Miami-Dade council to create strategy for unified economic growth
By Mindy Hagen
Responding to a report by Florida International University's Metropolitan Center citing a lack of "coherent and unifying vision and policy" within Miami-Dade, County Manager Steve Shiver has created a council to implement a five-year economic development strategy.
Comprised of 13 core agencies and 19 supporting groups, the Economic Development Policy Council is to meet once a month starting in September under the direction of Bill Johnson, assistant county manager for economic development initiatives.
Mr. Shiver said he hopes bringing the agencies together would "move forward an agenda of substance.
"This community has seen enough planning for economic development," Mr. Shiver said. "It's time to demand action. This group will do wonders for consolidating a comprehensive strategy forward."
In a memo to Mayor Alex Penelas and the county commissioners announcing the council's creation, Mr. Shiver said the group of agencies reaches outside traditional economic development lines.
Infrastructure groups not usually charged with overseeing development issues, such as the Water & Sewer Department and Public Works, are included. Mr. Johnson said incorporating such groups into the economic development equation is a logical approach.
"All of the stakeholders need to be at the table at the same time to help in developing the council's agenda," Mr. Johnson said. "On a number of occasions, we've heard people say the lack of public infrastructure is a major impediment to development. We are trying to provide the environment to improve development. That means including the infrastructure groups."
The Beacon Council, the county's independent economic development agency, will serve on the new council and give advice on how to increase development through marketing.
Applauding the creation of the economic policy council, Frank Nero, Beacon Council president and CEO, said his organization couldn't be successful in convincing companies to move here unless there are roads and utilities to support their operations.
Mr. Johnson also said the council's composition shows an effort to do a better job at working together with the larger community.
The county's past inability to include the entire community in a comprehensive development plan was a major criticism in the FIU study released in July. The study identified 10 key impediments to economic growth, including the isolation of the African-American community, disconnected planning and development, insufficient access to private capital and a fragmented economic development delivery system.
For possible solutions, the study advised the county to create a stronger entrepreneurial environment, develop community collaboration, institute a coordinated economic development system and build a local public-private lending capacity.
Mr. Johnson said the council would give reports on their progress to commissioners as well as work with the county's economic development and housing committee chaired by Miami-Dade Commissioner Dorrin Rolle.
"A lot of work is in front of us," he said, "but by working together we can tackle it."
Many of the agency directors who will help design a comprehensive strategy said they're looking forward to pooling ideas from their 32 separate departments to foster greater development. Although it reported some progress building consensus on economic development issues, the FIU center's study showed that implementation of ideas has proven problematic.
Tony E. Crapp, director of the county's Office of Community & Economic Development and a core member of the policy council, said the center's study was the "final catalyst" in determining the need for the new economic development body.
"Their findings relate to the fragmentation the previous policies were under," Mr. Crapp said. "It crystallized the need for a better mechanism. The study was useful in moving the process forward."
In a memo announcing creation of the council, Mr. Shiver said economic development cannot occur without sound infrastructure. The core members of the council, who are to meet monthly, said the addition of groups such as public works, the building department and planning & zoning would help them accomplish their agenda.
Charlotte Galloghy, president of the World Trade Center Miami, a supporting group in the council, said building infrastructure is critical to any discussion of advancing their agenda for international trade.
"The road situation near the airport and the lack of a tunnel near the port are the kinds of problems resulting in Miami losing business," Ms. Galloghy said. "These infrastructure problems need to be addressed."
Mr. Nero, of the Beacon Council, said taking a coordinated approach to improving growth is a positive step.
"The theme coming through loud and clear is that we cannot only get the economic development groups involved, but groups not traditionally looked at as having a role," Mr. Nero said. "The council will help us all get on the same page."
Mr. Crapp said his office supports bringing all of the county's economic sectors together. Community & Economic Development officials said they would bring their experience in creating jobs and capital investment to the table.
"This is a much more comprehensive approach than we've ever had," Mr. Crapp said. "It's a welcome opportunity to discuss economic development in a holistic manner."
Officials from another group that will be represented on the council, the Urban Revitalization Task Force, said they aim to highlight existing projects in targeted urban areas that should be supported by the new group.
"We see the logical relationship of the infrastructure departments to economic development in our targeted communities," said Karen P. Moore, task force executive director. "Without sufficient pipelines or roads, we won't get companies wanting to relocate to our areas."
Ms. Moore also said she hopes the council would work to sustain economic development instead of only giving recommendations.
"In the past, we have had an abundance of economic development ideas available, but for whatever reasons, whether it's lack of access or coordination, there has not been the level of service delivery needed," she said. "We need to find the level of coordination allowing our areas to get the most efficient service for ongoing projects we have."
Mr. Johnson assured the council's groups that they will have long-standing roles in fostering economic development.
"We coordinated this council to help develop the blueprints of our strategic economic plans," he said. "We want continuing dialogue and improvement. This will not be something that comes together for six months and is then dissolved. The purpose is to build and improve."
Hoping the council can produce fast results to improve economic development, Ms. Galloghy said she wants to see an "agenda of action."
Mr. Johnson agreed and said the council would be based around reform of existing strategies.
"It is a very healthy thing to receive both good and bad input," he said. "The intention of the council was to be as inclusive as possible to all groups while still being manageable as a functioning body."