‘There’s a palpable energy that we’re still riding,’ says CEO Rodrick Miller.
By Nancy Dahlberg
If it seems like we have covered a lot of tech expansions and relocations this year, we now have the data to prove it.
At its 2023 Annual Meeting today, The Miami-Dade Beacon Council, the county’s public-private economic development partnership, highlighted results of a record-breaking year for economic development, driven largely by the tech sector.
In the past year, in the Beacon Council’s seven target industries, 51 commitments were secured from a diverse set of companies seeking expansion or relocation within Miami-Dade County. These companies expect to generate 14,818 new jobs locally, including 5,734 new direct high-value positions at an average salary of $98,000.
What’s more, the expansions and relocations will deliver $54.2 million in recurring annual revenue to Miami-Dade and increase the Miami-Dade County’s GRP by $1.5 billion annually, the Beacon Council announced today. The 51 companies will be contributing an estimated $405 million in new capital investment.
In no surprise to us, the tech sector emerged as the dominant industry among this year’s companies. Leading the way was Miami-based IT and security management software company Kaseya, who committed to add about 3,400 jobs over the next several years, the largest single economic development project in the history of both the organization and Miami-Dade. Kaseya established its global headquarters in Miami in 2018; this year, in addition to rapid growth, the company also acquired naming rights to Miami’s arena.
Other tech companies that are expanding include LeverX, a software company from Silicon Valley with more than 1,600 employees globally. Another one is Hiberus, from Spain, a software maker and consultancy strong in media, travel, retail and banking that planted its Americas HQ in Coral Gables. Then there’s Bungalow, a venture-backed proptech startup that relocated from San Francisco to Wynwood. Another recent arrival is Mindspace, the co-working company hailing from Israel.
Twelve of the 51 companies that announced relocations or expansions are part of the “tech” targeted industry, the fastest growing of the seven, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. There are also tech companies in the healthcare, logistics and finance sectors, and creative industries. These include Paysend, the cross-border payment platform from the United Kingdom; Nowports, the Mexican unicorn in the logistics tech space; and Rook, a wearables tech player in the healthcare sector, among others. In total, at least 24 of the 51 companies – nearly half – are either tech companies or create technology for some of our region’s most important industries.
“There’s a palpable energy that we’re still riding. A lot of companies were sitting on their money during the pandemic … and Miami’s market was primed to be a place where it made good sense to make those investments,” said Rodrick Miller, CEO of the Beacon Council, in an interview with Refresh Miami.
“While we did 51 deals, nearly half of them were local companies that we were able to help grow more,” said Miller, adding that one of those was Neocis, the homegrown venture-backed dental robotics company that will be adding 150 jobs. “We met with over 200 companies locally this year so that was a real intentional effort,” Miller said.
In the past five years, the tech sector has grown 43%, growing tech jobs from 32,406 to 4,6325 jobs. The next highest targeted industry was logistics, with 38.5% 5-year growth. ln the past year, the sector grew 8%, according to Beacon Council’s data.
Nearly half — 47% — of this year’s companies are expanding in county-designated priority areas, which promotes economic inclusion and opportunity across Greater Miami, Miller said. “We not only achieved a historic job creation milestone, we actively engaged communities across the County in our economic growth efforts, from Brickell to Doral and Miami Gardens, to Homestead, Hialeah and North Miami.”
Just over half of the projects are international, from 12 countries. Spain maintained its position as the top foreign direct investment market with 8 relocations or expansions, and ongoing engagement with Chile and Israel also yielded new investments.
ClimateTech is on the rise, with new companies arriving, such as carbon credit marketplace ClimateTrade relocating here from Spain, adding 50 jobs, and the region’s recent US Tech Hub designation, which will likely bring sizable grants to the county. “We really are ground zero for resiliency solutions and we’re thinking about what that looks like, in terms of a climate campus, for example, essentially a national research facility focused on climate resiliency. Those are the kinds of big questions that we’re pondering,” said Miller, who called it a generational opportunity in focusing on climate.
Beacon Council Executive VP Matt Haggman, who oversees the agency’s future-looking Opportunity Miami initiative, has written recently about Miami becoming a climate tech campus. “The aim is to create a cluster focused on building a sustainable, net-zero future with a concentration of universities for teaching, research, and scholarship; incubators and accelerators for company building and experimentation; co-working for entrepreneurs and innovation teams at established companies; and space for the community to gather,” Haggman wrote. Miller said he sees an opportunity for Opportunity Miami to help local companies here meet their net-zero goals.
A goal for the year ahead is a larger focus on the talent front — recruiting and retaining talent as well as developing our own talent, Miller said. “We can build a good case for tech companies to come here and the question always comes down to can they get the people that they need? I think we can, but we’ve got to make that process easy for them.”
“Talent isn’t just part of the equation, talent is everything,” he continued. “We’re looking at what a talent attraction program looks like, and in terms of retention, how do we create some sort of ambassadors program to help professionals that are here.”
Talent is one of the key pillars of the strategic planning process Miller kicked off upon assuming his role at The Beacon Council about 10 months ago. Other focus areas will be on driving economic growth but in a more targeted way. He said a recent perception survey showed that CEOs and site selectors didn’t have Miamians top of mind as a place to expand and grow their businesses “and we believe that part of that is a byproduct of us not being as aggressive in telling the story” nationally and internationally, he said.
Another key area of focus is around enhancing competitiveness to shape our future. That include improvements in infrastructure and housing affordability, Miller said. Beacon plans to continue forging closer relationships with cities across the county so that job growth is benefiting all of them.
“And then last but not least, we’ve got to be a high-performing next-generation economic development organization,” he said. That includes using a people-centered, future-focused ecosystem approach and building on data.
Miller believes the region’s recent tech growth trajectory will continue, and he calls Miami a strong and attractive second-tier tech market. Importantly, he said, Miami-Dade has been named the number one diverse tech workforce for a few years running, “a really big feather in our cap.”
For Tech Basel, the Miami-Dade Beacon Council is bringing tech founders to Miami and also hosting local founders to show them all that Miami has to offer.