Beyond the hype, what does the Miami movement mean for Miami?

Jonathan Kilman
I just can’t keep up with the flashy headlines about the exodus of talent from places like NYC and Silicon Valley into Miami. I’ve posted a handful of links to articles and have edited myself from posting more. For the most part, they tell the story of serious tech executives and venture capitalists, along with significant financial services businesses, all making a move into Miami.
It’s  exciting and, importantly, it seems real. But, beyond the excitement, we should understand and communicate how this will benefit Miami.

Jonathan Kilman

Plenty of people will soon start talking about a rising cost of real estate, increased demand on infrastructure (e.g., more people = more traffic), and the Florida sun shining a light on the need for better public schools. Let’s leave the inevitable griping that comes with growth for later and focus here on the positives. Here are some possible benefits of the Miami Movement (Miami Mayor Francis Suarez recently said that what’s happening in Miami should not be a moment, it should be a movement, so we might as well give it a name).

  1. Better wages. Florida has long lagged in the area of wages, and both the tech and financial sectors are known to pay better. Lower wages are not just a hospitality sector phenomenon. Over the years, I’ve had many conversations with professionals looking at Miami from other markets who said, essentially, “the cost of living is lower, but not THAT much lower (to justify the lower salaries).”
  2. A reverse of brain drain. In the tech and financial services sectors, some of Florida’s most highly-skilled graduates have long looked North and West for the sort of exciting jobs that would challenge them and give them the best opportunities. With top-tier players investing here, we are likely to become a stronger magnet for talent. When people raise their families in Miami, they may like the idea that their kids will one day grow up and have the best opportunities right here. Also, when highly skilled people are recruited for jobs, they want to know that there are other nearby companies that could benefit from their developing experience when they are ready to move on. By establishing a higher concentration of companies demanding highly-skilled employees, our gravitational pull for talent is amplified.
  3. Scale.Miami has always struck me as the sort of region dominated by closely-held and many family-owned businesses. There’s nothing wrong with that, and we’ve got some great companies. But most startups are aiming for scale (in fact, it’s sort of a threshold requirement to attract venture capital) that closely held businesses often are not. What’s the upside of scale, beyond attracting investment capital? Steve Jobs said we should all strive to “make a dent in the universe.” Building companies at scale is certainly one way to do that—although I suppose what you do with your company matters most. On a practical level, though, companies that scale often induce early talent with equity, so when they have a major liquidity event such as going public, they create a lot of wealth for a lot of people. Closely held companies tend to create wealth just for a few people. Nothing wrong with spreading success around, right? Miami’s hometown base of tech supporters are also vocally focused on equity and diversity in tech, which means that these sort of events can have the added benefit of spreading success around in equitable ways perhaps previously not seen in our community.
  4. Professional nurturing for entrepreneurs. Recent announcements by Plug and Play and SoftBank are game-changing for the region. Plug and Play is a global investment firm that helps accelerate early stage companies and introduces them to major corporate partners who will benefit from their products and services. Its presence here means local entrepreneurs will be supported by a serious business organization with a track record of nurturing talent. SoftBank announced it will dedicate $100 million in investment capital for Miami-based companies. Again, beyond the money, those companies will benefit from the internal talent at SoftBank and its global reach. These are critical pieces of a robust ecosystem for scaling startups.
  5. Diversification and increase in cultural and philanthropic investment. A more diversified and robust economy, along with a greater distribution of wealth, has the potential to drive serious demand for, and investment in, our community’s cultural assets. I’m thinking of things like the arts and shared community spaces that are built for residents to enjoy year-round. At the same time, there will be more people for our local nonprofits to lean on for serious charitable contributions.

I’d be thrilled if a lot of the above comes to fruition, even though I know our community will experience growing pains along the way. Major cities always have the hard job of balancing the fruits of success with the inevitable challenges posed by growth. I moved to Miami nearly a decade ago and while the transformation in that time has been astonishing, I suspect it will pale in comparison to what’s ahead. I look forward to being a part of the Miami Movement, and doing my part to drive the dynamic opportunity while also pitching in to help solve the challenges ahead.
I would love to hear from those of you who have other ideas about how the Miami Movement will improve our community and how we can all help make it happen.
Jonathan Kilman is the Chairman and co-founder of Converge Government Affairs, a Miami-headquartered public affairs firm that provides  advocacy, communications and digital services at the local and state levels across the US. He champions innovative solutions that improve quality of life in areas such as healthcare, transportation, education and accessible financial services.
This post was first published on LinkedIn and republished with permission.
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