Rodrick Miller is the eighth and latest president and CEO of the Miami-Dade County Beacon Council, and while he may be new to the Magic City, he’s by no means new to the game.
The 45-year-old recently replaced Michael Finney – who died unexpectedly in April 2022 – as the head of the county’s economic development organization. His appointment was the culmination of a seven-month search led by the council’s new chair, Yolanda Cash Jackson.
With more than 20 years of experience in economic development throughout the country, Miller said he’s excited to have now found his way to Miami. He says he appreciates the weight of his new role and won’t jump the gun with strategy before better understanding his new community.
Still, he brings with him a few key guidelines by which to frame his work.
The Three Principles
A principal point of concern for Miller is bringing competitiveness to the county’s economy. In other words, how can businesses best be persuaded to work with Miami?
“The competitiveness is when $1 invested in your market is going to yield more than a dollar somewhere else,” Miller explained.
What makes an economy attractive for investment, how much and what kind of technology it harbors, what the infrastructure is like, and “the caliber of human capital” are all factors that fall within the blanket of competitiveness, he says.
The next principle is sustainability.
“We don’t want to be the flash in the pan,” Miller said.
He often considers the diversity and depth of an economy and how far one’s successes can take them. To Miller, steady growth is the key, so that opportunities have positive outlooks not just in the immediate future, but 10 years down the line.
Finally, his strategizing prioritizes inclusivity. He says he wants to consider those down in Florida City all the way up to Aventura, senior citizens who are in retirement as well as the “up-and-coming opportunity youth” who are finding their way in the workforce, veterans, disabled individuals and everyone else in between.
“At the end of the day, the Beacon Council is measured on very simple terms,” Miller said. “What’s the amount of private investment that you’re bringing to the market, what’s the amount of jobs that you’ve created and what’s the wages of those jobs? While those are core elements, we understand that this wrapper of sustainability, competitiveness and inclusivity will ultimately drive those numbers up overtime.”
How exactly those principles will be applied is yet to be discovered. Miller plans to meet with key players in the near future, such as Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce CEO Eric Knowles, as well as leaders in the private sector. He also wants to visit and study myriad neighborhoods and communities in the county to learn about their core assets, challenges and demographics.
“Those are the kinds of things that we’ll be focusing on from a strategic perspective, but of course the devil is always in the details,” Miller said.
Applying a History of Experience
Perhaps the pillar of Miller’s approach is collaboration, and he’s especially proud to be able to work in a county where there is “an ecosystem of leadership,” in his view.
But his résumé is comprehensive in its own right, too.
The new CEO possesses the skills of a salesman, negotiator, policy expert and corporate strategist. He has led public-private development agencies in New Orleans, Detroit and, most recently, Puerto Rico, from where he relocated last month. Altogether, he has brought more than $6 billion in private investment and 50,000 new jobs to several communities.
Miami-Dade County, although faced with similar challenges as Miller’s previous jurisdictions, is in many ways better situated. He describes New Orleans, Puerto Rico and Detroit as communities that the world had previously given up on economically, either as a result of environmental ruin caused by natural disasters in the former two or of economic malfeasance in the latter.
This community that is now new to him, on the other hand, is what he describes as “a hotbed of innovation and entrepreneurship.”
A key similarity between Miller’s previous communities and his new home in Miami is diversity. Landing a job in cities with large BIPOC populations – Black, Indigenous and people of color – started off as a coincidence he says, but quickly became a habit by design.
“What I realized is that the most important asset that any community has is its people,” Miller noted.
Nowhere is that truer than in Miami, the gateway to Latin America with Black founders on Indigenous land.
Additionally, our geography poses both unique challenges and immense possibilities, says Miller. Miami-Dade County is on the cutting edge of climate change and sustainability, and therein lies an opportunity that he can’t help but notice.
“If Miami-Dade County can solve for these challenges,” Miller said, “that know-how, that expertise, that innovation is also exportable to the rest of the world. And that translates into private investment, into capital.”