THE BLOG
07/23/2014 11:39 am ET Updated Sep 22, 2014

Adios, Miami

"When you go, will you send back a letter from America?

Take a look up the rail track from Miami to Canada."

The song "Letter from America" by The Proclaimers is an unusual opening to a farewell piece about my time in Miami. But it captures mine and Miami's past, present and future.

I arrived in December 2009. My early letters to the Foreign Office recorded the sobering impact on Miami of the aftermath of the worst American recession since the Great Depression. Unemployment was 10% in October 2009 and tourism down. Even the iguanas were falling out of the trees!

The turnaround was tough. Securing federal dollars for the PortMiami tunnel was a vital vote of confidence. Construction gathered pace from 2011 onwards. The cranes returned. Outside the economy, the Miami Heat won back-to-back championships, Miami-Dade was voted best education district in the country. Tourists returned.

So what for the future?

American contacts remind me that great US cities, like Chicago, only came into their own in their second century. So is this Miami's (118 years old) century?

What's your direction? Will Miami remain a Latin and regional city or become a global one? Double down on tourism, or combine the embryonic tech hub with the benefits of Panama Canal expansion to become a trading / tech powerhouse? Invest in the infrastructure necessary to adapt to sea level rise and protect homes and the Everglades? How do Miamians get a foothold on the overseas-driven housing market? How can you keep raising education standards and retain talent? Will there be a MLS team or not?

I have polarised this bit to encourage debate. Choices are never nearly as stark as these. But these are some of the concerns shared by you with me during my time here.

My own take is threefold.

First. That Miami has a great future ahead of her. You represent the face of changing America. You are the largest US County with a Hispanic majority and your diverse Latin connections remain strong. Talk of not one, but two, potential 2016 Presidential candidates hailing from Miami signals your important national role. Brickell (financial and legal services), Design District and Wynwood (creative arts & embryonic tech hub), and UM, FIU and MDC (education) all capture the community's vibrancy and innovation. Plus, of course, South Beach.

But you sell yourself short by settling for the easiest option. Grasp the opportunity to become a true global city, like Hong Kong or Dubai. If not, others, such as Panama, are keen take your crown.

Second. That Britain is very much part of Miami's future.

From here, we are learning about the next generation of American aspirations, their priorities for the USA's role in the 21st century and their understanding of the UK.

In business, companies like Swire International (presiding over Brickell's redevelopment) and BUPA Health Insurance (the largest local British employer) are meeting your needs and sharing expertise, alongside established names like Virgin Atlantic and Diageo. UK Trade and Investment can help your business grow.

While in sport, Luol Deng becomes the latest British sports star to call Miami home. I hope that David Beckham's MLS bid gets settled in the right way soon. Miami deserves a MLS team.

Third. I am sad to go at such an important point. I move to Toronto this summer to begin a new role as Director-General for British Trade and Investment in Canada (hence the Proclaimers reference).

I shall miss Miami enormously, but will return (not least during those Canadian winters!). I have lived here longer than any place since I left my hometown 24 years ago. I have made many good friends. I am proud to have run the marathon this year and raise money for the Down Syndrome Association of Miami and the Chapman Partnership. I know that my successor and wonderful Consulate team will continue to be a big part of this community.

Gracias Miami por una experiencia maravillosa y todo lo major para su futuro.