Tech Talent Coalition workgroup aims to make sure small business, the backbone of our economy, remains strong 

Small Business Workgroup within the Miami Tech Talent Coalition

Catch up quick: The Miami Tech Works Tech Talent Coalition officially launched on Feb. 17 with a kick-off meeting attended by more than 125 local business, academic and support partners who engaged in a workshop related to the local tech talent pipeline. From that, four workgroups were formed: Inclusive Tech Talent Pipeline, Emerging Talent, Tech Skills Gap, and Small Business Capacity Building. A second Tech Talent Coalition meeting was held in April, and the four workgroups have begun meeting, too. Employers can still apply to participate in the Tech Talent Coalition by filling out this form and anyone interested in following the work of the coalition should subscribe to its newsletter here. 

Earlier this month, we learned more about the Emerging Talent workgroup [read it here] and the Inclusive Tech Talent Pipeline [here]. Today, we are meeting some of the leaders in the Small Business Capacity Group. This workgroup is focused on creating tech talent pathways for micro and small businesses.  

As Miami-Dade County’s new Chief Economic Development and Innovation Officer, Francesca (Cesi) de Quesada Covey is leading the county’s efforts to accelerate innovation, entrepreneurship and investment. Before taking on the role about two months ago, she was an advisor to Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and also was a partner with TheVentureCity, a Miami-based global venture capital firm. 

She joined the Small Business Capacity Group because small businesses are the backbone of our economy. In fact, microbusinesses – those businesses with less than 9 employees – make up 80 percent of the businesses in Miami-Dade County. “We are an ecosystem that has for a long time really fostered and engaged entrepreneurs, and so between my background in technology companies and what we really do well in Miami-Dade County, [the Small Business Capacity Group] seemed like a natural fit.”

The work excites her because she thinks Miami-Dade’s workforce is particularly poised to meet the needs of our industries.  “They are very adaptive of technologies and as a region we just show that we are able to take some of that ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit and use that when we figure out how to use new technologies. The ability to work in this industry comes naturally to a lot of the students that we have in the area.”

Small businesses are the risk-takers that are thinking about capital from the beginning and are investing in themselves because no one else will, she says. “I’d like to see easier and more equitable access to capital, more resources for small businesses, more training so that they can launch their businesses with more success, and more affordable working spaces, because real estate is not just an issue for our housing market, but also for small businesses that are trying to do work here. Then we need to make sure that they have networking and mentorship opportunities, so that they can do more of the great work that they do, and continue to be really successful.”

Of the Tech Talent Coalition more broadly, de Quesada Covey says the number of signups proves the energy that has been galvanized around the opportunity. “And the ability to get the federal money and really create a strategy for how we can be the best place for companies in the next 10, 15, 20 years through our workforce is super exciting.”


Reginald Andre the workgroup Chair, founded and leads ARK Solvers, a cybersecurity and IT company meeting the needs of businesses and regulated industries through compliance. Since 2010, he has grown the company to be one of South Florida’s leading IT providers. He recently joined the Broward College Foundation Board of Directors and co-runs The Mavuno Project with his wife, which helps raise awareness on human trafficking.

“I have always wanted to give back in my community,” Andre says, mentioning that he is thankful that a few special people took an interest in him and exposed him to the technology industry when he was in his 20s. When he heard about the Tech Talent Coalition, he knew he wanted to get involved in the Small Business Capacity workgroup. As a business owner with 13 employees, he says he has had a difficult time finding talent. 

“When we are looking at the community colleges and universities, there is a major gap between what the student has been sold and the expectations they have of the market and what the employers are looking for.” Andre says students come out of school believing they should be making $70K+ but then find out they don’t have the required skills for those salaries in this market. With the lower salaries and the cost of living on the rise, the choice for student job seekers is often staying in mom and dad’s house or leaving town. 

The result, he says, is many are leaving and companies are looking overseas for talent. “I feel that I have some good insight because I can look at both sides, the education side and the business side, and help to see how we can fill that gap.”

But he’s hopeful. The Tech Talent Coalition puts employers and educators in the same room to have these critical conversations. Employers need to be communicating with the schools so that schools match what they are teaching to what skills employers need, he says.

The outcome of the Tech Talent Coalition Andre would most like to see: When students graduate, they stay local – and they thrive here in the tech industry. “We don’t want to be the city where we train them and then we send them off.” 


Paul Griebel is the Miami Director for Venture For America, a national nonprofit and two-year fellowship program that gives recent college graduates firsthand startup experiences to help them become strong leaders.  Prior to joining VFA six months ago, he held positions including economic development leadership roles for both Enterprise Florida and the Miami-Dade Beacon Council. 

“When you’re working in those organizations, I think you just get a sense of how critical small businesses and startups are to the growth of the economy. The Tech Talent Coalition is just so important to make sure that you have that connective tissue to make sure that this community is  served properly as all this growth is happening at such a significant level.” 

Griebel hopes the Tech Talent Coalition’s work with help ensure that Miami continues to be a premier destination for small businesses and startups to plant roots, grow and succeed. At the same time, it’s important there are tech talent pathways for people from different backgrounds and academic experiences and  to make sure that Miami-Dade residents are not left behind for all these technology jobs that are being created, he says. 

He recalls his time working with the Beacon Council and there was a real disconnect in terms of where a company could identify talent and how local talent of all backgrounds and experiences could find the right fit for themselves. While there was some great work done back then, now there is buy-in from academia, employers, training centers and coding schools. This work is “absolutely necessary” and coming together at a critical time as the Miami area is experiencing a tech boom, he says.

“It’s been very encouraging to see just in the first few meetings the excitement and the buy-in from the community at all levels,” Griebel says. That’s key because it’s going to take that commitment for maximum impact while making sure the community is aligned and connected as it continues to grow. “There’s a lot of work still to be done, but I think there’s a real reason for optimism.”

How To Get Involved

  • Any employer located in South Florida that is hiring for tech-related positions is encouraged to participate in the Tech Talent Coalition
  • Employers can apply to participate for free by filling out this form
  • Anyone interested in following the work of the coalition should subscribe to its newsletter here

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Nancy Dahlberg