Sometimes a contrarian view can confirm your beliefs
I went to a Real Estate Capital Symposium entitled “Why Miami?” One of my friends was speaking and it had been awhile since I had participated in these types of events. I listened to what was said and in particular, noted (as I would term it), the contrarian view given by a retired executive from a major European bank during the Q&A session. He was invited by one of the financial group sponsors to attend as a member of the audience like myself. Both during the Q&A Session and afterwards, this person gave their perspective on Miami. It was tough love and It made me think about the value of this kind of feedback in this kind of setting.
His comments were in stark contrast to the optimistic tone set by the speakers and moderator. This individual laid out a picture of the city that in many ways took the event title “Why Miami?“ and turned it on it‘s head "Miami. Why?". From his perspective, Miami is a place that irrespective of how much external input and influence it receives, is lacking. Specifically, a place that has no traditional manufacturing industries and whose politics are much to be desired. Essentially, we don‘t make anything and are a service industry economy. Stuff comes in through the port and leaves but little stays. The only lasting effect were the letters of credit generated in the wake of these containers of things coming and going. That and people visiting doctors and attorneys in between going from one place to another. It was a pretty grim assessment from a person who spent the better part of their working life here in Miami, doing everything in their power to bring their countries business‘ to the city. As I listened to him and watched the room which was full of people, I could feel the energy draining out of the room. I imagined it going for a walk outside and taking a dip in the bay to refresh itself. Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy was not on this mans mind.
"I could feel the energy draining out of the room. I imagined it going for a walk outside and taking a dip in the bay to refresh itself"
When the meeting ended and people started talking amongst each other, I joined a group that included the gentleman with the contrarian view and one of the panel speakers. After going through the usual what do you do for a living, etc., etc., the conversation circled back to the persons comments. He elaborated about his former role and how he helped bring in a notable number of European companies into South Florida. He also mentioned that none have chosen to stay on decades later. This irked the gentleman about the city and bolstered his feeling that as a city, were unable to retain European (or really any) companies. He felt infrastructure, lack of industry and backing from the city, county and state to incentivize these enterprises to continue to stay on were culprits. Without saying it directly, there was the sense that these branches of government and enterprise, did not carry the same vision and values as the companies this person clearly worked very hard to bring in.
It made me think; why, in the first place, would this man go to a symposium on real estate and finance in Miami and listen to the positive overtures about how great things are??? All it seems to have done is remind him of how frustrated he was and still is at having his best efforts stifled by poor infrastructure and political systems from years past? Systems, that from his current perspective, have not changed much and goes against the grain of the positive outlook being touted at the event.
"I thought about it and lowered my guard. I found the persons comments NOT negative but rather vital to healthy discourse"
A part of me was annoyed at this persons defeatist tone and language. His seeming unwillingness to hear other perspectives as his own was sufficient, tugged at my sense of fairness. I was bothered by his unwillingness to see the current state of affairs as it relates to growth, commerce, vision, etc. Again, why go to an event of this sort and why be here if you don‘t believe in the city??? Why retire here? Why Miami?
It would be real easy and expedient to just dismiss this person as a curmudgeon or nihilistic and move on. That would be a mistake. The more I thought about it, the clearer it became; he wants to see the positive changes being spoken about. He wants to know that his belief in the potential of Miami during his working years was not a lost cause. That his individually great efforts to bring a countries industry to the city of Miami was not just a corporate mandate from a moment in time but part of something bigger.
I thought about it and lowered my guard. I found the persons comments NOT negative but rather vital to healthy discourse. It's necessary and important to confront the reality of your environment with open eyes and experience. Clearly, this person did so and still lives here in spite of their consternation. That says something.
"Sure, the weathers great, but that's not the glue"
The truth is that this city is growning rapidly and it's become a place of importance to many around the world. It's architecture, infrastructure, growing commerce and vision (like it or not), has evolved in many positive ways that cast a pleasing light on much of what we see and do here in the city. But, in equal measure we have to recognize that infrastructure, services, commerce, liveability and education tend to lag behind the incredible influx of new residents. This causes growing pains that are not wholly being addressed by elected officials and the various entitities entrusted to steward these aspects of living in a rapidly growing community. Should we be surprised? No. Can we do more? Yes, of course! I think that is where this gentleman's mind was at.
We have master plans, zoning rules, development authorities and various commerce chambers and councils. Incredibly, with all this, we still need greater foresight. But with all these entities there is also required the courage to look at ourselves and ask simple questions of our communities and ultimately ourselves. Do we have enough green space? Can we improve transportation? Does our local city, county and state gov'ts do enough to provide the infrastructure needed and if not, why? What type of commerce IS here and what type would we like to see? How do we manage workforce housing?
So, Why Miami? Because it has problems like any other city but here you can easily get involved. You can easily leave a positive mark. You can be a part of something that is still young and growing. Most big or growing cities have very established and set groups of players. While Miami is not much different in this regard, the barrier to entry is not as high as in other cities when it comes to getting involved.
Miami is a social place by it's very design. Because of having spent so many years being a tourist destination (it still is), there is a social component that we possess that few others have.
If you haven't noticed, I have not spent any time talking about growing commerce. I didn't mention the burgeoning tech startup sphere. The rapidly expanding textiles industry. The well established medical industry in South Florida. Produce from the Redlands, Flowers brought in from South America and distributed all around the country from here. The perfume and scents industry. The list is really extensive and surprising. This doesn't even touch on the established stock exchange listed companies. My point is that It’s not about what we do at any given moment, it’s about how we can do it better.
It should come as no surprise, I'm positive on Miami. But, this persons comments reminded me of what makes a city or any place great. It's people. It's differing views and the ability to find common ground. The connections we forge and foster. The manner in which we grow and manage those connections. Our willingness to embrace hard facts and cultural differences and find mutual bonds that go beyond any culture, region, economic or social strata.
Miami's strongest position is in it's people. Sure, the weathers great, but that's not the glue. That's us. Why Miami? Because of all of us. And, hopefully, you!