Larry Williams, the newly appointed President and CEO of The Beacon Council.
Miami, October, 21st, 2013. A new beginning: A Q&A with Larry Williams, President and CEO of The Beacon Council.
Larry Williams, the newly appointed President and CEO of The Beacon Council, was completing his second week at the helm of Miami-Dade County’s official economic development organization when this interview was conducted.
Williams previously worked as an economic development professional in Atlanta, Seattle and Raleigh over a span of about 20 years. He was Vice President of Technology Industry Development for the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Director of International Trade and Economic Development for the Washington State Department of Commerce, and rose through the ranks to Director of Operations of the International Trade Division for the North Carolina Department of Commerce. Williams is a graduate of North Carolina State University.
What are your goals for Miami-Dade County and The Beacon Council?
There is a great story to tell about Miami-Dade and how it’s being recognized as a world-class competitor in the global market. I want us to tell that story and keep people excited about the business opportunities here. I want to help current companies grow and expand, attract new companies domestically and from around the world to be a part of a great region. I want to grow and innovate the next generation of ingenuity by helping entrepreneurs and start-ups. And I want to help ensure that we have the most skilled workforce available for the future economy. I also want to keep The Beacon Council visible and engaged throughout Miami-Dade County.
How do you like Miami so far?
My wife Pamela and I are glad to be living in Miami-Dade County. It is a diverse and vibrant community. We like to experience new things and be a part of the community. We are thrilled about what Miami represents, from its urban core to the Everglades, we want to experience it all – beaches to farmlands.
Tell me about your background in the Tech industry?
I’m an economic developer who happened to focus on tech for the past two and a half years. I do understand what the Tech industry represents to a knowledge-based economy. My work with technology leaders in Seattle and working in North Carolina with the Research Triangle helped me gain insight into the industry and how it’s a powerful economic driver.
Does Miami have a chance at being a Tech hub?
By all means, yes! All the assets are here. We have the infrastructure. We have world-class talent. Miami is a college town and I mean everything from community college to four-year institutions. Miami has a thriving entrepreneurial spirit. Tech is the backbone of all the target industries in One Community One Goal. Tech is pervasive and touches all of the industries important to Miami – life science and healthcare, aerospace, design, logistics – all of them. And with next spring’s eMerge Americas conference led by Manny Medina, we have a fantastic platform to tell the Miami technology story. We have to start knitting these things together in a cohesive way in order to reach the next level.
Do we have an available workforce for a Tech hub?
Yes some of the local economy is traditionally represented as blue-collar but the car mechanics of today are not your grandfather’s mechanics. They have to know diagnostics/electronics and be proficient in computer-generated programs to do their jobs properly. People can be trained, whether on the job, during apprentices, as well as in community colleges.
Talk about your background with Latin America and other international experience.
My first taste of Latin America came when I studied in Costa Rica. I was a freshman in college. I was so inspired by the experience that I decided to study in Spain. Williams studied Spanish, literature and economics while in Seville.
The first 10 years of my career in international trade development in North Carolina was targeted to Latin America and later all of the Americas to include Canada. When I was recruited to work in Seattle, my focus expanded to the broader global economy, including the markets in Asia and Europe. I think my experience in Latin America as well as other global markets is very relevant to Miami today as it grows from being the gateway to the Americas to a crossroads to the world.
What do you want to say to the community?
My major focus is about growing family wage jobs for the residents of Miami-Dade. Miami has a convincing business story to tell and we can tell it in a way that will get people excited about being a part of this community. And it’s a story we can all share. The Beacon Council is a wonderfully unique organization that brings together the public and private sectors, all committed to building the foundation of the economy. With continued leadership, we can make sure Miami takes its place in the global economy.