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Miami-Dade County

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Economic Life
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The Bayside Marketplace is a shopping and entertainment complex in Miami.
[Photo: billwisserphoto.com]

Who Lives Here?

Like any other major urban area, Miami has urban problems — long commutes, crime, congestion. Overlaying all those issues, however, is Miami’s emergence as an assimilation hub — a gateway region where immigrants come and begin the process of defining themselves as Americans.

Half of the county’s residents were born outside the U.S., among the highest percentages of any county in the country. In the city of Miami, the figure is around 60%. By comparison, only 16.7% of all Floridians are born outside the U.S.

More than a quarter of all foreign-born residents have arrived since 2000. Hispanics continue to dominate the immigrant ranks. Nearly seven in 10 Miamians are of Hispanic origin. Countywide, 71% of residents speak a language other than English at home. For nearly 90% of those residents, it’s Spanish (two-thirds speak English well or very well, while the other third don’t speak English well or at all).

While Cuban-Americans still dominate the Hispanic population, recent years have seen influxes from non-Hispanic countries like Haiti, Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean, Canada and Russia — along with significant immigration from Central and South America.

Anecdotal and statistical evidence indicates a pattern of northward migration by immigrant families once they’ve established themselves economically. The growth of neighboring Broward County’s Hispanic population is one piece of evidence. Another: 5% of Miami-Dade County’s taxpayers in 2005 moved to other counties in Florida. (Leading destination counties were Broward, Palm Beach and Lee.) The out-migrants’ $39,000-plus average adjusted gross income is significantly higher than the $29,000 median household income of Miami residents in 2007. Other data has documented a net growth in the county’s overall black population, primarily due to immigration from abroad, but a net loss of educated black workers due to out-migration.

The Count

» Miami-Dade County

Population: 2.4 million (13.2% of state’s population). Slightly more than half of the county’s population lives outside the incorporated areas.

The county has 35 municipalities, including Miami (second-largest city in Florida); Hialeah (sixth-largest city); Miami Beach; Coral Gables; and Homestead.

Density: 1,261 people per square mile vs. 340 in Florida overall. Measured against developable land, the density is actually higher — the urban development boundary and the Everglades restrict the amount of land actually available for development. The city of Miami, with more than 12,500 people per square mile, is one of the most densely populated cities in the U.S.

» Growth

Between 2000-06, the county’s population grew only about half as fast as Florida’s population overall (6.6% vs. 13.2%). The city of Miami’s population grew by around 11.5% during that period. Leading sources of residents who move to the area: Foreign countries, Broward and Palm Beach counties and New York County, N.Y. Nearly 4% of the county’s resident taxpayers in 2006 lived in other counties in 2005 — their average adjusted gross income (nearly $43,000) matches the county’s median income and is higher than the city’s ($29,000).

» Ethnicity

White Black Hispanic/Latino
County 77% 20.2% 61.3%
Miami 66.6 22.3 65.8
State 80.2 15.8 20.2

» Age Factor

The median age of residents in both county and city roughly matches the state’s average of 39.6. About four in 10 of the households in the county have children under 18 living in them, although school enrollment shrank by 1,680 students from 2007 to 2008. Families represent more than two-thirds of all households. Single women with children make up more than 18% of all families in the city of Miami. Among grandparents living with children under 18, nearly a third are responsible for caring for the children.

» Religion

Miami tends to be less religious than the U.S. overall, with about 40% of the population indicating they’re religious vs. half nationally. Relative to the U.S. overall, Miami has a slightly higher percentage of Catholics. Compared to the U.S. overall, there are fewer than half as many Baptists in Miami and between three and eight times fewer members of mainstream Protestant groups like Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans and Episcopalians. While the Jewish population of Miami has declined to roughly 5% of the total today, it is twice as high as the national average of 2.1%.

» Party Time

Among registered voters countywide:
45% are Democrat
» 31% are Republican
» 20% have no party affiliation

» 2008 Presidential Election

Obama: 51% (51% statewide)
McCain: 48.2% (48% statewide)

Foreign tourists accounted for nearly half of the visitors to Miami-Dade last year. [Photo: billwisserphoto.com]

Economic Life

» Working for a Living

Miami-Dade County residents derive most of their income from labor. Overall, 74% of residents’ income comes from their jobs — as opposed to interest and dividends — vs. 67.6% for state residents overall. That ranks Miami-Dade as the 12th-highest in the state in income from labor — even while it ranks among the top 18 counties in the state in per-capita income at $37,370. Miami-Dade County accounts for 12% of all jobs in Florida.

» Consumer Buying Habits

» The Toyota Corolla is the top-selling new car in Miami-Dade.

» South Florida consumers (from Miami to Fort Lauderdale) are 58% less likely than those elsewhere in the nation to own a domestic truck.

» Residents in the region consume more rice than residents in the U.S. overall — more than 200% more — and 60% more dry beans.

» South Florida buys less pet food than the nation — a function of its number of apartments and condos that don’t allow pets.

» High-Profile Companies

» The Related Group
» Greenberg Traurig
» Holland & Knight
» Southern Wine & Spirits of America
» Brightstar Corp.
» Ocean Bank
» Sedano’s supermarkets
» Burger King
» American Airlines
» Lennar Corp.
» Royal Caribbean Cruises
» Ryder
» Carnival Corp.
» Perry Ellis International
» Spanish Broadcasting System
» Terremark Worldwide
» Baptist Health South Florida
» Mount Sinai Medical Center
» MasTec

Nearly 4 million cruise passengers embarked from Miami in 2008.

Bascom-Palmer Eye Institute treats 200,000 patients a year in Florida.
» Economic Engines

» Tourism: Miami and Miami Beach attract visitors worldwide. A record 12 million people visited Miami-Dade County in 2007, spending $17.1 billion. While most of those visitors were domestic (54.1%), foreigners made up 45.9%, including more than 3.5 million from Latin America, 1.3 million from Europe and 556,000 from Canada. Art Basel Miami attracts more than 40,000 visitors. The county collected more than $93.6 million in tourist taxes in 2008. In 2005, it collected $75.9 million. With some 3.7 million passengers, Miami is also known as the cruise capital of the world.

» Biomed and Overall Medical Sector: Biomedical companies with operations in Miami-Dade include Cordis; Beckman Coulter; Boston Scientific; Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries; Noven Pharmaceuticals; and Schering-Plough. With 28 hospitals and more than 32,000 licensed healthcare professionals, Miami-Dade County has the state’s largest concentration of medical facilities. Among the notable healthcare facilities are Jackson Memorial Hospital; Baptist Hospital; Bascom-Palmer Eye Institute; Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center; Diabetes Research Institute; and the National Parkinson Foundation.

» Trade: The county also benefits from its proximity to the Caribbean and South America. Nearly $90 billion in total merchandise trade passed through the Miami Customs District in 2008. Approximately 1,300 multinational corporations from 56 countries are established in the region. With an economic impact of $18.6 billion, Miami International Airport is the nation’s top airport for international freight and third for international passengers. The Port of Miami, which contributes $8 billion to the local economy, ranks first among the state’s containerized ports and ninth in the United States. Some 20 shipping lines sail to more than 250 other ports in more than 100 countries. The World Trade Center Miami is Florida’s oldest international organization and assists member companies in expanding their international presence. Miami is home to more than 64 foreign consulates, 25 international trade offices and 32 binational chambers of commerce. Two free trade zones exist in greater Miami, the Homestead Free Zone and the Miami Free Zone, one of the world’s largest privately owned and operated zones.

Don Francisco’s “Sabado Gigante” — the world’s longest-running TV variety program — films in Miami.
[Photo: Brian Smith]
» TV/Film Production: Film, television and entertainment production — including production of telenovelas for the Latin market — have an estimated $2 billion impact on the local economy.

» International Banking: About 100 commercial banks, thrifts, foreign bank agencies and Edge Act banks are located in Miami. They account for total deposits of more than $75 billion. The concentration of domestic and international banks is the largest on the East Coast south of New York.

Quality of Life

Ocean Drive in South Beach is known for its Art Deco hotels and night spots. [Photo: billwisserphoto.com]

» Strengths

» Diversity: Miami’s rich demographic salad bowl consists of residents from at least 120 countries, speaking more than 65 languages.

The New World Symphony has annual attendance of more than 80,000 and plans to build a new academy campus. [Photo: Craig Hall]

» Diversions: Clubs and restaurants, including the ever-changing, vibrant South Beach scene. Professional sports teams in football (Dolphins), baseball (Marlins), basketball (Heat) and hockey (Panthers). Attractions like the Miami Seaquarium, MetroZoo, Fairchild Botanical Tropical Garden and Monkey Jungle, and 80 parks. Everglades National Park.

» Cultural Infrastructure: The annual Art Basel exhibition. The newly opened Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. The Miami City Ballet and New World Symphony. Numerous theaters and museums, including the Miami Art Museum and the Wolfsonian at Florida International University.

» Allure: Miami’s tropical ambience and weather give it a unique style and appeal for both young people and families. Child magazine named Miami the fourth-best city in the country to raise a family. The city boasts some of the nation’s most stunning modern architecture and is a fashion center and a base for some of the top modeling agencies in the world. Forbes magazine ranked Miami as “America’s Cleanest City” in 2008.

» Economic Vitality: The area’s international connections and appeal have positioned it well for success in the globalizing economy. The area’s unemployment rate, once higher than the state’s average, has remained below average as the economy has slowed, possibly reflecting the strength of international trade. The Beacon Council, Miami-Dade County’s economic development partnership, represents the area aggressively.

» Higher Education: The University of Miami and Florida International University are strong points, along with Miami-Dade College, formerly a community college, now the largest and most diverse degree-granting institution in the nation.

» Weaknesses

» Human Capital/Immigrants: The presence of so many recent immigrants, many of whom are poor and don’t speak English well, creates vitality but also huge challenges for the social services and educational infrastructure.

» Traffic: Commute times — an average of 30 minutes one way — are among the highest in Florida. Nearly 70% of the county’s residents drive to work — alone.

» Crime: The crime rate within the city of Miami has fallen in recent years but still remains high. Most municipalities in the county, including some upscale communities like Pinecrest, do poorly on various “crime index” measurements, particularly on property crimes like burglary and motor vehicle theft. The predominantly Cuban blue-collar community of Hialeah has among the lowest crime indices of the county’s 35 municipalities.

» Housing costs: Housing affordability has been a major problem for the area, lessening somewhat as the real estate bubble burst.

» Vulnerability: The county is among the most vulnerable in the U.S. to hurricanes.

» Housing: Nearly two-thirds of homeowners and renters spent more than 30% of their income on housing in 2007.

» Air Quality: The county ranks high on releases of toxic substances and some pollutants, but air quality is good on nearly nine days out of 10.

» Challenges

» Governance: The city of Miami has come light-years after teetering on the edge of bankruptcy in the late 1990s. The administration of city Mayor Manny Diaz has provided sound fiscal leadership and broadened the city’s tax base while abandoning old-style exile politics in campaigning for office. Similarly, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez is trying to use new “strong mayor” powers to bring more accountability and integrity to a county government short on both.

» Reputation: Some businesses with presences throughout the rest of Florida avoid south Florida, particularly Miami-Dade, because of the area’s reputation for crime and corruption. Both, to varying degrees, are real, but the perception often says more about the comfort level of Anglo businesspeople with Hispanics than it does about Miami’s business climate.

» Growth: Developers have tried to push development beyond the county’s urban services boundary. It will be a major test of county government to continue to hold that line.

» Water: The county has one of the lowest water-reuse rates in Florida and one of the biggest water-supply challenges.

» Mass Transit/Transportation: The Metromover, Metrorail and Tri-Rail give the area the beginnings of a real mass transit infrastructure that saw ridership explode as gas prices rose. Currently, the biggest challenge is the possible loss of state funding for a $1.7-billion tunnel between the port and I-395.

» Schools: The Florida Department of Education gave Miami-Dade schools a “B” overall in 2008.

» Why I Live Here

 Taño Feijoó
“I lived in New York for 10 years while going to architecture school, and I missed the warm weather. I love Miami’s diversity. Having lived half of my life in South America (Uruguay and Brazil), I love the interaction of people from many countries and diverse cultures. I also identified early that there are a lot of things to be done in Miami. Miami is a very young city, and I could make a difference if I get involved in the community. One of the most important aspects that makes me call Miami home is that we have become a very important world business city. There is no better place for business professionals to conduct business in Latin America than in Miami. There are many things to be done in Miami, and I would like to be a part of its future for a very long time. I could very well live anywhere in the world, and I probably will one day, but I will always have a home in Miami.”

— Ricardo Taño Feijoó is a principal at architectural firm RTKL.

» A Competitor’s View

Florida Trend asked an economic development professional in a market that competes with Miami-Dade to assess the area:

» Strengths: “Miami is one of the greatest cities in the Western Hemisphere — situated at the “crossroads” of trade to and from Central and South America. Its global significance for over 100 years, along with its rich diversity in culture, language and history, helps to position Miami as a “Super Region” unto itself. In many ways, Miami is a microcosm of the new economy, blending spectacular opportunities for newcomers and lifelong residents, facing the growing challenges of this new century, years ahead of other parts of our country. The world is now focused on this great region of America and is ready to follow its lead.

» Weaknesses: “Because it’s a complex region with competing priorities, combined with competing local governments and overlapping civic organizations, it’s difficult to “connect” Miami with the other regions of Florida. Accessing leaders is a challenge, since the “civic architecture” does not yet enjoy a shared regional platform or a shared vision when it comes to its collective future. Miami has every opportunity to lead all of Florida, but at the same time, Miami must recognize that it is part of Florida, understanding that the growing strength of other regions in our state will only work to complement the growth and strength of Miami.

Neighborhoods, Municipalities

» City of Miami (pop. 404,048, second most populous in Florida): High-rise condos dominate the skyline and give the city plenty of glitz, but the three largest "lifestyle groups" in the city, according to the real estate firm CLR Choice Inc., are mostly lower-income, with high concentrations of Hispanics and African-Americans. Two of the big groups are single elders in older apartment rentals and young renters with children who hold service and white-collar jobs; the third group consists of over-65 retirees who tend to live in homes or duplexes they've owned for a long time. The city's crime rate has fallen substantially since the early 2000s, but the personal crime risk index is still three times the average for Florida; the property crime risk is more than twice Florida's. More than 20% of the population makes less than $10,000 a year. More than half make less than $30,000. According to CLR Choice, the cities most like Miami demographically include Highland Park, Mich., a suburb of Detroit; East Cleveland, Ohio; and New Orleans.

» Downtown Miami: Business core and Bayside retail center and Bayfront Park, new Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and America Airlines Arena. Dealt a serious blow last year when the state Department of Transportation pulled out of the tunnel project to the port, which was seen as a must-have to allow the port to grow and relieve downtown of truck traffic congestion, which will only get worse now that the port's landed a big new container operation. Meanwhile, developer Miami Worldcenter has an ambitious project to turn nine city blocks into a grand project with hotels, residential units and a promenade.

» Brickell: Once purely a financial hub, this wealthy area is alive with condo development and young climbers and singles. Much native Miami wealth resides in the neighborhood. The condo boom saw Brickell become trendy, with plenty of upscale restaurants and bars.

» Little Havana: Still the low-end home of new immigrants and old Cubans.

» Wynwood: Once very tired, known for warehouses and poverty, it's slowly gentrifying with galleries and is a hopping place during Art Basel, though still plenty gritty with much for urban pioneers to do.

» Star Island, Fisher Island, Hibiscus Island, Indian Creek, Pinecrest, Brickell Key: Where the rich live.

» Coral Gables (population 42,794): Just a few miles from the airport, the pedestrian-friendly town is well known for its restaurants, art galleries, boutiques and theater. Home to the Biltmore Hotel and the University of Miami. Almost one-third of the city's population is Cuban. Per capital income is just over $46,000.

» Upper Eastside: A swath hugging Biscayne Bay running from just north of downtown up through the municipalities of Miami Shores and El Portal. Desirable, well-functioning communities, popular with families both gay and straight (in part thanks to a charter school), home to churches, community activities, a more affordable alternative for those priced out of Pinecrest and Coral Gables.

» Key Biscayne: This wealthy enclave was once the home of Richard Nixon's winter White House. Many residents here are happy that the Rickenbacker Causeway separates them from Miami. Many simple, small homes, cute and quaint, have given way to McMansions, but there's still a healthy mix of condos and single-family homes, though all have gotten extremely high-priced. Key Biscayne is popular with South American immigrants.

» Bal Harbour: A tony village known for its upscale shops, it's a destination for many international shoppers.

»Kendall: Very much suburban Florida, just with a mix of every nationality and culture. It's still unincorporated, very residential, soccer fields, parks, good schools, a developing business base - home to Beckman Coulter and Baptist Hospital, its largest employer - middle class but trending upward in parts. Serious traffic.

» Miami Lakes: Think of it as Kendall North, a real mix of ethnicities, the Graham family's epicenter, still cows in fields to get the tax ag rate. Grahams have carefully developed it.

» Hialeah (population 215,692): Florida's sixth-largest city is dominated by low- to middle-income residents, but with a higher mix of homeowners than Miami and more families with children. Poor on paper, it's an industrious, working community. Once an apparel-making hub, Hialeah still has a large manufacturing and packaging sector. Nearly three-quarters of the city's population is Cuban, with a high concentration of immigrants - nearly 73% of the residents are foreign-born. The personal crime risk index, according to CLR Choice, is lower than the national average in all categories except motor vehicle theft. The risk of personal crime is half that in Florida overall. In the region, Hialeah is known for its slugfest politics.

»Miami Beach (population 94,017): While Miami Beach still has many lower-income retirees, the city's two biggest demographic groups are both young. One group consists of lower- to middle-income Hispanic households, renters, in a mix of singles and families holding white-collar and service jobs. The other is a group of up-and-coming immigrants that CLR Search calls "urban achievers," both singles and families, with lower-middle incomes but better educations and better long-term prospects. The city also has a sizable group of high-income residents, professionals ages 45-64, with advanced degrees and upscale lifestyles. Despite a relatively more affluent population mix, the city still suffers from a substantially higher risk of personal and property crime compared to Florida overall - robbery, larceny and motor vehicle thefts are crime hot spots. The center of tourism in the county, Miami Beach is popular with both tourists and residents for its vibe, restaurants and eateries. It's large enough to have distinct areas - South Beach, Lincoln Road and Little Buenos Aires around 71st and Collins. The area near the Julia Tuttle Causeway retains Miami Beach's Jewish roots and remains a residential center for Orthodox Jews.

»Opa Locka: Historically black, poor. There's a push to use the old general aviation airport there as a redevelopment hub.

» Aventura: Known for its mall. A north suburb, more Jewish, more dense, condos, increasingly Latin.

» North Miami Beach: Heavily Haitian and Caribbean. A massive revitalization project on the water is a victim of the real estate market collapse.

» Pinecrest: A small municipality south of Miami, it's known for its large, leafy suburban lots and for being family-oriented, expensive and more Anglo.

» Doral: With its proximity to airport noise and warehouses, it seems odd that it turned out to be known as a place with a posh resort and heavy concentration of affluent Colombians and Venezuelans. Gated communities and truck traffic. Carnvial is based here. U.S. News & World Report says it's one of the 10 best places to retire.

» Homestead: South Miami-Dade's agricultural land and trees have given way to thousands of new single-family homes. The agriculture-suburb dynamic is in play everywhere. Affordable but a long commute to Miami. Major economic engines: Homestead Miami Speedway, home of the last NASCAR cup race of each season and Homestead Air Force Reserve Base, which the Beacon Council hopes to make the home of the Western Hemisphere's only major aviation industry show, modeled on the famed Paris Air Show, the world's largest. It says something that a Mercedes-Benz dealership just opened in Cutler Bay.

» Sunny Isles Beach: From snooze land to thriving international gateway for Russians and other immigrant groups. Home to the new Trump International Sonesta Beach Resort.

» Design District: 18 square blocks just north of downtown Miami. Developer Craig Robins has turned the area into a place to shop for high-style furnishings, view art collections and enjoy design. Now that he's beefed up the district's culinary offerings, Robins has set his sights on creating a fashion destination in the Design District.