The increase in remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic has put South Florida on the map for attracting the tech industry, entrepreneurs and investors from large urban centers. “Live in the cloud, work in the sun” has become a popular phrase, and data show an increase in people flocking to Florida, the third most populous state. It has one of the highest growth rates,averaging more than 300,000 new residents a year. And, while the city of Miami has recently positioned itself as the new tech hub focusing on big names, the business-friendly environment and responsiveness to incoming tech companies, it is really the entire South Florida region that is banding together as a tech force to be reckoned with. South Florida’s tri-county area of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach is poised to become a nationally ranked tech hub.
While California’s Silicon Valley perhaps is the best-known region in the world within the tech industry, other U.S. cities have stepped up during the technology boom, leading to increased economic growth. There has been a spike in tech jobs in recent years as these new markets open nationwide. However, there is a talent gap to support emerging industries, and employers and entrepreneurs are worried about the shrinking availability of skilled talent.
In response, corporate America is taking responsibility for recruiting and training current and future employees with the growth of “corporate university” models. Academic institutions are quickly rethinking programming and developing stacked credential models. Industry certifications can be incorporated into the curriculum, and graduates will have these industry-specific skills to their advantage.
This presents a major opportunity for South Florida to flourish in the technology space.
Before a region can be classified as a tech hub, it first needs to have an innovation ecosystem consisting of entrepreneurs, investment capital, workforce, social and professional networks, business environment, quality of life, and research universities. Although South Florida has many of these assets, it must also provide increased access to various forms of capital and qualified talent to support emerging industries and occupations while developing new skills. In fact, the South Florida region already ranks near the top of the list for the number of startup companies that have launched in the area.
Education institutions must also listen to industry demands and co-develop curriculum with content and credentials that meet these short-term and long-term needs. Assuming the gap between academia and the industry can be narrowed and eventually closed, South Florida can open the flood gates as the opportunity flows through.
Silicon Valley’s “special sauce” is no secret; the recipe consists of high-tech talent, high-paid jobs, ambitious innovators, research universities, commercial labs, government research centers, a talent pipeline producing relevant credentials, access to a diverse range of capital resources and an entrepreneurial climate that encourages risk-taking is encouraged. Silicon Valley’s success can be attributed to collaboration.
South Florida often refers to itself as the emerging “Silicon Valley of the East,” but it is important to differentiate the two. South Florida is unique and cannot replicate Silicon Valley. South Florida can adapt to the successes of Silicon Valley but must create its own special sauce.
If we eliminate the invisible walls that exist between the three counties and create a culture of innovation, South Florida will achieve top tech hub status. There is a movement evolving in South Florida, and now is our time not to talk, but to walk as one innovation ecosystem — the South Florida Innovation Ecosystem.
John Wensveen is executive director of the Alan B. Levan | NSU Broward Center of Innovation (Levan Center).