By Ashley Portero – Reporter, South Florida Business Journal
South Florida is a region famous for its “fun in the sun” and eclectic nightlife.
However, business leaders argue the tri-county area is more than a vacation spot and has much to offer higher-paying employers.
It’s a message local economic development agencies reiterate as they focus on recruiting manufacturing, technology and professional services jobs.
The goal is to reduce the region’s reliance on service jobs in the hospitality, tourism, retail and foods services industries, which make up nearly half of South Florida’s workforce. It’s a step the agencies say is necessary to compete for companies that offer higher-wage jobs.
“Our message is that we have what it takes to compete,” said Bob Swindell, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance. “We talk about lower taxes, but quality of life – warm weather, multicultural environment and geography – are equally competitive selling points.”
The GFLA focuses on recruiting corporate headquarters, aviation and advanced manufacturing to Broward County, Swindell said. Those are industries that pay annual salaries above $32,058 – South Florida’s per capita income in 2018.
Talent availability may be the most frequent question the Miami-Dade Beacon Council receives from companies considering a move to the Miami area, Beacon Council President and CEO Michael Finney said.
He added that businesses often worry they won’t find a qualified pool of applicants similar to New York City or San Francisco. It’s a fear that he said doesn’t match the reality on the ground.
“We have talent coming from the multiple colleges and universities in the area, and we also have thousands of people moving to South Florida every year that add to the pool,” Finney said. “We can make the case that the talent issue isn’t as dire as some assume.”
The Beacon Council focuses its recruiting on companies from higher-paying industries, including the aviation, banking and finance, technology and life sciences sectors.
Palm Beach County has been a draw for life science companies, which includes everything from pharmaceuticals to biotechnology. For the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 10 life science companies either relocated or expanded to the county, according to the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County.
Despite the gains, the region had its share of losses.
South Florida lost more than 3,300 manufacturing, warehouse, retail trade, health care, food service and administrative jobs from Jan. 1 to Oct. 15, according to a South Florida Business Journal analysis of 2019 Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) notices.
“We’ll see considerably more growth in warehouse and distribution centers, because Palm Beach County is the only part of the tri-county area with enough open land to accommodate those large facilities.” – Kelly Smallridge, president and CEO of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County
“We have a focus on recruiting corporate headquarters, bringing more professional services jobs to the area. Aviation repair and overhaul, and information technology are other key targets.” – Bob Swindell, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance
“We’re in a great position to grow our tech, finance and trade and logistics sectors, including everything from executive-level to middle-skilled and entry-level jobs.” – Michael Finney, president and CEO of the Miami-Dade Beacon Council