Business

Tech scene throughout South Florida is building momentum

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CEOs were asked: Miami has been attempting to upgrade its economy and put more resources into high-end professional services and tech. How do you see this transformation progressing?

We have not noticed any change at all. Attempting is one thing, successful implementation is another. We believe the middle markets need focus and attention. They demonstrate future uptick for growth, whereas the big businesses can only downtrend. Community leadership is not hitting the high notes needed to touch off any form of transformation.

Jim Angleton, CEO for Aegis FinServ Corp.

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It’s not just Miami that is experiencing gains in high-end professional services and tech. All of South Florida has seen positive growth in these areas, especially in tech and life sciences. Citrix Systems in Fort Lauderdale, Ultimate Software in Weston, Plantation-based Magic Leap, MAKO Surgical in Davie, and Boca Raton-based Modernizing Medicine are just a few contributing to the region’s role in advancing software development, augmented reality, and robotics. We are fortunate to have a robust higher education landscape to support these industries through workforce development.

Wael Barsoum, M.D., CEO and president of Cleveland Clinic Florida

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Although we have had some impressive wins recently, like the largest e-commerce acquisition in history (Chewy.com’s $3.35 billion sale to PetSmart), the launch of Rokk3r labs $150M investment fund, Miami start-up Record Gram, and others, I don’t think we are progressing fast enough. It is one of the main reasons, if not the deciding factor, that lost our bid for Amazon’s second headquarters. We are slowly developing a reputation as an evolving hub for start-ups in tech and life sciences, but we need to have the talent pool in South Florida to increase our momentum for the long term. It is the chicken or egg dilemma. South Florida has so many advantages over other parts of the world that, with the right focus and exposure, we will succeed in developing, growing and retaining the professional talent pool required to make us the next tech hub in the U.S. It took N.Y. 10 years to do it, so a little patience is a virtue here.

Brett Beveridge, CEO and founder of The Revenue Optimization

Companies (T-ROC)

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There is a lot of buzz about that, but I am unaware if any of this is making its way into the daily businesses that call Miami home. And if it has, they have not shown themselves to be philanthropic and community-minded to the extent that I can see. If so, we would welcome them building coalitions with us and other urban-based nonprofits. I have many ideas about creating tech- and vocational-based internships for our up-and-coming work force.

Bill Diggs, president, The Mourning Family Foundation

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It’s been progressing for several years and many people don’t know it. Our diverse culture and proximity to Latin American has been a major draw for tech companies, entrepreneurs and start-ups. Being considered for Amazon’s HQ2 speaks volumes about what’s happening in our community. The fact that companies like Google, Twitter and Uber have made Miami their U.S. and Latin American headquarters also underscores this trend.

Jorge Gonzalez, president and CEO, City National Bank

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This year, Florida’s economy hit the GDP milestone of one trillion-dollars. The increasing number of construction projects, thriving tourism industry, and expanding

ports, are indications that the South Florida economy is doing well. In addition to this, South Florida has become the top entrepreneurial area in the USA. In fact, mirroring this finding is the Kauffman Foundation that lists our metropolitan area #1 for new business creation. Importantly, Broward College has programs that feed top notch students into high-end professional service areas and, to support the wave of entrepreneurship and technological advancement, we also have entrepreneurial programs which mentor and assist our students in developing and starting new businesses, while encouraging leadership in the tech revolution.

Gregory Adam Haile, president of Broward College

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This has been a goal of many regions for decades. I think Miami has made much more progress than other regions we invest in and should continue to make this a priority.

Louis Hernandez Jr., CEO of Black Dragon Capital

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We’ve seen strong growth in professional services and commercial loans over the past several years. As these sectors continue to evolve in Miami, I hope to see the loan volume increase.

Agostinho Alfonso Macedo, president and CEO of Ocean Bank

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Miami is a truly extraordinary market; we have so very much to be proud of in Miami and South Florida, and we have much room for improvement too. We offer a diverse and eager workforce for new economy jobs, and we have momentum, as evidenced by plans for the $1 billion Magic City innovation district in Little Haiti to name but one example. Our efforts to upgrade our economy and to attract employers offering more of the types of jobs that can transform our community will be enhanced materially by the quality of our talent pool. In Florida, we must continue to invest in our public education at all levels, and we must make funds available for more research at our public universities. We must also make material improvements to our South Florida infrastructure, public transportation and traffic problems.

Paul Singerman, co-chair of Berger Singerman

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Miami is known as a culturally diverse city with inspiring architecture, international commerce, banking, tourism, and one of the hottest real estate markets in the U.S. However, we are about to witness an incredible transformation, as Miami’s tech scene continues to build momentum and make the city a true world-class technology hub. Demographics are changing, and Miami is evolving into a younger, hipper place to be and the tech sector will play a key role. Many U.S. cities try to emulate Silicon Valley, but in my opinion, Miami does not need to copy anyone, we simply need to be ourselves and embrace our strengths: Diversity, entrepreneurship, sunny warm weather, affluent economy and no state taxes.

James “Jimmy” Tate, co-owner and president of

TKA-Evolution Apparel and of Tate Capital,

and co-founder of Tate Development Corp.

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As Miami has attempted to upgrade its economy and put more resources into high-end professional services and technology, I see the transformation progressing each passing day through the integrated use of technology and artificial intelligence. In the years to come, the jobs of the service industry will be changed forever by technology and increased competition. Digital technology developments are making more of a presence in our everyday lives and the way we carry out our day-to-day activities, such as grocery shopping and buying goods, and improved methods of digitally accessing funds from the bank. The demand for anytime-anywhere access to information and goods are constantly growing.

Rashad D. Thomas, vice president of business connect and community outreach for the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee

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I see a lot of confidence in the economy at this time and especially in foreign investors entering the south Florida market. So I do not see a recession anytime in the near future.

Manny Angelo Varas, president and CEO

of MV Construction Group

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While I don’t observe this transformation progressing at the speed of new construction, there are some efforts to note. More businesses appear to be partnering with local colleges and universities, hoping to recruit and keep high-end professionals in the South Florida area. Fortune 500 companies are also offering incentives to retain good talent, like bonus pay, housing allowances, and company shares of stock.

Dorcas L. Wilcox, CEO of Miami Bridge Youth

& Family Services

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Miami’s nonprofit organizations are among those leading the charge for technology transformation occurring in our community. This is of particular importance to Girl Scouts, as we have the largest pipeline of future female leaders — and a national commitment to bring 2.5 million girls into the STEM pipeline over the next eight years. We know the potential of women as transformational leaders, and that as communities embrace high-end professional services and tech, they must be inclusive — bringing people of all backgrounds and perspectives to lead this change. Nonprofit organizations such as Girl Scouts, Code/Art Miami, Code Fever Miami, and others are uniquely positioned to ensure the transformation is sustainable and inclusive.

Chelsea Wilkerson, CEO of Girl Scouts Tropical Florida

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