Coral Gables walks a fine line in creating a desirable place for businesses and residents.
Florida Trend: To quote your recent State of the City address, "Coral Gables is both a highly desirable, tranquil residential community and a thriving center of international commerce." How does the city juggle the two?
BUSINESS PLAN: "We are running the city like a good corporate board using a good corporate business model," says Mayor Don Slesnick.Don Slesnick: It's a tough task. Our business/commercial area is only 5% of our land mass but accounts for 50% of our tax base. Traffic is always a major problem in allowing the two to co-exist. But we've been recognized nationally for the traffic-calming program we implemented over the past four years.
FT: Nevertheless, you're facing enormous pressure from development and population growth. How will that be managed?
DS: We are very assertive about how we encourage developers and owners of private property to do the right kind of development. But the pressures are incredible.
FT: The city has been touted for its high level of municipal services and its government efficiency. The latest example is the nation's first cell phone-based parking meter system. What is the cost of making service a priority?
DS: It's worth the investment. After I came into office, we hired a consultant... engaging in visioning sessions. A year ago for the first time we published an annual report for the citizens of Coral Gables, after which we published a business plan showing where we were going, what we were going to do and how we were going to get there.
FT: Coral Gables' business base is the multinationals with Latin headquarters here. How will the recent passage of CAFTA and a possible FTAA agreement affect that base?
DS: Very positively, and, of course, that's why we have been very active at promoting these efforts. I wish other cities in south Florida would see the value in that.
FT: The city recently landed the worldwide headquarters of Burger King. Is there hope that this will signal that Coral Gables is a great place for any industry and any company, not just ones that do business in Latin America?