Diversity, connections help young professionals find their place in Miami

July 25, 2014, 4:06 p.m., Posted by Cody Johnson

Photo: Miami Program Director Matt Haggman introduces the Beacon Council of Miami-Dade panel discussion on local entrepreneurs at FIU. Photo: Cody Johnson.

A few months ago, the Beacon Council New Leaders Taskforce set out to address a question Miami professionals continue to ask: Why should young people choose Miami as a place to live and work?

The Beacon Council hosted a panel discussion on Wednesday evening at the Florida International University Downtown campus to provide insight from Miami professionals as to why South Florida is ideal for young entrepreneurs. Knight Foundation Miami Program Director Matt Haggman moderated the panel.

The New Leaders Taskforce event was part of the Beacon Council’s ongoing OneCommunityOneGoal initiative to attract and retain talent as Miami recovers from the recession.

Miami Herald President and Publisher Alexandra Villoch delivered the keynote address before the discussion, highlighting key points for young professionals who are considering Miami as a place to call their home.

Miami’s diversity will yield more dynamic ideas

Villoch said she views Miami’s diverse population and influx of entrepreneurs as an asset to attract more young talent to Miami.

“Diversity is our strength, and we hire to meet and reflect that strength,” Villoch said.

Luis Brignoni, founder of Wynwood Brewing Co., added during the panel discussion that the reason he decided to stay in Miami was the unmatched diversity. Brignoni said that after living in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and not seeing much diversity, he was encouraged to see how many different people lived and worked in Miami.

Cultural identity keeps young professionals invested in the community

Suzette Espinosa Fuentes, assistant vice president of public relations for the Adrienne Arsht Center, said she becomes frustrated when people say Miami does not have much culture.

“Some people get caught up in this old narrative about Miami,” Fuentes said. “One of the challenges for Miami is breaking through that old narrative and showing people how culturally rich Miami really is.”

Community service and involvement will foster stronger connections

The speakers all suggested the best way to become a part of Miami is to get involved in an area of the community that ignites personal passion.

“Look for a place of interest to you that will have impact for the community,” said Norman Wedderburn, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish South Florida. “You will also meet friends and colleagues through community service to form lifelong relationships.”

Frankie Ruiz, co-founder of the Miami Marathon and chief running officer of Life Time Fitness, suggested young professionals in Miami should pay attention to commission meetings to feel more engaged and committed to Miami.

“Many people don’t know this because they don’t attend these meetings, but you would be amazed how quickly things are moving in Miami,” Ruiz said. “They cover everything from pets to parks, and something will fit anyone’s interests.”

Cody Johnson is a communications intern at Knight Foundation.