2021 Economic Outlook
Miami's economic forecast for 2021
Regional business leaders talk about the outlook for the year ahead, plus demographics and statistics
FORECAST | Banking
Jorge Gonzalez, CEO, City National Bank, Miami
City National Bank is the fifth-largest financial institution based in Florida, with nearly $18 billion in assets. The Miami-based bank recently purchased the naming rights for the former Bank of America tower in downtown Orlando and was one of the country’s most active participants in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Main Street Lending Program, both created by the federal government to help businesses survive COVID-19.
FLORIDA TREND: How has the pandemic affected commercial lending?
Jorge Gonzalez: “Obviously, sectors like hospitality and some aspects of retail have been hard-hit. But other aspects of the economy continue to perform well — maybe not as well as they did in 2019, but certainly at a level where we feel comfortable deploying capital. We had probably $2 billion in loan deferrals in March or April. We’re now down to about $300 million. That’s a strong indication of how our clients have weathered the storm and are now back in a position where they’re able to service their obligations. The general trend is positive.”
FT: Will the bank continue to expand in Florida?
JG: “Orlando and Tampa are very important growth markets for City National. We like the demographics there. We put our name on top of one of the marquee buildings in downtown Orlando and hired a seasoned group of people to expand the marketplace. Florida continues to be the recipient of a lot of capital flowing in from all over the world, and certainly from all over the U.S. It’s not just about South Florida; it’s about the entire state. We’ve been in Orlando for a while, but we’ve doubled down on our commitment because we think the future of that community is well aligned with where we want to be as the predominant Florida bank.”
FT: What opportunities, if any, has the pandemic created?
JG: “We did probably $2 billion in PPP loans through about 9,000 applicants. We’re going to do about $1.5 billion or so in Main Street loans, as well. We calculated that with our PPP loans, we helped protect about 250,000 jobs. The brand visibility, given our commitment to these programs, has been significant. For a while there, clients viewed banking as maybe a commodity. During a time of crisis, people realized how important it was to have a relationship with a financial institution that was actually deploying resources to an area quickly. I think it helped us build an even stronger bond with clients, and it allowed us to acquire a lot of new relationships. On top of all that, it solidified the engagement of our employees. All of our people felt really good about what they were doing for the community.”
FORECAST | Development
David Martin, Co-Founder/President, Terra Group, Miami
From high-end condos to apartments and warehouses, Miami-based Terra Group has more than $3.1 billion in developments either planned or under construction across Miami-Dade County.
This spring, the company will complete a three-acre public park off the MacArthur Causeway in Miami Beach, marking the first phase of a 333-unit residential project called Canopy Club. Terra also is building a 20-story condo tower with Italy’s Cipriani family in Coconut Grove and will soon begin building Grove Central, a mixeduse transit hub with 400 apartments and a Target store at the Coconut Grove Metrorail station.
Meanwhile, Terra has created a joint venture with Turnberry to develop an 800-room Grand Hyatt hotel next to the Miami Beach Convention Center. In 2018, Miami Beach voters approved the hotel project, which has yet to begin construction.
FLORIDA TREND: What is the status of the convention hotel?
David Martin: “We’re thinking about the convention center and hotel business with a COVID lens. We’ve studied prior shocks, like Sept. 11 and the financial crisis in 2008-09, and how hotels performed. A lot will depend on the vaccination potential and the implementation of a good solid plan that will make people feel comfortable again. We’re evaluating the appropriate timing from a capital markets and financing perspective, but we will deliver this convention center hotel for the city of Miami Beach and its residents. The goal is to be able to deliver at the right time for the city and financial markets. I do believe we’ll recover, and we’ll build this hotel.”
FT: Has the pandemic caused you to rethink your development portfolio?
DM: “From a strategic point of view, our firm has a much more robust pipeline of logistics and light-industrial projects. We have some developments in Hialeah and Miami Lakes. In our residential communities, we’re investing in airquality improvements throughout our buildings and upgrading our technology. We’ve also looked at our suburban neighborhoods a little closer to try to deliver some of the walkability and conveniences that exist in an urban neighborhood, whether it’s new retail offerings or new housing typologies. And I’m still a believer in grocery-anchored neighborhood centers. We’ve seen a huge suffering in the restaurant industry, but these restaurateurs will come back with new ideas.”
FT: How do you see the future of mass transit?
DM: “Transit is a very important factor in how our neighborhoods and communities are connected. We’ll continue to develop transit-oriented projects. I’m on the board of the Miami Underline, and their thing is how do we make these transit hubs amazing places to be and interact. I think that ridership will improve as we beautify and create better spaces for people to live and do commerce around these stations.”
FORECAST | Startup Funding
Jaret Davis, Office Co-Managing Shareholder, Greenberg Traurig, Miami
Davis is a corporate and securities attorney focused on domestic and cross-border mergers and acquisitions, capital markets transactions and large financings. He’s co-founder and general counsel of Miami’s eMerge Americas global technology conference and a former chairman of the Miami-Dade Beacon Council.
FLORIDA TREND: Has COVID-19 impacted venture capital funding?
Jaret Davis: “Generally speaking, the investment community has been fairly active. Second-quarter data show that the number of deals actually went up relative to last year. Now, deal values slightly decreased. A greater number of deals are being done, but the aggregate valuations are lower. This makes sense because it’s a buyer’s market. Investors are able to negotiate lower valuations. We’re also seeing an uptick in corporate ventures, which are investments in startups by the largest corporate players in their industries. That’s a very positive development because it’s the final evolution when it comes to Florida and South Florida investment. The most powerful corporate players are starting to open up their investment funds.”
FT: What types of startups are getting funding?
JD: “The industries that are seeing the greatest growth are probably biotech and health care. MDLive, a tele-health provider in South Florida, did a $75-million raise with a $1-billion valuation. We’re also seeing activity in fin-tech and in business productivity.”
FT: How does 2021 look for Miami startups?
JD: “I think it will be very positive. This isn’t meant to be a political comment, but there’s a strong sentiment within the VC community that a great deal of President-elect Biden’s plans will require startups and entrepreneurship to accomplish, whether it’s clean energy or health care reforms. Any time you have a disruptive force that is temporary, it’s good for technology because it forces people to rethink prior ways of doing business or living life.”
FORECAST | Hospitality
Wendy Kallergis, President/CEO, Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association, Miami Beach
In the five months after the coronavirus shutdown began last March, Miami- Dade County hotels and restaurants lost about $2 billion in sales, according to a study by Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. As of August, hospitality employment levels were down 24% from the previous year, leading to $1.2 billion in lost income for workers, the study found.
FLORIDA TREND: How are things looking for Miami hotels?
Wendy Kallergis: “It’s really tough, but it’s getting better. More hotels are opening up, and we’re hopeful that all the employees will be back in the first quarter. Every week is better than the last week. We just have to continue to be safe and wear masks.”
FT: Will the market return to prepandemic levels in 2021?
WK: “There’s a lot of concern over the first half of 2021. We hope we can get back by the end of the year. It’s just about getting through the next six to nine months. We’re definitely going to benefit from the weather up north. We’ll do well around the holidays, and it’ll be interesting to see how spring break goes. The Miami Beach Convention Center has announced that the Aesthetic Society will host a conference in April. We get excited about one convention right now.”
FT: What types of hotels are recovering the fastest?
WK: “Miami Beach is doing the best. When the beaches reopened, you saw an increase in occupancy, especially on the weekends. Luxury hotels also are doing well. The big nut to crack is the corporate meetings market. So many companies have travel bans for their employees. The large properties that do big group meetings are going to struggle more than the leisure, luxury and boutique hotels. We have to really, really keep an eye on the virus. It’s all about that.”
- Marina Redevelopment: In November, Miami Beach voters rejected a ballot measure that would have allowed Terra Group President David Martin to build a 23-story, 60-unit condo tower at a cityowned marina on Biscayne Bay. Martin had agreed to pay $55 million for the building’s air rights and at least $1.9 million in annual rent to operate the marina under a long-term lease with the city. He also had pledged to spend $22.5 million to renovate the marina and add amenities, including a public park.
- City residents voted against the sale of the air rights, but in two other related ballot measures, voters approved Martin’s plan to operate and upgrade the marina and directed the city to use the $55 million in potential sale proceeds for workforce housing, elderly programs, sustainability efforts and budget reserves. Martin, who lives in Miami Beach with his wife and two children, says he’s still interested in the project. “We’re working with the city to understand what the path would be to fall in line with the voters’ will to see a marina upgrade and two acres of open space. We’ll be collaborating with the city to see how we can at least achieve that,” he says. “I want to build what the community wants.”
- Miami Worldcenter: Miami Worldcenter, a nine-block mixed-use development in downtown Miami, will see three more projects completed in 2021: A 351-room CitizenM hotel, a 434-unit apartment tower and a 10-level parking garage with retail and a rooftop restaurant. Miami Worldcenter, which has been under construction since 2016, already includes about 450 apartments and more than 500 condominiums. Developers had planned to begin building a 1,723-room Marriott Marquis convention hotel last fall, but construction was put on hold because of economic uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus, says Nitin Motwani, managing principal of Miami Worldcenter Associates. He says the Marriott Marquis and several other projects will begin construction this year. “Some of those projects would have otherwise started in the fourth quarter. There were some challenges in the capital markets, and people wanted to get through the election,” Motwani says. “However, what I think has been crystal clear is that Miami will end up better on the other side of COVID with all of the migration of companies and people that we’re seeing for our pro-business environment and from a lifestyle standpoint.”
- Soccer Stadium: Miami’s city commission could vote on a new plan for a Major League Soccer stadium this year. A partnership led by former MLS star David Beckham and MasTec Chairman Jorge Mas wants to convert a cityowned golf course near Miami International Airport into a soccer stadium complex called Miami Freedom Park. The plan includes a 25,000-seat MLS stadium and more than 600,000 square feet of retail, office and commercial space. In 2018, Miami voters authorized city commissioners to negotiate a longterm lease with Beckham’s Inter Miami CF. Airport administrators oppose the project, citing concerns about traffic, light pollution and the addition of tall structures near flight paths for takeoffs and landings. The site is the fifth proposed location for a Miami MLS stadium since the team was announced in 2014. Previous proposals would have put the stadium on Dodge Island, in Museum Park, Little Havana and Overtown.
- Affordable Housing in the Keys: Miami-based Integra Investments has received approval from Monroe County to build Wrecker’s Cay Apartments, a 280-unit project that’s believed to be the largest workforce housing development in the Keys in recent decades. The apartments will be built on nine acres on Stock Island near Key West. Integra principal Victor Ballestas says 70 units will be for low-income residents, and the others will be for middle- and moderate-income families. He says construction will begin in the first quarter of 2021 and take 18 months to complete. “It’s a project that is viable, financeable and also serves the community,” he says.
- The Underline: The Underline, a 10-mile plan to turn the land below Miami-Dade County’s Metrorail into a linear park and urban trail, hit a major milestone with the completion of its first section in December. Brickell Backyard, which runs a half-mile from the Miami River to Coral Way, has dog-friendly areas, butterfly gardens, bicycle and pedestrian paths, a basketball court, chess and dominoes tables and a plaza for concerts and group yoga, among other things. Scheduled for completion in 2025, the Underline ultimately will have more than 120 acres of open spaces stretching from Miami’s Brickell area to the Dadeland South Metrorail station.
BUSINESS BRIEFS | MIAMI
- Visa acquired Miami-based YellowPepper, a payments technology company that operates in Latin America and the Caribbean. Financial terms were not disclosed.
- Miami-based Reef Technology, which turns parking facilities into mobile kitchens and e-commerce distribution hubs, recently raised $700 million in a round led by Mubadala Capital and SoftBank Vision Fund.
- Miami-based Ryder System has launched a venture capital fund focused on technology startups in the logistics and transportation industries. RyderVentures plans to invest $50 million over the next five years.
- Daniella Levine Cava, a Democrat and former nonprofit executive and lawyer, was elected Miami-Dade County mayor. Levine Cava, who campaigned for a stronger government response to climate change and COVID-19, beat her Republican challenger, Esteban Bovo, with about 54% of the vote. Both served together on the county commission.
- Voters in Key West approved three November ballot measures to ban cruise ships with more than 1,300 passengers, limit the number of daily cruise ship visitors to 1,500 and give docking priority to cruise lines with the best health and environmental records. According to the Florida Ports Council, Key West had about 390 ships and 913,300 passenger visits in 2018-19.
Read more in Florida Trend's January issue.
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