10 Signs Miami’s Economy Is On The Upswing

10 signs Miami-Dade’s economy is on the upswing

BY JANE WOOLDRIDGE

JWOOLDRIDGE@MIAMIHERALD.COM

Miami-Dade is coming out of this troubling period far more quickly than anyone might have imagined. When the bubble burst in 2007 and 2008, Miami had more than 37,000 new condos, most in downtown and most empty. Today, the occupancy rate in downtown condos is 94 percent.

In large part, we can thank our geography, climate and our undeniable cool.

In case you doubt, here are 10 Signs that Miami’s economy is on the upswing, courtesy of The Miami Herald’s Economic Time Machine, created by Miami Herald economy writer Douglas Hanks.

• Unemployment IS dropping.

Twenty-eight straight months of job growth have brought Miami-Dade’s unemployment rate to 10 percent, down from this recession’s high 12.6 percent in April 2010. New figures out Friday will determine whether the trend continues.

• Businesses are starting up.

Miami-Dade’s count of 87,000 business establishments is down just 1 percent from the peak set just before the recession began. In early 2009, the number of businesses was about 9 percent lower than it is now.

• Housing prices are on an upswing.

Zillow.com has declared that Miami-Dade real estate prices have hit bottom.

Realtor.com reports the county’s medium home price is up 15.1 percent for April 2012 over April 2011. The median price is now $275,000.

• Pop-tops — second story additions to existing one-story homes — are back in Coral Gables.

Home construction that was back-burnered during the downturn is warming up. April 2012 saw an increase of 17 percent in the number of remodeling permits issued by the city of Coral Gables over April 2011.

• New wheels are on the road.

Increased traffic is a good sign. AutoNation, the country’s largest auto sales retailer, reported sales of new vehicles rose 10 percent in its Florida dealerships in the first quarter

In Coral Gables, the usual parade of Bentleys, Maseratis, Audis and Mercedes has been joined by the $230,000 McLaren, sold at The Collection.

Other consumer sales also remain strong; through February, taxable sales in Miami-Dade county were up 10 percent over the same period in 2011

• We’ve off our diets.

County restaurant tax collections are coming in above $1 million a month. That’s 15 percent above where we were before the recession began.

Though we are seeing some of the usual end-of-season restaurant closings, some of the nation’s hottest chefs are about to open as well. For details, see Saturday’s Miami Herald

• The cranes are migrating south again

Super-luxury condo towers are rising in Sunny Isles, Williams Island, Miami Beach and Mary Brickell Village.

Rental high-rises are also back with projects on the books from Armando Codina, Adler Group and Jorge Perez

The $1 billion Swire project, Brickell CitiCentre, is due to break ground at the end of June

• The snowbirds are coming back as well, both from down south and up north.

In the past 12 months we hosted more than 13.6 million overnight visitors.

Miami-Dade’s hotel industry returned record tax collections last year, and 2012 is so far running about 16 percent above pre-bust collections. Hotel taxes were up about 10 percent in March in Miami-Dade over the prior year.

Miami-Dade’s revenue-per-available-room figure set a new March record in 2012: $177.24 versus $177.16 in 2008. It’s one of the highest in the nation.

• We’re cruising.

Miami has cemented its status as cruise capital of the world.

In 2012, PortMiami is likely to top its 2011 total of more than 4 million passengers, thanks to the addition of the three lines new to the port — Disney, MSC and Regent Seven Seas — and new ships from Carnival, Celebrity and Oceania.

Cargo movements also were up 7 percent in 2011.

• We CAN get there from here.

We’re averaging 1,288 international flights this quarter at MIA, one more than JFK — proof once again that New York really is just a Miami suburb.

This column was excerpted from a May 17, 2012, speech by Miami Herald Business Editor Jane Wooldridge to the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce.

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