Miami is a new center of global commerce
No longer just fun in the sun, the city has become an international business center by serving as the U.S. gateway to Latin and South America.
MIAMI – From Key Biscayne, just across the bay, you can count at least 31 construction cranes in Miami, erecting condominiums, office buildings and public facilities such as the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, which opened in October.In the 35 years I’ve been a regular visitor to the city, I’ve watched the steady growth of greater Miami. But in the past five years or so there’s been an explosion of growth in the Miami-Dade County area.
The city has long been a world center of tourism with attractions like South Beach. But Miami’s ambitions transcend fun in the sun. Since the 1980s, Miami has made an effort to be identified not only as a Latin America-based business center but a true center of international business.
To that end, Miami has upgraded its ocean ports, Miami International Airport and its cultural infrastructure, as well as a host of other aggressive economic development initiatives.
The region has long provided a haven for capital fleeing unstable South American countries, Cuba being the foremost example. But Xavier Gonzalez, director of marketing for the Beacon Council, the Miami area’s official economic development agency, points out that more Europeans are investing in Miami, individually and through companies wishing to make Miami the regional office for their Latin American operations.
More than 1,000 multinational corporations have regional offices in Miami. These represent not only the traditional connections with Latin America but also businesses from Europe, Asia and parts of the Middle East.
Underscoring Miami’s global diversity are these facts:
• The Miami-Dade County area has a total of 60 foreign consulates, ranging from Argentina to Austria, France, Japan, Lebanon and Turkey.
• There are 20 foreign trade offices representing such countries as Taiwan, Italy and Thailand.
Most international cities like London, Paris and New York have, over the years, created a brand equity that has given them a competitive edge in the world marketplace.
Miami has done this with a combination of a tourist industry as well as a reputation for ease of business with Latin America. Much of this advantage comes from its location.
As the competition for international business continues to grow, U.S. cities must reinvent themselves and highlight the special aspects of their economies in order to attract the world’s business.
Minnesota and the Twin Cities do not have Miami’s geographic advantage nor the huge draw of a world-class major tourist industry.
But they have other competitive advantages that have placed them high on the U.S. list of international cities: a well trained and educated workforce, a reputation as a leading “knowledge economy” and a high quality of life.
In order to stay in the race, Minnesota and its premier cities must continue to invest in the elements of the economy that make for a competitive environment, such as superior education and business infrastructure.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty and his director of trade, Tony Lorusso, deserve credit for their efforts to keep Minnesota and its cities recognized on the world scene as internationally oriented business communities. Their 2005 trade mission to China and the mission to India in October say a lot about that effort.
Miami has recognized that it cannot rest on its laurels as the connection to Latin America. It must continue to invest in the infrastructure that will appeal not only to U.S. companies doing business in Latin America but also to European, Asian and Mideastern companies that wish to do business from the safety of the United States while being provided with the services and cultural understanding of Latin America.
It used to be said that if you want to capture the pulse of Latin America you need only go to Miami. Today, it can be said that if you want to do business in Latin America as effectively as if you were actually there, you need only open a regional office in Miami.