Summit discusses economic growth in 'Targeted Urban Areas'

County's action committee continues focus on challenges of small businesses

Ashley Montgomery | 9/19/2013, 9 a.m.
Last Friday, the Miami-Dade Economic Advocacy Trust’s [MDEAT] Economic Development Action Committee hosted their 2013 MDEAT Economic Development Summit. More ...
Dr. Robert Cruz, John Dixon and Ron Butler. Photo by Ashley Montgomery

Last Friday, the Miami-Dade Economic Advocacy Trust’s [MDEAT] Economic Development Action Committee hosted their 2013 MDEAT Economic Development Summit. More than 100 people attended the event that addressed economic growth and development in Targeted Urban Areas (TUAs).

The summit began with MDEAT’s Executive Director John Dixon giving opening remarks. Chairperson Ron Butler and Miami-Dade County Deputy Mayor Ron Butler then greeted the attendees. Several community presentations highlighted the interests and challenges of local businesses. Then MDEAT Economic Development Action Committee member, H. Leigh Toney, provided an update of the attainable goals that were first identified at last year’s summit including: The MLK Business Expo; E-Gardening; Black Girls Code; Young Professionals Network [YPN]; and the Overtown Merchants Project.

Fabiola Fleuranvil, a member of YPN, mentioned the importance of technology education for up-and-coming entrepreneurs in the TUAs.

“The people over these programs don’t reflect the diversity of the community — sometimes it’s because of outreach — other times it’s because they don’t know about it or have a lack of education,” she said. “Technology can be a bit intimidating, not just with the use of technology today like smartphones, but understanding coding, understanding websites, understanding how technology can be used to build and grow a business.”

She added that YPN is planning a coding event for adults sometime in October.

Toney gave a brief update about E-Gardening — a competitive cohort-based entrepreneurial and small business initiative to identify and support new and aspiring entrepreneurs with management, growth and service delivery strategies.

“The economic garden has a different approach to economic development,” she said. “Instead of scouring the county, we want to birth companies exponentially.”

Community seeks answers

Some members of the community had other questions and concerns that did not appear to be part of the planners’ agenda. One Overtown resident, N.J. Gilbert, stood with a copy of The Miami Times in hand and asked the panelists what was being done about future developments in Overtown.

“Issues like these are not being resolved,” he said.

He went on to say he wanted some answers now.

“Those are the kind of issues that we can discuss in smaller groups later but we want to know how you feel in your communities,” Dixon replied.

Dr. Robert Cruz, chief economist, Office of Economic Development and International Trade M-DC, gave an extensive presentation about the current state of all the TUAs from Florida City to Miami Gardens. He provided those in attendance with charts and data to back up his years of research — from comparison of per capita income to sources of household income in TUAs broken down by community.

He concluded his presentation with this: “How do you engage those who are more fortunate economically to invest and take a risk on those who aren’t? I wish I had a more cheerful note to leave you with.”

Cruz’s comment sparked another period of heightened discussion.