PortMiami: Gateway to the Global Economy

By staff writer

March 2019

To say that 2018 was a banner year for PortMiami would be an understatement.

According to the port’s website, 5,592,000 cruise passengers travelled through the port last fiscal year, a 4.7 percent jump from 2017, making it the busiest cruise port in the world.

In conversations with Invest: Miami, Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald highlighted that the port is “breaking its own record” for cruise passengers — a testament to the city’s value as a travel and tourism destination.

Mayor Gimenez has said he expects the port to surpass seven million passengers by 2020, which is further testament to Miami being an excellent city for people to begin their cruise vacation, as well as to the great team of people who work at and provide support to PortMiami,” Donald explained. “Of our nine global cruise line brands, two-thirds of them bring guests to and from Miami as part of their vacation experiences. AIDA Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, Costa Cruises, P&O Cruises (UK), Princess Cruises and Seabourn will all call on PortMiami in the next year.”

Aside from tourism and cruises, however, much of the port’s economic impact can be attributed to its vital function as a cargo hub.

When Invest: Miami sat down with Juan Kurlya, PortMiami’s director and CEO, he noted that investing in infrastructure improvement for cargo transport is critical for maintaining the port’s reputation as one of the fastest-growing and most active ports in the country.

“Growth is expected to continue as the world’s leading ocean carriers take advantage of PortMiami’s recent capital infrastructure investments, including channel deepening, new Post-Panamax gantry cranes, on-dock intermodal rail and direct interstate access via the new tunnel,” said Kurlya. “Without our infrastructure upgrades, we wouldn’t be experiencing the growth in containerized cargo vessels we’re seeing today.”

It is safe to say that these strategic investments and improvements are paying off. In fiscal year 2018, the port handled a staggering 1.084 million TEUs of cargo, with each TEU representing a standard 20-foot container.

Despite its record-setting numbers, however, PortMiami has no plans to slow its growth any time soon. Long-term goals include establishing a route to Miami from Western Africa. Furthermore, the port will welcome a new Virgin Voyages cruise terminal in 2020. Norwegian Cruise Lines and MSC cruises have also announced plans to open terminals in the fall of 2019 and 2022, respectively.

To learn more about the port and our interviewees, visit:




Experience Aventura Mall

By staff writer

March 2019

With over 300 stores ranging from luxury retail to mass market, an onsite resort and golf course, seemingly limitless dining options and museum-quality art, it should come as no surprise that the Aventura Mall ranked number two on Travel + Leisure’s list of “America’s Most Visited Shopping Malls.”

The mall is the largest in Florida, and with a whopping 28 million annual visitors, it is a testament to the value of experiential retail and how it can be utilized to draw in customers and capital.

As the e-commerce industry continues to rise nationally, malls such as Aventura highlight the value behind experiential retail — i.e., offering customers a multifaceted and immersive retail setting that allows them to do much more than simply shop.

“The stores that need to be experiential tend to cater to the higher-end demographic. Cocowalk and the Aventura Mall’s expansions are examples of this,” explained Hue Chen, president of Saglo Development, in a recent conversation with Invest: Miami. “Retailers need to continue to add to their offerings in ways that make their businesses unique to their customers. It’s important to be memorable.”

What sets the Aventura Mall apart from other large, experiential malls is its emphasis on sophistication and cultural enrichment.

“The Collection,” a collection of sculptures and art installations found throughout the mall, showcases work from world-renowned international and local artists such as Robert Indiana, Claire Fontaine and Brian Butler. The Collection is so expansive that visitors can sign up for guided tours of the mall to learn more about the art featured.

In addition to art, visitors to the mall can take advantage of its many events scheduled throughout the year, ranging from fashion shows, to launch events for major clothing brands such as Lacoste, to food festivals.

As if the mall wasn’t already well equipped to attract tourists, there is also a luxury hotel — the JW Marriott Turnberry Resort and Spa — onsite that offers a golf course and free transportation for visitors to and from the site.

When Invest: Miami spoke with Jackie Soffer, CEO and chairman of Turnberry Associates and principal owner of the Aventura Mall, she highlighted the mall as one of the reasons Aventura itself has become a “well-known shopping destination” that continues to draw in vacationers.

“Weve grown the mall, which is now easily one of the top malls in the country and has over the years changed for the better in terms of its sophistication and quality of tenants,” Soffer told Invest:. “We are continuing to expand Aventura with plans for new hotels and an office building.”

The mall expanded in 2017 and opened a new three-level wing that features retail outlets such as Zara and Topshop Topman, as well as modern architecture by Carlos Zapata. This speaks volumes for the innovative and forward-thinking nature of the Aventura Mall and its leaders, as that same year 7,000 malls closed their doors nationwide. There’s no question the nature of American retail is changing, but the Aventura Mall is staying well ahead of the game!

To learn more about the mall and its offerings, as well as our interviewees, visit the following websites:

Aventura Mall: https://aventuramall.com/
Turnberry Associates: https://www.turnberry.com/
Saglo Development: http://www.saglo.com/


The City International

By staff writer

March 2019

Long known as the “City Beautiful,” Coral Gables has always been an important city in Miami-Dade County. Home to the University of Miami and known for its elegant real estate and lush vegetation, the centrally located city has rapidly become an attractive destination for international businesspeople.

Invest: Miami recently sat down with Raul Valdes-Fauli, the mayor of Coral Gables, and he provided a unique perspective on the city’s development, having also served as the city’s mayor from 1993 to 2001.

“It’s a different city today,” said Valdes-Fauli, reflecting on the city as it was when he previously served as mayor. “It is much more developed and more modern.”

He also pointed to the city’s cultural offerings as one of its assets, highlighting the Coral Gables Museum — which has a unique focus on environmental preservation and urban design — as well as the city’s selection of local bookstores and theaters, “which is wonderful for a community of our size.”

Given the fact that Miami’s already cemented status as an international destination has grown with the area’s economy, it makes sense that well-developed areas outside of Downtown, such as Coral Gables, have also started to fall under the radar of companies and executives overseas.

According to its website, the city is now home to over 20 consulates and foreign government offices, along with more than 150 multinational corporations, an astounding number for a city with a land area of 12.92 square miles.

When Invest: spoke with Socrates Melo, managing director of international human resource consulting firm Randstad’s Miami office, he pointed to Coral Gables as a hotspot for international companies looking to develop their business in the United States and the Americas.

“There are people here [Miami] who understand both U.S. and Latin American culture,” he explained. “As such, companies coming to the region have a unique advantage if they want to develop their business in South America, Central America and the United States. The areas seeing the highest demand are Kendal, Doral and Coral Gables.”

These observations were echoed by President and CEO of Sora Global Insurance Efrain Sora, who, in conversation with Invest:, pointed to the city’s location within the county as one of the keys to its growth.

“Coral Gables has become an international hub, both in terms of business and people coming from overseas to live here,” said Sora. “The city is located at the center of Miami-Dade County as well, so our location is favorable in terms of attracting business from all over the country and the world.”

With over half of its 50,000-resident population being fluent in another language and a projected future job growth of 36.7 percent, the velocity of the growth of the city’s international appeal shows no signs of slowing down.

To learn more about our interviewees, the Coral Gables Museum and the City of Coral Gables itself, please visit:





Visit, Work, Play!

By staff writer

March 2019

Miami has long been touted as a “live, work, play” city. The growth of the city’s business ecosystem seen over the last 10 years has worked to further this reputation, with thousands of international and national investors and companies flocking to the city to both support and capitalize on its growth.

Given that Miami’s already strong tourism industry has seen even more growth in recent years, it should come as no surprise that a significant portion of those visiting the city (whether to work, play or both) do so for business-related purposes.

According to the Greater Miami Convention Center and Visitors Bureau, of the nearly 16 million people who visited Miami in 2017, 7 percent did so for business. With the bureau’s 2018 report due out in May, one can reasonably expect this number to be even higher.

The city’s hotels have, of course, taken note of this trend and followed suit. The hotels’ strategic locations, coupled with the array of amenities and event venues provided by each, all work to provide this balance.

An excellent example of this is the Hyatt Regency Miami. The hotel is located in downtown along the Miami River and is connected to the city’s James L. Knight Center, a noted venue for concerts and conventions. In addition to the hotel’s luxury accommodations and proximity to the port, airport and much of the city’s famous nightlife and dining venues, the hotel has unique offerings for business travelers.

For instance, the Hyatt brand offers a unique “Meetings on Demand” service that allows visitors to reserve spaces in the hotel for business, specifically conference rooms, meeting venues, boardrooms and co-working spaces. Visitors can also request deluxe accommodations, such as food and drink packages and customized room setups.

Furthermore, given that the hotel contains over 100,000 square feet of event and meeting space that is directly connected to the Knight Center’s convention center, its capability for hosting large events is almost limitless. This is key considering, on average, about half of the city’s business travelers come to Miami for conventions, specifically.

In 2018 alone, the Hyatt Regency hosted an array of events that reflected the city’s dynamic economy, such as the internationally-recognized World Stem Cell Summit, the 2018 U.S. Cannabis Conference & Expo and the Caribbean Hospitality Industry Exchange Forum. Events planned for 2019 include the return of the Stem Cell Summit, the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce Symposium and Business Luncheon, as well as the Miami Career Fair.

With the hotel industry as a whole facing a degree of uncertainty and competition due to the rise in popularity of short-term hospitality rental services such as AirBnb, unique capabilities and accommodations are crucial for attracting visitors.

Thanks to local hotels such as the Hyatt Regency, however, Miami’s hotels still remain the most popular choice by far for visitors. According to the GMCVB’s report, 66.5% of visitors to the city chose to stay in area hotels, with only 4.8% electing to rent a residence.

To learn more about the Hyatt Regency and its offerings for business travelers, visit the following:




The Opioid Crisis

By staff writer

February 2019

According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 70,237 Americans died from overdose in 2017. This outnumbered nationwide deaths from both gun violence and car accidents. This staggering number of deaths is directly related to increased access to powerful opioids, and young people in particular are being hit hard. With the abrupt loss of the healthiest and most productive members of society, U.S. life expectancy has dropped three years in a row. The country has not seen this kind of consecutive-year decline since World War II.

In Florida, the news is a little bit brighter. A recent study by the Drug Enforcement Agency found that the state reduced its sale of opioids by 62 percent between 2010 and 2017. And according to recent data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, overdose deaths dropped in Miami-Dade County in 2017. One reason for this reduction is the IDEA Exchange, Florida’s first and only needle exchange program. Through this program, which was established in 2016, the county has been saturated with thousands of doses of naloxone, an overdose-reversal agent used by first responders and emergency departments.

Other healthcare industry leaders are getting involved in the war on opioids as well. Our team at Invest: Miami recently spoke with Penny Shaffer, market president at Florida Blue, about what the insurance provider is doing to help combat the epidemic.

“At Florida Blue, we are taking an aggressive approach to fighting this opioid crisis in Florida,” Shaffer told Invest:. “We were the first health insurer in the state to eliminate coverage of the highly addictive opioid OxyContin. Our Florida Blue Foundation is contributing nearly $3 million to organizations that are providing front-line opioid addiction support. In October, we convened an Opioid Imperative at our Innovation Center in Lake Nona, bringing together leaders and influencers from the healthcare system, academia, nonprofit organizations, advocacy groups, first responders, government, those personally affected by addiction, families, employers and others to further discuss the issues we are facing and shine a light on effective solutions. And most recently, we announced a joint effort to develop a collaborative approach to the problem in one of the hardest hit areas in our state: Central Florida.”

However, despite these small gains, the opioid crisis is by no means nearing an end. “The opioid crisis is not something one organization can solve on its own,” Shaffer said. “It takes a team of dedicated individuals and organizations coming together, committed to the cause — and that is why we are partnering with a number of stakeholders to address this epidemic in communities across Florida.”

Echoing this sentiment of dedication and collaboration, H. Bruce Hayden, CEO of Banyan Health Systems, told Invest:, “Right now, society simply cannot support the population of people struggling with opioid addiction. However, we can be supportive of solving this issue through both collaboration and education.”

Hayden also underscored the importance of continuity of care in treating patients addicted to opioids. “Given the current healthcare climate, the industry is now a world of mergers and acquisitions,” he told Invest:. “There is an increased need for specialization and the ability to offer a continuum of services, which is one of the things Banyan Health Systems has strived to do as an organization with our community partners.”

With more than 140 Americans dying every day from overdoses of opioids such as heroin and fentanyl, opioids are the leading cause of death in the U.S. Miami-Dade’s healthcare leaders are taking this epidemic very seriously and working together to implement solutions that will save thousands of lives.

For more information on our interviewees, please visit their websites:
Florida Blue, https://www.floridablue.com/
Banyan Health Systems, https://www.banyanhealth.org/


Navigating Miami’s Opportunity Zones

By staff writer

February 2019

Credit: The Beacon Council.

One of the hottest topics regarding our current economy is opportunity zones (OZ), a designation that came about through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that allows special advantages for investors who choose to invest in designated low-income areas throughout the country.

When Invest: Miami recently sat down with Ronald Fieldstone, partner at Saul, Ewig, Arnstein & Lehr LLP, he explained the three primary benefits of opportunity zones for investors.

“First, if you invest capital gains from the sale of any source — it could be real estate, stocks or business sales — that capital gains tax is deferred until December 31, 2026. Second, if you keep the investment in the OZ for seven years, you get a 15 percent reduction in the tax,” Fieldstone told Invest:. “Third, if the deferral is done properly, the entire appreciation in the investment as a capital asset is tax-free and the term limit is 30 years. In other words, you could invest in an OZ in 2018, build an apartment project, hold it for up to 30 years and then that entire appreciation in value is tax free.”

Florida is home to 427 opportunity zones. With 68 of those being located in Miami, it’s no wonder that the local business ecosystem is abuzz with talk of the legislation and how it can both promote economic development and ensure investors’ long-term capital gain.

Last week, Invest: Miami attended the local Bisnow event Opportunity Zones 101, which showcased panel discussions geared toward educating local businessmen on how to navigate this new and promising legislation. One of the featured speakers at the event was Don Peebles, CEO of the Peebles Corporation,  who offered his insights on how OZs can encourage economic growth.

“The power of establishing the zones is at the local level,” Peebles said. “For example, in Miami, if you look at where the zones are — they border Wynwood, they border Edgewater, they border Downtown with Overtown — they are areas that would ordinarily, over time, be recipients of economic growth and development. Opportunity zones stimulate that and make it happen faster.”

With its prevalence of designated opportunity zones and general reputation as a high-growth economy, legislation such as this will work to further ensure long-term growth and development for Miami.

To learn more about our interviewees, visit their websites:
Saul, Ewig, Arnstein & Lehr LLP: https://www.saul.com/
The Peebles Corporation: http://peeblescorp.com/

For more information on opportunity zones, pre-order a copy of Invest: Miami 2019 here: https://www.capitalanalyticsassociates.com/product/invest-miami-advance-purchase


Miami’s Affordable Housing Crisis

By staff writer

February 2019

Photo by Gunther Hagleitner / Flickr, taken from Miami New Times

While much of Miami’s real estate market has seen a boom in demand and production over the last decade, the city’s affordable housing market is comparatively stark and limited, leaving mid- to low-income individuals with few options for housing in nearly all areas of the county.

However, there are still areas of Downtown that are particularly ripe for affordable real estate development. A prime example is Omni Midtown, near the Adrienne Arsht Center, and the area’s Community Redevelopment Agency has taken note. When Invest: Miami sat down with Omni Midtown CRA’s Executive Director Jason Walker last year, he highlighted the shift in the area’s home prices and its need for more affordable development.

“Many people who lived here for years, myself included, can no longer afford to, so we are working to change that,” Walker explained. “Many people have a certain interpretation when they hear the term ‘affordable housing.’ Something important to clarify is that our focus is on affordable housing for mixed incomes.”

Walker’s latter point highlights the fact fact that the term “affordable housing” does not necessarily mean “low-income housing” but rather housing for people with varying incomes who simply cannot afford luxury living.

“Miami is currently in a crisis,” stated Matthew Rieger, president and CEO of Housing Trust Group in a recent conversation with Invest: Miami. “According to a JCHS Harvard University study, 61 percent of Miami renters are currently cost-burdened when it comes to housing costs, meaning they are spending over 30 percent of their income on rent. This makes Miami the number-one large metro area in the country for cost-burdened renters.”

Furthermore, Rieger explained that other areas of the county, such as Kendall, have seen increased demand for housing development as a result of prices in Downtown, Brickell and Miami Beach.

“West Kendall is experiencing tremendous growth.” explained Rieger. “Demand for affordable housing developments in the county is incredible, and they tend to yield triple-digit waiting lists for leases almost immediately.”

To learn more about our interviewees, visit their websites:

Omni Midtown CRA: http://omnicra.com/

Housing Trust Group: http://htgf.com/


Historic Virginia Key Looks to the Future

By staff writer

February 2019

Credit: EventUP

As its name implies, Historic Virginia Key Beach Park is rich with history. Since it reopened in 2008, however, the park has wasted no time in establishing itself as both an environmental preserve area and a prime site for cultural events.

Virginia Key’s history dates back to the 1920s, when it became a haven for the local African-American population due to segregation. It remained a segregated zone in the 1950s and was closed by the city in 1982 due to high maintenance costs. In 1999, however, a group of locals called the Virginia Key Beach Park Civil Rights Task Force organized in response to developers looking to buy the land. As a result of their efforts to highlight the value of the park’s history, the city established the Virginia Key Beach Park Trust to oversee its future development.

Since it officially reopened to the public in 2008, Historic Virginia Key Beach Park has become a popular site for everything from ecosystem restoration projects to large music festivals. In a recent conversation with Invest: Miami, Guy Forchion, the park’s executive director, highlighted the park’s value as a community center.  

“Historic Virginia Key Beach Park is a community meeting space, which is historically what this spot has been for communities of color in the past,” Forchion explained. “It was a space for the African-American communities and people of color; now it is a space for everyone. A lot of community activities, dialogues and fellowship can happen here.”

The park recently hosted the 2018 House of Creatives Music and Arts Festival last November, which featured regional, national and international music groups, including big names such as Foster the People and MIA. The festival also showcased local cuisine with an array of vendors from various restaurants in the area. This event came on the heels of the widely publicized announcement that the park would be the future site of the famous Ultra Music Festival, which traditionally has been held in downtown Miami’s Bayfront Park.

Outside of providing a fantastic venue for music and arts festivals, the park is also crucial to the study of sea-level rise. “There has been an incredible change in our shoreline in just the last eight years,” Forchion explained. “Virginia Key is one of the monitoring locations for sea-level rise, and much of the research and studies happen close to us. Sea-level rise is being tracked, and it’s actually moving a bit faster in South Florida than most of the public timelines predicted. We are taking these things into consideration with the facility we are building.”

The facility Forchion is referring to is the museum that park officials hoped to start building back in 2008 to showcase the park’s history. However, due to the recession, in 2009 the City of Miami halted funding for the park, which now relies heavily on corporate philanthropy and private donors to maintain operations.

To help preserve the park’s legacy and enrich its future, locals can make donations to the park by visiting: https://virginiakeybeachpark.net/donate/


The Reliability of Natural Gas

By staff writer

January 2019

With the American public concerned about the future of its energy and power source, natural gas remains an immediately viable option. Both domestically and internationally, natural gas is known for being an accessible, reliable and resilient supply network.

The infrastructure for natural gas offers dependable and diverse options. Providers are able to supply gas through pipelines or by shipments of liquefied natural gas (LNG), as well as other methods, with few technological limitations. For these reasons, natural gas remains one of the more viable energy sources available today.

What’s more, natural gas also happens to be among the precious few commodities in life that have actually gone down in price. Due to the large supply available, natural gas has been decreasing in price for many years now.

“We have over a 100-year supply of natural gas,” Carolyn Bermudez, vice president and general manager at Florida City Gas, told Invest: Miami when she sat down with our team in early December. “We’re seeing some of the lowest prices for natural gas that we’ve ever seen, and because of that, natural gas is being used more now by electric utilities as their fuel source to produce electricity. With supply and demand as high as they currently are, we remain optimistic about the price remaining consistently low.”

Florida City Gas, which joined the NextEra Energy family in July 2018, is one of the largest providers of natural gas in the market. “In the past year, we converted nearly 100 of Miami-Dade Transit’s bus fleet to compressed natural gas (CNG) with more to come in the following years,” Bermudez said.

In addition to improving and investing in infrastructure, Bermudez says that Florida City Gas will continue to focus on prudent and effective cost management: “As Miami-Dade’s communities continue to grow and demand for natural gas service increases, Florida City Gas must meet our commitments to deliver clean, safe, reliable and affordable natural gas to our customers.”

With a new year beginning, many South Florida residents are considering switching to natural gas to power their lives. Florida City Gas is currently offering substantial rebates for residential and commercial customers who switch to natural gas or replace old natural gas appliances.

For more information on our interviewee and FCG’s rebates, visit: https://www.floridacitygas.com/