Tech And Finance Wave Is A ‘Movement, Not A Moment’

Jane Wooldridge
The Miami Herald

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Jane Wooldridge does a Q&A with Miami Mayor Francis Suarez who is happily waving in a slew of new tech and finance people from California and New York.


Pandemic seclusion and high taxes elsewhere spurred tech and finance entrepreneurs to discover the pleasures — and tax benefits — of South Florida. Though many were well on their way south last fall, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s December tweet — “How can I help?” — went viral, sparking even greater interest.

The buzz is clearly having an impact. Though it’s too soon to ascertain just how many are actually moving to Miami, nearly every day brings an announcement of a new relocation, company office or multi-million-dollar real estate purchase.

But what does the influx of wealth mean for those of us who already live here? We talked with Suarez, who maintains regular contact with the new arrivals (he even participated in a tech-community workout atop the 1000 Museum condo), about the implications for Miami-Dade. His answers arrived via email.

Q: The wave of new tech and finance people from California and New York is generally seen as a win for Miami’s image. But many locals are looking at multi-million-dollar home sales and wondering whether this wave will benefit anyone other than real estate pros. What is your answer?

Suarez: Yes — this will directly and indirectly benefit our residents. Inbound investment in new industries along with the arrival of new talent will drive growth that complements our existing investments in infrastructure and that creates a far more diverse and broad-based economy in the future. This will lead to a revenue base that allows Miami to continue to invest in infrastructure and modernize our public services so we will be a Miami Forever and a Miami For-Everyone.

Since its inception in October, the Miami [Downtown Development Authority] has approved [incentives for] 12 companies, with three more coming up for vote next week. If those pass, the impact would mean 250,000 square feet of office space and 1,412 jobs with average salaries, including benefits, of $135,000 and $2.1 billion in salaries over 10 years (not including merit-based raises, cost-of-living increases, or additional headcount) should those companies land in Miami.

Another important signal is that there is 1.8 million square feet worth of [office] deals pending in the marketplace, a staggering and unprecedented number. Additionally, several high profile new-to-market companies have already executed leases in the City of Miami including Blackstone (41,000 square feet), Thoma Bravo (35,000), Founders Fund (22,000), ShiftPixy (13,400), and Point 72 (9,000) to name a few. Equally important, existing companies are expanding as well; Papa graduated from a co-working space to a 11,420-square-foot headquarters in Brickell, Spotify did the same and recently moved into a 20,000-square-foot office in Wynwood. Lastly, we know of almost 35 companies in Miami that have publicly stated they intend to open an office here. Some notable examples include Zumper, Nirvana, General Catalyst, Novo Bank and Plug and Play.

Q: Some entrepreneurs have already said that they are seeking out-of-town talent to fill their new jobs. How can Miami workers get in on the action?

Suarez: I’ve heard two things. First, there is a need for greater scale in talent. The workforce that we have here is young, incredibly talented, diverse, and competitive — they just need more of it. This is why many Miami organizations and universities have invested heavily in their technology, computer science and advanced engineering programs over the past few years. We hope to connect our public schools with these college programs so that we have a ” ‘K’ to college” program in computer science.
One substantive example of this pathway work can be seen in the Talent Development Network our region created to ensure there is a single portal for paid internships for students from all seven academic institutions. A person can enter the innovation economy through one of our institutions of higher learning. Florida International University, for example, is No. 1 for Hispanic and No. 6 for Black engineering and computing degrees in the United States, and it’s also No. 20 for patent filings. Miami Dade has the MAGIC center and Idea Center, which focus on gaming/animation and entrepreneurship, respectively.

Due to the generosity of the Knight Foundation, which committed $15.3 million in grants as part of a larger $106 million commitment from various state and private partners, our universities will continue to get even better. FIU will be building out 20,000 square feet of interactive research and teaching space, adding 20 new faculty positions for the computer science and engineering school, and 80 new Ph.D researchers focusing on [Artificial Intelligence] and machine learning, health technology and clean energy. Additionally, the University of Miami will launch its Data Science program. (Source: Refresh Miami)

Second, there is a growing need for mid-level talent in terms of experience and professional development. This is why we have partnered with different organizations in Miami that offer numerous options for certifications for those seeking an alternative to a traditional college experience, or those who want to change careers but don’t want to spend significant time and/or resources in order to do so. This includes Ironhack, Brainstation (formerly Wyncode) and 4Geeks, among others. I also believe the momentum of FIU with its array of micro credential offerings and Miami Dade College with its apprenticeship programs with companies like Tesla are critical to equipping our adult learners to compete in this MiamiTech movement.

Q: Many of the newcomers are putting their kids into private schools. Is there a benefit for local public education?

Suarez: There is a massive opportunity for all of us to reimagine public education in Miami, Florida, and the United States. We need more schools — public, charter and private. And we need to create or to build more schools for our growing workforce and growing city. We must also innovate in this space now for our future prosperity and flexibility because not every new-to-market arrival is going to be able to afford private schools.

Accordingly, more students from other parts of the county will add diversity of thought to an already stellar public education system. The U.S. News Public High School Rankings came out last month. Graduation rates, math and reading proficiency, performance, college level curriculum and college readiness were used for grading criteria. As an example, Miami-Dade County has six of the top 10 schools in Florida. Those same six schools are in the top 72 nationally, including the School for Advanced Studies (SAS), which is in the top five. (Source: U.S. News)

Q: Are you seeing signs that new residents are investing in the community in terms of philanthropy? How do local charities and cultural institutions capitalize on that?

Suarez: Yes — just as I have asked: “How Can I Help?,” almost all of the new Miamians who I’ve met have asked: how can I help Miami? The answer is, first to bring their talents, insight and energy not only to our economy but to our community organizations. Already, we have seen a number of initiatives.

First, Miami Connected, an initiative to provide 100,000 Miami-Dade households with internet. This was spearheaded by a blend of existing stakeholders including the City of Miami, Comcast Children’s Trust, eMerge Americas, TD Bank and the Miami Heat. It also included new-to-market folks like Citadel’s Ken Griffin, who graciously contributed $5 million towards the initiative (Source: Miami Herald).

Second, Rapyd’s “$100M Tech Power Miami Initiative.” The company is a payments platform that inserts fintech services into any app and simplifies the complex offering of local payment methods. They are waiving $5M in processing fees for 20 Miami based companies (Source:

It is clear that as the sense of attachment and belonging increases for our many new-to-Miami stakeholders that they will find their way to getting engaged and invested in our rich ecosystem of high-impact social enterprises. There is no doubt this will help to drive forward resources to the areas and issues of greatest need.

Q: The Miami Herald has quantified what many living here already know: that Miami’s cost of living is a stretch when compared with the median income. What is the answer to affordable and workforce housing?

Suarez: The current challenge is twofold. First, it’s one of supply — we need to build more and to build smart to address the scale and scope of demand on our existing resources. It also requires using technology — as we have done — to drive down the transaction costs — the costs of living for working people. Secondly, it also means we need to bring companies with high paying jobs and encourage those companies to hire locally. Our cost of living is substantially less than other major cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, Boston and others. However, a more meaningful comparison would be cost of living relative to wages earned. This is where a strong pivot to innovation economy can make a direct impact.

Q. The rich have long flocked to South Florida — at least in the winter. How is this migration different? Will it last, or will the latest arrivals leave after the first big storm?

Suarez: This is not a moment, this is a movement. And it’s fundamentally different. First, the SALT tax has required businesses and individuals to permanently move to Miami and to Florida. Second, COVID-19 has altered how we work and where we choose to work. People can run their lives and run their businesses from anywhere so the choice is not “where do you work?” but “where do you WANT to work?.” And Miami is a GREAT place to work and will get even better. And finally, our economic fundamentals are strong: Miami currently has the second lowest millage rate, one of the lowest crime rates, the highest bond rating and a growing economy that is rapidly diversifying into high-value industries of the future — fintech, healthtech and climate tech.

Will some people go back? Sure. But until we can have a lookback, we have to trust the data that’s currently available. Driver’s license applications from out-of-state new arrivals, particularly from California and New York, are up; home sales are up; school registration is up; and new-to-market companies are signing leases. These are signs of a commitment to Miami’s common future, not just its growing economy.

Our Miami’s pursuit of becoming what I call ‘the capital of capital’ is about not just financial capital but also our rich ecosystem of human, social and cultural capital. It is clear that the confluence of these forms of capital will play a critical role in our Miami being definitive of what a competitive 21st century city can look like where everyone is at the table of opportunity.
The article was updated to correct the aggregate salaries over 10 years generated by the firms recruited by the Downtown Development Authority.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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