2 min read March 2022 — Michael Udine, mayor of Broward County, met with Invest: and discussed updates on the projects that are coming to the county. He also highlighted the benefits of ‘positive regionalism’ between Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach County.
What were some key challenges in the past year and how have your priorities shifted?
Broward County has challenges, just like many other large metropolitan regions. We have challenges with affordable housing and making sure that there are incentives and a budget in place to build homes that our residents and workforce can afford.
We have some transportation issues and challenges that we’re working through. We’re going to have to tackle these issues as a community as we move forward. The good thing is that we have major opportunities as a county: we are located in a region of the country that is very desirable right now. South Florida is the place to be, with multiple businesses that are looking to call Broward County home. We’re in that South Florida ecosystem where businesses are coming down and bringing with them jobs, employees, new residents and new offerings. We have to make sure that we are a welcoming and diverse community that recognizes these new companies. We have the culture, healthy amenities and a strong, resilient environment that their employees can enjoy. It’s very important that we move forward in an economically and environmentally friendly way for a resilient future.
Why is it important for the counties of South Florida to collaborate on issues?
People in Broward County have said that transportation was so important that they were willing to tax themselves, levying a sales tax to pay for improvements. We have been able to roll out major improvements on intersections throughout the county, while updating the region with Wi-Fi fiber optics and latest, greatest technology. We added to our bus fleet in an economically and environmentally friendly way. Recently we added electric buses to our fleet. The multimodal center by our airport is expanding, along with the Coastal Link, which is a train link on the eastern part of the county that will run north-south between all three counties and will make a success of the Brightline. Transportation is a complex issue. People who work in South Florida may live in one county and commute to the next. That’s why transportation has to be planned from a regional point of view.
The New River is a priority for the maritime industry. If we’re going to run coastal trains, we need to figure out a way to deal with the crossing. Whether we do a tunnel or a bridge, it will be an expensive project that’s going to require help from partners. We are expecting 50% from the federal government, 25% from the state government and a 25% local match. We are looking at studies that compare four different alternatives for the New River. I want to make sure that all of our stakeholders get all the information regarding cost-benefits, sustainability, cost sharing and transportation benefits for each scenario. As we go through this research, we’re going to see what is best for the community and we will deliver on those needs. We need to make sure that we qualify for all the federal and state grants that are available. We must allow the process to play out on what the actual structure will cost once built and how much the operations and maintenance will be. We’ll make the best decision for all of the 2 million-plus people in Broward County.
What is your outlook for the region?
The whole community is attracting new businesses and residents plus those who are already here. We have offerings for everyone under the sun. We will add as best we can to satisfy the needs of all of our collective stakeholders. I will focus on delivering a healthy Broward and I mean that holistically. We want to work on outdoor activities, focus on physical health and parks and recreation facilities, which are among the best in the country when it comes to parks and recreation. Visit Lauderdale is breaking records in terms of the amount of tourism that we’re seeing in Broward County. Our airport is breaking records in a post-pandemic environment and it is one of our biggest economic engines. Port Everglades is paramount in the petroleum and gas industry and also for logistics, allowing post-panamax ships to disembark. We’re having some of our best years with cargo and with cargo volumes. The investments we’ve made over the years are definitely paying off.
We have targeted industries like healthcare, technology, aviation, maritime and financial services. We’re starting to become the preferred location of choice for businesses that move into this area. Broward County and our Tech Gateway are really thriving and it’s something that we look to continue.
Why is it important for the counties of South Florida to collaborate on their problems?
A lot of times when you read stories that talk about Miami, they really mean the whole region, which includes Palm Beach, Miami and Fort Lauderdale. We compete better as a region. The three counties together are bigger than the GDP of many countries. We have three major international airports and three major seaports, three convention and visitors centers all within an hour-and-a-half drive. We like to do things on a regional basis because nobody really sees county lines, no one knows where the boundaries for Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade are. It’s positive regionalism.
Broward County is incubating different tech startups, education hubs and more. We work with education, in particular FIU Tech Runway, the Nova Southeastern Innovation Center and also the private sector. We made a joint decision to build the Levan Center of Innovation and add technology and an incubation startup center. Young people can start a company and incubate in Broward County. It’s a very successful model that works and will have huge benefits for the future of South Florida. Brightline really bound the three counties together because it made transportation easy but also is an economic engine. We need to continue to do smart partnerships as they become available, like The Broward Workshop.
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