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This week, for two nights, all eyes will be on a debate stage in Miami. As 20 Democratic candidates make their opening case for the White House, much of the focus will be on the economy — where it stands, where it’s heading, and what it all means for America’s businesses, workers, students, and families.
It’s fitting that South Florida will play host to such a discussion.
In and around Miami, businesses large and small are playing a significant role in enriching local communities, solving difficult challenges, and preparing the next generation of workers for the jobs of tomorrow. Sometimes in the spotlight and sometimes behind the scenes, entrepreneurs, employers, and executives throughout the area are stepping up to create opportunities for and enrich the lives of South Floridians and Americans across the country.
Here are just a few ways Miami area companies are making a big impact locally and nationally.
AutoNation USA Corporation — Bridging the talent divide
AutoNation, America’s largest automotive retailer with 325 locations and more than 26,000 associates, has sold over 12 million vehicles through a relentless focus on customer experience and innovative sales tools. Last week, the Fort Lauderdale, FL.-based company launched a national campaign to recruit and hire more than 500 service technicians and raise awareness about technical career opportunities.
“There is a tremendous career path for automotive service technicians as the rapid pace of advancements in vehicle technology continues,” said Scott Arnold, AutoNation’s Executive Vice President of Customer Care and Brand Extensions. “This is a great opportunity for tech school grads, men, women, veterans, those just out of the military and anyone who is willing to invest in the training in order to make a career change.”
The AutoNation team is also dedicated to driving out cancer through its Drive Pink initiative, which has raised $16 million for cancer research and treatment. Last year, AutoNation Give Love Drive Pink tour spread awareness about Drive Pink from coast to coast, culminating with final stops at the AutoNation Cure Bowl in Orlando and the Orange Bowl in Miami.
Ryder System — Job opportunities for South Floridians with disabilities
Headquartered in Miami, Ryder System provides transportation and supply chain solutions to customers around the world. Among its many community-based initiatives, the 86-year-old company announced a new multiyear investment and partnership in May with Goodwill South Florida. Through the initiative, Ryder will fund a 250,000-square-foot facility where more than 1,100 South Floridians will disabilities and other employment barriers will be hired to help manufacture uniforms for members of the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force.
“Ryder and Goodwill share many of the same core values, including trust, innovation, expertise, and community collaboration,” said Ryder Chairman and CEO Robert Sanchez. “Our goal is to help create successful communities, and helping people pursue skills training and employment is one of the most impactful things we can do.”
NextEra Energy — Smart energy solutions
Juno Beach, FL.-based NextEra Energy, one of the world’s largest investors in infrastructure with $40 billion in investments planned through 2020, started as Florida Power & Light Co. back in 1925. Now one of the world’s largest creators of renewable energy, 10 years ago NextEra launched Energy Smart Miami, a smart grid technology that helps customers to better understand their power consumption. In 2011, the company launched the Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center, a hybrid solar, solar thermal field and natural gas power plant in Martin County, FL.
More recently, NextEra Energy was recognized as one of America's Best Employers for the fourth consecutive year by Forbes.
"We are committed to investing in our team and creating a workplace where our employees feel they can make a difference every day,” said Jim Robo, NextEra Energy chairman and CEO. “I've often said that our employees are our greatest competitive advantage, and this recognition wouldn't be possible without our team of approximately 15,000 talented employees.”
Radical Partners — Fueling social innovation
Launched in 2012, Radical Partners is a social impact accelerator based in Miami. The company identifies important challenges that are shaping the future of Miami and supports (and helps scale) startups that are working on solutions to those challenges.
Currently, the firm is working with startups tackling issues like housing affordability, wealth disparity, diversity and inclusion, sustainability, and civic engagement. Examples include CodeArt, a startup created to inspire girls and young women to learn to code, and 01, an education and research venture that teaches students coding and tech design through robotics play, gaming, and virtual reality.
“Miami is having a startup renaissance right now,” Rebecca Fishman Lipsey, Radical Ventures’ founder and CEO, said in an interview. “It’s an exceptionally diverse community, which fuels creative thinking and innovation, as well as increased empathy and collaboration across lines of difference. As a result, we’re primed to generate solutions for a variety of issues that matter not just in our community, but in communities around the world.”
Venture Hive — Entrepreneurship opportunities for veterans
Susan Amat has played an important role in putting Miami on the map for early-stage technology ventures that might otherwise have looked to Silicon Valley. In 2013, she launched Venture Hive, an entrepreneurship education company that creates software and provides support for corporations, startups, governments, universities, and incubator programs.
“Venture Hive was created because there wasn’t any structured program supporting high-growth technology businesses and Miami wasn’t yet on the map as a place that international entrepreneurs could have a successful U.S. market entry,” Amat told Miami Today.
In 2015, Venture Hive partnered with the city of Fort Walton Beach to launch a national accelerator for veteran-owned businesses. The program provides business coaching, customized training and networking opportunities to help military veterans scale their business ventures.
Florida Chamber — Preparing for the future
In addition to advocating for Florida businesses on the issues affecting them today, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Chamber Foundation are taking a leading role in helping the state prepare for the decades ahead.
Through the foundation’s two-year “Florida 2030” initiative, the group is leading research and strategic thinking about the state’s future and engaging business and community leaders across all 67 counties to identify the trends that will propel the Sunshine State’s economy. Among the priority areas: education, access to talent, and the future of the workforce.
“I want to double down on the issue of how important talent is,” Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, said during an event last year. “Talent is the single most important thing that will determine Florida’s future.”