Miami, gone with the recession?
Miami Film Festival
I remember when I was freelancer for the news Agency France Presse about 7 years ago, I was assigned to write a piece on Miami and how it was turning into the capital of Latin America, the bridge between north and south. There was talk of Miami being the capital of the Free Trade Zone, the center of international banking and the “front door” to come and do business in the United States.
Downtown Miami by night
The local authorities and businessmen I interviewed, of course bragged about the potential this city had and how it was evident that Miami was headed for an unprecedented transformation.
And that was true. There was a vibrant feeling in the city and you could see something was changing. The influx of Argentinians, Colombians, Venezuelans and other Latin Americans, escaping of the economic or political uncertainty in their countries contributed to the construction boom and there where luxury buildings everywhere.
Miami Film Festival
Local newspapers highlighted important events like the then called NASDAQ Open and the Miami Film Festival, not forgetting to mention how millions in foreign investment where pouring into the city.
Two or three years later, in the downtown area, once full of prostitutes and crack heads, the construction of a state of the art performing arts center was underway. Art Basel was coming for a second year while art galleries where organizing events taking advantage of the momentum the Swiss fair had produced.
First Summit of The Americas Miami 1994
Miami was turning into the commercial, financial and artistic center of the Universe!
A house for sale in Miami
But suddenly everything stopped! And along came the housing bust and the economic recession. I’ve never written about Miami ever again, until Victor asked me to write this blog.
There are brand new buildings completely empty, store chains and there are empty strip malls. As far as international banking is concerned, I haven’t heard anything of new banks opening offices here or any big event to attract future prospects.
The last big event dealing with finances was in 2008, when the Inter-American Development Bank had its annual meeting and the topic was how to tackle the recession.
I have friends that purchased property for investment purposes but ended giving it to the bank because they couldn’t sell it and pay for it.
Unemployment in Miami is higher than 11%
There have been layoffs at Univision and Telemundo, the most important Spanish speaking networks. Florida has an 11% unemployment rate making it one of the highest in the country according to Labor Department.
During my morning runs across Rickenbacker Causeway, I’ve seen an increase in people that sleep in their cars. I’ve also noticed tents and cardboard roofs on the Julia Tuttle Causeway. Maybe they are not product of the recession or foreclosures, but they where not there two years ago.
But besides the recession, Latin America is less volatile. For example, many Argentinians, like my numerous babysitters, have gone back to their country and things in Venezuela have remained the same. I visited Colombia last year and everyone raves about the good work president Alvaro Uribe has done making the country a safer place to live in.
Investment has possibly gone somewhere else, like Panama, which my sister says, has nothing to envy Miami and is cheaper. And I believe her. My brother in law is a businessman with investments here in Miami and they have an apartment on Williams Island, in the same building where Carlos Menem has one.
Others talk about Mexico and Brazil as the “in” places to invest right now.
I know this is just a cycle and things will probably get better and Miami will once again be at the top. When that happens, another editor or maybe I’ll be the editor that will ask a reporter to write about this up and coming city. But I’d also ask the journalist to write about what Miami learned from this experience.