Becoming a hub for innovation


From the time I became mayor three years ago, I have known that the future of Miami-Dade County and our ability to create new employment opportunities would be contingent upon growing our technology sector. Miami-Dade could be the place where the next Twitter or Facebook is born, and we could become the next great tech hub.

Miami-Dade County government has to be an enabler of innovation, not a barrier to it. This is why we set out to support accelerators and incubators, our colleges and universities, and all the places that serve as creation centers for innovation through the use of technology.

In 2012, Miami-Dade County made an investment in a technology start-up called Venture Hive. Located in downtown Miami, Venture Hive has helped relocate more than 20 start-ups from all over the globe to our community, and it is helping to position Miami-Dade as the next great tech hub.

Our investment in Venture Hive has paid off in another way. Earlier this year, Microsoft opened the first Microsoft Innovation Center in the United States at Venture Hive. This center brings together innovators, along with students and others, to accelerate technological advances, creating the tech jobs of tomorrow. This is all happening down the street from County Hall.

This took place on the heels of Miami-Dade County hosting the inaugural eMerge Americas Conference in May that attracted approximately 6,000 attendees from more than 400 companies. As part of eMerge, I hosted mayors from diverse cities such as Madrid, Barcelona, Buenos Aires and Mexico City for the Mayoral Innovation Summit, where we discussed ways that technology can help us all become smarter municipal governments. These gatherings quickly became some of the premier tech events for the hemisphere and they have helped my administration establish Miami-Dade as a center for innovative thinking.

All of our efforts have not gone unnoticed. In early October, I was honored to have been the only elected official in the country to speak at IBM’s Think Forum in New York. It was an exciting experience to have the opportunity to explain how Miami-Dade County is creating new apps that make government functions more accessible and user friendly. In a world where we carry so much computing power on our phones, there is no reason more government resources cannot be app-based.

This excitement for technology that is taking place all over our community is also happening within our government. We cannot attract innovators to our community without being innovative ourselves. This is why Miami-Dade County is committed to open data and will continue to work to make County Hall as transparent and responsive to the needs of our residents.

To help become a model of open data for the rest of the world, Miami-Dade County pursued and was ultimately awarded a Code For America Fellowship. Code for America is an organization that bridges the gap between private-sector and government use of technology. We are the first government in Florida and among a select few in the nation, to host Code for America Fellows this coming year. The CFA fellows will help us organize a network of people and projects that are already dedicated to making government services simpler, more effective, and easier to use.

Ultimately, technology will help us become a community of 2.6 million engaged residents that use a mobile app to report crimes, expand the coverage audience for Amber Alerts and traffic updates, and submit ideas for Miami-Dade government to become more efficient.

Beyond connecting citizens to government, expanding technology also translates to another benefit: jobs. Technology companies are proven high-wage job creators. By creating a welcoming environment for them in our community, we are able to slowly reverse the brain drain that has plagued us and instead keep many of our young people here. Just think, prior to the emergence of this new sector, opportunities such as the ones created by Venture Hive and the Microsoft Innovation Center or through the work Code for America will do were limited. We are making steady progress, but our work continues.

I’m confident that with Miami-Dade County positioning itself as a tech leader in the hemisphere, we will increase the interaction and participation of our citizenry and create a better future for our children and grandchildren. Together, we will continue to build Miami-Dade into a world class community and a globally respected hub for innovation and technology.

Carlos A. Gimenez is mayor of Miami-Dade County.