Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas
2 min read May 2021 — The Miami-Dade Beacon Council, a public-private partnership, is the official economic development organization for Miami-Dade County. In an interview with Invest:, President and CEO Michael Finney said business was “brought to a screeching halt” in the early months of the pandemic but in recent months, as the pandemic’s impact has been alleviated, there is clear evidence of a pick-up in activity.
What were some of the challenges and opportunities that stemmed from the pandemic?
Like most other businesses, during the March, April and early May 2020 time frame, our business slowed down dramatically. When our ability to do direct outreach to other communities was curtailed, our business attraction efforts came to a screeching halt. We were bombarded by inquiries from small businesses that were trying to come to grips with the new CARES Act, Payroll Protection Program (PPP) stimulus and numerous state and local government programs. Our immediate response was to collaborate with several private sector and non-profit partners to build out a comprehensive business resource portal that enabled us to aggregate the many federal, state and local resources, and quickly engage with small businesses and guide them through all these programs.
We also identified a core group of banks that were willing to process PPP loans for small businesses that did not have an existing business banking relationship. We formed a partnership with more than 20 other nonprofit organizations, including the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Center, Small Business Development Center, the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce, Prospera, the Florida State Minority Supplier Development Council and Camacol, to form a small-business accelerator. We have now engaged more than 450 small businesses directly to provide in-depth technical assistance. We were also awarded a grant by the Rockefeller Foundation, to build a sustainable small business accelerator capable of providing comprehensive technical assistance to black, latinx and women owned businesses.
Following the initial slowdown in the months of March, April and May, our traditional economic development business recruitment and expansion ramped up dramatically in all target industries with the exception of hospitality and tourism. Many businesses that are dependent on the cruise lines, hotels, airlines and other tourism sectors will need support to pivot to new customer types to fully recover. Overall we are seeing a strong business recovery, with financial services and technology leading the recovery.
How do you see the evolution of the local tech sector developing?
We think the tech movement launched in Miami a few years ago. The Knight Foundation was one of the early investors in the tech ecosystem, making investments that enabled the launch of Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) Miami, Venture Café, the Lab Miami, Endeavor Miami, all catalytic to our ecosystem development. When Amazon announced its search for HQ2, it caught the world’s attention and Miami was one of the finalist locations under consideration. Although Amazon ultimately selected other locations, we assembled an incredible database that proved valuable in positioning Miami-Dade as a highly desirable location for high-growth tech companies and entrepreneurs. We realized Miami-Dade had a robust tech ecosystem in place and a talent pipeline to support the needs of high-growth tech companies. The HQ2 competition and Miami’s strong showing served as the catalyst to drive inquiries from established west coast and east coast tech locations.
How have the council’s target industries fared during the pandemic?
Miami’s target industries include; Aerospace, Trade & Logistics, Creative Design, Technology, Healthcare & Life Sciences, Banking & Financial Services and Tourism & Hospitality. We are seeing a strong recovery in all target industries with the exception of Tourism. This is due primarily to the Cruise Industry being shut down. Miami is generally recognized as the gateway to Latin America. The Port of Miami and Miami International Airport are among the busiest in the United States. This accounts for strong performance in the trade and logistics sector. The Covid pandemic has also accelerated the movement of financial services and technology companies from the northeast and west coast to Miami. Healthcare is a leading industry in Miami and saw immediate increases due to the COVID impact. We have also seen a significant increase in professional talent relocating to Miami.
Our model is based on strong collaboration with other community partners. We collaborate closely with Miami-Dade County, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, CareerSource South Florida, and several other organizations, to drive growth.
What is your outlook for the region for the near term?
We see fairly strong growth in major sectors, including technology, banking & finance, aerospace, healthcare, and trade & logistics. We see the technology and financial services sectors expanding rapidly, and tourism will clearly get a major boost when the cruise lines begin operating later this year. Our active project pipeline is strong and growing. Based on early results, Miami-Dade is positioned for strong economic growth in all target industry sectors.
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