Chamber of Commerce welcomes Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava

Business By Linda Trischitta, Editor Wednesday, June 19, 2024

    Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava greeted a crowd of more than 100 people when she spoke June 12 at the Miami Lakes Chamber of Commerce luncheon held at the Miami Lakes Hotel on Main.

    Levine Cava, a Democrat who is running for reelection, provided a snapshot of how county services are performing, where its economic and tourism powers stand in comparison to the rest of the country, and how it is ready to partner with municipalities and businesses.

     “Please consider me your collaborator-in-chief,” Levine Cava said. 

     She was asked after her presentation if she thought the county would be interested in working with Miami Lakes to renovate Optimist Park, which is used by people from town as well as the northwest region.

     “Parks are so important, and the community really appreciates parks now more than ever,” Levine Cava said. “Definitely, if it’s of interest to the town and to the commissioner of the district, we certainly would be grateful to explore opportunities to partner.”

     Ways the two entities could work together include a county parks program that has limited dollars available, or if the county raises money in the municipal bond markets, she said.

     In 2022, Miami Lakes voters rejected a $19.5 million bond referendum to fund improvements to the 31-acre green space, the town’s largest park. Plans to redesign drainage, build five baseball fields with batting cages, and have new dugouts, modern lighting, exercise stations, a pedestrian path, a concession stand and restrooms remain unfulfilled.

     “Certainly, the amenities that you describe that are so valuable for people in this area, playing fields that are in short supply, certainly are something I think we should look at to see if there could be a joint agreement, as we have with some other cities,” Levine Cava said.  “Also, in the future there may be an opportunity for a bond program that would help us to fund improvements in parks, county-wide,” she said.

       Levine Cava has visited Miami Lakes often: She attended the May 11 celebration of the life of former Fla. Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham; she participated in two public meetings on blasting issues held at the Country Club of Miami; attended the 2023 Fourth of July celebration; was a previous guest speaker at the chamber and launched one of the county’s annual BIKE305 rides from town to promote safe cycling and community.

     “It is a joy to be here,” Levine Cava said to the crowd, many of whom lined up for photos with her. “I am a very, very big fan of Miami Lakes. I think you get it right here. There are so many ways that you are just a model community.”

     She also praised the town as place that produces “wonderful leading citizens” like Graham and complimented the chamber as a community builder.

     She called commerce and the business community critical to the county’s success as a job producer.  She shared some statistics about the county: 68% of businesses have 10 or fewer employees; it’s the most recovered economy in the nation and the new job rate is almost 7% county-wide, double the national rate of 3.6%.   

      Miami-Dade County’s annual gross domestic product is $185 billion, larger than many states and countries. Unemployment is at about 2.1%, while the state average is 3.3%, she said.

     “Even with everybody moving here from California and Chicago and New York, which they are, they’re moving here, we’re still a small business county,” she said. “That’s our backbone.

     “We are truly now a hub, also for tech, innovation, hospitality, of course education, construction and many, many other industries,” she said. 

     “We’re also considered one of the safest metropolitan areas in the country,” Levine Cava said. “Of course, you have your own police department here. But in partnership with the police as well, we are a trusted law enforcement department. People are working closely and solving crimes. ... We have one of the best crime-solving rates and have been very, very successful in keeping the crime rate down.

     “I know that is the most critical thing,” she said. “If you don’t feel safe, nothing else matters. People do feel safe.”

     She encouraged the audience to go two websites: Miami-Dade Economic Data Dashboard, which analyzes county demographics, and to sign up for Strive 305, which offers services to businesses.

      Levine Cava was bullish about Miami International Airport, a place about which everyone seems to have a complaint.     

     “We’re also working on being the gateway to Latin America, the Caribbean and the world,” she said. “We all rely on economic engines. Our airport is the 10th busiest in the world, between passengers and cargo.

We’re number two in international travelers in the U.S. And we’re the fastest growing airport.”

     She said the airport has nearly 100 airlines that route through it.

     “That’s really incredible, folks,” she said. “And by the way, we needed to do a lot to make sure our airport was in good health.”

     She said $9 billion has been invested in infrastructure and ongoing maintenance. 

     “The new bathrooms are very cool,” she said.

      A replaced item was a 69-year-old escalator. 

     “I couldn’t believe it, it was working until recently, with chewing gum and rubber bands,” she said. “There is a lot of old stuff that we need to take care of.”

      Also coming in 2025 is a 2,240-space parking garage.

     “We had almost 53 million passengers come through Miami International last year ... and are on track to be over 70 million passengers by the end of the year,” she said.

     The port remains the Cruise Capital of the World and cargo volume is growing, she said.

      Coming online mid-June:  in partnership with cruise lines, shore power for five ship terminals

     “Cruise ships can plug in instead of continuing to run their engines and spew pollution into the air,” Levine Cava said.

     She also described the Miami-Dade Innovation Authority which, with non-profits and companies, challenge young firms to solve problems in the public realm. 

     The first three challenges so far, which could be eligible for $100,000 awards:  to repurpose seaweed, to enhance the passenger experience at the airport and improve cargo tracking at the port.