Editor’s Note: This article was developed in collaboration with Miami-Dade County .
Technology and innovation are essential for driving economic development in an increasingly fast-paced global economy. Cities want technology-based industries because they create cluster growth and good-paying jobs, which attract talented workers — especially millennials, an increasingly critical part of the workforce.
These key factors drive the Miami-Dade County high-tech economy in South Florida. Recent accolades include No. 1 for startup activity (Kauffman Foundation), No.1 large city in which to start a business (WalletHub), and No. 2 for most entrepreneurial city (TechCrunch). The Miami area is also a leading U.S. location for tech jobs, which tend to attract millennial workers. In fact, according to Realtor.com, Miami is the No. 2 destination for millennials, who are attracted by the diverse and welcoming culture, vibrant lifestyle, and interesting job opportunities. As a result, Miami continues to attract a high rate of talent from both domestic and international markets.
Significant capital investments in Miami-Dade County have been made by Endeavor Miami, 500 Startups, The Venture City, WeWork Miami, and companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Wix, Spotify, and other leading tech companies. Miami’s robust business climate also catches the eye of foreign companies looking to invest in the U.S.
From Finance to Aerospace
The South Florida technology landscape has enjoyed steady growth over the last 10 years, with significant clusters in aerospace and aviation, banking and finance, creative design, life sciences, healthcare, hospitality and tourism, and logistics. Within these sectors, niche specialties have evolved in FinTech, health IT, and travel IT. “We have competitive advantages in these sectors and are at the forefront of developing and implementing innovation and new technologies,” says Michael A. Finney, President and CEO of the Miami-Dade Beacon Council, the official economic development organization for Miami-Dade County.
For example, developments within Miami’s expanding cybersecurity niche include the opening of the Cybersecurity Center of the Americas at Miami Dade College, which serves as a training center for students and professionals. In addition, Cyxtera, a firm that provides cloud-based data-protection platforms, established its headquarters in Miami in 2017 and now has more than 1,300 employees worldwide.
Innovation, Collaboration, and Support
Miami is a place of optimism and opportunity where entrepreneurial thinking is encouraged (and often funded!). In 2017, the Kauffman Foundation ranked Miami-Dade as the No. 1 location in the U.S. for startup activity. “Miami prides itself on welcoming newcomers,” says Finney. “Our business community is filled with ‘Miamians by Choice’ — entrepreneurs and professionals who appreciate the lifestyle and the opportunity to quickly make an impact.”
Miami prides itself on welcoming newcomers. Our business community is filled with ‘Miamians by Choice’ — entrepreneurs and professionals who appreciate the lifestyle and the opportunity to quickly make an impact.
Michael A. Finney, President and CEO, Miami-Dade Beacon Council
Gathering organizations such as Venture Café, Cambridge Innovation Center, Refresh-Miami, University of Miami (Converge), and Wynwood Yard focus on inclusive community involvement in the entrepreneurial process.
International conferences and forums, such as eMerge Americas, attract thousands of established companies, startups, entrepreneurs, and venture capital firms to Miami.
The city supports a robust network of incubators and accelerators, many of which have productive relationships with countries and cities around the world. Because of Miami’s international reputation, many startups locate here to target international markets and international talent, especially from Latin America.
“Innovation is all about creating better, digitally enabled experiences for consumers and businesses. It’s exciting to see the growing rate of corporations, universities, investors, startups, creatives, co-working spaces, incubators, and other supporting players coming together to build these new experiences in Miami,” says Ivan Rapin-Smith, managing director of Watsco Ventures, a division of Watsco, a global distributor of HVAC equipment and related parts and supplies.
Preparing for the Future
Miami has reached an exciting crossroads in its economic development. For six years, Miami-Dade’s civic, business, educational, and community leaders have been working together on One Community One Goal (OCOG), a common vision of creating greater economic growth and prosperity for all businesses and residents. Led by the Beacon Council, this public-private initiative has helped to generate more than 171,000 jobs, including 67,000 jobs in seven targeted sectors: Technology, Aviation, Banking and Finance, Creative Design, Hospitality and Tourism, Life Sciences & Healthcare, and Trade & Logistics.
The South Florida technology landscape has enjoyed steady growth over the last 10 years, with significant clusters in aerospace and aviation, banking and finance, creative design, life sciences, healthcare, hospitality and tourism, and logistics.
Additionally, to ensure the region continues to provide proper long-term support for both its traditional and high-tech economies, the Miami Urban Future Initiative was established to lead new research and mapping on economic, occupational, creative, and technological assets in Miami. This joint initiative with Florida International University (FIU), the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and others will provide the data, evidence, and strategy needed to grow an even more inclusive, creative economy for Miami-Dade County.
A prosperous economic future also depends on the availability of a well-trained workforce. About 100,000 graduates from local, highly ranked colleges and universities enter the workforce every year, many with the cutting-edge skills that regional tech firms require. For example, in 2018 FIU became the first university in the U.S. to offer a Bachelor’s degree in the Internet of Things (IoT). This high-demand specialty focuses on the four major areas of IoT — hardware, software, communication, and cybersecurity.
Collaboration is also a key component in recruiting new tech businesses to Miami and supporting them once they arrive. State and local partners work together at various levels to provide opportunities for technology development and growth. For instance, when Miami was selected as a top-20 finalist in Amazon’s HQ2 hunt, colleges and universities across the state quickly came together to propose a coordinated program for creating the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) jobs Amazon required.
According to the Miami-Dade Beacon Council, “Being selected as an Amazon finalist changed the conversation about Miami in 2018. Amazon's recognition illuminated our many competitive advantages, especially the strength of our technology and innovation sectors. The success of these efforts highlighted opportunities to work together more closely moving forward, something that will have lasting impact on Miami and Dade County in the future.”