New county job created, filled to assist airports, seaport
By Marilyn Bowden
A new position to oversee economic development initiatives at airports and the seaport will speed communication between public and private agencies and ease the transition to a new county manager, observers say.
As one of his last acts as outgoing Miami-Dade County manager, Merrett Stierheim appointed Bill Johnson senior advisor to the county manager for business initiatives.
In a memo to Mayor Alex Penelas, Mr. Stierheim said Mr. Johnson, a longtime county employee, has worked closely with the Aviation Department, the Port of Miami and the Beacon Council, the county's economic development arm, for two years.
"Bill and I have discussed this new position with Manager Steve Shiver," he said, "and he fully supports this new role for Bill.
"The new position will ensure effective communication between the county's two economic development engines the Miami-Dade Aviation Department and the Port of Miami with the executive offices of the Beacon Council, Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, Coalition of Chambers of Commerce, Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, Black Business Association, the CAMACOL umbrella organization of Latin American chambers and the World Trade Center Miami."
He said Mr. Johnson would also help coordinate marketing among the agencies. Mr. Johnson's office would be a resource for county Targeted Development Initiatives, Mr. Stierheim said, such as the Office of Community Development and the Empowerment Zone Trust.
Members of the community applauded the appointment, citing Mr. Johnson's effectiveness in dealing with some of the area's most complex development projects in recent years. He was the county's lead person for the American Airlines Arena, a county-owned complex, Mr. Stierheim said, and has been county liaison to the Performing Arts Center Trust.
"He's one of the most capable young men I've ever met," said William O. Cullom, president & CEO of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. "We've been working with him as a liaison with the airport already. He's a quick study on everything. He doesn't lose his patience in very complicated situations."
William D. Talbert, president & CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, said he's worked with the new senior advisor since Mr. Johnson interned at the county manager's office 21 years ago.
He characterized him as "a problem-solver dedicated to finding solutions."
"We worked very closely with him as liaison with Miami International Airport and the seaport over the past couple of years," Mr. Talbert said. "For us this will mean a continuation and strengthening of a relationship.
"We know him, have worked with him and support this 100%. It will bring more pieces of the puzzle together. We will be meeting with him later this week."
With Steve Shiver stepping up to the plate as county manager, Mr. Cullom said, Mr. Johnson's advisory position will provide continuity.
"For example," he said, "we need to be looking at traffic at the port right away. It will be affected by a new baseball arena wherever it's built. We need to be talking now about the possibility of building a tunnel and about how to get trucks in and out of the port quicker. Time is money."