November 27, 2014

Community Portrait

Fort Lauderdale and Broward County

More than just gathering data, we're capturing elements that make each community distinctive.

FAU research facility
Florida Atlantic University is one of several higher ed options in Broward.

Economic Life

> Top Shelf

Try to identify the county in Florida with the strongest, most diverse economy, and Broward would stake out a convincing position at the front of the line:

» The county boasts a thriving small-business community — some 90% of its businesses employ fewer than 25. But it’s also home to major economic engines that drive trade across a wide spectrum: Tourism, international commerce, manufactured goods, marine-related industry, education, entertainment, life sciences. Some of the state’s heaviest-hitting firms make their headquarters in Broward, ranging from AutoNation and BrandsMart to software giant Citrix Systems to Spirit Airlines to real estate developer Stiles Corp.

» The county’s business base is diverse — about 16% of businesses are Hispanic-owned, and 12% of the companies in Broward are black-owned, compared to only 6.6% statewide.

» In addition, Fort Lauderdale tied West Palm Beach for first place in the country for growth in women-owned businesses between 1997 and 2006.

» The workforce, also diverse, is better educated than the state overall, with more than a quarter of workers over 25 with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

> Looking for Synergy

If there’s a weakness in Broward’s economy, it’s that its business assets are spread among a host of similar-sized suburban cities, with no true center around which to coalesce and build a strong identity. Regional cooperation and branding has suffered as a result. In addition, the county’s leading business executives have looked after their own interests well but haven’t consistently come together in a critical mass to support the county’s economic development efforts. That appears to be changing, however, since Ray Ferrero, president of Nova Southeastern University, took over as chairman of the Broward Alliance, the county’s economic development agency. With Ferrero’s leadership, the alliance formed a CEO Council and raised nearly $1 million from top executives to back a campaign seeking corporate relocations and additional private investment.

> Economic Engines

» Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport: 67,000 passengers daily; 16,000 employees, 28,000 ancillary jobs.

» Port Everglades: 1,900 cruises annually; 26 million tons of cargo; $117 million in annual operating revenue.

» Marine-related businesses: More than 1,400 megayacht visits each year; home to world’s largest boat show; 134,000 jobs.

» Global companies/international trade: Companies with facilities in Broward include GM, Embraer Aircraft, Harp International, Ituran USA, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Siemens, Skanska USA Building.

» Tourism: More than 10.5 million visitors a year, including 2.2 million international visitors.

» Manufacturing: 1,200 companies, including makers of cell phones, medical devices, clothing, airplane parts, yachts, jewelry, software, concrete, pharmaceuticals and vitamins.

» Universities: Florida Atlantic University, Nova Southeastern, University of Florida/IFAS, Broward College, Barry University and numerous for-profit schools, including Keiser, DeVry and Kaplan University.

» Healthcare: 20 acute-care hospitals and one of the largest public health systems in the country, Broward Health.

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