Print

In mid-January, approximately 50 business leaders from private and public organizations in Broward County traveled to Austin, Texas, in search of economic development ideas that may translate well from one thriving metropolis to another.

The South Florida Business Journal and Sun Sentinel published articles about the trip, its mission and findings.

GFLA's Quality of Life team (L to R): Carlos Molinet (Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitor's Bureau); Mary Blasi (Coconut Creek city manager); Jill Horowitz (Lifestyle Media Group); Mark Peterson (Fifth Third Bank); Ed Bailey (Austin City Limits); Elizabeth Cambareri (JPMorgan); Heidi Davis Knapik (GFLA, Gunster); Greg Milford (Bank United); and Melissa Milroy (JLL Galleria Mall marketing manager). Photo courtesy of Heidi Davis Knapik.

GFLA’s Quality of Life team (L to R): Carlos Molinet (Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitor’s Bureau); Mary Blasi (Coconut Creek city manager); Jill Horowitz (Lifestyle Media Group); Mark Peterson (Fifth Third Bank); Ed Bailey (Austin City Limits); Elizabeth Cambareri (JPMorgan); Heidi Davis Knapik (GFLA, Gunster); Greg Milford (Bank United); and Melissa Milroy (JLL Galleria Mall marketing manager). Photo courtesy of Heidi Davis Knapik.

The leadership study trip has been in the works for about a year, Heidi Davis Knapik told the Business Journal. Knapik is leadership chair for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, the primary economic development organization for Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County, which planned and led the trip. She is also an attorney in Gunster‘s Fort Lauderdale office. The aim of the excursion, she indicated, was to identify what’s working for Austin and how it may also work for Broward.

The two mid-sized metros are similar in a number of important ways, according to the Business Journal:

  • Both have populations of approximately 2 million people – although Austin experienced larger growth in the last decade or so (30 percent vs. South Florida’s 8 percent).
  • Both have population-related challenges, such as traffic, affordability and hiring gaps.
  • Neither state has an income tax.
  • Tourism is a big draw for both areas – and Austin has had particular success with Austin City Limits, a PBS concert series and music festival, and South by Southwest, a popular film/media/musical festival that began in 1987.

Trip attendees were separated into one of the following five focus groups before meeting with Austin-area executives and touring its businesses and neighborhoods:

  • Quality of life
  • Business best practices
  • Transportation & logistics
  • Education
  • Health care

Knapik participated in the trip on the GFLA’s Quality of Life team.

What the groups found, according to the Business Journal, was that despite the quality-of-life similarities between Austin and Broward, the former was much better at marketing its positives. While Austin is commonly referred to as the “live musical capital of the world,” Broward has no such identifying slogan that residents and visitors alike can boast.

In other words, Broward has a reputation problem. Its claims to fame, such as 23 miles of beaches, welcoming weather and famed nightlife need to be promoted to help draw the people and businesses that will encourage economic growth in the region.

Read related articles:


Find a Professional

by Name


by Practice/Office