Business Monday

How to make Miami an elite city? CEOs share their ideas

Dr. Alejandro Badia is an orthopedic surgeon who leads a network of orthopedic urgent care centers called OrthoNOW based in Doral. The company has locations in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
Dr. Alejandro Badia is an orthopedic surgeon who leads a network of orthopedic urgent care centers called OrthoNOW based in Doral. The company has locations in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

This week’s question: A comprehensive new report names transportation, housing and income inequality as Miami’s biggest problems. What do you think is holding Miami back from joining the ranks of the world’s elite cities?

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While Miami has made incredible strides, there is still a great deal of opportunity to return Miami to the status of an elite and cosmopolitan city. It would be wise for city leaders to put a brighter spotlight on our growing tech and start up community. All of us should work together to promote affordable housing and economic opportunities for young people. We would benefit from discouraging certain sectors from the rampant exploitation of residents simply because the situation allows them to.

Alejandro Badia, orthopedic surgeon and founder, OrthoNOW

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Miami is already among the ranks of the world’s elite cities. There is no doubt that the issues of transportation, housing and income inequality are some of our greatest challenges, but the same would apply to many of the world’s elite cities. As a community, we have to collectively come up with a plan to address these issues if we want to continue to attract new businesses, residents and investors to Miami. The region is at a critical point in its growth and evolution. It is up to the business and community leaders to work together to truly build on our economic generators and leverage the region’s position as a hub for globalization.

Hilarie Bass, co-president, Greenberg Traurig

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Miami aspires to join the ranks of elite cities but a common element of those cities is a good public transportation system. Most international capital cities such as London and Paris have an extensive rail or subway system that is efficient and easy to navigate. New York City, Chicago, Boston, Washington D.C., and San Francisco are also good examples of U.S. cities with efficient public transportation. Even Los Angeles, where people love their cars, has a decent commuter rail system today.

Peggy Benua, general manager, Dream South Beach

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The lack of realistic working-living wages for many of our residents contributes to the problems the city of Miami is experiencing. There are clear correlations between one’s wage earnings and housing purchasing power. Additionally, earnings impact taxes paid to local and state governments that, in turn, make it difficult to appropriate adequate and sustainable tax dollars to increase and improve transportation venues and public transportation options. Affordable housing is still necessary, even if wages are increased. Higher education and additional job training should be high priorities for all of our citizens since they are keys to higher job earning potential.

Sister Linda Bevilacqua, president, Barry University

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I believe great cities have great parks. I believe great cities have a connected transportation system that serves all modes of transit. I believe great cities have affordable/workforce housing in the urban core available ensuring people of all classes and demographics have a collision of ideas.

Meg Daly, president and CEO, Friends of The Underline

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Welcome to the fun and sun capital of the world, a place where the rich, the famous and those in pursuit of liberty, justice and fun, flock to. Webster defines ‘elite’ as the “best of the class;” and that’s Miami. Transportation, housing — especially affordable housing — and income inequality, are issues that we are aware of and will fix. Why? Because we are ‘Elite.’

T. Willard Fair, president and CEO, Urban League of Greater Miami

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Many world class cities share the same problems. Miami has become a hub for very wealthy people who enjoy its beauty and weather. This creates income inequality but it also creates job opportunities in sectors that provide goods and services for those who have chosen Miami as their home. Transportation is definitely an issue and one that is difficult to overcome but clearly a mass transit solution needs to be found. Housing prices are currently at a peak, but these will adjust downward with the next phase of the real estate cycle. Miami does not have vast tracks of land available for housing development, we have an ocean and the Everglades limiting our expansion. Our vertical growth increases density and we should seek solutions from cities with high population concentrations.

Vicky Garrigo, market head, U.S. Southeastern Region Private Banking, HSBC Bank

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We get so wrapped around the axle of these rankings and various other reports when every few months a new one comes out. One day Miami ranks as one of the top cities, while on another day it ranks as the worst for some given category. Every city around the world deals with the same insanity of up and down rankings that candidly I don’t pay much attention to such rankings, but rather I simply consider them to be signposts for information. I firmly believe we need to be informed by the good and the bad of other elite cities, but I would prefer our community to focus on being the best Miami and the rest will take care of itself. Collectively, we should focus on what we excel in as a community and continue to invest in those areas to achieve long-term success. As a younger city like Miami continues to grow, there will certainly be challenges — and yes, we have some big ones. Any great city will always face new problems that need to be resolved. Let’s tackle the shortcomings that we have by voting for the right elected officials, fostering community engagement and working together to establish actionable and reasonable ideas that will work to solve for our biggest challenges. We also need to be honest with ourselves; our challenges will not be solved in the short term, we need to be truly committed and take the time to acknowledge the small success. After all, our future is realized by our actions today.

Alan Kleber, managing director, JLL (Jones Lang LaSalle)

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After reviewing the report, it is clear that Greater Miami is a community on the rise but also one at a crossroads. To continue on an appropriate arc of growth, we need to focus on three key things. First, we must grow key business sectors. We have a need to improve healthcare, and this sector also provides high paying jobs. We must become a tech hub, particularly for Latin America, as this is another growth area from which we can leverage our location. We also need to expand our commitment to tourism by adding a convention center and developing unused assets and natural resources such as the Miami River. Second, we need a strong commitment to regionalism and tri-county cooperation. As one of 67 counties in Florida, I believe that we are frequently and unfairly drowned out in Tallahassee and beyond. Our tri-county area is an economic behemoth that must embrace cooperation to leverage growth. Third, we must embrace our diversity and use it to our advantage. Despite popular rhetoric to the contrary, diversity is the future, and our community represents a window to view that future. A look at Miami today shows what the rest of America will look like in 30 years. We need to take advantage of this diversity to foster growth in key areas, nourish entrepreneurship and feed our pride of place.

Mario Murgado, president and CEO, Brickell Motors

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I will proudly say that Miami is quickly joining the ranks of the world’s elite cities. However, as with any urban core, we are confronted with issues that make city life challenging at times. Income inequality is a factor that one will find in many places with large populations, but if we continue to build ultra-luxury condos while ignoring the demand for workforce housing, we are doing a disservice to both the market, and our core labor force. Additionally, transportation is a significant challenge for Miami — our interstate roads are congested, and our public transit is inefficient. If we want to attract commerce and human capital, we will need public services comparable to the other leading cities in our country.

Steve Perricone, president and owner, Perricone’s Restaurant

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We need to transition to become a truly urban city. The process is underway. All of the new public transportation coming on line will facilitate this necessary and positive transformation over time as different areas become linked. It is fun to watch. As we continue to grow, we need to make sure that we have adequate affordable housing for the work force or we are doomed. How to achieve this is the more complex question.

Craig Robins, president and CEO, Dacra

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I believe Miami is in the ranks of the world’s elite cities. However, we need to get serious about improving transportation, housing and income inequality, and sea level rise. We are a world class destination, and focusing on these issues is very important. Being elite shouldn’t be the focus though; improving quality of life for Miami’s residents should.

David Samson, president, Miami Marlins

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I’ve been fortunate to travel extensively and have lived in a number of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities. I believe Miami is a high energy, elite, global city today, one that draws international visitors to experience its amazing beaches and nightlife, and which attracts significant international business investment as well. The report mentions a number of challenges, like transportation, that Miami faces as well as tremendous opportunities for growth, or as FIU President Mark Rosenberg called them, “golden opportunities to shape our future.” A great city is one that addresses its challenges head-on while taking a creative and nimble approach to capitalize on opportunity, and I believe Miami is up to the task.

Eric Silagy, president and CEO, Florida Power & Light

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I am currently a Miami Fellow with the Miami Foundation, and have now also completed the New Leader’s Council Institute’s fellowship program. In both groups, we talked a great deal about the root issues holding Miami back. All of these issues, ranging from education to violence to traffic to the environment, seem to flow back to one core problem: a lack of public engagement. Many of us do not feel empowered to ask, or know how to advocate, for the kinds of changes we would like to see in the community. Many individuals — and this was certainly true of me before I became the Miami Waterkeeper — aren’t sure whether or how to engage with elected officials to voice comments or concerns. Empowering communities to speak their voice and demystifying the basic civic process would go a long way toward addressing a spate of issues in our community, giving people power to shape the landscape of their own city.

Rachel Silverstein, executive director, Miami Waterkeeper

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