What a year 2017 has been! The year always begins with optimism and a commitment to provide and plan for prosperity, economic development, and the good and welfare of our residents and visitors. But there are some things, no matter how much you prepare, you can’t foresee.
This year, we survived turbulence and tragedy. On January 6th, a tragedy beyond our imagination occurred at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport when a lone gunman shot and killed five people and wounded six others.
The mourning for the victims and their families continues but we are stronger and wiser, and after extensive outside independent review and study, safer in our security methods and practices at all county government buildings.
Further testing our strength this year was Hurricane Irma, who carried a powerful punch when it made landfall in Broward County on September 10th. We prepared for a Category 5 hurricane—and though it weakened as it approached—it caused widespread power outages, some flooding and mountains of debris.
We evacuated our coastal and low-lying areas, opened shelters and set a curfew. Our Emergency Management operations set in progress the processes that we practice year-round. Again, we conquered crisis. After Hurricane Irma, all County roads were passible within 48 hours, and the initial debris pickup was completed in 4 weeks. We emerged stronger, wiser and better prepared to face future challenges.
With these events in mind, I am proud to report to you that the State of the County is excellent.
Our economic indicators are strong and in many cases leading the State. We say “Broward Means Business” and our numbers prove it! Our unemployment rate in Broward dropped in September and at 3.3 percent, is the lowest it’s been in more than a decade — down from 3.9 percent in August and 4.8 percent a year ago. Our jobless rate is the lowest in the tri-county area and below the state unemployment rate of 3.8 percent.
Along with our economic development partners, more than 2,500 jobs were retained. Partnership activities resulted in a projected capital investment of more than $438 million. The projected new job creation will generate new wages in Broward County of at least $227.3 million and the projected direct capital investment will generate an economic impact of $365 million.
Our focus on business development resulted in the certification of 160 new firms in our small business programs. We are monitoring over 250 projects with small business participation. The total paid to certified firms working on county projects this fiscal year is nearing $5.3 million.
Commissioners passed a balanced budget for FY2018. Overall, the $4.8 billion tax and non-tax supported budget increases slightly more than one percent from the year before with the property tax remaining the same as FY2017.
The Broward County Commission is committed to investing in our economic engines to drive our economy forward. Our seaport, airport and tourism industry is thriving.
Port Everglades handled 1.08 million TEUs in cargo in 2017, surpassing FY2015 by 1.5 percent and FY2016 by 4 percent.
This Commission approved the largest expansion in the Port’s history valued at $437.5 million. Cruise passengers will note changes as we invest in service improvements to accommodate our growing industries.
Broward County’s Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is on track to surpass 32 million passengers in 2018, which should be the 4th consecutive year of double digit growth in international traffic.
Our growth and success is fueled by new airline services and destinations. Spirit, Southwest and Allegiant all added new domestic routes this year. British Airways began non-stop service to London, which also connects travelers to an additional 150 destinations throughout the world. Emirates Airlines also chose our airport for international flights.
Accommodations are always improving at our airport. Travelers now enjoy the new state-of-the-art Terminal 1 in Concourse A which was opened in July.
Capital projects completed this year include the construction and opening of the new Broward County Courthouse, and a new Animal Care and Adoption Center. Water and Wastewater Services completed neighborhood improvements in 65 planned projects. The program started in 1995 and cost approximately $750 million.
Tourism remained strong this year. Visitors for the domestic market – more than 12 million – are up 4 percent from 2015.
International visitors increased 13 percent. The “Summer Vacation Like a VIP” Promotion resulted in hotel bookings up 31 percent over last summer.
New marketing and branding campaigns included the launch of Hello SunnyTV, a round the clock digital television network with Facebook Live integration and on-demand programming. A new world welcome campaign, “Greater Together,” celebrates Broward’s diversity.
In the first nine months of this year, hotel occupancy tied with Key West for the 2nd highest in the State at 78 percent, behind Orlando at 79.5 percent.
Broward County Transit (BCT) provided over 32 million passenger trips which included nearly 29 million fixed route bus passenger trips, more than 2-million Community Bus passenger trips and 806,274 Paratransit trips. BCT also took delivery of 22 new paratransit vehicles.
To further improve customer service, real time passenger service was implemented at the West Regional and Broward Central Terminals. This system includes the route number and expected arrival time of the next bus.
Broward’s innovative public transportation B-Cycle bike sharing program operates in 6 cities and is the only countywide bike share program in the U.S.
Planning and Development
Providing affordable housing for Broward residents is a challenge that was met with much success. The Franklin Park Estates Development provided 18 new single family homes in the Broward Municipal Services District. Plans are also in the works for the development of 40 new single family homes in partnership with non-profit developers.
Commissioners approved the land use portion of BrowardNEXT. This planning tool addresses major issues such as climate change, multi-modal transportation, affordable housing, redevelopment, protecting our natural resources and pre- and post-disaster planning as we look to a prosperous and resilient future.
After nearly two decades of planning, Broward County successfully completed the Segment II Shore Protection Project, which placed approximately 1 million tons of sand along the beaches of Pompano, Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, and Fort Lauderdale.
In May 2017, the County Commission took action to support climate adaption planning with the approval and creation of a “future conditions” map series. In December, Broward hosted the 9th Annual Southeast Florida Regional Climate Leadership Summit. The theme “The Business of Resilience” highlighted the critical juncture in our collaboration with the business community, having agreed that the public and private sectors must both pursue resilience to foster further economic development and long-term environmental sustainability.
Broward County continues to invest in programs that provide a strong social safety net to care for the homeless, the mentally ill, elderly, veterans and animals.
Our County’s ability to assist the homeless got a big boost this past year with the HUD Continuum of Care program bonus project awards totaling $10.7 million.
The Elderly and Veterans Services Division awarded more than $7.3 million in state grant funds that allowed people to remain in their homes instead of requiring a high level of care such as a nursing home.
Broward County is addressing the national opioid crisis with innovative and forward thinking programs. The Broward Addiction and Recovery Center implemented an outpatient detox program using Medication Assisted Treatment. Broward County also hosted a Mayor’s Opioid Summit to exchange information with community partners to fight this epidemic that has swept the nation.
Parks and Libraries
Quality of life services are of utmost importance to our residents and visitors. New services at County parks included the opening of multiple outdoor fitness exercise facilities, the Micro-Apiary at Tradewinds Park and the Marine Environmental Education Center at Carpenter House.
Broward Libraries added a vast array of new services including music streaming to library customers at no cost and expanded the Libraries’ music services to Broward County Transit.
The Veterans Connect project puts mobile internet access in the hands of active military, veterans and their dependents, streamlining access to information that veterans need to further educational and employment resources.
The new Active Learning Center for our community's babies and toddlers, located on the second floor of Main Library, is a free, educationally rich children's play space that provides developmentally appropriate play activities to promote school readiness in children from birth to five years old.
“Creation Station Business” offers support for new entrepreneurs and those that want to expand their business ventures.
This past year, we recognized 22 businesses at Commission meetings to emphasize and reward new and established businesses that are the backbone of Broward’s economy. To encourage and educate entrepreneurs, the Office of Economic and Small Business Development hosted several “Broward Means Business” seminars. These free seminars offer information on business planning, loan programs, technical assistance and the mentoring and support necessary to begin and maintain a successful business.
I am grateful for my expertise in this area, and I hope that my participation in these programs — along with the support of this Commission — will encourage entrepreneurs who are brave enough to move forward with an idea to take the risks necessary to create independent financial success, while adding to the overall economic health of the community.
I thank everyone who made this a successful year. First and foremost, the public we serve. We know that when you give us your vote, we carry the responsibility of your trust as we develop and implement policies that will result in a prosperous and safe future.
I thank this board for the support and collaboration that they have shown throughout the year. Our success is dependent upon the 6,000-plus employees who work hard to hold true to our promise of “our best and nothing less.”
Broward County is strengthened by its extraordinary community partners – including 31 cities, the Broward Alliance, the Broward Workshop, chambers of commerce, not for profit agencies, educators, health care workers and countless volunteers who invest their time and efforts in making Broward County the best place to live, work, play, start a business and raise a family.
It has been an honor to serve as your Mayor and a privilege to work every day to make a difference in the lives of others.