Posted on Mon, Aug. 23, 2010
Embracing the 'new normal'
BY JANE WOOLDRIDGE
That was the message from Florida economic boosters and business people last week on a forum arranged by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.
Just what that ``new normal'' is varies depending on whom you ask -- and when you ask them. Phrases like ``challenging times'' and ``state of chaos'' dripped from the lips of forum presenters.
But looking to the future, the forecast for Florida -- which ranks as the 8th largest economy in the western hemisphere -- is positive, each said.
``Other states and countries would kill to be where we are,'' said Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
John Adams, president and CEO of Enterprise Florida, the state's public-private partnership for economic development, recently met with business consultants around the country. ``I had no questions about taxes or insurance,'' he said.
Instead, these firms were focused on South Florida's gateway status. ``They're saying: Get ready, we're coming.''
Those upbeat predictions may be years away. But for Florida's traditional economic driver -- tourism -- the numbers already are looking a bit cheerier, said William Talbert III, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Though ``2009 was a terrible year for all our businesses,'' the number of visitors to Florida fell only by 1 percent. And Miami is faring better, with an 8.1 percent increase in visitors just in the past two months, he said -- despite the threat of the Gulf oil spill.
As Hannah Sampson's cover story explains, neighborhoods from Hollywood to Coral Gables are ready to snag their share of tourist bounty. Sure, South Beach is still the ``it'' destination for most South Florida visitors. But there's no reason they can't be enticed up the beach or over the causeway.
Still, here as elsewhere, the ``new normal'' adds up to a wobbly economic picture, at least in the short run. Last week's jobless numbers reflected that uncertainty, with a slightly higher unemployment rate in Miami-Dade County for July -- up .1 percent from June -- but with slightly greater job growth statewide over July in 2009.
And while we can hang our hopes on that vibrant future, for now, businesses and workers have given up pining for the good old days and are going on as best they can.
C.L. Conroy, who runs local public relations firm, The Conroy Martinez Group, told me she sees far more companies and agencies asking for proposals this year summer than last.
``They're saying, `I don't know what the future is going to be, but I've got to move forward.' ''
Jane Wooldridge is the Miami Herald's Business Editor.