MIAMI – Exciting new ideas and efforts in the pursuit of economic progress and development for Miami are in the works. An update and presentation by Miami Regional Chamber of Commerce/MAEDS President and CEO Steve Gilbert was made to Miami's City Council on Tuesday outlining objectives for economic development in the area.

The informative presentation revealed innovative, and dynamic goal-driven economic development plans with substantive ideas and endeavors.

Gilbert went through a comprehensive power point detailing the Chamber's objectives, goals, and progress.

“We did research about who we compete with, and how do we compete, and who are the best of the best as far as comparing us with cities that are really getting it done,” Gilbert said.

Using information from Site Selection magazine, an internationally circulated business publication covering corporate real estate and economic development, Gilbert and his staff created research-based objectives and goals.

Gilbert went over the magazine's criteria for choosing the top micropolitan cities, by definition 10,000 to 50,000 in population, in the country, of which there are 575 cities in America, and the attributes designating them as the top cities.

Things most crucial to success of the best of the best micropolitans were the number economic development projects, community commitment to growth, an abundant supply of land and ready sites, diversified economy, multiple transportation systems, geographic location, cost of doing business, and workforce.

“That's my short-term goal, is we have to get on this list,” Gilbert said. “It's about the competition and what we can learn from them. We aspire to be on that list or at the top of that list.”

Miami checks many of those boxes, but Gilbert wants to work to maximize all opportunities and get the city noticed.

Gilbert said Miami's Industrial Park still has many prime rail and interstate accessible sites, as well as an available spec building, but is surrounded by tribal trust land on three sides limiting future growth.

Along this line, the Chamber is seeking agreements, terms, and incentives with the Peoria Tribe for lease of property if needed for industrial park growth.

Expansion of existing companies is another key objective of the Chamber as well as the development and support of entrepreneurship.

This area faces some challenges such as stagnant job growth, a declining tax base, youth exodus, low community confidence, no branding and lack of vision and a plan, Gilbert admitted, but he wants to face these challenges head-on.

“We'll be honest, that's what we're facing, and we want to change that,” he said.

A recent unsuccessful site bid codenamed “Project Phoenix,” for a 2,000 job Simmons Poultry Plant to be located in Miami was a learning process. Miami was one of a few top contenders for the new plant which ultimately chose to locate in Arkansas, but Gilbert said the bid helped put Miami on the radar for future site selection.

“We learned from that experience,” Gilbert said. “We realized city and state incentives, partnerships, utilities, workforce, having sites that are ready with infrastructure were critical.”

Positive feedback from site selector visits helped the Chamber and City of Miami understand the positive aspects of Miami and the potential opportunities to boost confidence in recruitment of more industries and manufacturers.

“Our mission, purpose, and goals are to retain and expand jobs, capital investment, fair and higher wages, and add to the quality of life and sense of place,” Gilbert said. “So what have we done? We've done research, we've targeted industries, looked at our competitive advantages, and best practices and innovative programs, we've ended a planning and fundraising cycle, and in 2018 that's when we'll start to implement.”

Along with the City of Miami's incentives and investment, Gilbert said the private sector will be asked to join and support the efforts for economic development.

“We've got this new great space, for a working incubator and our headquarters, and we want it to be a community place,” Gilbert said. “This space is available – we want it to be used.”

Gilbert said another positive for growth is Miami Area Economic Development Service (MAEDS) secured loan funding for eight revolving loan funds of about $ 1.5 million available to small businesses.

“In the last two weeks as of yesterday, I've met with six different entrepreneurs looking to start their business,” Gilbert said.

The Chamber has looked closely at existing industries and target opportunities such as agriculture and food processing, luxury and consumer goods, transportation and distribution, plastics, chemicals, tourism, environmental science, clean energy and water using industries.

“We can't deny that there are a lot of jobs and opportunities here,” Gilbert said.

The Chamber is focusing key goals for economic development, building a brand and reputation through events, membership, sales, marketing, projects, partnerships, and programs.

Gilbert said working with business and industry, the City of Miami, area tribes and organizations is vital to economic development, retention and growth and all have been good partners.

Citing the joint efforts in pushing back on Empire Electric's recent rate hike request, and Project Phoenix, are all counted by Gilbert as recent victories for Miami.

Ongoing confidential site bids are currently underway for various projects with the potential for hundreds of jobs with competitive wages in food, manufacturing and distribution types of industries, according to Gilbert.

The City Council members were excited to receive updates, information and reports to stay updated but to also enable them to input incentive ideas or resource connections.

“We want to be excellent in all we do and provide leadership and partnership. We want to advocate for competitiveness and development, and we want to be accountable for results,” Gilbert told the council. “I'm real excited to be a part of it.”

Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at mstotts@miaminewsrecord.com or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.