The FIU Center for Leadership hosted nearly 100 of Greater Miami’s top business, community and civic leaders at the Miami Leadership Summit Jan. 17. The summit was the brainchild of President Emeritus Modesto A. Maidique.
The group developed specific ideas to position the region as a global competitor economically, culturally and socially. The springboard for the discussion was “Miami: Leadership in a Global Community,” a case report prepared by the Center and distributed to the leaders in advance of the summit (available to download here).
For a year, staff members from the Center for Leadership, led by Ken Lipartito, chairman of the Department of History, gathered data and interviewed leaders to create a snapshot of Miami as the city enters the second decade of the millennium. Jeb Bush, Armando Codina, David Lawrence, Daniella Levine, Donna Shalala and H.T. Smith were among the many influential Miamians interviewed.
As the report outlines, a rare combination of events – including the opening of global trade, the loosening of financial regulation and the favorable position of Miami as the geographical and cultural gateway to Latin America – provided Miami the opportunity to consolidate the gains made in its earlier years. Yet the city is faced with major challenges: ethnic fragmentation, municipal isolationism, civic and social division, poor educational outcomes and complicated political drivers. Plus poverty continues to rise. About 17 percent of Miami-Dade County’s population lived below the federal poverty line in 2009, making it the fourth poorest urban area in the nation. In Sept. 2010, Miami-Dade County’s unemployment rate stood at 12.8 percent, compared to the national rate of 9.2 percent.
“The Miami Case provided an excellent starting point for our community’s leaders to engage in a robust discussion of the trends shaping the future of Miami,” said Mayra Beers, director of operations for the Center. “We were impressed how everyone present could set aside any political, personal or business agenda to truly work together.”
This invitation-only event was co-led by Harvard Business School professor and award-winning author Rosabeth Moss Kanter and professor James Honan of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Kanter summarized, in four points, what history and existing research shows is vital for the advancement of any city:
1. Link idea creation and innovators to entrepreneurs – universities should play a key role in creating incubators to support innovators, allowing ideas to develop and grow. She cited that 75 percent of these incubated businesses survive five years after they leave the incubator and they stay in the area that supported their development.
2. Do a better job at connecting small businesses to big business – big companies are a great source of corporate venture capital and we must brokerage the relationship between the big companies as mentors and sources of revenue, and the small businesses with fresh ideas.
3. Strengthen the link between education and jobs – educators and academic institutions need curriculum input from companies and business leaders to mitigate the gap between jobs that are available, and educated graduates.
4. Link leadership – create the infrastructure for collaborative leadership, where business and community leaders can develop a “package” of actionable steps that can be used to energize and rally the public.
Recommendations to move Miami forward
Jim Angleton, president of AEGIS Financial Services, emphasized linking leadership. “Business and community leaders should be the driving force behind what the city focuses on. We need to mobilize these individuals to meet and determine what is needed, what is best for our community and then charge our elected officials with the execution of these decisions, rather than depending on the elected officials to come up with all the answers,” he said.
Ricardo Forbes, corporate vice president and chief diversity officer of Baptist Health South Florida, added that the community needed to create a value statement that explicitly stated what was in it for them. “What we are asking our community and our leaders to do to move the city forward is no small task, but the benefits are tremendous and we need to state those explicitly and ensure that our leaders see the benefits on a corporate as well as personal level, otherwise they may not be motivated to act,” he said.
The summit marked the beginning of the difficult task of outlining achievable long term goals for the future of Miami. The discussions and opportunities outlined during the meeting will form the basis for a strengthened and enhanced report, which will be distributed in the coming months. In addition, the leaders expressed the willingness to reconvene with an even broader audience to sharpen actionable steps to move our community forward.
“The Miami Leadership Summit was indeed an extraordinary event,” said Maidique, who also serves as executive director for the FIU Center for Leadership. “Miami has a remarkable ability to reinvent itself as it embraces a constant influx of newcomers from around the world. The challenge of how Greater Miami can capitalize on its growing global reputation as a thriving cosmopolitan place to live and do business will require collaboration, and that collaboration was demonstrated by these leaders today.”