Google Ads help pay the expense of maintaining this site
Click Here for the Neighborhood Transformation Website
Fair Use Disclaimer
Neighborhood Transformation is a nonprofit,
noncommercial website that, at times, may contain copyrighted material
that have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright
owner. It makes such material available in its efforts to advance the
understanding of poverty and low income distressed neighborhoods in
hopes of helping to find solutions for those problems. It believes that
this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as
provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. Persons wishing to
use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of their own that
go beyond 'fair use' must first obtain permission from the copyright
Miami Herald 1/26/02
SUMMIT SEEKS SOLUTIONS; NEW ECONOMIC BLUEPRINT SET
Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas' second Economic Summit began with flashing lights,
smoke machines and an upbeat soundtrack, but the economic news -- especially since
Sept. 11 ---- has been more sobering.
It's been four years since the county's first economic summit -- a time when the
local unemployment rate topped 7 percent while the national economy boomed. By last
August, the county's unemployment rate had fallen to 5.3 percent but in the aftermath
of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, it once again tops 7 percent.
``A lot of things changed, and that's one of the reasons we're here today,'' Penelas
told a crowd of more than 1,000 who gathered for the all-day brainstorming session
at AmericanAirlines Arena. Although Penelas said he had always intended to hold
a second summit, ``in view of the different and daunting challenges we now face,
our urgency is obvious.''
He made it clear his own priorities are improving transportation and education,
and he reiterated his call for an independent airport authority to oversee county-run
Miami International Airport and manage it as a ``business enterprise'' with a board
of directors that deals exclusively with airport development issues.
Penelas told the business, civic and community leaders in attendance that it was
up to them to set the county's new economic blueprint.
``We are here to provide you with our ideas and vision. You are here to establish
priorities and make recommendations for action.''
After the morning session, participants broke into 14 workshops on everything from
the top growth industries, workforce development and education to economic revitalization
and poverty, transportation and the airport and seaport. Each panel presented its
recommendations at the close of the summit.
Despite the aftershock of Sept. 11, more than 70,000 jobs were created between December
1998 and December 2001, said J. Antonio Villamil, a local economist and chairman
of the Governor's Council of Economic Advisors.
But Miami-Dade still has the highest unemployment rate in the state and ``we need
to accelerate job creation,'' he said.
Kathleen B. Cooper, undersecretary for economic affairs at the U.S. Department of
Commerce, said economic signals are still mixed, ``but stabilization seems to be
occurring.'' She predicted it wouldn't be long before economic indicators are ``much
A key factor in recovery, she said, will be a ``turnaround in overall business investment.''
Before the group broke up for the workshops, Penelas outlined his own priorities.
``The transportation dilemma of our community is choking us. We must find ways to
clear our highways,'' he said.
The county, he said, needs to find a dedicated source of transportation funding
to take advantage of federal matching funds. Voters turned down a penny sales tax
increase in July 1999 that would have funded transportation, and county officials
say they want to revisit the issue this year.
A one-cent sales tax increase could raise $300 million for transportation.
Over the next 20 years traffic congestion in the county will increase by 300 percent
and by 2005, a 30-minute commute will take 48 minutes, pointed out Allen Harper,
a director of the Tri-County Rail Authority.
Miami Commissioner Johnny Winton said he wanted to see the county and city forge
more partnerships and work together on common goals.
``Miami has really taken a go-it-alone process for 20 years or so,'' he said. In
that time, Winton noted, it has become the poorest large city in the country.
Peter Roulhac, co-chairman of the event and an executive of First Union National
Bank, noted that economic progress had been made since 1998 -- though not in all
distressed neighborhoods. ``We must progress as one community with equal opportunity
for all or we will not progress at all,'' he said.