Beacon Council’s new leader: ‘The tech sector is essential’ for Miami’s economic growth

President & CEO Rodrick Miller shares his vision for Miami-Dade’s future growth and the important role of our innovation ecosystem

By Riley Kaminer

The potential tech innovation has to impact economic development is immense. Leveraging this potential, however, can prove challenging. For Rodrick Miller, it’s critical for the private sector and public sector to work together to bring prosperity to all. His goal is to do just that.

Five months ago, Miller became the president & CEO of the Miami-Dade Beacon Council, a public-private partnership that is the official economic development organization for the county. He comes to Miami from Puerto Rico, where he worked as the CEO of Invest Puerto Rico. Previously, Miller also led public-private development aconomic development agencies in New Orleans and Detroit.

Miller sat down with Refresh Miami to talk everything #MiamiTech, talent, and Miami’s economic future.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Refresh Miami: Five months into your role, what are your impressions thus far?

Rodrick Miller: Miami has been the beneficiary of a lot of macroeconomic trends, as well as what I call the “Kiss of God”: a high caliber of assets in our region including the port, airport, and universities. Challenges in Latin America have made Miami an even better place to plant capital, and the pandemic has really opened up this market. This is a strong and growing market, with 5,000 new jobs created here this year.

I think though that this market has been responding to these macroeconomic issues rather than being strategic. So the challenge now is instead of responding to a market that’s generally favorable, how do we actually drive the market that we want to have happen?

That’s why I’ve been really focused on figuring out what are the relationships that we need to develop or cultivate in order to ensure that we have optimal success as an organization and a market. How do we actually hone in on the competitiveness issues that will make this market attractive or not attractive for different sectors – questions around things such as talent and infrastructure? And what is the Beacon Council’s role in that?

At the end of the day, Miami is in the coveted position to where this is an amazing American story. Our demographics tell a story of where the US is going. And we have an opportunity to present a different model of what a great American city looks like.

What are your thoughts on Miami’s tech sector?

Our tech sector is still infinitesimal in comparison to some of the other top markets – and that’s okay. We have to ask ourselves: What size is attainable for us, and how do we actually grow? We should be intentional about growing a tech sector that gets to that size and that scale.

The talent question continues to be the number one driver of investment decisions by companies. From a Beacon Council perspective, that means we need to figure out what our role, if any, is in that talent conversation. Generally, I hear that Miami is a good market for junior talent but that it’s much harder to find senior level talent. And that increasingly, cost of living questions impact the ability to be able to recruit that talent to the market. 

The tech sector is essential. And tech is not just a sector – it crosses across everything. A lot of times there are tech opportunities that may not even seem like part of the tech sector. In Puerto Rico, that was in pharmaceutical manufacturing. Here, it could be in trade and logistics or aviation or professional services. We’ve got to drill deeper into sectors like these that we’ve been historically strong in, and figure out how to leverage that strength to bring more tech capacity and tech know-how in tech companies and investment in those spaces.

What can members of our tech community do to support the Beacon Council’s mission? 

One of them is to stay here. We need those professionals very much.

The other is to connect us with any companies that could be here. While we have our analytic tools and targeting tools to identify companies, we know that the best way to identify additional companies for this market is through relationships that others already have where they can vouch for this market.

I always encourage companies to consider joining Beacon to help set the agenda around what we’re going to focus on.

Why is it important that tech companies, public sector leaders, and our community as a whole grow collaboratively?

To build a smart economy – an economy that really works – you want to focus on three things: building an economy that’s sustainable, inclusive, and competitive. On the face of it, you want the economy to be more attractive tomorrow than it is today. That’s my school of thought.

So while we’re going to continue to focus on tech – and we should, because they’re good quality, high paying jobs – we’ve also got to continue to focus on other sectors. We need a balanced approach to thoughtful growth, and this should be collaboratively developed. 

When I look at public sector partners in Miami like Mayor Levine Cava, I think they get that the private sector needs them. And in talking to private sector leaders, I see that they get that they definitely need the public sector. So starting the relationships from a vantage point of working in partnership has to be a given. 

I also believe in starting relationships with the idea that we want you to not just be a good corporate citizen, but we really want you to feel like you’re completely engaged in this community. Companies that do that will see that there are great growth opportunities here, and that their only limitations are themselves. And I think our market will be better because of it.

Photo at top of post: Miami-Dade Beacon Council CEO Rodrick Miller spoke at eMerge Americas in April. Photo provided by Beacon Council.


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Riley Kaminer