Newly inaugurated governor to kick off Miami chamber's new economic summit
By Zachary S. Fagenson
As the new year begins, the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce will gather local business leaders to examine what 2011 might hold for the region's key sectors at its first South Florida Economic Summit Jan. 11 at Jungle Island.
Gov. Rick Scott's keynote address is to kick off the event while JPMorgan Chase Senior Economist Jim Glassman's 2011 economic outlook is to close it.
In between, more than 20 speakers and panelists are to discuss the state and future of industries like automotive sales, healthcare and international trade.
While the chamber has hosted past events with experts like economist and St. Thomas University business school Dean J. Antonio Villamil providing an outlook for the year ahead, this is the first chamber forecast of this size and scope.
The chamber wants to "expand on what we've done in the past and look at key sectors and get us to what the midterm elections pointed us to and look and what's on the mind of all Americans, which is jobs," said Maria Alonso, chamber chair and Bank of America senior vice president of corporate social responsibility for Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. The chamber is "looking at this as something that will be sustainable and ongoing on an annual basis."
This first summit is to be joined by an education summit slated for June, the month of the chamber's annual goals conference.
What experts on the chamber summit's program are forecasting for the coming year varies.
"Our outlook, as of right now, looks very positive for the upcoming year," said Wendy Kallergis, president of the Greater Miami & The Beaches Hotel Association.
Though she said she'd like more scholarships and education throughout the industry, some recent developments might help hospitality in the coming year.
"We've got some new product and some renovations," she said. "The Shelbourne renovation is exciting. We have the opening, of course, of the JW Marriott Marquis. [Hotel] Beaux Arts [Miami] is getting ready to open next month. I know there was some great renovation done at the Mandarin Oriental [and] some nice renovation at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne."
Al Dosal, president of IT firm Compuquip, said he's bullish both on his business and for the greater technology industry in the coming year.
He boasted his firm grew 16.8% in fiscal 2010, which ended in September, and that companies of all sizes across the spectrum of industry will remain hungry for technology products and companies to manage their IT services.
That growth also leads to jobs.
"We're going to be launching a software product in January and the people doing the bulk of the code are here in Miami," he said. "They went from two programmers to now 10 full-time programmers."
He also estimated the company added about six employees in the past year as its managed IT services department grew.
Others weren't as optimistic.
"The situation in 2011 will certainly improve," said Miami-based banking expert and economist Ken Thomas. But "when we talk about a situation of improvement, it doesn't say a whole lot relatively considering where we were."
Florida, along with Georgia, led the nation in problem banks and enforcement actions from regulators in 2010, and Mr. Thomas said he expected the same next year, along with 125 to 150 more bank failures.
The sale of BankUnited and some of BankAtlantic's branches, he added, might help establish some banks looking to grow in the region, such as TD Bank or PNC Bank.
Others were tightlipped on their expectations.
"The good news for us is all of the economies south of us with the exception of Venezuela are doing great," said Flagler Real Estate Services Vice President Jack Lowell, but "you have to attend to find out what I'm going to say."
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