Business Monday

CEOs: Local technology scene can be a national player

Ramon ‘Ray’ Abadin, president of the Florida Bar and a civil trial attorney and shareholder at Sedgwick LLP.
Ramon ‘Ray’ Abadin, president of the Florida Bar and a civil trial attorney and shareholder at Sedgwick LLP.

This week’s question: Miami Dade College recently launched a new center for animation and video game design. What do you think South Florida’s business and political leaders must accomplish for the local tech scene to establish itself as a national player?

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If Miami is going to be effectively branded as a tech hub, then our local businesses need to fully embrace how technology is affecting our economy. Technology is the infrastructure of the modern era, and it’s permeating every industry in some way. The legal profession, while rooted in age-old principles, is no different. Attorneys across the state are embracing new technologies that are impacting the way we practice law and serve our clients.

Ramon Abadin, president, The Florida Bar, and partner, Sedgewick Law Firm

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Miami already IS a national player. Developments like the MAGIC Animation Center at Miami Dade College are examples of how public/private partnerships are already working and yielding real fruit. I’m a firm believer in Miami, and it’s world class tech scene. I’m unapologetically saying that we are a global leader today.

Brian Brackeen, CEO, Kairos

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Tech start-ups need talent, money and creative work spaces. Our civic leaders can help by focusing on out-of-state recruitment, programs offering seed funding, and flexible zoning policies for incubators and co-working spaces. Most of all, Miami’s tech scene needs national awareness, so how about a TV series set in Wynwood or Downtown called Miami Tech?

Carol Brooks, president and co-founder, CREC (Continental Real Estate Companies)

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It is all about education. Students need to be fluent and on the cutting edge of teaching and learning, and we need to provide the climate for that to happen. Incentives for students and partnering with educational institutions is a must.

Monsignor Franklyn M. Casale, president, St. Thomas University

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Miami Dade College is taking the right steps toward making South Florida a serious contender in the international gaming industry. The Miami Animation & Gaming International Complex (MAGIC) will offer specialized training in order to groom the next generation of gaming talent, which will in turn help establish Miami Dade’s tech community. South Florida’s business and political leaders can help this industry flourish by making it a priority to develop a deep local pool of skilled labor while encouraging the establishment of new businesses.

Nabil El Sanadi, CEO/president, Broward Health

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The launch of MAGIC was a step in the right direction. The most-important priority should be developing a skilled labor force in the STEM arena. Our universities should have the resources they need to ensure we have the best talent locally. While we can do more in this area, we must leverage the valuable assets and institutions already at our disposal, including the NAP of the Americas, the Emerge Conference, the UM Life Science Park and the Frost Museum of Science.

Robert Hill, general manager, InterContinental Miami

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South Florida, with is its’ beautiful beaches, fun lifestyle and the moderate cost of living, is a great place to live, work and play. In recent years, entrepreneurs have been flocking to South Florida because many of them believe the business climate has become a suitable place that meets their needs. To even further promote the already established trend of business moving to South Florida, I would suggest that we continue to encourage our business and political leaders to be specific and target building opportunities around tech industry needs. To be a national player in the tech industry, the investment would need to be more tax incentives to draw businesses to this market. I would encourage funding programs to allow for construction build-out related to office space that is consistent with the style and ergonomics of a tech company and I would put forward provisions for tech incubators and peer-to-peer networks.

Kevin Johnson, president/CEO, Johnson Management Group

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It starts with embracing and supporting digital development initiatives such as MDC’s new center for animation and design and the Emerge conference. The vocal support of political and business leaders will attract tech companies and start-ups, thus creating more jobs. Politicians have to become aware of the importance of these companies and provide specific benefits to them.

Miriam Lopez, president/chief lending officer, Marquis Bank

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I believe anything that helps to further South Florida as a technology hub is exciting and good for the community. I was so impressed when I attended eMerge Americas and witnessed the leadership involved in that effort, as well as the hundreds of young entrepreneurs, particularly in the health care arena, in attendance. We need to do all we can as a community to be supportive of these individuals and businesses, and help them succeed locally and globally.

Harve A. Mogul, president and CEO, United Way of Miami-Dade

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I think our leaders have done an admirable job in growing our tech community and there is definitely an increased buzz nationally about the potential for Miami to be a tech hub. Events such as eMerge Americas are certainly helping to raise the city’s profile and a concerted effort by our leaders will only strengthen Miami’s opportunities and reputation.

Mike Parra, CEO, DHL Express U.S.

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Tech is inherently part of every business’ work life — in the Arsht Center’s case, the design of lighting for our stages and the sound in our halls all require the latest and most flexible technology to adapt to the varied performances we present. There is an opportunity to create a hub where the technology that supports the travel trade is created and developed here. Demographics can’t be ignored. Florida is the third largest state in U.S. population. We have to encourage tech companies to invest in Miami — to be here or get left behind. We must communicate the value of not only serving the U.S. from Miami, but also neighboring countries and continents.

M. John Richard, president, CEO, Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts

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I think local leaders must pair the local tech scene with experts in marketing and user experience in order establish itself as a national player. One of the biggest challenges that MDC game producers will need to get right is "the business of gaming." These days it's not about just producing but rather it's about creating great experiences that engage users. There is a secret sauce to marketing a game, keeping customers engaged after you bring them in (striking the balance in creating a game that has the right level of difficulty) and monetizing games. I sure hope that they teach students the importance of user testing to help them measure success, rather than taking a "I know best" approach to animation and video game design.

Ania Rodriguez, CEO of Key Lime Interactive

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I think we’ve made tremendous strides in South Florida in the tech arena. We have lots of momentum that would lead to being considered a national player, including the eMerge Americas Techweek conference, Endeavor, Venture Hive and The Lab Miami. We are a natural fit for being the technology capital of Latin America given our close proximity to the region and existing ties. However, to really put us on the map and be able to compete with Silicon Valley, we must increase our commitment to public school education. There is a shortage of candidates to fill positions in technology and this can only be addressed through better education. Education is the key to insuring that we have developed the talent needed to service tech companies. If we are going to continue down the path of being recognized as a national technology hub, political leaders must find a way to increase funding for public education.

Rachel Sapoznik, founder, president, CEO, Sapoznik Insurance & Associates, Inc.

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I think the tech scene is already well on its way to national recognition! The city has seen some incredible developments in this arena over the past few years. While we’re still nowhere near Silicon Valley status, we’ve grown a lot in a short period of time. Facebook and Apple have set up regional offices in Miami, co-working spaces are popping up all over town, companies like Rokk3r Labs (a tech incubator) have put down roots here, and The Knight Foundation is really working to support local tech. We even have eMerge Americas, an annual conference dedicated to Miami’s tech scene that draws thousands of people. There’s a lot happening. For this trend to continue, I think we just have to keep making Miami an attractive place for tech leaders. Local government needs to do its best to create an environment that’s business-friendly. This means working toward building a better public transportation system, insuring there’s enough affordable housing, offering tax incentives, and investing in tech training for local residents (which VentureHive, MDC and other groups are already helping to do) so there’s an educated workforce. Infrastructure is key. Miami is an incredibly appealing place — who wouldn’t want to live and work here? All we have to do is make sure it stays that way as it evolves.

Ginny Simon, founder, CEO, ginnybakes

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