This week’s question: How would you go about making Miami a top 5 business destination to match its status as a top 5 tourism destination?
Hands down, Miami is truly a gem of a city in so many aspects. Its diversity, art and culture run deep within its veins; however, an opportunity exists to position Miami as a premier business destination. In doing so, it would be essential to project a serious, more formal tone: one of powerful business acumen and ground-breaking innovation instead of simply fun and recreation. Local media and city government would need to heavily promote the significance of business conferences, conventions and symposiums to elevate the visibility of these prestigious business activities. Highlighting thought leadership programs and conferences such as TED talks, eMerge, Hispanicize among others that focus both on the local entrepreneurial nature of the city as well as the global leaders from LATAM, Asia and Europe are critical. Incentives — provided by the city — for multinational organizations to establish their U.S. headquarters in Miami would help attract key businesses similar to SATO Global, which recently opened their U.S. headquarters in Fort Lauderdale. For business travelers, the Miami airport can evolve into a friendly hub of entry, including everything from business lounges, business-focused service offerings and knowledgeable and inviting personnel. Lastly, partnering with the plethora of local academic institutions such as University of Miami, Florida International University, Nova Southeastern, etc., and their MBA programs can attract international students for studies as well as developing a competitive pool of cutting-edge talent.
Alejandro Badia, orthopedic surgeon and founder, Orthonow
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Miami’s business community has a tremendous amount of individual success stories, but unlike other major cities, there are not hundreds of Fortune 1000 businesses, and community leadership has not been passed down through generations. The good thing is, that’s what creates opportunities. As a community of entrepreneurs, it’s easy to focus our energy on building either our business or reputation within an industry. But if we are truly going to continue Miami’s growth and become a Top 5 business destination, we need to join forces and bring together the business community to tackle the region’s major challenges, like traffic and economic inequality. With new burgeoning industries and increasing global investment, Miami’s business community is truly sitting poised for great things in the years ahead.
Hillarie Bass, co-president, Greenberg Traurig
I think reinstating film incentives, improving mass transit options, and making education a priority to create a qualified workforce will all contribute to putting the city in a position to become a top 5 business destination.
Peggy Benua, general manager, Dream South Beach
Great cities have great parks. According to The Underline’s economic impact study, Miami-Dade County is outspent 2:1 by their peers on quality of life amenities like parks and open spaces. The “innovation economy” including information technology and creative design businesses are higher impact, wage and growth than manufacturing or hospitality. These businesses open and relocate based on quality of life considerations. Why? Because the talent to staff these businesses seek walkable, bike-able cities with connections to park spaces as key drivers when deciding where to live. I would create a transportation plan that focuses on connections to key community and urban destinations and addresses all modes of transit. If we don’t fix our transportation woes, we will not achieve our business potential. We must plan for housing and commerce near these transit hubs so residents can live, work and play without a car.
Meg Daly, president and CEO, Friends of The Underline
Create a campaign that highlights and promotes the outstanding national/international corporations that already call Miami home; that promotes our “Wall Street” — Brickell; which promotes our multi-linguistic workforce and highlights our second-to-none higher education institutions that produce cadres of individuals who meet America’s business and employer needs, today and tomorrow.
T. Willard Fair, president and CEO, Urban League of Greater Miami
Medical research and services can attract investment and employment opportunities. Universities also create centers for growth and innovation. Miami already has a good foundation for medical services and schools of higher learning so it would be good to see further expansion of both these sectors.
Vicky Garrigo, market head, U.S. Southeastern Region Private Banking, HSBC Bank
Although I come to this question with the perspective of a small business owner, there are certain truths about a community that make it more desirable for businesses of all kinds. First, we must be consistent, vigilant and creative in making sure that we pay very close attention to key environmental concerns unique to where we live: sea level rise due to climate change, pollution of our natural resources from an old and seemingly unreliable nuclear power plant, and the fact that the Biscayne Aquifer is fragile and not endless, with demand soon outstripping supply, just to name a few. Public transportation and other ways of acknowledging the common goal of sustainability are crucial if we’re to have businesses invest in our community’s future. Second, businesses want their employees’ families to be able to have access to the best public schools possible. We certainly are very close to being right there, having some of the best programs and teachers of any community anywhere, led by a dynamic Superintendent and School Board, but we have to safeguard these schools and expand programs by making sure that Dade County gets its fair share of funding, while not giving in to the threat of “school choice” which is, to me, just a way of diverting funds away from our public system. Third, we need to have a vibrant work force, and devote even more resources to institutions like Miami Dade College, already the largest college in the country, providing affordable education to those who might be stuck without it. At the same time, we should build on the work of the Knight Foundation and others who recognize the job opportunities in our evolving business community. We, also, have to make sure that there is more affordable housing near where people work, and we must stop cannibalizing and gentrifying neighborhoods close to our county’s core, pushing workers further out west or north, away from where the jobs are. Fourth, we need to recommit to a quality of life that includes the arts, parks and recreation. We need to understand that the cultural life of a city is crucial to making an area attractive to anyone looking to relocate a business or a family. Supporting our arts institutions can’t be an afterthought, and giving more of an emphasis to our bike paths, parks and libraries and other public spaces that encourage a sense of community is essential. Lastly, a community as diverse as Miami-Dade County can only be strong and enticing if its most vulnerable citizens are cared for. We should attack poverty straight on, supporting the fine institutions like Camillus House and the Children’s Movement of Florida and others, while at the same time not allow anyone to be without medical insurance or a good, nutritious meal. We have a remarkable foundation for this very young community of ours and just as we’ve remade ourselves over the last thirty years, the next thirty years can be one where we align our values in such a way that we become as desirable as a location for business as we are for seekers of sun and fun.
Mitch Kaplan, founder, Books & Books
Miami can reach its potential as a business hub by developing its tech and entrepreneurship ecosystem, which will attract new companies and talent, generate high-wage jobs, and serve as a multiplier for our economy. This means investing in higher-level education and vocational programs, launching corporate recruitment initiatives, and fostering the development of micro-market clusters where these organizations prefer to be located. Every industry is being impacted by tech and there are several future Fortune 500 companies being birthed in the minds of innovative people. It would be fantastic if those companies were birthed here!
Alan Kleber, managing director, Jones Lang LaSalle
To become a top business destination, Miami needs to address both public and private sector issues. We need a top convention center so that we can compete with other cities in Florida and the Southeast. We also lack direct flights from our airport to prime business destinations in Asia. We can’t expect to do more business with the fastest growing markets if we can’t reach those markets efficiently as business travelers. Lastly, Miami needs to continue to improve the overall quality of life for businesses and their employees, which requires ongoing improvements to our primary education and public safety systems.
Mario Murgado, president and CEO, Brickell Motors
Miami is well on its way to becoming a top 5 business destination, clearly evidenced by the unprecedented development and job creation taking place in all sectors. Our tropical climate, complemented by world class restaurants and hotels, attracts throngs of global travelers each year. It only makes sense that a city with such a strong tourism draw, will continue to thrive in terms of a local economy. To incentivize further growth, I believe we need continued support from our federal, state, and local politicians to create favorable tax structures and investment opportunities. Specifically, we must protect and grow the small business sector of our city, as we strive to nurture a business culture that employs local residents.
Steve Perricone, president and owner, Perricone’s Restaurant
We need to recognize that the two are intertwined. Continuing to develop Miami’s tourism sector by making it ever more attractive to visit has lasting and expansive results, and will increase Miami’s profile as a business destination. People often begin their relationship with Miami as tourists, staying in a hotel. More frequently, this transitions to home ownership and eventually leads to business connections. We have countless examples of incredible people — including the late Zaha Hadid — visiting our city and then establishing deeper connections. Better and easier access will probably have the biggest immediate impact on expanding business opportunities in our city. Increasing direct flights from the Arabian Gulf and establishing direct flights from Beijing and Shanghai will have an immediate and tremendous impact on our economy. Along with that, we have to improve the U.S. Customs and Immigration mess at the airport — it is essential. Capitalizing on and embracing the transient nature of our city is the key. Miami’s decision to become an international destination of global cultural substance anchors our community as a vital destination to visit, live and work. We will have much more success by being ourselves and inventing our own interesting aspects rather than copying what is elsewhere. We also need to continue building lasting and substantial academic and cultural institutions. The University of Miami has the potential to have an even more vital role in helping to attract people from around the world to our city in deeper and more meaningful ways. Miami Dade College and FIU can also play important roles helping others to establish roots here. Our growing museums are also great indicators of the potential for our future. Just look at how the emphasis on art and culture has led to the existence of so many great architectural structures in our community. Finally, as the politics in Cuba transitions and rule of law is instituted, Miami will grow as a region, once again acting as a nexus between important markets and cultures. Undoubtedly, this will take time and we need to proceed with caution — but it has the potential to really add to the vitality of our city.
Craig Robins, president and CEO, Dacra
To be a top 5 business destination, Miami must improve its public infrastructure, most notably public transportation. In addition, continued economic development incentives must be offered to even the playing field with other cities competing to lure business. There are key factors that make a city desirable for relocation: talent retention, affordable housing and public transportation.
David Samson, president, Miami Marlins
We all know that Miami is known as a fun place to visit, so it’s important for all of us who live and work in South Florida to get the word out about the great diversity when it comes to talent and businesses in Miami. FPL has had a strong presence in Miami for decades. We know this is a dynamic, multilingual area with a great airport and port, but we are also faced with traffic challenges which can impact productivity. Together we need to focus on finding real solutions that can be implemented in the near- and long-term to address Miami’s growing difficulty of moving people around. Only then can this community continue to expand and thrive as a top business destination.
Eric Silagy, president and CEO, Florida Power & Light
We’re still a young city with a lot of room to grow. We’re a burgeoning tech hub. We should continue to offer incentives to cultivate startup industry and to help existing businesses keep their top talent here in Miami. There is evidence that our strategy is working: More and more businessmen and women are choosing Miami because of our proximity to Biscayne Bay and the ocean and the only coral reef in the continental United States, because of our outdoor culture, our upstart restaurant industry, and our incipient art scene — not to mention our favorable tax code. But we cannot become complacent. We must continue to grow our city in a way that serves the people who live here, rather than the millions of people who pass through here. We need to focus on infrastructure that is sensitive to the needs of a sustainable future. Our leaders must think beyond the shiny, short-term goal — yet another mega-mall; still one more luxury high rise — and begin addressing the needs of our 21st Century, clean-water economy: better schools; more mid-market housing, more urban density; less suburban sprawl; better traffic management; and the effective development and management of cleaner energy sources. We need to stop seeing our environment as something that has to be “fixed,” and instead as an economic engine and an asset. As an example, our government does not reward us for harnessing our own energy and selling it back to the grid — an easy, free-market way to induce cleaner energy use. Most importantly, if we do not begin to take seriously the ineffable fact of rising tides and climate change, we may wake up one day only to realize that the city we loved, the city in which we raised our children, the city in which we built our businesses, is unrecognizable.
Rachel Silverstein, executive director, Miami Waterkeeper