The Struggle to Work Together
Officials in southeast Florida are touting a regional approach to marketing, economic development, transportation and other planning initiatives, yet the challenges facing each of the region's four counties remain diverse.
In Miami-Dade, efforts to diversify the economy are bearing fruit. The county added more than 16,000 jobs last year. It is also benefiting from flight capital as worried Latin Americans purchase high-end condos and transfer savings to U.S. institutions.
"Miami-Dade has worked very hard at expanding its economy through diversification," says Frank Nero, president and CEO of the Beacon Council, the county's public/private economic development agency. "While some of the sectors are down -- tourism and trade, for example -- others such as IT and professional services are doing quite well. That's what has kept us healthy during rough times."
On the down side, housing prices are continuing to soar this year, making it less attractive for business relocations and expansions.
Like Miami-Dade, Broward is facing a slowdown in single-family housing starts as land in the county's western reaches grows scarce. Broward's high-flying economy in recent years -- fueled largely by construction and population growth -- is in a holding pattern. Broward's affordability and stable leadership will continue to attract relocations from its more volatile neighbor to the south.
West Palm, one of the nation's most affluent metropolitan areas, continues to diversify its economy with growth in tourism and financial and business services. Domestic tourism remains strong in Monroe County, but a deepening affordable housing crunch is leaving the industry short-staffed.
KEY TREND: Miami is in the midst of the most far-reaching management shake-up in memory. First-term Mayor Manny Diaz, a Cuban-born businessman with virtually no political experience, rode in on a wave of voter discontent over tales of mismanagement and corruption at city hall. The low-key Diaz has forced out the chief of police, the city manager, the chief financial officer and other key department heads. New City Manager Joe Arriola, a printing industry executive noted for a short fuse and little patience with bureaucracy, is applying private-sector management principles to city government.
PERSON TO WATCH: Developer Scott Robins is emerging from the shadow of his better-known brother, Dacra Development's Craig Robins, by revitalizing a four-square-block area in the heart of downtown Miami. Robins is focusing on the so-called Miami Jewelry District, which he hopes to transform into a bustling pedestrian district featuring sidewalk cafes, retail and residential units.
BUSINESS TO WATCH: Parrot Jungle's much-anticipated move from south Miami-Dade to Miami's Watson Island is nearing completion with a grand opening projected for July. City officials, who recently approved a long-term lease for two adjacent hotels and a marina on Watson Island, hope the privately owned park will help boost tourism in the downtown area. The 67-year-old tourist attraction will be renamed Parrot Jungle Island.
KEY TREND: While Miami-Dade added thousands of jobs last year, it can't keep pace with the continuing influx of Latin American and Caribbean immigrants, many of them unskilled and with limited English-language proficiency. The county's unemployment rate (down slightly in 2002 to 6.8%) remains among the highest in Florida.
PERSON TO WATCH: Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jimmy Morales is the first high-profile candidate to enter the 2004 race for county mayor. The Harvard-educated corporate lawyer has earned high marks for promoting legislation on campaign reform and government ethics. Observers wonder if he has the fortitude to maneuver the trenches of down-and-dirty Miami-Dade politics.
KEY TREND: Fort Lauderdale once prided itself on being everything Miami was not: Stable, efficient and more culturally aligned with the U.S. mainland than with Latin America. But now that it markets itself as a lower-cost alternative to its more cosmopolitan neighbor, Fort Lauderdale is eyeing the international trade sector that Miami has long dominated. Port Everglades is gaining a larger share of international cargo in and out of south Florida, strengthening its ties to Latin America and the Caribbean.
PERSON TO WATCH: Jim Tarlton, president and CEO of the Broward Alliance, the county's public/private economic development agency, arrived last year amid bickering and finger-pointing among south Florida counties over the use of financial incentives to lure each other's corporate tenants. He has tried to defuse the dispute by trumpeting the benefits of regionalism over a parochial view of municipal affairs.
BUSINESS TO WATCH: In choosing Fort Lauderdale over Miami for its corporate headquarters three years ago America Online Latin America greatly enhanced Broward's exposure south of the border. But like others in the industry, the internet service provider is struggling, fueling rumors that it may be taken private or possibly folded into its chief backer, AOL Time Warner. Executives deny any such plans.
KEY TREND: For much of the last decade, Broward County ranked among the nation's fastest-growing metropolitan areas as measured by both population growth and job creation. But the county recently has been losing jobs, mostly because of layoffs in the medical and tech sectors. Broward's economy roared in the late 1990s with internet firms and high-tech startups, many of which have gone bust. Officials hope to fill their place with more traditional service, manufacturing, aviation and maritime industries as well as technology.
BUSINESS TO WATCH: Two of Broward's best-known developers, Hollywood-based Swerdlow Group and Deerfield Beach-based Boca Developers, announced a joint venture early this year, forming Swerdlow-Boca Development Co. Boca Developers has been one of the region's largest players in the luxury condo market; Swerdlow's projects have included residential, retail and industrial. The new company already has a number of projects in the works, including a 190-acre planned community in North Miami.
WEST PALM BEACH
MAJOR TREND: Local leaders envision a 24-hour city where residents live, work, shop and play in a compact urban core. To that end more than 1,200 residential units downtown have come online over the last two years and about 2,300 more should reach the market through 2004. But the goal is to fill the condos and apartments with year-round residents, not snowbirds. To do that, officials must attract more companies to town, expanding the job base.
PERSON TO WATCH: Ken Himmel, president and CEO of The Related Cos.' New York-based subsidiary Related Urban Development, is one of the visionaries behind West Palm Beach's CityPlace, a 72-acre, $600-million urban mixed-use complex. A convention center and hotel are slated as part of the project, and Himmel remains a key player in CityPlace's evolution.
BUSINESS TO WATCH: The South Florida Science Museum is gearing up to move to a new $40-million center that will bring a world-class science education facility to West Palm Beach. The center will include an aquarium, planetarium, classrooms and interactive exhibits. Backers hope it will provide a tourism boost for the city.
KEY ISSUE: Boca Raton is ground zero for Palm Beach County's high-tech sector with companies such as Artesyn Technologies, Daleen Technologies, Champion Solutions Group and Eclipsys Corp. But with that sector mired in a slump, Boca and other surrounding communities are facing a glut of highly trained professionals. One proposal is to allow laid-off engineering professionals to teach in area public schools without state certification.
BUSINESS TO WATCH: Siemens Information and Communication Networks, Boca Raton's largest private employer, and its other subsidiaries are down to about 1,350 workers after laying off 50 in January -- the latest in a string of cutbacks. The layoffs are part of a worldwide restructuring that the Germany-based giant announced two years ago in response to a lingering telecommunications industry slump.
Palm Beach County
KEY TREND: As one of the nation's most affluent metropolitan areas, Palm Beach County often has felt immune to economic ailments affecting the rest of the U.S. Not any more. With the area's middle-class population exploding -- thanks to cheap land along the western fringes and job growth in telecom manufacturing -- economic development officials say a more diversified local economy will soften the blow of job layoffs and market downturns. Their first target: Expansion of the tourism sector.
BUSINESS TO WATCH: After shedding the Florida Panthers professional hockey team and the since-renamed National Car Rental Center and other noncore assets, Boca Resorts is focusing on major upgrades at its properties, adding luster to such signature resorts as Hyatt Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale, Radisson Bahia Mar and the elegant Boca Raton Resort & Club.
KEY TREND: Officials in Key West are openly debating how the city should prepare for the fall of Fidel Castro. Trade between Key West and Havana (just 90 miles apart) was substantial until ties were severed more than 40 years ago after the communist takeover. Some local leaders have visited the island on "fact-finding" expeditions. "What we don't want," says one official, "is to become a parking lot for tourists heading to Cuba."
PERSON TO WATCH: Amy Culver-Aversa is co-owner of Mangoes, one of Key West's hottest and most highly rated restaurants. Faced with a chronic shortage of wait staff and other restaurant workers, Culver-Aversa is spearheading an effort to open The Oceanside Hospitality Institute, which will provide training in the hospitality sector for young people and continuing education for adults from around the Florida Keys.
POPULATION TOTALSAnnual Percentage ChangeCounty20022003'02-'03'98-'03'03-'08Broward1,687,3011,719,6911.92%2.08%1.95%Miami-Dade2,322,4552,349,6371.17%1.50%1.31%Monroe81,06481,2700.25%0.38%0.27%Palm Beach1,182,1011,203,0901.78%2.22%2.01FLORIDA16,689,00216,977,8901.73%2.08%1.75%
JOB TOTALSAnnual Percentage ChangeCounty20022003'02-'03'98-'03'03-'08Broward714,507728,9142.02%2.66%1.86%Miami-Dade1,046,5921,062,9851.57%1.73%1.35%Monroe39,27539,8521.47%1.12%1.38%Palm Beach520,857532,0862.16%3.09%2.38%FLORIDA7,318,6977,488,0472.31%2.45%2.16%
POPULATION BY AGEYears of AgeCounty0-1415-1920-3940-6465+TOTALBroward19.3%6.0%26.2%32.6%15.9%1,719,691Miami-Dade20.4%7.0%28.1%31.1%13.4%2,349,637Monroe14.1%4.7%25.6%41.2%14.4%81,270Palm Beach17.3%5.7%22.6%31.8%22.6%1,203,090FLORIDA18.5%6.5%25.4%32.0%17.6%16,977,890
PER CAPITA INCOMEPer Capita
Income 2003Source of IncomeCountyLaborPropertyTransferBroward$32,49164.0%22.1%13.9%Miami-Dade$28,29465.0%16.8%18.2%Monroe$38,96554.0%35.5%10.5%Palm Beach$45,31250.0%37.7%12.3%FLORIDA$30,65460.2%23.7%16.1%
SOURCE: "Florida Long-Term Economic Forecast 2002," the Bureau of Economic and Business Research, University of Florida. Data are estimates or projections. Population data include military stationed in Florida and inmates. Jobs data measure civilian, nonagricultural wage and salary positions. Property income includes rent, dividend and interest payments; transfer income includes retirement, veterans and unemployment benefits, Medicare, Medicaid and income assistance.