There is no shortage of news these days about sea-level rise and climate change and its potential impact on South Florida.
With reports on everything from potentially plunging home valuations to the viability of our mangrove ecosystem, we continue to be pounded with information that would leave anyone feeling distraught about the future of one of the largest economies in the world.
While it is critical that we sound the alarm about one of the most pressing issues of our generation, we must also not forget to draw attention to the great work already being done. Vigorous participation of community groups in the Resilient Greater Miami & the Beaches effort demonstrates that we have begun to assert our voices to establish the region as a global leader in resilience efforts.
Our focus moving forward should be on how concerned citizens and industry leaders can continue to do our part to build on this momentum and ensure the security of South Florida.
Our primary goal should be to foster a culture that mitigating climate risks in South Florida requires investing in our communities. And there’s no doubt that it will be up to the leaders of the South Florida business community to be the champions of this effort.
South Florida is home to dozens of multinational companies and according to the Kaufman Foundation, Miami-Fort Lauderdale has become one of the top metro areas for startup activity. More small businesses are opening here than anywhere else in the country.
The business community must lead infrastructure and economic development efforts, not only for our residents, but for all of those who wish to invest here as well.
Earlier this month, the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce hosted its third annual Resilient Solutions Summit, a forum focused on solutions to our region’s most pressing challenges. Sea-level rise was a principal topic.
The mayors of Miami-Dade County, Doral, Miami, and Miami Beach gathered with business leaders to discuss how to establish the region as a global leader in resilience. We are committed as concerned citizens and industry leaders to build on this momentum.
We must create leaders who will help us plan and grow sustainably for the next 100 years or more.
By doing so, we will allow our South Florida communities to bounce back quickly from powerful storms. As the adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The ounce of prevention starts with our development community.
We must implement innovative building codes that protect residents from damaging weather. When we minimize destruction, we also shorten downtime for businesses, keep families in their homes, improve mobility throughout the city and keep insurance costs down.
Special attention must be given to South Florida’s small and medium-sized businesses. The Institute for Business and Home Safety estimates that a fourth of small to mid-sized businesses never reopen after a major disaster.
The ripple effect of losing these businesses hurts the region’s recovery efforts – socially and economically. With resources and training, they will retain the workforce they need to get them up and running.
Most important, we must work together with government to identify ways we can help simplify processes and prepare our employees for possible gaps in vital services. We all are vulnerable to power outages, interrupted communications, lack of access to water and damaged transportation routes.
As professionals, it is our duty to offer our expertise to help address the logistical and cultural challenges that exist in South Florida when responding to an environmental threat.
South Florida is teeming with young leaders. To remain competitive, they must have access to 21stCentury transit, reasonably priced housing, and safe and healthy neighborhoods that attract top talent.
To protect our future and economy, we must and can make South Florida the gold standard for resilience worldwide.
Alfred Sanchez is president & CEO of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.
“The Invading Sea” is a collaboration of four South Florida media organizations — the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Miami Herald, Palm Beach Post and WLRN Public Media