County leaders trying to sustain job growth year-round
By Claudio MendonÁa
Battling one of Florida's highest unemployment rates, Miami-Dade County officials are seeking to sustain year-round - rather than seasonal - job growth.
To overcome this employment gap, business organizations such as the South Florida Workforce, the Greater Miami Convention Visitors Bureau and the Beacon Council, the county's economic development agency, are uniting forces.
"The community has been working together and smarter," says Marie Bertot, spokesperson for South Florida Workforce, a non-profit organization that oversees employment programs.
"We have been working on plans to promote Miami as the business center of the Americas," says Holly Wiedman, executive vice president of the Beacon Council. "We are building an infrastructure to make our [county] an international hub."
One of Miami-Dade's most important players when it comes to furnishing jobs is in the hospitality sector. For hotels to provide employment, tourism in Miami has to remain growing.
Contrary to years past when Miami-Dade's peak season lasted from January to April, tourism, and its corresponding employment, has become a year-round activity.
In the past year, the visitor industry generated 3,800 new positions in Miami-Dade County. This equals an increase of 4.3% in July compared to the same period a year ago.
Miami's jobless rate in July, the most recent statistics available, was at 6.4%. In the meantime, Orlando, Tampa Bay and nearby Fort Lauderdale average 4% unemployment.
"Jobs are created from demand. The more visitors, the more job growth" said Ginny Gutierrez, a spokeswoman for the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.
And contrary to other sectors, tourism in Miami-Dade has been steadily increasing in the past year. Due to the demand, several new hotels are opening on South Beach.
"These new hotels will provide continued growth and more employment," said William Talbert III, convention bureau president and CEO.
In the next few months, South Beach will be welcome the 97-room Hotel Victor. In addition, before the end of the year, the Setai, a five-star hotel, will be getting ready to open its 80-room building, and French-based Le Meridien has plans to erect a 200-room hotel in Sunny Isle in 2005. In 2006, it will be the Regent Hotel's turn to construct a 124-room hotel in Bal Harbour.