Progress is not a zero sum game

Progress is not a zero sum game

I just read a wonderful interview with Dan Gilbert in The Wall Street Journal.

Gilbert, founder and CEO of Quicken Loans and owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, is doing remarkable work in downtown Detroit breathing new life into a city that has given bad times a new definition.

Gilbert is acquiring tons of real estate in the downtown core with the ambitious goal of not only bringing Detroit back as a world class city, but making it better than it ever was.

I wouldn’t bet against him or his $1 billion investment.

Civic pride+smarts+capital+ passion x powerful ideas=transformation. Whether you are talking about Delray Beach, Boca Raton or Detroit.

Forty miles south of here you can feel the energy that is transforming Miami into a city that matters in finance, technology, fashion, food, education, medicine, music, design, retail and art.

From the power and reach of Art Basel to the emerging tech scene in Miami Beach, Miami is on the move led by a new generation of entrepreneurs supported by veteran business leaders and philanthropic interests such as the Knight Foundation.

I’m hoping that last week’s announcement by the Schmidt Family Foundation –which stepped up with the largest gift in FAU’s history –is only the beginning of a movement to transform Palm Beach County.

We have to get in the game.

The bar has been raised on success in the 21st Century and cities and regions that understand this and act will be the winners while complacent cities will wither and die.

Big cultural and demographic changes are under way whether we like it or not. These are seismic changes, irreversible and we are not immune, even though some of us wish we were or think we are.

Ignore the rise of the millennial generation and you will be like the staid old restaurant that catered to an old crowd and then wondered why business dried up when their customers died off.

Miami—busy, noisy, traffic choked, diverse—gets it.

Civic leaders like Manny Medina have stepped up to make it happen, funding and mentoring promising entrepreneurs. The Knight Foundation has also been a major player supporting the growth of an entrepreneurial ecosystem and cultural offerings which create a sense of place and artistic vibrancy.

Art Basel has become an international phenomenon not only supporting the art world, but also becoming a launching pad for brands and products eager to reach an audience of international influencers.

Recently, I had an opportunity to visit ROKK3R Labs, an innovative Miami company that “co-builds” tech companies. Their Miami Beach office is a bee hive of energy and ideas attracting local talent and people from all over the world.

Remember that name, because ROKK3R is going to be a game changing engine for South Florida and other markets.

Locally, FAU’s Tech Runway and Research Park are promising efforts with big upsides. Lynn University’s new business school and creative partnership with Apple is also something to watch closely.


Palm Beach County has to make a decision.

Does it want to be a resort type place driven by tourism, retirees and service industries, namely food, beverage and hospitality?
Or does it want to really engage and become a dynamic region attracting start-ups and the next generation of creative and business leaders?

It doesn’t have to be an either or choice? You can remain attractive to retirees and tourists and still plan for the future which should include strategies to give our children opportunities right here at home.

You can invite economic growth without sacrificing affordability or creating traffic driven by sprawl like development (see: Valley, Silicon.) We don’t have to look and feel like Miami; we can shape our growth and destiny by creating great places, promoting walkable mixed use neighborhoods and embracing vibrancy, art and commerce.

But it requires leadership, people like Dan Gilbert  and progressive leaders and visionaries who can take already great places and make them even better and more sustainable.

The question is who will step up? Because the opportunities are huge.


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