How a future-ready economic development approach is creating opportunity for Miami-Dade residents

Opportunity Miami
Opportunity Miami
Published in
5 min readAug 30, 2023

By Daniella Levine Cava, Mayor, Miami-Dade County

Miami-Dade County represents the future of our country. We are home to nearly 3 million residents and generate a gross domestic product of almost $155 billion. According to the most recent Kaufman Index, Miami is now the 2nd most entrepreneurial city in the U.S., with the highest startup density at almost 248 startups per 100,000 people.

Yet while our economy continues to grow, many residents — like the ALICE population — are struggling to make ends meet. ALICE stands for Assets, Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. This is a group of residents, as defined by a United Way and Rutgers University study, who work hard, but due to high costs and factors often beyond their control, live paycheck to paycheck. A small emergency, like car repairs or healthcare costs, can quickly become a financial crisis, as Theodore “Ted” Granger, first said in 2014 when he was President of United Way of Florida. In our county, this totals nearly half a million people.

Throughout my career as a lawyer, social worker, and advocate for South Florida families, I’ve been focused on increasing prosperity and opportunity for all, especially our low-income and ALICE populations. As local government, it is our responsibility to pave the way for a future-ready economy rich with opportunity. But to do this, we must work in partnership with the business, academic, and nonprofit sectors. Through this collaborative lens, I rolled out Miami-Dade County’s Future-Ready Economic Development Plan. Our plan is anchored in three pillars: workforce development, small business, and unleashing innovation that together, will help us create an economy that builds for today while also investing in tomorrow.

Focusing on workforce development, we’re creating upward mobility from cradle to college to career. The first essential step in this Future-Ready vision is strengthening access to job opportunities. In partnership with Miami EdTech, the County is developing an online platform where job seekers and employers can better connect. Currently, between so many job posting websites, academic institutions, and resources, job seekers can be left to navigate a fragmented environment. The goal of this technology, still under development, is to change that — allowing employers to post their positions, internships and apprenticeships on one central platform.

The platform will also create more access to higher education by partnering with the institutions of the Academic Leaders Council. Students and job seekers alike will be able to not only access open positions, but vital trainings, certificates and upskilling resources. They can be matched directly to key staff at each institution. Our desire is to gather key metrics along the path to these amazing career upskilling programs. Ultimately, the result is a bright Future-Ready career earning placement. We invite you to join us in this effort as we intend to launch this in the next few months.

Additionally, through the regional institutions such as hospital and healthcare systems, education enterprises and municipalities are coming together to shift procurement, hiring, and investment practices in ways that benefit our local economy and small businesses. Our hope is to engage Anchor Alliance members to be part of this workforce development technology and strategy as well.

I have also invested heavily in programs that advance our burgeoning tech sector. Together with Florida International University, we have graduated 13 FIU Apprentices and 4 Spring Interns in our first cohort, and we are currently onboarding 14 FIU Apprentices in our second cohort. In partnership with MDC’s LevelUp Miami workforce development training, the program has been able to provide rapid credentialing and training in emerging technologies such as AI, and cloud computing to more than 1270 county residents in scholarships to cover tuition and fees. We’re also joining the Knight Foundation, J.P, Morgan Chase, and Tech Equity Miami in supporting CodePath, a nonprofit reprogramming higher education to create the most diverse generation of software engineers, CTOs, and founders. In the last two years, they have trained over 500 Miamians from FIU, MDC, and FMU in iOS, Cybersecurity, and Technical Interview prep — placing over 130 residents into technical roles and internships at companies like Salesforce, Workday, UKG and more. These programs have created onramps for thousands of people to enter high paying careers that will be resilient to technological changes.

But not all pathways include college — we must invest in our trade workforce too. That’s why we’re partnering with Watsco, the world’s largest provider of HVAC equipment, to apply for the NOAA Resiliency Workforce Grant. There is a shortage of HVAC technicians, although the field is a high paying one which can even lead to small business opportunities. The program will offer on-the-job-training subsidies to the employers, stipends to the enrolled candidates, and even subsidies to low- and moderate-income residents to install new AC equipment in their homes.

Watsco is also part of a collaborative effort led by Miami-Dade County to create a South Florida Climate Resilience Tech Hub that aims to meet the threats of extreme heat, rising seas, and catastrophic weather. In August, IUOE 487, the International Union of Operating Engineers LOCAL 487, joined a consortium of four counties, seven colleges and universities, and major private sector employers, including Titan, FPL, and MasTec, to submit a proposal to the Economic Development Administration to make our region a global center for sustainable and resilient infrastructure, built on high paying union jobs. If successful, it will create $9B in new revenue and 23,000 jobs with a salary of $83,000.

Through a collective impact approach across all sectors, we can ensure that every resident is Future-Ready and has access to the opportunities they need to thrive.

This is the eighth and final essay in an ongoing series with Opportunity Miami’s Academic Leaders Council, which includes the presidents of the University of Miami, Miami Dade College, Florida International University, Florida Memorial University, St. Thomas University, and Barry University, along with the Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools. The essay series, called “The Class of 2040: Essays on the next-generation workforce,” explores how we will meet the talent development needs of the future. Opportunity Miami is powered by Miami-Dade Beacon Council.