Efforts to boost low wages may ease affordability crisis

CEOs were asked: One element exacerbating the [affordability] crisis is Miami’s low wages. What efforts can be taken to boost them locally?


Florida’s minimum wage automatically increases every year based on the cost of living, but it is still less than $9 per hour. There are only a handful of cities more expensive than Miami to live in, yet we have one of the largest populations of workers in the service industry. We have to look at increasing the minimum wage, both for the betterment of our workforce as well as boosting our economy.

Tony Argiz, chairman, CEO, Morrison, Brown, Argiz & Farra, LLC (MBAF)


Raising minimum wages is a logical step, but there are no easy answers.

Jennifer Cramer, CEO, co-founder, The Spice Lab


Miami is once again on the move. We are seeing a healthy infusion of young entrepreneurs that are building new businesses. Groups like the Knight Foundation have been instrumental to catalyze this new insurgence. The scaling of these new business is what will drive wages. We need to all do our part to keep this ecosystem vibrant.

Maurice R. Ferré, CEO, chairman, INSIGHTEC


Jobs and affordable housing work hand-in-hand. While we need to do more to attract corporations that offer higher wages, I believe we can also make education more affordable which will boost earning potential, reduce student debt and increase Miami’s standard of living.

Adriana Jaegerman, senior principal, managing leader, Stantec


Wages in an open economy like ours society are a reflection of supply and demand. One obvious way to boost low wages is by attracting wealthy mega-companies like Amazon, which create thousands of jobs paying substantially above local wages, but those opportunities are few and far between. A better way to raise wages is by attracting industries which rely on workers with higher skills and, accordingly, pay more; we have the skilled workforce, we just don’t have the jobs. Offering tax incentives to such companies, encouraging public/private joint ventures, and similar creative solutions like those espoused by the Beacon Council can change that.

José E. Latour, founding partner, LatourLaw


Effective programs that develop small and particularly minority businesses is a very important strategy to improve the crisis of low wages. Both the private and public sectors need to identify strategies to accelerate the growth of small businesses that are past the first stage of development to grow exponentially to become mid-size to large companies with high paying jobs. Our economy is fueled by small businesses and if they are more successful, the companies can pay livable wages, provide health insurance for employees, pay additional taxes, support charitable causes etc., to make this a better community for all and deal with the issue of low wages and inequality.

Beatrice Louissaint, president, CEO, Florida State Minority Supplier Development Council


Local government should do more to support agile educational institutions that are developing middle skills and other advanced 21st century skills. Our 20-something students studying technology skills are starting their careers with incomes above the median salary in Miami and will likely double their wages over their first decade of professional. However, there’s a financing gap for these non-traditional programs that makes them prohibitive for the person who is affected by those low wages in the first place.

Ariel Quiñones, co-founder, Ironhack


Sunshine and zero personal income tax has always replaced a portion of wages in the Sunshine State, especially in South Florida. Jobs here pay less than their counterparts in the Northeast and Midwest in exchange for not having to endure the rigors of northern winters. The more pressing problem of the day is the out-of-control cost of living in Miami, especially housing. Many area employees live in multi-generational homes, and not necessarily by choice. We need to find ways to provide more affordable housing for lower- and mid-level workers so that we don’t lose these important resources

Kelly Ramsden, managing partner, Office Edge and Legal Edge


A good first step would be to address the Florida Statute that prevents municipalities from enacting ordinances establishing a local minimum wage. In 2016, Miami Beach enacted an ordinance to establish a local minimum wage of $10.31 per hour, which is significantly higher than the state minimum wage, currently $8.46 per hour. Because the Florida Statute expressly preempts such ordinances, Miami Beach’s minimum wage was stricken down in a lawsuit

Chana Sheldon, executive director, MOCA

How to protect your company from the trade wars whack-a-mole game

Are the trade wars a game of whack-a-mole? It certainly seems like it. You knock one down and another unpredictably pops up. What’s next? The EU? Japan? Australia?

It’s anyone’s guess, but just because farmers were partially bailed out of a multibillion-dollar problem caused by the current trade war with China, doesn’t mean you or your business will be so lucky.

The time has come to evaluate how your company will be affected by the escalation of disputes with two of our biggest trading partners, China and possibly Mexico. As it pertains to Mexico, we have a reprieve for now, but in the game of whack-a-mole you never know what’s going to pop up next.

So, here’s what you should be doing to ride out the disputes:

First, take a hard look at your business to determine where you are exposed. Ask yourself tough questions. Will these trade wars affect your supply chain or customer base? Do your company’s products use technology developed by Chinese companies, and if so, can that technology be used against your company to steal trade secrets or surveil your customers? Do you own or control a factory in China or Mexico and what will these trade disputes mean for those operations?

If you’re selling to China or other countries, this is a good time to determine if tariffs will mean your prices will increase to the point that you are no longer competitive. Will increasing prices affect your volume and margins? You should monitor the changes to learn what your company can endure and what it can’t.

You must drill down and evaluate what issues might arise for your business. If you depend on Chinese business partners, or even employees, it’s time to reconsider how dependent you are on them, and whether there are any viable alternatives in the short term, and maybe even for the long term. If you are primarily doing business with Mexican partners and a tariff is instated, alternatives may prove scarce.

Another issue to consider is one that so many U.S. companies already know. The price of doing business in China will many times mean giving up or compromising your intellectual property. So, in deciding if and how to cut ties with China, you must be careful to ensure you are not creating your own competitor in the process by figuring out how best to protect your intellectual property.

Mexico presents a different challenge. Its proximity to the U.S. and lower labor costs will be hard to replicate elsewhere. It might only be possible to move manufacturing back to the U.S. and suffer increased costs and capacity issues in the short term. Though some of those expenses may be partially offset by lower shipping costs.

If you do have a factory in China, now may be the time to consider moving it to Vietnam or another part of the region. You will have to calculate the viability of moving that factory, as well as the time it will take to move your operation. You may even wish to take it a step further and consider that now might be the right time to replace your workforce altogether by investing in robotics to streamline operations and reduce the number of employees.

You may also want to renegotiate existing relationships to lower costs, modify your business model by increasing your prices, or get suppliers to absorb the added costs that come with tariff increases. Do some research to find out if there are any suitable substitute suppliers. Try and find businesses that offer similar costs and capabilities that you can work with.

Some say the trade wars will go on until the next election; some predict it will last even longer. Whatever the outcome, your work begins now. Those who get caught in the crossfire later may find themselves with surprise competitors built on stolen intellectual property, sagging sales or increased costs that will simply price you out of competition.

Find your passion and own your career path, CEOs tell job seekers

Employers are looking for people who are eager to work and want to constantly learn. Be humble, listen, and show a desire to keep growing. But most importantly, you have to be patient, because it takes years of hard work, focus, collaboration and adaptation to land your dream job. Be willing to work for it, and you will succeed.

Tony Argiz, chairman, CEO, Morrison, Brown, Argiz & Farra, LLC (MBAF)


Don’t be afraid to start at the bottom. Employers are looking for talent and your willingness to work your way up within a company is a good way in the door.

Jennifer Cramer, CEO, co-founder, The Spice Lab


You are all very lucky coming out of college in a very robust job market. Your “dream” job today might not be your dream for the rest of your life, so don’t be afraid to explore and find something you might find fulfilling and challenging. For those of you who don’t know what their dream job is yet, don’t worry. Find a job that will give you a stepping stone for some other potential endeavor. Go into an internship in a field you might find interesting and be confident that with hard work, responsibility and an open mind, your dream job will eventually find you.

Maurice R. Ferré, CEO, chairman, INSIGHTEC


Landing your dream job is secondary to identifying the job itself. Seek a company that will provide you with learning opportunities, a culture of mentoring, empowerment and inclusion where you would feel safe to take a risk and ask questions and present your ideas. Having clarity about your own expectations will increase the chances of landing the job. Recognize how little you likely know but be confident in your ability to learn. When Stantec is seeking entry level employees, we look for passion, cultural fit and attitude. We can teach job-related knowledge.

Adriana Jaegerman, senior principal, managing leader, Stantec


I would give them the exact same advice Pam, my brilliant (and sassy) step-daughter, gave my two sons when they were first entering the job market:

“Look: your first job WILL stink. You will hate it. You will want to quit the first day! The next job will probably be the same. And the next. And the next. But, eventually, you’ll get a job and notice that, for whatever reason, it stinks less than the prior ones. You’ll figure out why that is — the workplace, the boss, your co-workers, the company culture, etc. — and that will continue until you’ve had the experience to know what you like and what you don’t like, then continue until, hopefully, you find the job that truly makes you happy. Or at least the one that stinks the least.”

As admittedly cynical (and sassy) as Pam’s advice was, I think it is right on the money: Except for a few lucky souls, the overwhelming majority of graduating college seniors don’t have a “dream job” waiting for them simply because they have yet to define their “dream”. Experimentation is critical: Get out there, narrow your interests, try different jobs, find what you like, and keep tweaking. But move forward relentlessly, always cultivating your curiosity. A person ultimately becomes a reflection of their collective experiences; the more we experience, the more we naturally gravitate toward what we find fulfilling, career-wise and otherwise. None of the process is a waste of time. I’m not sure I would be practicing investment immigration law today but for the many nights I spent mopping the gnarly bathrooms of the Rathskellar at 3 a.m. my freshman year at UF. Talk about motivation!

A lot of young attorneys have, over the years, told me that I have their “dream job.” I always carefully explain that as blessed and grateful as I am for my profession, it was never my “dream”…it’s just the one I’ve found that, for me, “stinks the least.”

José E. Latour, founding partner, LatourLaw


Landing the dream drive requires that the applicant start early and ask everyone to help them identify the job. Many times it’s who you know that can put in a good word for you that helps you land the right opportunity. A résumé that starts with accomplishments that are quantifiable always catches my attention. Be prepared for the interview by researching the company and the interviewer. An interview is also an opportunity to ask questions about the role and what does success look like if the job is landed. I measure a good candidate and determine if I want to hire them by the quality of the questions the applicant asks.

Beatrice Louissaint, president, CEO, Florida State Minority Supplier Development Council


My advice to a graduating college senior would be to explore the world — search for your passion and try to find a career path that aligns with that passion. Never be afraid to fail — failure is a part of building success. Although college is over, remember to never stop learning and to dream big! Lastly, I would share my favorite quote by the late Steve Jobs, “….the ones who are crazy enough to think they can change they world, are the ones who do. Thank different.”

Melissa Medina, president, eMerge


Research thoroughly any organization you are interviewing with. Present yourself well with passion, purpose and a warm personality. Listen attentively, engage the interviewer, answer questions honestly, and send a thank you note after your interview. Know who you are, know what you want and sell yourself.

John Quelch, vice provost, University of Miami Dean, Miami Business School and Leonard M. Miller University Professor


A résumé can only say so much about you especially when you have limited experience. Therefore, it is important to stand out in the “electronic job search” market by networking and utilizing social media. Streamline your social media and on-line presence to reflect your dream job or company you wish to land. Show your skills and personality by writing a blog targeting a company or the industry you are focused on.

Network by connecting through LinkedIn and Facebook to people in your field or people who work at companies that you’re interested in. And don’t forget the personal touch; use your professors, family, students, etc. Remember … “people can do something for you even if you are not sure what it is you want them to do” (John Guare).

Kelly Ramsden, managing partner, Office Edge and Legal Edge


Take charge of your career. Get to know and understand your industry and your audience. Learn about the scope, expectations and challenges of your target job with research, and by connecting with industry professionals. Ask for informational interviews from companies you aspire toward. People are surprisingly willing to help someone looking to learn. I have found that volunteering is a great way to learn about yourself, develop, and gain experience.

Have a résumé and make absolutely sure there are no typos. Employers often research prospects via social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.), so make sure your profile is that of a mature professional, and that it highlights your achievements. Although skill and ability are important, employers also want to see a willingness to learn and grow. Ask questions. When you get the job, show up on time, prepare for meetings, meet deadlines, communicate and collaborate.

Chana Sheldon, executive director, MOCA


Own your career path; don’t expect your company to design it for you. Also, it’s important even now to invest in your future and live within your means. If you have student debt, work to pay it off as fast as you can.

Rajinder Singh, chairman, president, CEO, BankUnited

Sometimes, efforts to spur entrepreneurship fail to bring about change. Here’s why

Let’s speak in generalities. Because when it comes to understanding our economy and efforts to create and grow local businesses, it is important to keep in mind those things that are generally true – as opposed to creating policy by focusing on a few anecdotes.

Five years ago, I helped launch the Florida SBDC at FIU, the small business development center within the FIU College of Business, which works with about 1,000 small-business owners and entrepreneurs each year with the goal of helping them grow and succeed, stepping down last month as the founding regional director. I would like to share the unique perspective this experience has provided.

There are countless hard-working organizations and individuals striving to transform Miami’s low-wage, tourism-dependent commerce into a more dynamic and diverse economy that produces higher paying jobs. Yet, our efforts sometimes fail to bring about change. Why? Here are some thoughts and observations:

Idealizing entrepreneurship has created false expectations: A sure sign that a business is in trouble even before it starts is when a would-be entrepreneur says he or she wants to start a business in order to have more work-life balance. The reality of life as an entrepreneur could not be further from that image. Unless you are talking about a lifestyle endeavor, which is not truly a business enterprise but a form of self-employment, starting and growing a business requires grueling work hours and unmitigated sacrifice. For entrepreneurs, the costs too often include divorce, bankruptcy, home foreclosures, and alienation from loved ones. While we should not idealize entrepreneurship, we definitely should respect entrepreneurs for the sacrifices they often make. To improve entrepreneurs’ long odds for success, it’s important that they have the necessary knowledge and skills – as well as realistic expectations.

Innovation does not equal entrepreneurship: Recently, it seems that the words innovation and entrepreneurship have become synonymous. Many programs are promoting innovation as a method for achieving business growth and job creation. However, innovation is not entrepreneurship, which is evident from the countless patents that never see the light of commerce. Innovation certainly can be of great benefit to a business — in so much as it provides a competitive advantage. If it does not add value to the business nor the customer, too often the effort of creating innovation is little more than an academic endeavor. Instead of focusing on innovation, entrepreneurs should focus on resolving consumer problems and improving products and services, a process that may — or may not — lead to innovation.

The start-up bandwagon has pluses and minuses: The enthusiasm in Miami surrounding startups has been energizing. If nothing else, Miami now is widely associated with something other than tourism. Many national publications have noted Miami’s ranking as a leader in business starts. Until recently, it was rare to see the words “Miami” and “business” in the same sentence in the national press. The concern is that the push for startups also has prompted many individuals to start a business who really should not be doing so – at least not yet. These include people with little experience in the industry in which they plan to launch a company, a dearth of management experience, little chance of accessing capital and with undeveloped financial skills. No wonder that Miami also ranks near the bottom in scaling businesses. We want to help individuals fulfill their dreams of starting a business; but we also want to improve their chances for success. Would-be entrepreneurs carefully need to assess whether they have the capability to operate a business. Starting a business is easy. Growing a business is difficult.

The “We need VC capital” myth: Read any article about Miami’s inability to grow its startup businesses and you will see the inevitable comment that a lack of venture capital is to blame. Definitely, more capital is always welcome, and access to capital is crucial for a growing business. However, a lack of venture capital does not prevent businesses from scaling. FIU business professor Dileep Rao, who has studied and analyzed unicorn entrepreneurs from the last 60 years, found that the overwhelming majority — 76 percent — scaled without any venture capital at all. Another 18 percent received venture capital only after the business already had been growing rapidly.

We mistake public service for economic development: We often confuse economic-development programs with business-oriented public service programs. The first engage in activities primarily to produce jobs and increase economic output. The latter have the noble and worthwhile task of assisting businesses that need and want help, regardless of the likelihood that the business will help grow the local economy. We absolutely need such public-service programs – we just should not expect the same economic impact from them. In Miami-Dade, establishment without employees outnumber those with employees five to one. Furthermore, between 2005 and 2015, the number of non-employer establishments in the Miami area rose 55.9 percent, almost three times the national rate. Not all business ventures create jobs. In fact, few do.

Of course, there are exceptions for every point made above. No doubt, there are many examples of the entrepreneur who started all alone, with scarce business knowledge, and little more than an idea, five dollars and the sheer will to succeed. We all love those stories. We read them so much we start believing they represent the norm. Unfortunately, when it comes to launching and growing businesses, such anecdotes are the exception and not the general rule.

With entrepreneurship, anything is possible — but not anything is probable.

Jacqueline Bueno Sousa is Director of Operations, Florida International University Executive and Professional Education. For five years, she was regional director of the Small Business Development Center at FIU.

What businesses need to know about climate risk and resilience

Real estate, finance and insurance experts, along with local government, academia and community leaders, recently convened in Miami to discuss climate change and sustainability at Hinshaw’s third annual Sea Level Rise and Climate Change Conference. Below are some of the key takeaways for businesses.

The symbiotic relationship between the private sector, government and academia regarding climate risk mitigation and resiliency is more apparent now than ever before. Local governments are installing water pumps, raising roads and strengthening building codes. Global institutional real estate investors, such as Heitman and DWS Group, have begun to include climate risk into their pricing models through the use of big data, mapping and how local government is investing in resilience and mitigating climate risk.

Institutions such as FIU’s Sea Level Solutions Center play an important role in supplying necessary information used for planning. The combination of metrics and historical data are needed to develop an area’s long term real estate development and to review its existing built-on environment. Investors who are not yet factoring in climate risk see it as a timing issue. They may be in a holding period but the issues are top of mind and being considered when looking at their overall portfolio.

Businesses are getting more educated and asking the right questions. Will the real estate loan of the future be underwritten differently? Will federal flood insurance be available for my business or home and at what cost? What building improvements are being made to reduce the cost of flood insurance? How are cities currently funding investments in resilience? When will the federal government step in?

The answers are complex and the issues are evolving. The underwriting for a 30-year commercial real estate loan may look different than a 15-year loan depending on historical data, mapping, government intervention and the amount of risk in the investor’s entire portfolio. The National Flood Insurance Program’s new rate restructuring goes into effect April 1, 2020 for residential and Oct. 1, 2020 for commercial. The new rates will be previewed in the coming months.

Private flood insurance may also be an option. Developers and cities today are applying a methodology called Landscape Infrastructure, a multi-functional, high performance system, which can result in lower flood insurance premiums.

Local governments are using taxes, taxing districts, state and federal grants, bonds, loans and public-private partnerships to fund activities. Long term, federal funding is needed to fortify infrastructure, reduce carbon emissions and incentivize investment tied to climate action.

There are signs that attitudes toward climate change are changing.

The State of Florida has named Thomas Frazer its first-ever chief science officer. Gov. Ron DeSantis is creating an office focused on resilience and coastal protection to address climate impacts like sea level rise. The ban on the words “climate change” seems to be ending, and the DeSantis administration has set forth the environment as a priority. Although time will tell, climate experts in Florida are cautiously optimistic.

Globally, all coastal cities are facing threats from extreme weather and sea level rise.

The City of Miami Beach, City of Miami, City of Coral Gables, Miami-Dade County and Broward County are providing leadership in their resiliency initiatives aimed at reducing risk in the long term. Their efforts are being looked at by the rest of the country and should be applauded and encouraged. It is important for businesses to support and join forces with government and academia regarding climate risk.

South Floridians are accustomed to living with water and I have no doubt that, while South Florida may look different 50 years from now, it will still be a great place to live, work and play.

In the week ahead, watch the price action of markets beyond stocks

Alfred E. Neuman is not known for his investment prowess. MAD Magazine’s mascot may be a smart aleck, but his “What, me worry?” motto captures today’s stock investment climate.

Elsewhere, however, there are plenty of worries reflected in the price action of markets beyond stocks, and they bear watching in the week ahead.

Gasoline prices are as cheap as they’ve been in two years at the beginning of a summer. However, as tension tightens between the U.S. and Iran, crude oil has rallied. U.S. crude futures popped to a six-week high on the news Iran had shot down an American military drone. The price of U.K., Canadian and Saudi Arabian oil have rallied in recent days. America may import less foreign oil than it did a decade ago helping mute price swings here when Mideast tensions arise, but given the global pricing of the commodity, American drivers are not immune to the higher cost of geopolitical risks.

Gold has been shinning. Spot prices jumped to more than a five-year high with both the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank signaling the possibility of cutting their respective interest rates in the months ahead. That has weighed on the U.S. Dollar and Euro currency, which helps push up gold prices. The greater fear reflected in a sustained gold rally, though, is what central bank interest rate cuts would acknowledge — a sharp economic slowdown.

Which brings us to interest rates. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond fell below 2 percent last week after the Federal Reserve stopped saying it would be patient in assessing it’s previous strategy of rising rates. That fed a bond rally, sending interest rates down. Buying government IOUs is a considered a traditional safe haven in uncertain economic times.

And these uncertain times (trade tariffs, Iran, Trump, 2020 election) have helped fuel the strong rally so far this year for the S&P 500 stock index (up over 15 percent). That performance may have investors smiling like the iconic MAD mascot, but prudent investors shouldn’t be as cavalier about worrying.

Celebrate the U.S. economy’s endurance, but look for sustainability

We don’t celebrate economic birthdays because the tools used to measure the economy aren’t precise enough to pinpoint specific milestones. Yet it is worth noting, as of the week ahead, the U.S. economy has been expanding for 10 years. It marks the longest economic expansion in American history.

That deserves some recognition. Impressive? Sure. Meaningful? Not really.

July will be the 121st month in a row the American economy will grow. It is now $21 trillion — almost half again as big as it was 10 years ago. Yet there has not been a year in this decade of growth when the economy grew faster than 3 percent. It has been steady, but slow.

It’s customary to be reflective on anniversaries, and as the economic expansion turns 10, thoughts of just how long this can last are natural. After all, the last expansion that lasted 10 years crashed in its 121st month. That’s when the NASDAQ flamed out spectacularly and helped send the economy into a shallow and short recession.

Today, maybe it’s noteworthy that the city where Google-ing “recession” is most popular is Washington, D.C. Still, “stock market” is a much more popular search term.

As well it should be. In the past decade, the S&P 500 stock index is up over 200 percent.

Tariffs, Mideast tensions, the 2020 election cycle, the Federal Reserve’s interest rate policy — all are uncertainties. Monthly new job gains have been erratic. (June numbers are due out Friday). But instead of simply celebrating economic longevity, investors should focus on sustainability.

Local and state governments must do more to address affordable housing

This is a real problem not only in South Florida, but also across the country as seen by Google’s recent housing commitment in the Bay Area. Investment from those living in other parts of the U.S. and foreign countries have driven prices up, making it difficult for locals to buy. There is more the public and private sectors can do to address this issue, from better public transportation to help get workers to their jobs in a cost-efficient way, to more affordable housing.

Your series is opening eyes to this crisis that frankly we have not felt in our business in Pompano Beach.

Jennifer Cramer, CEO, co-founder, The Spice Lab


Miami has to find a solution to affordable housing, to attract talent and have a vibrant downtown, this is a must. We have to encourage our elected officials with our civic leaders to come up with solutions. They exist; it just has to become a priority.

Maurice R. Ferré, CEO, chairman, INSIGHTEC


The region has grown significantly, producing substantial returns for the housing market. That said, I believe there needs to be more incentive to build affordable housing and I’m hopeful that the new legislation and clarity surrounding the Qualified Opportunity Zones will be catalyst for such investment where it’s most needed.

Adriana Jaegerman, senior principal, managing leader, Stantec


South Florida’s housing affordability mirrors that of many other fast-growing, successful U.S. cities, but ours is exacerbated by the consistent misuse of public funds by local leaders who would rather give taxpayer money to rich sports franchises then reinvest it in our community. Consider our biggest tax albatross, Marlins Park: The county raised $488 million via bonds. According to Marketwatch.com, taxpayers will spend $2.6 billion to repay these bonds by the time they windup in 2049. Despite the colossal failure of Marlins Park, here we are again, seven years later, discussing how much public property to donate to yet another sports franchise that wants a subsidized stadium. Local leaders must be held strictly accountable for this abuse of public funds, which should instead be used to create compelling business incentives for the many successful U.S. companies which specialize in building affordable housing or which own and operated private rental communities for lower and middle income families. Such companies would flock to South Florida the minute we give them a sound business rationale for investing in local affordable housing.

José E. Latour, founding partner, LatourLaw


I do not believe that enough effort is being put into finding solutions to inequality in our community. It is truly a failure of leadership at all levels, both public and private sectors. There is no vision and viable plan to deal with the housing needs of the working poor and the middle class. Too many elected officials think more about the needs of developers and not who really makes a community thrive: Its people. It is in everyone’s best interest to deal with the issue of inequality. Miami cannot continue to be a great city if segments of its population are not part of our overall economic success. It is time that the private sector and elected officials see this for the crisis that it is, and make it a top priority to identify strategies to change the course of this burgeoning challenge that will impact us all who love this community.

Beatrice Louissaint, president, CEO, Florida State Minority Supplier Development Council


Local government should do more to support agile educational institutions that are developing middle skills and other advanced 21st century skills. Our 20-something students studying technology skills are starting their careers with incomes above the median salary in Miami and will likely double their wages over their first decade of professional work. However, there’s a financing gap for these nontraditional programs that makes them prohibitive for the person who is affected by those low wages in the first place.

Ariel Quiñones, co-founder, Ironhack

What losing patience means at the Fed, and for investors

Something changes in the six weeks between late April and mid-June. It was in that time span that the Federal Reserve’s interest rating setting committee lost its patience.

The group didn’t make any change to its target short term borrowing rate for banks, but it stopped expressing its desire to wait. The optimism over the Fed nearing an interest rate cut has helped push the S&P 500 stock index to new highs.

On Wednesday in the week ahead, the committee releases the minutes from its June meeting.

At the press conference immediately following that June meeting, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said, “In light of increased uncertainties and muted inflation pressures” the group dropped its wait-and-see approach. He spoke about the “crosscurrents” of trade tensions and slowing global economic growth. And he explained the uncertainties of choppy job growth, weakening business investment and stubbornly low inflation.

There was an entire day of discussions about these conditions before the committee turned its attention to its interest rate policy. So, sure, the head of the Fed has talked about why it has become more dovish. What investors will be reading the minutes of those discussions for is a better appreciation of whether any patience is left.

There are several important economic reports due after the release of the Fed’s June meeting minutes, and before the agency’s next interest rate meeting scheduled in three weeks. Each of those data points will help steer the Fed’s analysis. But the market isn’t asking if the Federal Reserve will cut borrowing costs in late July. The CME FedWatch Tool indicates a 100 percent chance of a rate cut. The only question right now is by how much.

Epstein accusers finally face him in court

Two women who say they were molested by Jeffrey Epstein as teenagers stepped forward at his bail hearing in New York federal court on Monday, telling the judge that releasing the accused sex trafficker on bail would pose a threat to them and to other women who were abused by him.

Facing Epstein in court for the first time, Courtney Wild and Annie Farmer stood about four feet from the defense table, where Epstein, dressed in a dark blue prison jumpsuit and orange sneakers, appeared stunned, shaking his head at one point during their emotional plea to Senior U.S. District Court Judge Richard Berman.

“He is a scary person, he should not be walking the streets,’’ said Wild, 31, who was groomed by Epstein, starting when she was 14, to perform sex acts on him and others and also directed to lure other underage girls to his waterfront mansion in Palm Beach.

Berman, who said he would issue his ruling at 9 a.m. Thursday, invited the accusers to speak, something they were deprived of doing by federal and state prosecutors during Epstein’s 2008 sentencing on prostitution charges in Florida.

U.S. attorneys for the Southern District of New York are asking that Epstein be held in custody, contending that the multimillionaire money manager has the financial means to flee, is a danger to the community and has a history of coercing and threatening victims, witnesses and their families.

Epstein attorney Martin Weinberg, however, argued that there is no proof that Epstein was behind the aggressive tactics used by private investigators in Florida 11 years ago who followed Epstein’s victims and, at one point, drove so aggressively that a parent was forced off the road.

Weinberg added that his client had “disciplined himself’’ and has led a law-abiding life in the 14 years since his arrest in Florida.

Berman, who has authored a number of articles about child abuse, was not convinced, pointing out that studies show pedophiles and sex offenders often return to their established ways after as long as 15 years, and in fact, the rate of recidivism grows as time passes.

“These crimes are the most difficult to evaluate,’’ Berman said, “because in sex crimes victims very rarely come forward.’’

In another twist, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex Rossmiller announced that FBI agents, in addition to finding nude and semi-nude photographs of possible minors in Epstein’s home safe, also discovered a pile of cash, dozens of diamonds and an expired passport bearing Epstein’s photograph but an alias. The passport, issued from a foreign country, listed Epstein as a resident of Saudi Arabia, Rossmiller said.

“Frankly there is a lot of material we are still working through,’’ Rossmiller said of the evidence found in a raid last week at Epstein’s Manhattan mansion.

The prosecutor added that in the week since Epstein was arrested at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, additional witnesses and victims have spoken to prosecutors. Rossmiller said the federal sex trafficking case against Epstein is expanding by the day.

Epstein, 66, faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted. His arrest followed the Miami Herald’s publication of a series, Perversion of Justice, that detailed a lenient plea agreement granted in 2008 by federal and state prosecutors in Florida and for the first time offered detailed first-person accounts from Epstein’s accusers, the Palm Beach police chief and the lead detective who handled the case.

The New York charges ignited a political firestorm, and led to the resignation Friday of U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, who was the U.S. attorney in South Florida when Epstein’s plea deal was negotiated.