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The Sunshine Economy

Study: South Florida Economy At Crossroads

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Palm Beach Post

"A critical inflection point." "Reached a crossroads." That's how a new study describes the South Florida economy. 

The study, "Miami's Great Inflection: Toward Shared Prosperity as a Creative and Inclusive City," comes from Florida International University's Miami Creative City Initiative.

The good news is that the local economy is growing. 

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By other metrics, the South Florida economy presents some important challenges. 

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"If Miami continues to grow without a blueprint," said the study's co-author FIU Visiting Fellow Richard Florida, "immigrants will still come, sun and fun will still attract tourists, but the growth will not generate a kind of prosperity that I think Miamians would want." 

South Florida's economy traditionally has been concentrated on tourism and real estate. Some will argue the agriculture industry should be included on that list. Others say trade and logistics. 

Whatever the historic concentration of industries, the region's reliance on tourism and real estate has served it well during boom times, but also has left it vulnerable to deep recessions and generally low and stagnant wages. And it hasn't addressed deep racial and ethnic divides.

"As with many other great global cities such as New York, London, L.A., Miami now ranks very high amongst American cities on socio-economic inequalities," said Florida. "Greater Miami has high levels of segregation." Florida recommends the region become more inclusive "to make its hospitality and tourism industries fire on all cylinders."

'Crisis of our success'

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Credit courtesy: The Creative Class Group
FIU Visiting Fellow and University of Toronto Professor Richard Florida.

People keep coming to South Florida. While some major metropolitan areas, such as Chicago, have suffered population loss, the greater Miami area (Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach counties) is home to more than a third of the total population growth experienced by the state of Florida over the past decade. The regional population now tops 6 million. 

"Once an area crosses 5 million people," said Florida, "the old model of growing by building new suburbs and depending upon the car to get around ceases to work. We need a new growth model."

Florida points to transit projects such as All-Aboard Florida and new city trolley programs as encouraging signs the region is taking early steps toward transportation solutions that could encourage higher density neighborhoods. 

South Florida's entrepreneurial culture also is cited as an economic strength, but the report also finds it lacking. Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties ranked in the top 10 areas nationwide for new business formation between 2010 - 2014.

At the same time, Florida's report finds many of those new businesses won't go on to generate significant enterprises with significant payrolls. "The region is generating new business establishments and startups at an enviable pace; however, the issue is enabling those new establishments to scale into high-quality, sustainable enterprises and large exit events that underpin world-class entrepreneurial ecosystems," the report states.

The study is presented as part of the the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce's 2016 Goals Conference. You can read the whole report here: 

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In a journalism career covering news from high global finance to neighborhood infrastructure, Tom Hudson is the Vice President of News and Special Correspondent for WLRN. He hosts and produces the Sunshine Economy and anchors the Florida Roundup in addition to leading the organization's news engagement strategy.