provide.

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

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One of the most important issues facing South Florida in 2017 is the region’s skill mismatch. Unless we prepare our future workforce to meet the demands of today’s labor market, South Florida will not be able to attract better-paying jobs, thereby stagnating growth projections. Despite the rise in Florida graduation rates — they hit record level this year — it is no secret that business leaders feel that many of our high school graduates are unprepared to enter the workforce. The Council is currently addressing this issue by partnering CEOs with principals to overcome this challenge.

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

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One of the most critical issues affecting South Florida is Zika, for those living in our area, and for those in the tourism sector. The repercussions have touched all areas of the economy because when tourism and business travel are affected, it trickles into every direction. And the public and private sector are susceptible. That is why it is of the utmost importance for public and private entities to come together to find a long-term solution, and to ensure accurate information is disseminated to the public for the overall well-being of our residents and visitors, and our economy. There are other U.S. locations with more reported Zika cases, but we are still seen as the poster child for this matter. Solutions are out there, but every stakeholder must collaboratively come together to attain them.

Diego Lowenstein, CEO, Lionstone Development

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Growing pains. We are still a relatively young community compared to other world class cities — even those in the U.S. We will continue to see people moving to Miami from within the U.S. and other countries, so the need to address transportation, affordable housing, and other infrastructure issues is critical.

Jay Pelham, president, Total Bank

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As the gateway to the Americas, South Florida has a unique opportunity for growth. However, we need to figure out how to move people throughout our corridor, so transportation continues to be a major stumbling block and we need to move more quickly in identifying solutions for South Florida.

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

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Employment is the greatest issue facing South Florida in the year ahead. The labor pool is getting very tight and as a result its going to negatively impact the service industry the most. I also believe that crime in South Florida is going to scare tourism away if it doesn’t get under control.

Eddie Rodriguez, CEO, JAE Restaurant Group

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Two of the most important issues we are facing here in South Florida are traffic and housing. It seems that every day, the commutes for the families we work with get longer and more expensive. Our families are the working folks. They are showing up to pick up their kids later and later, and it is mostly because of time spent in traffic. These same families also have a hard time finding affordable housing.

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

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The public and private sectors need to invest in better and diverse housing options for all employee levels, but particularly workforce housing. Without competitive housing solutions for our employees, it will be difficult to grow existing businesses and attract new investment in our region.

Vincent Signorello, president and CEO, Florida East Coast Industries

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Having the proper infrastructure in place to sustain the growth and capacity of our thriving community. This means a close examination of public transportation, hotel capacity issues in Miami Beach and bringing in creative and innovative developers that will preserve the integrity of the local architecture while allowing for expansion.

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

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Infrastructure and traffic. Our city is just not keeping up with the demands placed on all of its roads and highways. New construction has not been matched by parking or road access. I have employees who are simply exhausted by daily commutes in excess of 2.5 hours.

Faith Read Xenos, co-founding partner, Singer Xenos

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The Miami Herald CEO Roundtable is a weekly feature that appears in Business Monday of the Miami Herald. Recent questions have included:

▪ Have you been to Cuba? CEOs discuss business and travel opportunities on the island

▪ 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

▪ CEOs assess South Florida’s economy for 2017

▪ Did Obamacare hurt your business? South Florida CEOs respond

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