Strength in Numbers: Taking a Regional Approach to Economic Development

By: CEOs Michael Finney – Miami-Dade Beacon Council, Bob Swindell – Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, Kelly Smallridge – Business Development Board of the Palm Beaches

The 238 communities seeking to be home to Amazon’s second headquarters are participating in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Creating up to 50,000 new jobs, paying $100,000 average salaries, Amazon’s HQ2 promises an economic burst that could fundamentally change the region’s business landscape.

A forward-thinking company, Amazon understands the economic spillover effect for areas near its HQ2, and encouraged communities to work together as regional teams. Realizing the power of banding together as a tri-county megalopolis, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties submitted a combined proposal.

It wasn’t until the highly publicized Amazon bid, however, that the everyday work of our economic development organizations became better known. Our efforts to attract and retain companies are tied directly to the assets which businesses like Amazon are seeking, namely, skilled talent, a high-quality education pipeline, quality of life, viable sites, transit and mobility. Financial incentives also matter, but Florida’s low tax competitive business climate is a built-in incentive.

During this process, we took a deep dive into the combined resources of the Miami Ft. Lauderdale-West Palm Beach Metropolitan Statistical  Area (MSA) that make the region a strong contender for Amazon’s HQ2 according to analysis by The New York Times, Foreign Direct Investment Magazine and Moody’s Analytics.

Consider our competitive advantages for business and personal success:

  • 6 million residents
  • 3.1 million-person labor force
  • 53% bilingual
  • $300 billion GDP – 38th largest in the world
  • 0% State and local income tax
  • 2000+ daily direct flights
  • 4 research universities
  • 375,000 college/university students
  • 250+ sunny days per year
  • 150 miles of beaches
  • 5 professional sports teams

Warm winters, a sophisticated arts, culture and culinary scene, endless recreation options, top ranked health care and education choices and Instagram-worthy scenery make the MSA the #1 Happiest Place to Work (Forbes) and the fourth healthiest in the U.S (livability.com).

Transit and mobility are also a strong suit. We live in one of the country’s most connected regions with 2,000 daily nonstop flights daily to major cities across the United States and the world. Even our commute times compare favorably to metros including Philadelphia, Seattle, Boston, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and New York.

From smart signals to a rapid transit plan, we are creating technology-enabled solutions. Our new Brightline regional train system will connect Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach with a new commuter service, in addition to the existing tri-rail regional transit system.

We learned a great deal about our neighboring communities during the Amazon proposal process. Together, our counties form a powerful region that can compete with any major business center in North America on the critical issues that companies like Amazon are looking for. And, we offer much more that others simply don’t have: a multilingual, multicultural workforce that understands global business, plus proximity and access to major markets, and a year-round vacation-like lifestyle.

Amazon set the foundation for our communities to continue partnering on future ventures. If the process taught us only one thing, a regional approach to economic development is one where we all win.

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