The chair of the South Florida Regional Business Alliance talks about the organization's mission and the concerns facing the region.
Q. Mr. Marrinson, you're the chairman of the South Florida Regional Business Alliance. What is the RBA, and what is its mission?
A. The RBA came about as a result of the Broward Workshop, the Economic Council of the Palm Beaches and the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce sitting down -- three similar business-type organizations -- to look at the long-range issues affecting the area. And we quickly learned that we were a megalopolis. And by definition, a megalopolis means a region composed of several large cities and their suburbs, in sufficiently close proximity to be considered a single urban complex.
Well, [Miami-]Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and, frankly, Martin and Monroe [counties], fall into that. Our people, our goods and services flow freely. We don't know when we cross these legal borders or boundaries, because we just don't know where they're at, and the average John Q., or the average visitor, tourist or whatever, or delivery person, knows that they've got to go from Point A to Point B. So we have created, ourselves, a lot of political borders that really don't exist, except for whatever reason they were created for.
So, by coming together, we also recognize that in strength there's numbers, or in numbers there's strength, whichever way you want to work it. So that if we were going to try to make things happen, working together would make it happen faster, and more efficiently. So we developed our mission statement, and that was to have an organization that could work together. None of us are in elected positions, nor do we have any interest in being in elected positions. And we find it easier to function that way, in that we don't have that territorial view. We have more of a statesperson's view, a broader view.
In the beginning, we said that there were certain items that we needed to look at and some that we just couldn't take on. We couldn't be all things to all people, and we shouldn't even attempt to be all things to all people. What we want to do is look at those issues that we can have an impact, such as transportation, such as bringing about coordination of our economic development agencies to bring about what we call net economic growth. Growth is not moving a business from one county to the other, or one section of the megalopolis. Net economic growth is bringing a new industry to the area.
Q. We can't really talk about the Regional Business Alliance without talking about South Florida regionalism as a concept. What is regionalism, and why is it so important, especially to the business community?
A. When we first sat down, we asked ourselves that. What is regionalism? Well, regionalism is the megalopolis. The megalopolis says it all Now the feds have recognized it, and they've designated us with a single MSA [metropolitan statistical area], which now catapults us into
Q. Sixth-largest in the country, I believe.
A. Sixth-largest, could even become the fifth-largest in the country. Now, one of the interesting things is that we're now competing on a global basis. We're not competing with each other, we're competing with the major markets with the Hong Kongs, with the Londons, with the major economic centers of the world. And we will continue, but we need to be in a position to attract industry, and to have the quality of life in this megalopolis that makes it make sense.
There is no sense sitting on a road all day long, wasting time, energy. That's silly, and we have an opportunity to fix it, and we're going to do everything we can to fix it.
Q. Speaking of foreign competition, what is the RBA's position on free trade, and in particular the Free Trade Area of the Americas?
A. We're very much in favor of it. We have gone on record as supporting it. We're very much in favor of Scripps coming down here; we think that's exciting. Those two are perfect examples of net economic growth. To move somebody from [Miami-]Dade to Palm Beach County wouldn't have even hit the radar screen, I don't care what size it was. But to bring in a fresh new crop.
Q. The RBA successfully pushed for legislation reconstituting Tri-Rail as the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority. Why was that important to the business community?
A. Someone's got to be in charge. In order to have something become accomplished, there needs to be a degree of organization, and that is, somebody's in charge And we say this in everything. Where's the focal point? In everything we deal with, we will be focusing in that direction. We have discovered that the old Tri-Rail organization, that we had redesignated, is loaded with talent. These are really professionals. I didn't know a single one of them before, but I've gained the utmost respect. When we've called meetings, the players, the enthusiasm for regionalism is there. Two years ago, I don't think that would have been the case.
Q. Now that the RTA is a reality, does the RBA have any role to play in what happens next?
A. We're working with the RTA as well as the MPOs [metropolitan planning organizations] and everybody to bring the players together. If we systematize the components, and get people communicating and working together, then you're going to solve some problems. If you stay fragmented, and the left hand doesn't know what the right hand's doing, it's crazy.
Q. Do you think there should be a merger of the three South Florida MPOs? I gather that you at least believe there should be a regionalized consolidation of their planning, but should there be an actual merger into one MPO for South Florida?
A. That's a decision that will be made by others. But I do believe that we need coordination of the MPOs, because that is the vehicle of funding, for all federal [transportation] funding. We need to make sure that everybody shares the same vision, because when you start going out 10, 15, 20 years and beyond, you'd better have a vision. And you'd better have developed some consensus Quality of life is what it's about. How do we improve the quality of life?
Face to Face: A Conversation with Ralph Marrinson
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