The city of Miami and the county of Miami-Dade continue to rebound from the pandemic with unprecedented economic growth coupled with record low unemployment rates.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava unveiled plans to create an authority to fund innovation while Miami City Mayor Francis Suarez focused on the environment and housing affordability.
The Miami-Dade Innovation Authority will be a public-private partnership, Levine Cava said during her state of the county address Wednesday at Tropical Park.
The non-profit authority will use $9 million of seed money to give grants to companies that are working to solve pressing challenges in the climate, health, housing and transit sectors.
The county, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and Citadel CEO Ken Griffin will each provide $3 million to back these grants.
“Companies will be invited to pilot new technologies with the county and fast-tracking ideas on problems our community faces,” she said.
Levine Cava said the legislation to create the authority will be brought before the Board of County Commissioners in March.
“With pilot programs and an openness to creative solutions, we’re flipping the way government does business,” she said, “by inviting businesses to test and pilot with us.”
“This approach will fast forward local innovation and give local entrepreneurs a path to scale,” she said. “We’ll make it faster and easier to innovate in the county and further position Miami-Dade as a world class destination for high-growth companies.”
She touted the economic rebound the county has made after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We passed an historic tax cut — the first property tax cut in over a decade and the lowest combined rate since 1982,” she said.
“We emerged from the pandemic as one of the most recovered economies in the nation,” she said, “and at the end of last year Miami-Dade County had an unemployment rate of 1.5%, lower than any other big urban area.”
The county’s general obligation bonds are rated Aa2 by Moody’s Investors Service and AA by S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings. All three maintain a stable outlook on the credit.
In the city, Suarez said the economy is thriving.
“The state of our city is strong,” he said in his state of the city address on Friday.
“Today’s Miami stands as a shining city on a hill for those fleeing various forms of oppression,” he said. “For us, our story has been one of newcomers who became natives. Of migrants and mavericks, who looked different, but shared the same values.”
He said touted tax cuts, a balanced budget and “the largest reserves in our history. We went from only $15 million when I first took office to now over $157 million.”
Other cities and the federal government now struggle to honor or to reduce their debts, “we are working to achieve our highest bond rating ever,” he said. “Perhaps that’s why when most cities across that nation are facing recession, Miami is more vibrant than ever.”
Miami’s GOs are rated Aa2 by Moody’s and AA-minus by S&P and AA by Fitch.
However, he noted, the city faces environmental challenges, but said efforts made to battle it have been recognized.
“If there is anything the past year has taught us, it’s the increasing threat of climate events,” he said. “The state of Florida experienced one of the most severe hurricanes in our state’s history, causing billions of dollars of damages and hundreds of fatalities.”
He said FEMA lowered the city’s risk profile for storm flooding in an acknowledgment of its smart planning and resilience investment. FEMA also noted the city’s updated stormwater master plan and improved operations, which included large infrastructure investments.
“It wasn’t cheap and it wasn’t easy,” he said. “But investments today will prevent chaos tomorrow.”
Suarez said that was exactly what the residents expect of city government.
“In Miami, we know that it’s not the environment versus our economy,” he said. “The environment is our economy.”
But more must be done, he said.
“I am asking our administration to work with the City Commission to allocate all Miami Forever bond and ARPA-designated dollars to resiliency projects this year,” he said.
Housing affordability is another challenge for the city.
“In the coming months, my administration will work with the Miami City Commission to cut regulations for building permit approvals and we will pass the Miami Forever zoning reform proposal so that everyone in every community has greater access to the things they want, need and deserve,” he said.
On the brighter side, while some cities have seen record levels of crime and violence, last year Miami recorded ones of the lowest levels of homicide per capita since 1964, said Suarez.