September 19, 2014

Government

Balancing Act

Coral Gables walks a fine line in creating a desirable place for businesses and residents.

David Villano | 11/1/2005
Coral Gables is home to 43,000 people and the Latin American or regional headquarters of more than 175 multinational corporations. The city, celebrating its 80th anniversary, was recently named among the top 10 "Most Livable Cities" by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and received a "Preserve America" designation by the White House for its historic preservation and conservation efforts. Mayor Don Slesnick is serving his third term.

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?

DS: Absolutely.

Tags: Politics & Law, Miami-Dade

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