Broward business leaders look ahead at ‘State of Our County’ forum Broward Workshop

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.”

Developing a Workforce for Florida’s Future

The Florida Chamber Foundation’s focus on planning from the future begins at the community level. By employing strategies that allow collaboration between community leaders and businesses of all sizes, the Florida Chamber Foundation has fueled initiatives that focus on developing a workforce for Florida’s future. One such initiative is the Six Pillars Community- an effort led by Community Development Partners across the state that serves as the framework for developing and communicating community-based strategic plans.

A Six Pillars Community is organized around the six pillars framework that has made the Florida Chamber Foundation a success: Talent and Education, Innovation and Growth Management, Infrastructure and Growth Leadership, Business Climate and Competitiveness, Civic and Governance Systems, and Quality of life and Quality Places. By focusing on the needs and gaps in theses six pillars that are specific and relevant to each community, communities can begin to plan accordingly for their future.

“My friend and Florida Chamber of Commerce President Mark Wilson likes to say you should always plan with the end in mind, and Broward County has taken that to heart as a Six Pillars Community,” said Charley Caulkins, Partner with Fisher and Phillips LLP, and Chair of the Broward Workshop. “The Six Pillar Plan was launched in 2010 through the Florida Chamber Foundation. It offers local communities a way to plan for their growth. Broward County’s future development strategy is now tied to the Six Pillar Plan that charts growth strategy into 2030. With the Six Pillars Plan, and as an official Six Pillars Community, Broward County is on solid foundation to move into the future.”

In fact, Broward County’s collaboration and adoption of the Florida Chamber’s Six Pillars Community plan has proven to be successful, as outlined by the National Association of Counties’ recent report A Workforce that Works: County Innovations in Workforce Development:

“In March 2012, the GFLA [Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance], including Broward County business, civic and local government leaders, announced the launch of the Six Pillars Broward County strategic planning process to address topics identified as critical to the economic success of the county. The Six Pillars process is being led at the state level by the Florida Chamber Foundation.

The Foundation will design a local strategic planning process through 2030, thereby helping communities throughout Florida prosper and create high-paying jobs. Over 300 businesses, civic, community and government leaders are involved in Six Pillars Broward County, with Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca serving as a co-chair to the initiative.

The first pillar in Six Pillars Broward County is “Talent Supply & Education,” with the expressed goal that educators collaborate with employers to ensure they are fostering a workforce prepared to meet the needs of local employers.

To do this, Broward County and its partners have joined forces with Broward College, a community college in the county, to provide programs related to logistics, trade and high-tech sectors. To date, Broward College has leveraged more than $4 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Labor to design curricula and expand learning opportunities for the skills needed in the high-tech industry. Broward College has also placed an emphasis on admitting students obtaining an industry-recognized certificate upon high school graduation and increasing the numbers of students choosing majors in science and technology-related fields. Additionally, the Six Pillars Broward County board of directors conducts an annual survey of employers and educators to make sure current curricula are meeting employers’ needs.”

So far, several counties, including Palm Beach (the first Six Pillars Community) and Okaloosa have adopted the six pillars strategies to coordinate and plan their futures. The key to success? The ability to work on the issues that are relevant to each community, says Bentina Terry, Vice President, Customer Service and Sales at Gulf Power and Chair of the Florida Chamber Foundation.

“It wasn’t intended to impress upon each community that this is the Six Pillars — you will do it this way, you will make sure you address every single one of these issues regardless of if they are relevant to your community or not. It’s not run out of Tallahassee. It’s run here and it’s the things that are important to you. It’s the area you want to see, the places you want to go, and it just provides a framework for how you might be able to get there,” Terry said.

For more information on the Six Pillars Community program and to learn how you can get involved, contact Tracey Lowe at TLowe@FLFoundation.org.