Photo:Cruise ships at PortMiami
2015 Economic Yearbook - Miami-Dade
Tourism and construction drive the region
Hospitality: Now that samesex marriage is legal in the state, the hospitality industry is aggressively pursuing same-sex weddings. Miami-Dade has advertised to LGBT travelers for more than two decades, and those in the industry believe it has a leg up on attracting this market segment. Insiders also predict plenty of spending by longtime local couples getting married (or renewing vows made in other states) with lavish ceremonies and receptions. The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, which puts the impact of LGBT travel on the county at $1.2 billion annually, included promotions for same-sex weddings in its annual February "Miami Romance Month." The Williams Institute, a think tank at the UCLA School of Law, predicts more than $182 million in spending related to LGBT weddings in Florida during the next three years, with some 387,000 visitors paying an estimated $12 million in state sales taxes alone.
Construction: Construction employment, up 8.9% from November 2013 through November 2014, has been growing faster than any other segment of the economy. A study by Dodge Data & Analytics found a 52% increase in construction contracts awarded during 2014 in south Florida (Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties), and the skylines in Miami and Sunny Isles include a fl ock of construction cranes. Some bankers and others involved in economic development question whether this boom is sustainable, pointing out that sales of existing townhomes and condos fell 4.3% during 2014, according to the Miami Association of Realtors.
Cuba: The president's move to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba and reduce travel and commerce restrictions on U.S. citizens and companies is unlikely to have an economic impact on Miami-Dade this year. But companies are making plans to take advantage of existing ties to the island nation or to create new ones, as the trade possibilities seem higher than in decades. While few will talk publicly about such plans, Miami International Airport's largest carrier — American Airlines — made clear in a January conference call that it wants to start scheduled flights from the U.S. to Cuba as soon as it is legally possible. Construction, infrastructure and hospitality companies are among those most likely to benefit from loosened restrictions.
Development: A developer plans to build Miami Wilds, 20th Century Fox's first U.S. theme park, adjacent to Zoo Miami, and the county agreed to provide $13.5 million for the project. The attraction, which would include a water park and 400-room hotel, is by no means a sure thing; the federal government owns some of the land the developer wants to use, and several more rounds of negotiations with the county are still to come. The county commission, meanwhile, is considering creating a 2,146-acre community redevelopment agency for the area, encompassing the zoo, Miami Wilds, the Gold Coast Railroad Museum, a Coast Guard station and land on which Ram Real Estate plans to build a Walmartanchored retail and residential complex. Environmentalists oppose Ram Real Estate's plans, which include the largest remaining tract of endangered pine rockland outside Everglades National Park. To create a CRA, the county would have to declare that the area is a slum or blighted, as defined by state law.
People to Watch
Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, and Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros- Lehtinen, chairman emeritus of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs: Look for both of these Miamians to try to prevent or roll back any U. S. diplomatic engagement with Cuba or any loosening of travel and other restrictions.
Businesses to Watch
Royal Caribbean Cruises, Virgin Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings: Royal Caribbean Cruises is leading Miami- Dade's cruise industry into China. In May, it will move its newest ship — Royal Caribbean International's Quantum of the Seas — to Shanghai after six months in the New York area. It also started a new Chinafocused line, SkySea Cruises, with Chinese travel company Ctrip and other partners. Richard Branson's Virgin Group, meanwhile, has announced intentions to "shake up the industry" by forming south Florida-based Virgin Cruises, leaving the entire industry waiting to see what that will mean. More changes are likely to come from Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, the world's third-largest cruise company, which acquired Prestige Cruises International at the end of last year, adding eight luxury ships to NCL's 13.
Miami Dolphins: With a taxpayer-funded renovation of the Miami Dolphins' Sun Life Stadium blocked at every turn, owner Stephen Ross has decided to spend $400 million of his own money to fix it up. Phase one — new seats and rebuilt concourses throughout the stadium — will be completed before this year's NFL season starts. Capacity at the stadium will fall from 76,018 to 65,326, but the biggest changes won't come until 2016, when Ross plans to put a canopy over the stadium that will keep sun and rain off of the majority of fans.
China Communications Construction Co. U.S. International: The firm acquired 2.4 acres in Miami's Brickell area late last year, saying only that it wants the project to be "a landmark" and implying that it expects this to be the first of many projects in the area. The $74.7-million investment is probably the largest Chinese investment in Miami-Dade, but those in the real estate industry say the flow of Chinese money into Miami-Dade — and Chinese companies' influence in the real estate industry — is likely to increase significantly this year.
Jackson Health System: The county's safety net public health system has been on the mend, showing an operating surplus after years of deficits. However, its stability depends on finding new sources of revenue to replace about $167 million of funding that it may lose if the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services eliminate access to the federal Low Income Pool program. Plus, with most of the state's Medicaid beneficiaries now on managed care plans run by private companies, reimbursement rates have dropped. Elected officials are committed to finding new funding sources, while the system's management continues to work on attracting paying patients and running efficiently.
Restaurant Brands International: The company is the product of the merger between Miami-based Burger King Worldwide and Canadabased Tim Hortons in December. The company's headquarters moved to Canada, and other changes are likely.
Technology: Startups are surging in Miami, supported by private- and public-sector efforts to build an infrastructure for the technology industry. Mentorship resources, accelerators and incubators in the city include The Idea Center@Miami Dade College, Venture Hive and the Microsoft Innovation Center there, Endeavor Miami, the Goldman Sachs-funded 10,000 Small Businesses program and Citi's FinTech (financial services technology) educational series. The Knight Foundation has funded more than 90 initiatives to create a tech hub around the region, many of them in the city.
Financial Services: In part because of those technology startups, the city is proving an even stronger draw for hedge funds and venture capital firms. Companies are moving from New York and Chicago or starting up in Miami, drawn in part by low taxes and proximity to Latin American money and companies ready to grow. Venture capital firms that have recently opened in the city include Richmond Global Ventures, Scout Ventures, Krillion Ventures and Thesis Ventures.
Development: The development boom in the city's downtown core is finally spreading outward. Expect to see the most visible results of this in the city's historic African-American Overtown neighborhood, where All Aboard Florida's MiamiCentral railway station and the gigantic Miami Worldcenter mixed-use project will soon begin construction.
Person to Watch
Stephen Owens: The president of Swire Properties heads the company building the 5.4 million-sq.-ft. Brickell City Centre mixed-use project. The first phase is scheduled for completion at the end of this year. Backed by Owens' knowledge of the Miami market and financial savvy, plus Swire's healthy cash reserves, the project has proceeded at a fast clip. He oversaw the topping off of its entire west block (the largest of the project's three blocks) in January.
Businesses to Watch
Berkowitz Development Group: Berkowitz Development Group has voter and local government permission to begin building SkyRise Miami, a 1,000-foot-tall observation, dining and entertainment tower on Biscayne Bay next to Bayside Marketplace. The $430-million project has $9 million in funds from Miami-Dade County but will largely be built with private money, which Berkowitz Development intends to get from foreign investors, through the federal EB-5 immigration investment program.
Miami Design District Associates: In May, the first phase of Miami Design District Associates' ultra-luxury outdoor shopping mall will open with about 60 stores. With brands including Versace, Max Mara and Tiffany & Co., partners Dacra, L Real Estate, General Growth Properties and Ashkenazy Acquisition will see the realization of Dacra CEO Craig Robins' vision for the Design District.
Miami Ironside and Pipeline Co-Warehousing and Creative Studios: Miami Ironside is home to offices, studios and showrooms for architects, lighting designers, furniture and fixture suppliers, graphic designers, interactive media firms and fashion designers (plus a pizzeria) in the city's Upper Eastside neighborhood. Swiss bathroom fixture maker Laufen opened its North American headquarters and first U.S. showroom in the building in January. This spring, Miami Ironside will open shared office space for creative companies, extending the recent co-working movement far north of downtown.
Tourism: Increased travel to the island nation is the top issue for the Keys' tourism industry. While pondering how best to take advantage of Cuba's eventual opening, the industry will also be working to absorb more than 1,000 new hotel rooms this year. One market segment it will look to: Same-sex weddings. The Tourist Development Council kicked off a same-sex marriage destination marketing campaign early in the year, and the Gay Key West Same- Sex Wedding Expo in March was likely the first such expo in the state.
County Population: 75,920, up 3.7% vs. 2010
Unemployment rate: 3.2%
Per capita income: $66,127