How Florida is tackling unemployment by encouraging growth and education
Rick Scott Governor – State of Florida
Florida has seen the second biggest drop in unemployment in the U.S. What have you and your administration done to achieve these figures?
Unemployment is at 4.9 percent, and we’ve added some 1.26 million private-sector jobs, which is double the national rate. Four years before I was elected, Florida lost 832,000 jobs. To tackle this, we cut 4,600 regulations, cut taxes 55 times and recruited 900 companies either to come to Florida or expand into the state. We’ve gone on trade missions around the world, and we’ve made sure that our universities are focused on where the greatest job needs are. We’ve asked “how can we help businesses here to be more successful than they are anywhere else?” That is our attitude, and we are better than anyone else in the country. We have to keep cutting taxes and reducing regulations. U.S. News & World Report has said Florida is first for higher education, but we have to keep getting better. We have to make education more affordable and make sure the colleges and universities are very focused on where the jobs are. We now have 25 percent of universities’ budgets tied to three things: What does it cost to get a degree? What field can you get a job in? How much money do you make? We’ve got to make sure we are focused on getting people ready for careers and dealing with the system.
Technology, life sciences and healthcare are all growing sectors in the State of Florida. What is being done to encourage the growth of these sectors?
We’ve got to make these sectors more successful here than in any other place in the world. We have to build relationships, which is why one of the things we do as part of Enterprise Florida is consultations with businesses to help them do better. We make sure they have the right workforce, and we do that through a variety of programs through our state colleges and universities. We’ve got to keep reducing their taxes so they can reinvest in their businesses because when they reinvest in their businesses, we get more jobs.
What impact has a greater emphasis on developing education had on Florida? How will education develop in the future?
Tuition fee increases have been halted. They were increasing at 15 percent plus inflation every year when I came into office. We haven’t seen an increase in four years at our universities or state colleges. We reimburse the schools according to what’s important to students, lower tuition fees and getting a good-paying job when they finish. We have the highest graduation rates of the 10 most populous states. We’ve increased our funding for universities by almost 50 percent since I got elected. The most important thing is that every child has opportunity. It doesn’t matter where you live or how you grew up, I want every child to have the dream of this country
What are the main factors attracting visitors to Miami-Dade County, and how can it build on its strengths to attract more people?
Miami-Dade and Downtown in particular have come a long way since I moved back to Miami to become GM of the InterContinental Miami in 2009. I remember when the streets around the hotel were empty once the clock struck 5 pm, but now there is activity at all hours of the day. The residential growth of the past decade has had a positive effect on our neighborhood, because tourists are naturally drawn to areas where locals spend their time. Today, downtown is a destination for business and lifestyle, and it’s up to us to manage that growth. We’re making strides through investments in our new science and art museums, improvements along Flagler Street and innovative projects like Biscayne Green, but challenges still exist as we look for new ways to improve access and mobility. Traffic is problematic, major events cause road closures, and we need to upgrade our public transit systems, which is something that visitors from around the world expect when they arrive in a world-class city.
How well has the hospitality industry weathered the recent problems of Zika and falling currencies in traditional overseas markets?
Last year, we experienced only a nominal impact from Zika at the InterContinental Miami. Two corporate events were postponed by risk-averse groups, but our leisure travel business remained intact throughout the summer and 2016 was another strong year for us. Since then, we’ve been working year-round with the authorities and our hotel peers to create and implement a 10-point plan that will make sure we’re ready to mitigate any mosquito-borne threat that South Florida faces in the future. We’ve also managed to sustain our strong occupancy amidst a strong dollar. We credit this to our hotel’s popularity among business travelers and groups hosting large meetings and events.
To what extent does the current growth of hospitality and home-sharing apps such as Airbnb create competition for the traditional hospitality sector? Is there enough regulation to keep the playing field even?
Miami is reportedly one of Airbnb’s top-five markets in the country, and that’s no surprise given our rise as a global destination. Some have sought to ban these services outright, but that’s unrealistic. The reality is that we’re already co-existing with home-sharing services. The difference is that a property like InterContinental Miami appeals to business and leisure travelers seeking the comforts of a luxury hotel – from daily housekeeping and a top-notch restaurant and bar downstairs, to a pool deck overlooking Biscayne Bay and a luxurious spa. Short-term rentals may cater to a specific niche in the market, but there’s no substitute for the exceptional hospitality that a full-service hotel can deliver. That being said, we need to protect our visitors and residents by ensuring short-term rental properties are safe and regulated appropriately. Also, we must preserve the tourist tax revenues that conventional hotels have been collecting for years and which support critical services.
How much of an impact would the reducing of Visit Florida’s budget have on the tourism and the meetings and convention industry in Miami?
The budget was in jeopardy, but the elected officials in Tallahassee saw the value of marketing Florida’s brand around the world. We are deeply thankful for Gov. Scott’s support, as well as the support of Florida’s legislature for fully funding Visit Florida in 2018. The state legislature’s decision to fund Visit Florida means that Florida, and Miami in particular, will continue to attract millions of tourists every year, strengthening this city’s already thriving hospitality industry and growing its local economy, including new jobs.
With a growing amount of hotel rooms in the Downtown area, how can the InterContinental differentiate itself from the competition? What are the midterm goals, plans and outlook for the InterContinental in Miami?
There have been new hotels opening their doors around downtown Miami over the past few years, so we’re always looking for new ways to keep our competitive edge. Earlier this year, we remodeled and relaunched Toro Toro, complete with a new menu, an expanded lounge, and a new private dining room, “El Matador Room”. We’re also introducing new technologies. One of my favorites is an app called Zingle that allows guests to request any service – from the morning paper to milk and cookies – from their smartphone. We even host a local competition each year to choose new skyline dancers for our digital canvas (we take nothing for granted!). The InterContinental Miami has been operating for almost 35 years and many of our team members have been with us for more than half that time. I like to think that longevity and consistency define who we are and set us apart in an increasingly competitive field. Looking ahead, we’re going to keep our focus on providing exceptional hospitality to our business and leisure travelers, while ensuring the services and amenities we offer stay creative and innovative.
What can be done to further promote the meetings and conventions industry in Miami?
Miami knows how to host a large event, be it the Super Bowl, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, Art Basel, Ultra Music Festival, and more. We’re also making sizable investments in our local infrastructure through the renovation of Miami Beach Convention Center, improvements at Miami International Airport and the launch of the Brightline rail system, both of which will make getting to Miami easier. Now we’re working with our partners at the GMCVB to spread the word out and send a message that Miami is a great destination for business and vacation.
For more information on InterContinental Miami, please visit icmiamihotel.com
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Invest: Miami speaks to Nicholas Remillard, President & CEO, World Strategic Forum
What was the initial vision of the World Strategic Forum, and how has it developed over the years to what we see today?
A lot of the forums in Miami deal with solely Latin America, but we want to bring all the regions together. There’s still a strong component of the Americas, but there’s also a large component for Asia and Europe. Miami has a mixed population. There is an increasing amount of Europeans living here, as well as people from Africa and Asia. People come from all over the world to Miami to do business.
The airports and ports are increasing the amount of trade they do and expanding their shipping mandates beyond Latin America. A lot of the cargo shipping contracts are with China, for instance. Miami International Airport is running daily flights to the Europe and the Middle East.
What is the significance of holding the forum in a place such as Miami and how does the audience here differ from other locations like Paris or in Canada?
Miami, it’s a brand by itself. It has a lot of appeal, and people tend to come here with their spouses or family so that they can have a vacation as well as attend the forum. The Biltmore in Coral Gables is a perfect location for us. It’s a nice area, and on the practical side, we don’t lose our clients up to 2 o’clock on the beach.
There has been a lot of infrastructure development in Miami. So in the 2017 program, we had a bigger component on infrastructure. There’s also a large section on cybersecurity, which is another big issue in Miami. But it’s a work in progress. We’re developing new content for 2018. It will bring a different identity to the Miami conference that will make a difference from all the other events.
We don’t want to have an event in Miami and then have a similar one in Paris because they would be competing even though the same organization. However, the branding makes a big difference. Those attending the event in Miami have a unique experience.
How can we ensure that innovation and ideas are nurtured across borders?
There’s not enough communication between countries. Latin America is a perfect example in that it is a group of countries that don’t connect enough on a regular basis. They are a number of countries with a lot to share, but there isn’t enough dialogue. In our mind, unity is the key to everything. For example, even though the UK has voted to leave the European Union (EU), Europe has never been so strong. It’s amazing how the different EU states communicate and trade with each other. They exchange policies, and they have regulations that don’t just affect one country, but the entire union.
Given the recent political change in the U.S. What are the biggest challenges to cross-border corporation in the Americas?
President Donald Trump wants to redefine all the agreements between Canada, Mexico and the US. This is not exactly a bad thing, because they’re old agreements that need updating for all parties. Now it’s an opportunity to go back to the drawing board, but the biggest obstacle is the change in governments.
There next general election in Mexico is scheduled for 2018, so we’ll get a chance to see what the reaction is there. Mexico is a huge market for the US, and it’s bad to have economic or commercial conflict with your next door neighbor.
What is the biggest issue that has an impact on the global economy?
The threats to cyber security are worrying. The autopilot systems in airplanes and computer systems in cars make them vulnerable to hacking. There are a lot of smart technologies and innovation in industry at the moment. Yet there isn’t enough regulation to stop hackers. Smart technology is becoming a part of our everyday life, with the Internet of Things. It is even being used in the healthcare industry. Threats to cybersecurity can mean life-threatening situations. There needs to be industry-wide best practices to prevent serious incidents caused by hacking. This takes some kind of international consensus, which means cross-border cooperation.