In the fall of 2012, Broward County became an official "Six Pillars" community, setting out a growth strategy for the next two decades as the county's population of 1.8 million is expected to grow further.
On Friday, Broward leaders reported the community has addressed 40 percent of the nearly 400 goals in its first year.
The results "exceeded my expectations," said Bob Swindell, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, Broward's economic development group.
More than 300 community members are involved in the project, part of a statewide effort to focus on six "pillars" that experts say lead to a sustainable economy. They include talent supply and education, innovation and leadership, infrastructure, business climate, governance and quality of life.
Mayor Barbara Sharief said the most important goal was job creation, pointing out that Broward's 5 percent unemployment rate is the lowest in South Florida and among the lowest in the state. She said making loans and resources available to small businesses is critical to driving unemployment even lower.
"We're going to give small businesses the tools they need to be successful," she said.
Lori Chevy, co-chair of Six Pillars Broward and Broward market president for Bank of America, reported that the county ranked high on several items: residents 25 and older getting bachelor's degrees, on 8th grade math and reading performance, land conservation and water consumption, per capita income and persons below the poverty line.
But improvement is needed, she said, in other areas, such as the percentage of residents who have a bachelor's degree in science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM — fields; charitable giving; voter turnout and the uninsured as a percentage of the population.
J. David Armstrong Jr., president of Broward College and co-chairman of Six Pillars, said Broward College is adding new degrees in information technology and for medical jobs such as clinical laboratory technician. But those fields require more intense study in science, math and engineering, which some students resist, he said.
"We're working to interest students in those areas," he said.
Mason Jackson, president of CareerSource Broward, the county's employment agency, said the Six Pillars' goals to improve the county are important to attracting and retaining jobs.
"You have to have a place that has a quality of life. If you want people to stay here, you have to have a place that's both fun and interesting," he said.
Greg Stuart, executive director of the Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization, said streets will be made safer for pedestrians and cyclists through $100 million in construction over the next five years, he said. Plans call for more bicycle lanes and wider sidewalks.
But cities can also make great improvements that aren't necessarily expensive, said Peter Kageyama, author of For the Love of Cities and the speaker for the event. But those changes should be "fun," he said.
Locally, he pointed to Chad Scott, a Re/Max real estate agent in Fort Lauderdale, who is developing a community garden. Scott has raised $86,000 — halfway to his goal — to turn a vacant lot into Flagler Community Garden, where people can grow plants for food.
"I've lived here all my life. I didn't want to move to another city, but to make amenities happen here," Scott said.
For information, go to sixpillarsbroward.org. Palm Beach County identified its Six Pillar strategies in 2011. For information, see economiccouncilpbc.org.
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