Broward County’s mayor praised his progress over the past year, detailing his efforts to boost tourism through cruises, movies and cricket games, shoring up spending to help 911 operations and supporting housing-oriented initiatives.
The updates came Tuesday from outgoing Mayor Lamar Fisher, who delivered the 2023 annual “State of the County” address. “The State of the County is stronger than ever,” he said.
Here’s a look at some highlights.
Among the notable increases was the number of travelers in the county. In the first eight months of the year, there were more than 23 million travelers, representing a 7.8% increase in domestic passengers and a 23% increase in international travel, making Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood 17th busiest airport in the country, Fisher said.
“Tourism is on the rise,” he said.
Eight new cruise lines and 35 ships are now docking at Port Everglades. That includes the Ritz Carlton Collection, Disney Dream, Celebrity Beyond and Viking Neptune.
Industry experts said the return came as the industry addressed protocols to protect customers against COVID-19 and recalibrated its itineraries.
The county’s film industry continues to attract film and television opportunities and has booked 12 projects since its inception in 2022.
More than 10,000 jobs were created among cast and crew, he said.
Broward to host 2024 Cricket World Cup matches. Broward County will strive to complete renovations ahead of expected crowds, including $6.6 million to create a media staging area to give accommodate the expected influx of the international press and the installation of stands. There are now 5,000 seats and officials said they need between 13,000 and 15,000. County leaders approved another $1.8 million to replace the original scoreboard that has undergone repeated electronic repairs.
And what’s next: Omni Hotels and Resorts will be the primary operator of the hotel planned for the 801-room Fisher convention center. The hotel chain reported that it could open in late fall 2025.
The Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center is still under construction, with an extension to the main exhibit hall to attract conventions and a new 65,000-square-foot ballroom facing the Intracoastal Waterway.
“It’s going to be an exceptional year. “I feel it in my bones,” Fisher said.
The county dedicated $25 million for staffing increases at the Sheriff’s Office, another $3.4 million to fund new positions and more for a new helicopter after a tragic accident. The county commissioner’s “priority” is public safety, he said.
Property was also purchased to become the new government center.
In June, the county purchased the Robert Hayes Gore State Office Building, 201 W. Broward Blvd., a five-story structure, for $65.5 million, not including closing costs and other fees. The choice means they could move to their new location by 2026, at an estimated cost of $322 million to demolish and rebuild the building that is there now.
Fisher also praised a contraption for spraying mosquitoes with larvicide, an invention by county engineers that earned them a patent. “That was a game changer,” he said, with national possibilities.
Fisher said a 5-acre Motel 6 in Pompano Beach has been purchased to be converted into affordable housing and $1.2 million has been allocated to help homeless families.
He praised the Human Services department for its ongoing case management efforts to help 11,000 households avoid loss of utilities, homelessness and foreclosures, among other crisis situations.
But it wasn’t a perfect year. The “significant” event of last year, compared to the COVID-related concerns that marked previous years, was the unfortunate flooding that damaged homes and cars.
The April rain brought 26 inches of rain, flooding, and “unwelcome guests” of snakes and catfish swimming in places they shouldn’t have been on airport grounds. The airport was closed for two days.
Fisher warned that events like this could happen again. “This is going to happen more and more,” he warned, “and so we want to be prepared for that at the end of the day.”
The next mayor of Broward
Also on Tuesday, commissioners chose Nan Rich, a former state legislator, to become the next mayor through November 2024.
“It is an honor and a challenge to follow you as mayor,” he told Fisher.
He said he will continue to promote tolerance with the message: “You are welcome here, you are safe here.”
Commissioner Beam Furr was elected by his colleagues to become the next vice mayor, putting him on track to become mayor in November 2024.
You can contact Lisa J. Huriash at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on X, formerly Twitter, @LisaHuriash