When I was sworn into office just over a year ago, I pledged to take our city in a new direction. This included more attention to smart growth and reducing traffic, more humane treatment of our homeless, and a focus on a more family-friendly city by increasing our parks and recreation areas.
In addition, I pledged to augment our economic base so that we were not entirely reliant on tourism, the marine industry and real estate investment. In doing that, I wanted to ensure a more sustainable future for the next generations.
This past week, I returned from a trip to Israel accompanied by a delegation of business executives and government officials as part of a trade and cultural mission. We made great progress on areas of key importance to the greater Fort Lauderdale community including infrastructure planning, business development, and security matters.
In addition to myself, the delegation was comprised of City Manager Chris Lagerbloom; Scott Wyman, my chief of staff; Broward County Vice Mayor Dale Holness; Greg Haile, president of Broward College; Anthony Fajardo, director of the Department of Sustainable Development; Capt. Bill Schultz of the Police Department; Paola Isaac Baraya, economic development specialist for Broward County; and Bill Feinberg, incoming chairman of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce. Local businessman Eyal Peretz and Jonathon Fish joined us part of the time and helped arrange some key meetings.
One of the most exciting parts of the trip were our discussions with Israeli groups that invest in high-tech startups on how Fort Lauderdale could expand as a hub for the industry. County, city and college leaders on the trip came away convinced that we can work together to create an entrepreneurial incubator that could be a center for tech startups and 21st century job creation.
We all know it is critical that we diversify our economic base and expand the number of higher-paying jobs available to our residents. Fort Lauderdale has much to offer the tech community, including our position as gateway to Latin America, our diverse and multilingual population, and our wealth of higher education institutions willing to participate in translational research and partner in economic development initiatives.
Israel was an ideal place to look for partners in this endeavor as it leads the world in tech startups per capita and venture capital investments as a percent of gross domestic product. Our visit provided us with workable strategies and important connections, and I look forward to taking the lead on bringing the discussions started in Israel to reality.
“We have the new leadership and intellectual resources required to transform our local and regional economy,” City Manager Lagerbloom said. “Our Israel initiative provided critical information, guidance and potential partners to bring our ideas to reality.”
A potential part of this incubation center could be the new collaboration between the U.S. Department of Energy, Fort Lauderdale, and Florida International University to prepare small business start-ups to be successful in the high-tech field. Through a series of agreements being signed, the DOE and FIU have created a mission-to-market program to leverage underutilized patented technology developed by the DOE with Fort Lauderdale serving as the project’s location for a global entrepreneurial resources center.
The DOE-FIU project intends to foster economic development in greater Fort Lauderdale by producing high-tech ventures using the DOE technology with training provided by FIU in the incubation and acceleration of the start-ups.