Community Ties

Elizabeth Ogden, PortMiami’s chief of architectural/engineering design services, oversees capital improvement projects that benefit the port, its stakeholders and the people of Miami-Dade County

By Sarah Sain

When speaking with PortMiami’s Elizabeth Ogden, one word kept coming up: community.

After all, the community is who Ogden ultimately works for and what she’s passionate about.

As chief of architectural/engineering design services at the port, she supports the planning and programming and oversees the budgeting, design and construction administration for new construction, retrofits and emergency repairs.

“Anything at the port where we need to repair or replace or if there’s a new build, we’re involved with it,” she explained. “We stay on board during construction through project closeout, and make sure it’s all done to meet our stakeholders’ objectives, within budget and on schedule.”

Ogden earned her bachelor’s degree in building science and another in architecture with an engineering background from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

“I wanted to understand the technologies and materials used to design and develop projects and really comprehend how to construct in the most effective manner. Not only does ‘form follow function,’ but it follows the resources and technologies available,” she said.

Ogden moved from Boston to Miami in 1992 and has worked for Miami-Dade County in various capital development roles since the following year, including heading recovery projects in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew. The 1992 storm caused an estimated $26 billion in damages, making it one of the most expensive natural disasters in U.S. history.

Major public-private partnership projects followed, such as leading the design team for the $473 million construction of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County.

Ogden described her role during those years with the county as a “bit of a capital development troubleshooter.” She worked at Miami International Airport (MIA) for five years and oversaw planning and design services during a period of growth and renovation at MIA and the outlying airports as part a $4.8 billion capital improvement program.

She then was brought in to work on public housing and get Miami-Dade’s HOPE VI Program back on track, completing the first phase of the $150 million program in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity before moving to PortMiami, where she oversaw construction services. Ogden was key to the team assembled to lead the port’s reorganization of its Capital Development Division and next moved into her current role at the port.

“PortMiami is the second largest economic engine in the community. MIA is the first,” Ogden noted. “It is the leading cargo port in Florida. It contributes indirectly and cruise. This spawns business and growth in the community. The port makes that a reality.”

That growth includes nearly $2 billion in capital improvement projects, including deepening the port’s channel to 50 feet, constructing a tunnel to connect cargo and passenger vehicular traffic to the highway system, constructing an intermodal rail yard and infrastructure for further connectivity, and deepening wharves along the 6,100 linear feet of the cargo area; all to be completed in time for the expansion of the Panama Canal.

Ogden oversaw design services for cargo yard improvements and bid specifications for new post-Panamax cranes and continues to oversee design services for deepening of the wharves, multiple cruise terminal upgrades, investigating methodology by which the port will build two new state-of-the-art cruise terminals, and is assisting collaborative efforts for a potential public-private partnership (P3) development along the port’s southwest corner.

“You can’t get anything done without collaboration in this day and age,” she said.

What Ogden is most proud of during her time so far at PortMiami is the leadership she’s been able to display. She has a dedicated team that has introduced more streamlined processes that has made communication more effective between the port, stakeholders and the community.

“We work around the clock and we work hard. We see results, and it’s very gratifying,” she said.

Despite the success, Ogden notes that the port continues to face the same challenges as ports throughout the country – aging infrastructure and limited financial resources.

“We have been fortunate to obtain grants, and leadership is reaching out to P3s; plus, we have the strong support of our commission, mayor and our governor,” she added.

In 2007, shortly after coming on board at the port, Ogden became interested in participating in the American Association of Port Authorities, of which PortMiami is a strong supporting member. She said she followed in the footsteps of Port Director Bill Johnson and Deputy Port Director Juan Kuryla.

“They lead by example; we’re just trying to keep up,” Ogden said. “They are legends in their own time.”

Kuryla took the next step and sponsored Ogden for the association’s Professional Port Manager (PPM®) Certification Program. The program furthers the AAPA’sgoal of developing future port leaders by exposing them to a wide range of port management issues, all while building relationships across the port network and creating a body of research that will support the public seaport industry. Kuryla himself is a PPM®.

Ogden, who is also the current chair of the Facilities Engineering Committee, is now a vocal supporter of the program.

“I encourage others to join the association and the PPM® program and will continue to do so – not only corporate members, but all industry members. It comes down to the exposure you get to this multifaceted port industry,” she said. “We all have our specializations, but by attending the seminars and getting that education across the board, you learn so much about the different aspects of the industry – finance, cruise, security – that allows for a more thoughtful, comprehensive approach to your own day-to-day contributions.”

Ogden has two teenage daughters, who she hopes will see her experiences as a guide to finding success and satisfaction in their careers.

She’s an avid sailor and Masters Swimmer. She represents the port as a member of the Community Image Advisory Board, and she volunteers with her local community in various capacities and organizations, such as the Kristi House and United Way.

“I’ve lived in Miami since 1992,” Ogden said. “It’s a young community. It’s a multicultural community. It’s a thriving community. It’s home.”