There’s no Best of Miami honor for hampering economy
There’s no Best of Miami honor for obstructing economy
The Best of Miami edition you’re reading stems from our tradition of highlighting people and organizations that are making a difference in our community. We publish it annually on Miami Today’s birthday – this week we’re starting our 37th year.
You’ll find reports on everything from social service to unique entrepreneurial enterprises, from science and medicine to government, always with a focus on some of the best in each field.
We’ve always had a hard time doing that with the visitor industry, however, not because we lack excellent candidates but because the field is almost too vast to wrap our arms around. One in eight jobs here is directly related to the industry, and by extension it goes throughout the entire community. How many of us can say that what we do, the way we live and the income we earn is totally divorced from the fact that Greater Miami is a magnet for travel and tourism? Darn few.
The industry continues to grow, year in and year out. In just six years we’ve added 72 hotels alone to total 455 – and today 75 more are in construction or on drawing boards. In Miami-Dade 148,600 of us now draw our paychecks directly from the visitor industry, not to mention all those indirect jobs.
Those jobs, by the way, cut across not only every city and town and area of this county but every economic level, from the bottom-rung employment levels that get many immigrants a start here to the top levels of the community economically. We’ve all got a stake in it.
So as we completed this Best of Miami issue, it was painful in multiple ways to watch what was happening in Tallahassee: sheriff’s deputies sat outside Visit Florida, the public-private partnership that sells around the world to attract visitors to this state, as 44 of the organization’s workers were being discharged Thursday afternoon. The legislature had cut funding for the organization by 34% and cuts means a loss of jobs for the employees as well as a sharp cut in programs designed to lure visitors to the state.
That cut will be felt far from Tallahassee, in every corner of Florida, in the same way any big business would be affected if its efforts to sell its products had been halted in their tracks.
Miami Lakes resident José Oliva, the speaker of the House, has opposed Visit Florida’s very existence on the grounds that businesses don’t need government’s help to thrive and people will visit and spend in Florida regardless of whether we invite them. He says the only reason Visit Florida got any state money at all this year is to show the governor how useless the organization is, so that it can be done away with totally next year.
Well, he’s right that just because of Visit Florida spending cuts, planes won’t start landing here without passengers and hotels won’t suddenly empty out. But he’s wrong that the elements of the visitor industry won’t lose some customers they otherwise would have had.
Think of Miami as a big party. People will still attend. Others besides Visit Florida send out invitations, notably our Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau and the airlines and 455 hotels and our attractions. But the more invitations and reminders you send, the greater the attendance – and that translates to visitors, which translates to jobs and payroll.
When the state cuts back on promoting what is its number one industry, the party is going to suffer, even if the suffering manifests itself solely in adding fewer jobs than we otherwise would have.
Miami and Florida as a whole don’t exist in a vacuum. We compete for events, conventions, business gatherings and vacationers. But so do other cities and states and nations. And every single one of them hangs out the “Welcome” sign.
How smart is it of us to compete by shrinking that sign with the explicit aim of removing it entirely next year?
One thing is certain: among the many categories of Best of Miami, none is dedicated to the best at throwing sand into the gears of economic engines.
Best of Miami is based on hope, growth and improvement. Whether in government or private industry or education or the civic world, there is no prize for hampering enterprises that create jobs.