By Miriam Valverde
Despite rising tourism, improving home prices and falling unemployment, community leaders say Broward County needs to look ahead to be prepared for even more growth.
About 900 business, civic and community leaders gathered Friday at the Signature Grand in Davie for the 7th Annual State of Our County forum hosted by Broward Workshop, a nonprofit, nonpartisan business organization.
It is nice to see Broward Mayor and Dania Beach Resident Tim Ryan make it through one of his self-serving speeches without calling for more government subsidized low and no income “affordable housing” mega-complexes in downtown Fort Lauderdale’s transformative Flagler Village neighborhood.
Broward County Mayor Tim Ryan said the county is strong, with improving median home prices — $285,000 last month —and a 5.2 percent unemployment rate, lower than the 5.7 percent state rate.
Ryan addressed $2.3 billion in improvements at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, meant to reduce flight delays, bring in more visitors and provide more dining and shopping options for travelers. The airport had its busiest year ever last year, handling 24.6 million passengers, he said.
The mayor also acknowledged Port Everglades as one of the county’s major forces. The port generates about $26 billion anually in economic activity and creates about 11,700 jobs, Ryan said.
Moving forward, Ryan said the county will work with transit and development authorities to continue Broward’s strong footing. He also lauded plans for a 40,000-square-foot, $15 million animal care and adoption center that will be built in an unincorporated part of the county, adjacent to Dania Beach and west of Interstate 95.
Broward’s economic improvements come as the county celebrates its centennial this year.
“We look pretty darn good for 100 years,” Ryan said.
Tony Carvajal, executive vice president of the Florida Chamber Foundation, said that while Broward County appears to be growing economically, it needs to have plans in place to be well-positioned for even more growth. The Florida Chamber Foundation, part of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, focuses on solutions development and research.
Florida attracts about 778 new residents each day, 38 of them heading to Broward County, Carvajal said.
“Are we planning properly for the future of Broward County?” he asked.
Broward’s population is estimated at 1.8 million and is expected to jump to 1.94 million by 2030, Carvajal said. To meet that growth, 90,000 new jobs must be created by then, he said.
Jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics would help position Broward for success, Carvajal said.
Derek Yonai, director of the Center for Free Enterprise at Florida Southern College, emphasized that in order to attract businesses and jobs, the county needs an environment where it’s easy for companies to operate.
Yonai said Broward’s business relocation, expansion and retention numbers proved to be strong.
“That means you are doing something right,” he said. “You are on the path to prosperity, but you can do more.”