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,
Banyan Health Systems,


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:
The Peebles Corporation:

For more information on opportunity zones, pre-order a copy of Invest: Miami 2019 here:


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:

Housing Trust Group:


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:


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:


Next-Generation Startups

By staff writer

January 2019

Miami’s growing reputation as a startup hub is no secret. The Miami/Fort Lauderdale/Pompano Beach region was ranked number one on the Kauffman Foundation’s 2017 Index of Startup Activity among 40 metropolitan areas. Furthermore, the city garnered a wealth of publicity when it was considered as a host for Amazon’s HQ2 site last year.

“I’m very happy with how the startup market in Miami has been evolving,” said Olivier Grinda, founder and CEO of local startup Home61, a digital real estate brokerage company, when he recently sat down with the Invest: Miami team. “The market now represents the first generation of startups i.e., those like us that came here in 2015-2017. Thanks to the work of local investors who decided to take a chance on the city back then, businesses such as ours were given the platform to grow and recruit employees.”

Thanks to decisions made over the last decade by local organizations and co-working spaces such as the Knight Foundation, Refresh Miami, LAB Miami and Pipeline, among others, the city was provided a foundation on which to grow its tech sector. However, there are other factors driving the city’s appeal for those looking to found or invest in startups.

When Invest: spoke with Richard Lavina, co-founder and CEO of Miami-based startup Taxfyle which has been the number one tax-time app in the App Store for the past three years he pointed to the city’s relatively low cost of living as a key asset for startup activity.

“$1 million doesn’t go as far in Silicon Valley as it does here in Miami,” Lavina explained. “Cost of living is cheaper, so people hired to come here can experience a better quality of life for lower pay.”

The low cost of living, favorable tax laws, weather and geographic location all work to ensure the city’s long-term appeal for startups, thus giving way for an upcoming “second generation” of startups over the next decade, which, according to Grinda, will further stabilize the local startup market and allow for continued growth.

“The city, which was once generally considered to be nothing more than a vacation destination, will grow into an intricate and diverse business center,” Grinda stated.

Given the city’s penchant for innovation and the velocity at which its tech sector has flourished, surely we can look forward to this second generation being just as robust and groundbreaking as the first. For more information on our interviewees and the local startups they founded, visit and


Dynamic Offerings

By staff writer

January 2019 — 2 min. read

Miami’s higher education system is as dynamic as the city itself, and the University of Miami Business School is no exception. The school’s enrollment rate shot up 12 percent last year, and with that growth has come revamped curricula and new degree program offerings catering to international students, future sustainability officers and aspiring entrepreneurs.

Given that the school is the only higher education institution in the country that offers a Spanish-language Global Executive MBA program, which is designed for professionals with experience in the field, it should come as no surprise that the school is appealing to international professionals and their families looking to further integrate themselves within the local business ecosystem.


“Many high-net-worth individuals including family business leaders from throughout the Americas have second homes in Miami,” Miami Business School Dean John Quelch told Invest: Miami when he sat down with our team. “For those working here already, we offer our new part-time Professional MS in Finance as well as our Professional MBA. We are offering students multiple ways to earn high-quality specialist or general management Masters degrees faster, better and cheaper.”

Quelch pointed to the city’s “growing entrepreneurial spirit” as a key driver of the school’s growth, and the school is wasting no time in following suit with this trend.

“We are much more integrated into the Miami entrepreneurship ecosystem than we were one or two years ago,” Quelch explained. “We have made significant upgrades to our business plan and hope to soon launch a Canes Angel fund that will be directed at startups involving our students and alumni. We’re also upgrading our entrepreneurship curricula to include more experiential learning and case-based teaching.”

Quelch added that the school expects to open a center for entrepreneurship by 2020, if funding is forthcoming. Furthermore, the school will be starting its STEM-certified Master of Science in Sustainable Business degree program next August, which according to Quelch will be “the first STEM-certified M.S. in sustainable business degree in the country.”

The program will integrate climate science, law, engineering and public policy into its teachings of business sustainability and will train graduates for careers in industries such as energy, manufacturing and healthcare. Its establishment speaks to the school’s commitment to ensuring long-term success for its students in the local market, as well as its and its ability to satisfy the demands of the city’s dynamic business landscape.

To learn more about our interviewee, as well as new developments and course offerings from Miami Business School, visit