THE QUESTION: What do you see as the most important community priority to creating long-term prosperity for South Florida?
We need to do a better job of building incredible public schools. This may come in the form of attracting the best teachers, focusing on technology and sciences, without a singular focus on testing of math and English. It may also come in the form of thinking outside the box on how to build our kids into great citizens rather than excellent test takers.
Daniel Ades, managing partner, Kawa Capital Management
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Income disparity is at the root of ensuring prosperity for South Florida. A community of haves and have-nots is divided and that division impedes overall growth. South Florida was built on the backs of small businesses and it should be a point of pride that we reward hard-work, entrepreneurial spirit and a job well done.
Christine Barney, CEO, RBB Communications
The most important community priority to creating long-term prosperity for South Florida is for our local governments to continuously make major investments for a continuous healthy infrastructure by expanding transportation and other public services required to sustain a growing population and tourism.
Richard Behar, founder and president, Capital Clothing Corp.
The creation of good jobs. To that end we need to support initiatives like E-Merge Venture and the efforts to bring more fund managers and financial institutions to Miami. Support the port, airport and rail.
Alice Cervera Lamadrid, managing partner, Cervera Real Estate
Growing the middle class. Every sector; corporations whose target market is Middle America, developers building middle to high price condos, retailers, financiers, restaurateurs. Everyone benefits from a strong economy. The question is how we create that and I believe the same way we did the first and the second time which was the industrial revolution.
Pandwe Gibson, executive director, EcoTech Visions
Breaking the cycle of poverty that entraps too many of our residents.
Julie Grimes, managing partner, Hilton Bentley Hotel
A true commitment to diversity, and job creation. When every community has a strong economic base to stand on, we will have prosperous families, businesses and communities.
Felecia Hatcher, co-founder of Feverish Gourmet Pops
Our wages need to slowly rise so that our citizens can afford to live here. The poor and the middle class cannot be eliminated due to the high cost of living and leave a prospering community.
Ann Machado, founder and president, Creative Staffing
Education. (You didn’t ask, but I volunteer transportation as a very close second).
Victor Mendelson, co-president, HEICO
Education in all forms – from pre-K through higher ed. Superintendent Carvalho and the school board have done a great job with our public schools. We need more investment in vocational programs such as the Hospitality Institute and Miami Dade College’s new skilled labor initiative.
Nitin Motwani, managing principal, Miami Worldcenter Associates
Miami has become a global safe haven for capital, but we still dependent on tourism, finance and real estate. Industry and geographic diversity should be a priority: A.) If we enhance our leadership in real estate, financial services and tourism and developing an environment to entice more manufacturing, creative and bio-tech related industries – our diverse industry portfolio would be less susceptible to economic volatility; B.) Geographic diversity: We are incredibly strong in South and Central America as well as Greater Europe. If we could broaden our appeal to the Asian market, this would help us diversify and better withstand the next economic storm.
Abe Ng, founder and CEO of Sushi Maki
A strong public education system is the linchpin for long-term economic prosperity and part of the formula to attract and retain large-scale private employers and the talent that they employ. The most important factor considered by a middle class family when deciding where to live or which job to take is the quality of the public school system. We have the right leadership and administration in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools district, but they need more support and resources. In addition, we need to foster entrepreneurship and critical thought at an earlier age and incorporate it into the curriculum of students in our schools.
Todd Oretsky, co-founder, Pipeline Brickell
Addressing the under-served young adults on the wrong side of the “opportunity divide.” Tens of thousands of these young adults in Greater Miami are facing social and economic inequality and injustice. Despite talent and tenacity, they lack real access to meaningful education and sustainable careers that provide them a living wage and a passport to the middle class.
Eduardo Padrón, president, Miami Dade College
Our community faces so many challenges that it’s hard to select just one, but I believe the most sustainable, long-term improvements would stem from making sure every child in Miami has access to a quality education.
Joanna Schwartz, CEO and co-founder, EarlyShares
I think it is balance. The South Florida economy is driven by tourism and construction. We need to create more high paying jobs outside of these sectors. I think it also very important that Florida never have a personal state income tax. That is going to help attract more wealth to the area that will hopefully move better paying jobs through relocation or potentially start new businesses.
Dave Seleski, president and CEO, Stonegate Bank
South Florida must improve the quality of its education – both via student performance and strengthening our industry talent supply, enhance its infrastructure capacity, eliminate regulatory barriers to doing business, and better diversify its economy beyond the service sector.
Darryl K. Sharpton, president and CEO, The Sharpton Group
We have a responsibility as members of the business community to advance educational opportunities for today's youth and provide them with the tools they need to break down barriers to success. The school district has made significant strides in recent years. At Akerman, our philanthropic initiatives focus on education and youth development, with our people working alongside other volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children.
Andrew Smulian, chairman and CEO, Akerman LLP
The most important community priority for long-term prosperity is education. There is a great waste of talent through inadequate schools which increases the discrepancy between different groups of children in their chances and opportunities. With half our teachers leaving the profession within five years, we need to improve schools and support teachers, while at the same time improving the out-of-school educational facilities and helping parents as well. Children are the future and we need to do a better job at nurturing their education.
Gillian Thomas, president and CEO, Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science
As with any relationship, I see communication (awareness/education) as an important priority in creating overall prosperity, not just prosperity for a few. Communication is vital, not just between groups in the same category, but a thorough cross section of the community. Communication breeds understanding, which builds support and collaboration.
Paco Velez, CEO, Feeding South Florida
We need to continue to attract full-time residents as a world-class city. Our arts, culture and philanthropy have made gains in the last 10 years. We must act quickly and creatively together to maintain that momentum. That responsibility falls to each of us as citizens to support with whatever resources we have.
Alina Villasante, founder, Peace Love World clothing
Historically, South Florida has been known primarily for real estate, hospitality and tourism. The community needs to continue investing in other industries, particularly health sciences and technology, in order to attract and retain talent and develop an economic engine that creates long term prosperity.
Marlon Williams, founder and CEO, Fenero
Miami needs to focus on more affordable housing and improving the public school education. Too many families of working professionals are moving north to places like Weston or Boca, or even out of the sate completely, for better home values and a better public school education for their children. Too much of the housing market in Miami represents second or third homes for the uber-rich from across the US, Europe and South America.
John Wood, president, Amicon Construction