Construction, jobs, car sales, spending in good news parade
By Michael Lewis
Spilling oil and rumblings of a property tax hike have buffeted Miami-Dade's economy since a broad, if not intense, wave of confidence began building 2½ months ago.
Still, based on Miami Today's highly unscientific headline index — still, about as good a gauge of economic confidence as any — local recovery keeps rolling uphill despite the very real twin threats of tourism-tarnishing oil slicks and consumer-crushing tax increases.
Take 10 independent slices of good news across broad sectors as seen in the pages of this newspaper in the past two weeks:
n"Scaled-down Met 3 downtown project revived" — the first major private development we've seen in some months moves forward in the city's hub. Welcome back, construction.
n"Asian firms to add jobs, set up hubs" — okay, 70 jobs and $2.4 million investment isn't huge, but it's an opening step from a pivotal global sector we've been wooing for years. Thanks, Beacon Council.
n"Commission gives nod to vital bonds to start awaited UM life sciences park" — the biotech and medical leap forward we've been seeking. Stay tuned for another groundbreaking.
n"Miami's appetite for luxury cars trumps Atlanta, Charlotte" — reviving big-ticket auto sales show added confidence in a luxury-car-hungry community. "Each month has been better than the last," one dealer says.
n"With 12 sites and visions of creating the Starbucks of sushi, Abe Ng runs homegrown, family-owned Sushi Maki" — another Miami-based entrepreneur heading for national prominence. Success breeds success.
n"Miami Beach INcard gets to 100,000 as first anniversary party draws near" — local merchants get a shot in the cash register. Residents and visitors open their wallets.
n"Landlords pouring millions into renovations to lure tenants" — so even when office leasing is down, owners have confidence to spend for the future. A boon for contractors.
n"Retail, dining and 490 parking spaces in Lincoln East plan for Miami Beach" — a developer moves forward in concert with a rising New World Symphony home. Culture spurs business activity.
n"Investors seeking safety run to county tax auction" — and more bidders compete, lowering the interest cost to cash-strapped property owners to repay delinquent taxes. Tossing a potential lifeline.
n"County's "clear signs' of economic bounce-back slow, steady" — economists agree on a healthier prognosis. A confidence-builder.
How clear these signs of recovery are. But, of course, the headline index depends on what the press chooses to feature in a "glass half full" versus "glass half empty" world. A far different national confidence assessment on this page comes from the "half empty" world of Washington.
Even our assessment should be tempered by concerns not only about the oil spill and local tax policies but real estate foreclosures, both commercial and residential, that may be upon us and, as a result, health of local financial institutions yet to be tested.
Meanwhile, the recovery engine in Miami-Dade, fueled by renewing confidence, is chugging slowly uphill. Keep local government away from the brakes.