There’s talent west of I-95. Come and get it.

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One of the recurring challenges in Miami is the disconnect between the east and the west.


I understand how critical it is to build the urban core. It brings investment, attracts residents and businesses, revitalizes neighborhoods, builds civic engagement and creates jobs (nearly 80 percent of all jobs are on the east side). But as we focus on building the urban core, how can we also serve the two-thirds of residents that live west of I-95?

Many of them have to head east for everything from work to entertainment. But unless you work or live west, what is the compelling reason to venture west? How many of you can name the hottest new restaurant in West Kendall?

“The west side is not cool,” I was told by a dear mentor of mine.

Fair point. There is nothing that resembles the vibrancy of Wynwood and the collisions of downtown. I agonize daily over what we could do to bring exciting opportunities to the dense residential areas in the west that surround FIU.

The discourse around connecting talent to work has never been so urgent. The west side is brimming with talent: students, faculty, and working residents. The east side is brimming with jobs, social and cultural offerings, and activities. Each side is starved for meaningful collaboration.

In 2015, I was asked to lead a new initiative at FIU for innovation and economic development. So, I went on a listening tour. I spoke to more than 100 people inside and outside FIU.  It was wildly important for me to hear everyone’s perspective. We are a diverse community with so many different needs, and rarely does one have the opportunity to hear everybody out. The result was StartUP FIU, which we launched in February 2016.

I joke that I sit at the nexus of everyone’s problems – but I love it. I wouldn’t have it any other way. If we are to create true economic development plan for our beloved city, we must first recognize that it is a complex problem with multiple stakeholders and competing interests. Not everyone cares about the same things in the same order.

At FIU there are times when people from everywhere descend on our campus, like  commencement or the recent Presidential campaign stops. And we always hear the same things: “Wow, I had no idea FIU’s campus was so big.” Or “I didn’t know you guys had a ____” (insert anything from incubator to astronomical observatory).

Our students, faculty and staff don’t necessarily venture east that often either. Traffic is terrible. Going east or west is a commitment in our already overcommitted lives.

But imagine the value of connecting the east to the west. While humans remain smarter than machines, physical contact and collisions are invaluable. The east side is hurting for talent and the west side is hungry for collaboration. We ALL need to be part of the conversation about how to create a thriving, global city during this awesome, AWE-some, time in human history of unprecedented growth and technological change.

Diversity of thought, experience, values, perspectives, demographics – they all count! They all deepen collaboration and collaboration leads to better discovery and innovation. Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum writes beautifully about this need for integration in what he refers to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

But this integration takes effort. It involves making the commitment to muster up the energy to get into your car and travel west…or east! I live well beyond the urban core, in a little place called the Redlands. It’s as far west as one can go and closer to Homestead than to Miami. To get to Waffle Wednesdays is a legit haul: 90 minutes in the car. I may as well leave on Tuesday. There is no amount of NPR or ‘80s pop to make that commute less painful.

Audible has been a great solution, podcasts for our hipsters and millennials. But the point is, using that time to be productive either by learning something or making calls is great. Heck, call your mom. She’d appreciate it no matter the time of day.

Because it’s worth it. It’s worth it for the two sides to see each other’s faces. And more importantly, worth it to hear from one another.

So let us be integrated and comprehensive. Let us commit to connecting our two sides. The more we get together and build relationships, the more organic collisions will become. The more we understand this city and our residents, the better our solutions will become. We need to solve equity gaps in health, income, education, housing and opportunity. We can only do it together.

FIU is venturing east. And the east is venturing west. Knight Foundation’s Matt Haggman is coming to FIU to talk about the talent glitch in Miami on April 12. Come out. We have room.

Follow the link to RSVP for “Let’s Fix the Glitch in Miami’s Labor Market.”