Haitian Heritage Month Heroes: Frantz Devilme
MIA’s Real Estate Chief is enjoying a new lease on life
In this week’s celebration of Haitian Heritage Month, Miami-Dade Aviation Department’s Real Estate Management and Development Chief Frantz Devilme talk about his key role in opening new doors at MIA and what makes him most proud of his Haitian heritage.
How long have you been at MIA?
I started working at MIA in September 2001, just a few days after 9/11. Since then, I have worked in Airside Operations, Safety and Security, and Terminal Operations, and now I am a Section Chief in the Real Estate Management and Development Division. I worked in the private sector before that.
What is your role at MIA?
As the Non-Terminal Real Estate Chief, I oversee about 8.3 million square feet of facilities, an additional 6.5 million square feet of land and pavement, 170-plus lease agreements, and 40-plus airline use agreements. I also oversee anything related to real estate outside of the terminal, which includes aircraft hangars, cargo warehouses, offices, buildings, parking for airfield vehicles, fuel trucks or aircraft, vacant land, storage areas, and our fuel farm. My division is the liaison between the non-terminal community and the Aviation Department.
What do you like most about your job?
What I like most about my job is every day is different, and no two days are exactly the same. While we meet the needs of our tenants and community, we also enforce our rules and regulations to make the airport a better place for everyone. I am a real estate broker and I love real estate, so now I have the opportunity to do what I love while getting paid for it.
What are some of your biggest accomplishments at MIA?
Our team of seven employees has been through some very challenging times in the last year. Throughout the pandemic when passenger numbers were down, cargo at MIA was and is still booming, so we were busier than ever before. I think that I am a natural-born leader, and this new challenge gave me the opportunity to put my master’s in business administration to good use. Even with a shortage of staff and having to work from home on most days, I kept my staff trained and motivated, and we maintained our standard of providing excellent service to our tenants. Our warehouses and hangars space are 100 percent occupied and we even have a waiting list. We are very proud of our results and accomplishments.
What makes you most proud of your Haitian heritage?
I was born in Haiti and lived there until I was 24 years old. I came to the U.S. in 1991 with a bachelor's degree in accounting and I knew how to speak four languages. At the time, some claimed that Haitians brought AIDS to the U.S. and called us "boat people" because many of my people fled their country looking for a better life and opportunity. I am proud to be a Haitian who went straight from my country to the master’s program at Florida International University. I passed my Graduate Management Associate Test while sitting in the same room with others who graduated from the biggest schools in the world. Failure was never an option for me. I was motivated, I had the drive to succeed, I had to prove something to the world, and I wanted to show everyone that we are equal and sometimes better than the average. I was an ambassador for my country. Haiti is generally negatively covered in the media and is always spoken of as the "poorest country in the western hemisphere." What many people don't see is how beautiful parts of my country are. Haiti is the first independent black nation in the entire world. If that's not something to be proud of, then I don't know what is.
I think Haitians are the model of integrity, humility, and hard work. My parent’s efforts and sacrifices gave me, a first-generation Haitian American, endless opportunities. Without my parents staying in Haiti and sending me here to study, I could not succeed.
Like many other immigrant groups, Haitians have made a positive impact in this County and this country and contribute greatly to American society. I am successful today because of my Haitian roots, culture, and education. I am proud of my Haitian heritage!