Education, Workforce & Economic Development

Economic Challenges

The region’s most pressing economic issues are high unemployment and over-reliance on industries that are tied to the region’s population growth. The economic health of our region is unduly influenced by migration trends and swings in consumer confidence and spending.  The result is  over-exaggerated and problematic economic cycles that are particularly acute in lower income and disadvantaged communities.

An additional problem is the widening gap between the skills and education of residents, especially those with lower incomes and the many who are unemployed or underemployed, and the skills and education required to perform today’s jobs. Also important is helping new businesses emerge from within the region, especially from lower income and disadvantaged urban, suburban, and rural communities – ranging from distressed inner cities and their surrounding neighborhoods to depressed rural communities surrounding Lake Okeechobee. Income disparities are also increasing, both within our counties, and between our region and the rest of the nation.

Strategies to support emerging and existing businesses include establishing communities or districts to nurture creativity and innovation, creating small business incubators near transit, providing financial and technical assistance for micro- enterprises, and working with the region’s universities to establish a seven-county science, technology, and research corridor. The region must also seize the once-in-a-generation opportunity to expand its role as a global hub for trade, travel, and investment following the widening of the Panama Canal in 2014.

It is essential, therefore, that the region undertake efforts through a coordinated regional economic strategy to diversify and strengthen its economic base and, in doing so, provide affordable opportunities for creating new businesses and jobs and investments. By helping existing businesses to expand and creating an environment where new businesses are created and nurtured, economic growth can be achieved. Of equal importance, is the need to empower communities and individuals to compete in an ever-changing economic environment through enhanced educational and workforce training opportunities.

South Florida’s unique positioning presents us with both incredible opportunity and equally sizable challenges. Miami has been nicknamed “The Capital of Latin America” and the influx of foreign capital into the whole region is extending that title to all of South Florida. Latin America is merely one piece of the puzzle however. Constantly ranked amongst the world’s most powerful cities, we are quickly becoming a major economic hub, attracting investment from all corners of the world. South Florida has the potential to become one of the biggest international meeting points for commerce. South Florida’s combination of diversity, culture, and a desirable climate have allowed us to make the move to become a world class city.

Such a desirable climate may prove to be a double-edged sword if not managed properly, however. The same lush beaches and mild weather that draw millions annually are facing the extremes of climate change. Insurance premiums are prohibitively expensive in parts of the region, creating an economic barrier for all but the wealthiest of developers. In the public sphere, investments in infrastructure must be carefully considered. Development projects must be able to stand up to both the gradual erosion of sea level rise, as well as the intensity of natural disasters. Growth in South Florida will require a carefully considered effort to achieve the most logical development possible.

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Southeast Florida Seven50 Regional Employment in Context

Between 1960 and 2010, U.S. employment grew from 62.1 million jobs to 143.3 million – a net gain of 81.2 million jobs, or 130%, over the past 60 years. Over the same time period, Florida’s employment grew from 1.4 million in 1960 to 8.6 million in 2010- a net gain of 7.2 million jobs, or 614%, over the past 60 years.

The Seven50 region, during the same period, grew from 616,400 jobs in 1960 to 3.03 million in 2010 – a net gain of 2.41 million jobs, or 392% over the past 60 years.

As a region, and compared to other regions in the nation, we’re an economic powerhouse and we’re growing.

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Total Employment

There are 3.03 million jobs in Southeast Florida; about half the number of people. Of these, there are 0.86 million jobs in the four northern counties and 2.17 million jobs in the three southern counties.

The Southeast Florida region as a whole has a notable concentration of work in the finance, professional services, and tour- ism industries. Over the last two decades, an observable shift has occurred toward more work in the professional and business services sector.

Employment is spread out over the seven-county region, with high concentrations of employment located along US 1, I-9S, I-S9S, SR-836, and along portions of Florida’s Turnpike. Some of the areas with high employment densities are Miami International Airport, Downtown Miami, US 1, south of Downtown Miami, Downtown Ft. Lauderdale, Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale- Hollywood International Airport, and Downtown West Palm Beach.

We’re a Service Sector Economy

A major portion of the total employment in the region, about 67 percent of the roughly 3 million jobs are in the service employment category.  The remaining 20 percent of the jobs are in the commercial sector and 13 percent are in the industrial category.

Palm Beach County has the highest share of service employment jobs (70 percent).

Per Capita Income

An important measure of economic development is per-capita income. The Southeast Florida region is relatively wealthy, containing four of the state’s seven wealthiest counties, and having a significantly higher per-capita income than the United States as a whole. However, although the region’s per-capita income is higher than the nation’s, since 1986 it has deteriorated more quickly than that of the country as a whole.

Within the Seven50 region, significant gaps in per-capita income exist between the two wealthiest counties (Palm Beach and Martin) and the two poorest counties (Miami-Dade and St. Lucie). Per-capita income has grown most quickly in Monroe County, which includes Key West and most of the Florida Keys.

Per Capita Incomes from 2006-2010 are as follows:

  • Martin: $3S,772 (130% of the national average)
  • Monroe: $3S,S16 (130% of the national average)
  • Palm Beach: $33,610 (123% of the national average)
  • Indian River: $31,918 (116% of the national average)
  • Broward: $28,631 (104% of the national average)
  • St. Lucie: $23,296 (86% of the national average)
  • Miami-Dade: $22,967 (84% of the national average)

The state PCI was $26,661 just slightly below the national average of $27,334.

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Affordable access to quality education is essential for both healthy neighborhoods and economic development. Regions with superior educational systems, particularly at the higher education level, thrive in today’s global marketplace. However, to succeed at that level, residents must have access to excellent pre-K through 12th grade education to prepare for higher and continued education, and succeed in mastering subjects and skills necessary in a modern economy. With today’s changing economy, residents must also have access to lifelong opportunities for education and learning new job skills. A particular focus needs to be on helping the region’s many unemployed and underemployed workers obtain the education and skills required for the current market as well as new economy job sectors.

Adult Population without a High School Diploma

The percent of persons age 25 and over without a high school diploma varies widely across the region, although a full 17 percent of the 4.23 million people in the region 25 years of age and above lack a high school diploma.

Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties each have a large number of census tracts with under-educated residents. The corridor along I-95 from Riviera Beach to Boynton Beach in Palm Beach County and the middle of the corridor extending from Deerfield Beach in Broward County south to Miami is composed of numerous tracts whose adult populations without a high school education number 15 percent or more. Some particular areas exist where the number of high school non-graduates exceeds 30 percent including Fort Pierce, Belle Glade, Lauderdale Lakes, Hialeah, Opalocka, the northwest of Miami-Dade County, and the Blue Cypress Conservation Area of Indian River County.

Adult Population with only a High School Diploma

Approximately 1.19 million people in Southeast Florida (28 per- cent of all adults 25 years of age or older) have earned just a high  school diploma. The majority of census tracts in St. Lucie and Monroe counties feature tracts whose residents predominantly have only a high school education. The majority of tracts in central Broward and Miami-Dade counties (including Kendall, Pinecrest, and neighboring municipalities in Miami-Dade), plus the extended region around West Palm Beach, also contain tracts whose residents largely have only a high school diploma.

Adult Population with a Bachelor’s or Advanced Degree

Another 1.19 million people in Southeast Florida have earned one or more college degrees. This constituent is the same size as the group with just a high school diploma, but their distribution is different, being largely along the coast and the western urban growth boundary, particularly in Palm Beach and Broward counties.

College educated persons largely reside along the coastal census tracts, the western urban boundary, and the cities of Wellington, Boca Raton, Parkland, Weston, Pinecrest, and Coral Gables. In these locations, more than 45 percent of adults have one or more college degrees. The lowest penetration of college education among adults is generally in the middle of the region, the area surrounding Lake Okeechobee, and the ruralized west of Indian River and St. Lucie counties.

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Public School Rankings

Public schools are located evenly throughout the region. Schools in only a few census tracts in the region received an average grade that is the equivalent of a C or D letter grade and none received a failing grade.

Many of the census tracts with the best performing public schools are located in the western half of the urbanized corridor. Conversely, most of the worst performing census tracts (rankings of C or D) are located throughout the central third of the three-county MSA and in the vicinity of Belle Glade and Homestead.

Share of Students Receiving Free or Reduced-Rate Lunch

The majority of public schools in the region provide free or reduced-rate lunches to a quarter or more of the student body. The schools on the western side of the urban zone, from Martin to Miami-Dade counties, generally show a lower percentage of students receiving subsidized lunches.

In 147 of the 220 census tracts (66.8 percent) in Miami-Dade County in which there are public schools, the number of students receiving the lunch benefit is greater than 7S percent. In Broward County, the figure is 61 out of 161 (37.9 percent) and in Palm Beach County, the figure is 47 out of 124 (37.9 percent).

Share of Students Who Are Minorities

561 census tracts throughout the region have public schools, and 363 of them (70.3 percent) have student bodies that are at least 75 percent minority. The distribution of these tracts reaches across the entire urbanized corridor from West Palm Beach to Homestead.

Miami-Dade County’s schools are heavily populated by non- white students; almost four out of every five census tracts containing schools have a minority student rate of 9O percent or higher (this includes 24 schools that are 100 percent minority). Compared to Broward County or Palm Beach County, where only 29 percent and 21 percent of census tracts with schools are 90 percent minority or higher, Miami-Dade stands apart in the region for the racial and ethnic composition of its student body.

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The Region’s Shrinking Middle Class

Southeast Florida’s middle class is shrinking: since 1979, the share of households with middle-class incomes decreased from 40 to 37 percent. The share of upper-income households also declined, from 30 to 26 percent, while the share of lower-income households grew from 30 to 37 percent. In this analysis, middle-income households are defined as having incomes in the middle 40 percent of household income distribution. In 1979, those household incomes ranged from $29,675 and $71,394. To assess change in the middle class and the other income ranges, we calculated what the income range would be today if incomes had increased at the same rate as average household income growth.  Today’s middle class  incomes  would  be  $34,992  to $84,186, and 37 percent of households fall in that income range.

Nationwide, the loss of unionized manufacturing jobs and the rise of non-unionized service-sector work coupled with a historically low minimum wage is a prime contributor to the loss of the middle class in the United States. Other factors include student loan debt, more single-parent households, a tax structure which puts more wealth in the hands of fewer people, a rise in corporate profits without corresponding increases in employee wages, and, especially in our region, a rising cost of living.

The US Department of Commerce released a report in 2010 based on Census data which described how two-thirds of college graduates relied on loans to get through college, up from 45 percent two decades ago. Average student debt in 2011 was $23,300. Additionally health care spending per person has risen to roughly $8,500 per year.

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