Welcome to a New Silicon Beach: A Tech Boom Takes Over South Florida

The Sunshine State is becoming another Silicon Beach.

The amount of Florida real estate leased by technology companies doubled between 2013 and 2015, according to a 2016 report by commercial real estate firm CBRE. Technology companies accounted for 848,000 feet of new office space. This is an 83 percent jump from the year before and more than double from two years prior.

Throughout South Florida, dozens of incubators and accelerators have appeared. The just-formed Palm Beach Technology Association is another testament to the growing technology scene. eMerge Americas, a conference founded by tech entrepreneur Manny Medina, hopes to turn Miami into a technology hub for the Americas. It could allow the area to draw from the brightest talent in both the U.S. and Latin America.

“When smaller cities play to their strengths while simultaneously working to shore up their deficiencies, they can attract talented entrepreneurs and provide them with the necessary tools to succeed,” Medina wrote in an opinion piece for CNBC. “Simply put, Miami is at an inflection point. A once-secondary player on the global technology scene, Miami is finding its niche as an indispensable player.”

The Miami-Fort Lauderdale metro area ranked as No. 2 for startup activity in the U.S., according to a 2016 report by the Kauffman Foundation. CompTia, a trade group for the technology industry, says technology jobs have increased steadily in the region throughout the decade.

“If you compare Florida and the Miami metropolitan area to the national findings, it does indicate Florida had a very strong year for tech sector employment growth,” Tim Herbert, senior vice president of research and market intelligence at CompTIA, told the Miami Herald. “If you drill down into specific areas, one of the primary growth drivers has been the IT services category.”

High Life. Low Taxes.

The reasons for the technology boom are multi-faceted. Low taxes and low cost of living is attracting both entrepreneurs and tech workers. The area has numerous universities that, owning to the lack of established technology firms, are more willing to work with startups.

Moreover, the variety of languages that residents speak include English, Spanish, Dutch, German, Italian and more. It is beneficial to companies with an eye toward global expansion. “One reason Miami continues to see such strong growth in its start-up community is because of its diverse population,” says Matt Haggman, Miami program director for the Knight Foundation.

The region is becoming more diverse as well. In addition to world-renowned beaches, there are developments like Art Basel Miami Beach and the Wynwood Design District. They show that Miami itself is reaching a new maturity appealing to tech workers at all stages of their lives.

Next Great Economic Engine

The burgeoning technology ecosystem is having an impact on small businesses across industries. Most of the tech firms are small businesses themselves. However they are also forging partnerships across industries, with new business, like tech training schools, sprouting up to serve them. They are attracting new workers, which is causing retailers and other small businesses to spring up to serve them.

So, in essence, it’s the beginning of a transformation like in Silicon Valley or Massachusetts. It is transforming an entire area, radiating out through many industries and small businesses.

“Technology is the next great economic engine [in the area],” Alan Murphy Jr., general manager of Pioneer Linens in West Palm Beach and chairman of Palm Beach Tech said on the organization’s web page. “Our company has been around for 100 years, and adopting technology into our business will be keeping us here for 100 more.”

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