The new U.S. Southern Command campus will consolidate 2,300 military, civilian and contract workers.
By the end of this month, the 2,300 military, civilian and contractor employees who make up the U.S. Southern Command will move into the military's newest Florida installation, a $402-million headquarters campus in Doral.
Previously scattered over several sites in northwest Miami-Dade, the new facility brings together all the components of the joint command that oversees U.S. military missions in the Southern Hemisphere and Caribbean. The new 55-acre site has a Conference Center of the Americas for hosting representatives from 31 countries in the hemisphere, a child care center, clinic, fitness center and an operations center. There, as many as 80 people with dual computer monitors sit in rows facing a giant wall of 24 screens to run military operations, drug interdiction, relief missions such as the Haiti earthquake response this year or perhaps handle a mass migration.
The military in Miami-Dade spent $796 million in 2008 on procurement, salaries, pensions and other needs, according to the Florida Defense Alliance. The average earnings per military job was $60,500, well above the county's $43,921 median household income.
Florida, which didn't want to lose the command to other states, leased the land for free to the military. Local governments, which didn't want to lose it to other Florida bases, helped fund road construction and assist development.
Until Florida offered the land, Congress had shied away from funding the campus, raising the risk that the command could easily move from its leased facilities to another area. "It's very critical to keep Southern Command here," says Diana Gonzalez of the Miami-Dade Defense Alliance, the military-oriented economic development program of the Beacon Council.
"Its existence," says Rocky McPherson, director of Enterprise Florida's military and defense programs, "reinforces our ability to maintain cooperative relations with our Latin and South American neighbors and expand our international trade and export capability."
— Mike Vogel