Visitors to the Homestead and Florida City area find an area building on its rich history for a bright future. Homestead's active program of historic preservation keeps the past alive while preparing residents for the burgeoning industries, tourism and future population growth.
Tropical South Florida is rich in history both documented and legendary. Four thousand years ago Indians inhabited the southern tip of Florida. Pirate smugglers, gun runners and revolutionaries roamed area waters centuries ago.
The area south of Miami was opened to homesteaders in 1898. A path known as the Homesteader's Trail was the only route in and out until railroad and oil magnate Henry Flagler extended his railway south to the area. Later, Flagler extended his railroad from Homestead to Key West and the Overseas Railroad was completed in 1912. Homestead's major source of revenue at that time was agriculture, with the harvest of winter vegetables and tropical fruits being shipped all across the country. Due to its strategic location, the Homestead area prospered with the Florida real estate boom in the early 1920s.
In 1926 Mother Nature unleashed her fury with a major hurricane, destroying Flagler's overseas railway. In 1945 another severe hurricane struck and demolished the World War II airfield at what is now Homestead Air Reserve Base.
The community has focused on preserving and renovating historic buildings, establishing new businesses and creating a historic district replete with charming specialty shops and restaurants. Many Mediterranean revival structures in downtown Homestead have been refurbished and adapted for new uses. The antique shops along Krome Avenue form a charming district, one that is part of a designated Main Street Community of the Florida Bureau of Historic Preservation.
Homestead's population is increasing as its ethnic composition becomes more diverse. A revitalized business district, a thriving agricultural industry, a 280 acre Park of Commerce and surrounding attractions make the Homestead/ Florida City area a popular destination for newcomers. New housing developments complement charming older neighborhoods. Innovative schools, lushly landscaped parks and renovated shopping areas enhance the quality of life.
The area's strategic location makes it a viable destination for visitors. The business generated by tourism to the tropical South is a key factor in the economic stability and growth of the community. The area has attracted enterprises such as the Homestead Miami Speedway, Wal-Mart, Sedano's, Home Depot, Office Depot and many more.
Homestead/Florida City has moved into a technological economy. According to Miami-Dade County and the University of Florida, Miami-Dade County's population will increase by over 500,000 by 2005. To provide employment for the increasing population, Miami-Dade must target industries that accelerate both the growth of above average income and entry level jobs. The industries that are 'deemed best-suited' are biomedical, film/entertainment, financial services, information technology, international commerce, telecommunications and the visitor industry. High-paying jobs in fast-growing industries in turn create others at all levels that cut across governmental, social, ethnic. economic and political constituencies.
Public and private resources exist that help businesses prosper. These include the Vision Council, the Perrine-Cutler Ridge Council and the Beacon Council.
Commerce & Trade
There are lucrative incentives for businesses that locate in the Enterprise and Empowerment zones, in which a portion of the greater Homestead and Florida City area lie. There is talk of a water-theme park coming to the area and the future development of the property adjacent to the Homestead Air Reserve Base is seen as a contributing factor in the economic health of south Miami-Dade County.
The area's new industries offer big-city employment opportunities within a small-town environment. Office Depot, Home Depot and Wal-Mart have built stores along the US I corridor in Florida City, providing hundreds of local jobs.
Agriculture is still a great source of revenue and serves as a mainstay of the economy. Nearly half of the winter vegetables consumed in the United States are grown in tropical South Florida. Miami-Dade County's agriculture, which represents nearly $1 billion annually in local economic impact, is located on just six percent of the county's available land.
Besides providing national and international markets with tropical produce and plants, the agricultural industry also contributes to the revenue generated by tourism. Scattered throughout the region are agricultural fields that allow self-harvesting of vegetables. Many roadside stands offer crops that are specific to the tropical climate including mango, avocado, lychee and carambola. Agricultural-guided tours expose visitors to the industry in what is the only subtropical farming area in the continental United States. U-pick stands are often a destination of local and regional visitors.
Tropical South Florida's warm sunny winters bring in millions of visitors every year. With the sprawling expanse of the Everglades to the west, the pristine Biscayne National Park to the east, the glitz and glamour of Miami to the north and the Florida Keys to the south, the greater Homestead/ Florida City area plays host to many visitors, some who decide they want to make this their permanent home.