Can Greater Miami become Silicon Beach?
That’s the question posed recently by Tom Hudson, radio host of WLRN/Miami Herald News in the Sunshine Economy series. And lots of folks are wondering the same thing as Miami-Dade County’s Beacon Council, the private/public economic development partnership focuses on diversifying South Florida’s economy with the One Community One Goal project.
Surely, Miami is poised to seize the opportunity, to become the next Silicon Valley for the Americas. We’re already graduating tons of techies at area universities, but without the cash to start up tech companies those graduates move elsewhere for jobs.
Still, the potential is here, and the word is getting out to tech businesses from South America to Europe. But it will take more than a plan with goals to succeed — it will take a laser focus by Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and commissioners to lift bureaucratic obstacles for businesses that want to open here or expand but find they face thousands of dollars in delays. The mayor, who promised two years ago to make the county more business-friendly, wants to speed up the permitting process, but it’s been a tough haul to achieve.
Meanwhile, the area’s infrastructure is improving. Expanded expressways linking the suburbs to Miami International Airport and the expansion of PortMiami with improved rail links all bode well for Miami’s growth in traditional businesses. One Community One Goal’s focus on local colleges and universities should ensure that degrees are linked to the next generation of jobs in high tech, biotech, international banking, accounting, the arts and other key growth industries.
Jerry Haar, director of Florida International University’s Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center, has been focusing on venture capital for South Florida’s new economy. And last month former Terremark CEO Manny Medina, who now heads the Technology Foundation of the Americas, energized South Florida by announcing Emerge Americas, a technology conference planned for next May. His hope is to attract global headquarters (not just sales offices) for major technology firms to “Silicon Beach.”
Two nonprofits, the Knight Foundation and the Endeavor Group, have come together to lure startup companies here, through a $2 million effort. And the University of Miami’s Launch Pad program also is making inroads with healthcare technology.
Susan Amat, the founder of Venture Hive, a new entrepreneurial hub in downtown Miami that hosts the Launch Pad Tech accelerator, will soon be housing incubator companies that need affordable office space and expertise.
From the private/public partnership of Enterprise Florida to investments by universities and local governments to help high-tech startups grow, there’s synergy for what’s to come.
Miami will always be a magnet for tourists, for sun and fun. It’s also a place filled with hardworking dreamers from all over the world — from Israel to Bogota, from Montreal to Rio.
South Florida is at a tipping point. With vision and focus we can build Silicon Beach at warp speed.