Twenty-five years ago, Hurricane Andrew was a wake-up call about the destruction that can be wrought upon a community by a severe hurricane. Hundreds of thousands were left homeless and more than 80,000 South Florida businesses were damaged or destroyed with losses topping $25 billion.
South Miami-Dade, the epicenter of storm damage, was especially hard hit. With much of our infrastructure left in shambles, the impact of the storm was staggering. I remember walking through the rubble of my family-owned and operated Redland Village Marketplace thinking all was lost.
Happily, like much of South Dade, we rebuilt, and today our South Dixie marketplace is bigger and better. But, in many aspects, South Dade is still the process of rebuilding its economy.
Hurricane Andrew not only damaged the economic engines that defined our community, but it forced us to re-think our future.
One of the outcomes of the storm was the creation of the Economic Development Council of South Miami Dade (EDC) which is also marking its 25th Anniversary as the lead economic development organization for the area. The economic re-tooling of our community continues in earnest today as we seek to diversify our industries and attract more visitors to our area
The good news is that much has been accomplished in recent years.
- The five-year-old South Dade Performing Arts Center in Cutler Bay now serves as an exciting cultural hub for the south end of the County.
- The Redland’s agriculture industry has experienced rebirth with high demand ornamental plant and tree farms and burgeoning agro-tourism.
- The Homestead-Miami Speedway attracts thousands of visitors each year for the prestigious NASCAR national series and, for 17 consecutive years, the Ford Championship Weekend, making the racetrack one of the longest recurring championship sites in all of sports.
- Public transit along the South Dixie corridor has been greatly enhanced with the transit way dedicated to bus travel.
- Record crowds visit South Dade’s two national parks, Everglades and Biscayne, as eco-tourism continues to grow as an important component of our tourism industry.
- ZooMiami, one of the area’s best known venues, was heavily damaged in the storm. But, today rebuilt and expanded, with new attractions, activities, gardens and wildlife conservation programs, it has joined the ranks of the nation’s top zoological parks.
- Miami Dade College’s Homestead campus offers award-winning programs in nursing, aviation, business and sciences. The School of Nursing has trained more than 50% of Miami-Dade’s nurses.
- In Homestead, a public-private partnership is developing Homestead Station, an innovative multi-use transit hub and entertainment/retail center as part of an ambitious downtown re-vitalization program that includes the recently restored Seminole Theater, a new City Hall and Police Headquarters.
- The owner of the historic horse track and casino in Hialeah is developing a jai-alai fronton and poker complex in Florida City that promises to bring more visitors to our southernmost municipality.
With the support of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez and County Commissioners Dennis Moss and Daniella Levine Cava, the EDC recently launched a marketing campaign, South Dade/More to Explore. There is much to experience in South Dade—everything from sports and wildlife to cultural and historic venues. Our business landscape includes agriculture, the military and the hospitality industry along with growing numbers of new entrepreneurs.
We invite you to discover what makes South Dade an exciting place. And, perhaps, even more importantly, a resilient place that not even a Category 5 storm could destroy.
Rene Infante is the owner and operator of the Redland Village Marketplace, an indoor-outdoor farmers market he founded in 1987. Mr. Infante chairs the Economic Development Council of South Miami-Dade County that serves as the primary economic development agency in South Dade.