Miami Mayor Francis Suarez speaks during a naming ceremony at the Brightline train station, Thursday, April 4, 2019, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Miami Mayor shares updates on his technology quest

By Kelly Montoya

Miami Mayor shares updates on his technology quest

By Kelly Montoya
During a recent webinar, Francis X. Suarez spoke with Provost Jeffrey L. Duerk and Dean John Quelch about his vision for the city and what’s currently unfolding in the technology sector.

At a time when major cities like New York and San Francisco, which are known for producing top talent, started antagonizing and punishing companies by raising taxes and pushing out their innovators and creators, Francis X. Suarez, mayor of Miami, saw a unique opportunity for his city.

So, he took it upon himself to incite a boom in Miami that aims to position the city at the forefront of innovation and the technology industry for years to come.

“Miami is the beneficiary of a confluence of macro factors that are conspiring in this moment to give us a generational tectonic shift of an opportunity,” Suarez said.

During an April 27 event hosted by the University of Miami Patti and Allan Herbert Business School, Suarez explained that because the federal government took away the state and local tax (SALT) deduction from federal income taxes, cities and states began to raise taxes in a way that diminished the marginal incentive to produce—and that caused many companies to want to start migrating.

While other cities were raising taxes, Suarez made sure that Miami did the complete opposite.

“We presented a different option—an option of low taxes, low crime, low homelessness, high quality of life—and an inviting climate to people who want to create jobs and the companies of tomorrow, which will have a generational impact on our community,” he said.  

According to Suarez, Miami is now receiving talent from the macro markets of New York and Silicon Valley, and that meeting point will result in something no city has ever experienced before.

“Two markets that were always segregated in polar opposite sides of the United States are now converging in a city,” he said. “And what develops out of that no one knows, because there's never been that kind of confluence of capital and economic freedom in one city in the history of humanity.”

Suarez predicts that will elevate Miami to be the “capital of capital.”  

“We are going to be the best place in America and the best place in the world for someone to create a company, get funding for it, and develop it into the company of tomorrow,” he said. “That's my vision, and that's where I think we're headed.” 

Suarez, guest speaker for the Miami Herbert Business School’s “The Herbert Half Hour,” was greeted by Jeffrey L. Duerk, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, and John Quelch, dean of the school.

Duerk began the conversation by congratulating Suarez on his “vision and tenacity for ensuring that Miami emerges in this important technical and economic area so that we have impact in this space.” 

And, the provost told the mayor, “as Miami grows into an innovative tech hub, the University of Miami is ready and able to provide the technological innovation and high-caliber talent to support your vision.”

When Quelch asked Suarez about the most common hesitations new companies have had about starting business in the city, the mayor shared that they are mostly worried about the caliber of education and talent. 

“They want to know if there are good schools and enough schools for the people that are coming, and then secondly they want to know if we are producing the kind of high level, finance and engineering talent that is needed for these kinds of jobs now,” he said.

Suarez acknowledged the recent gift from the Knight Foundation and Phillip and Patricia Frost to the Institute for Data Science and Computing. 

“We've had the philanthropic community of Miami really rally around this issue and start to put in the resources to help us be more competitive,” said Suarez. “Now is the time to invest in our education and university system, so we can create the best talent there is and narrow the gap between our system and those of Ivy League schools and produce the premier institutions of America.”

The mayor mentioned that the $100 million SoftBank investment initiative (from the largest hedge fund in the world) to directly fund and support Miami-based businesses was the turning point for his campaign and what really brought the hype to life.

According to Suarez, the CEO of SoftBank, Marcelo Claure, is open to investing more and mentioned to him that “100 million was just a number they came up with, the real truth is that there is no limit to what they are willing to invest because they have to deploy a billion dollars of capital a week.”

Suarez said that he believes that “biotech, clean energy tech, and fintech and cryptocurrency are the three areas where Miami specifically has a legitimate right to come out as a world leader.”

The mayor also noted that “to come out as a world leader in biotech, we have the largest health care systems in the world and universities that focus on cancer research. The City of Miami has taken a forward position on fintech, so involving innovative technology is a natural fit,” he added. “And being in the epicenter for climate change and adaptation in the country means we have an opportunity to lead in clean energy tech and create the kinds of technology that are going to allow us to adopt and mitigate and reverse the effects of climate change, like no other city in America.”

This moment, Suarez indicated, will bring solutions to the problems that existed in the city prior to this movement.

“This has allowed us to dream and it's made us the hub for innovation. All these companies want to come up with solutions and they want to start here,” he said. “That's never happened before, and so now we're going to be the bastion of innovation in the country and that will allow our citizens to have a better quality of life, faster.”

Touching on some aspects of his Miami Forever Plan, Suarez pointed out how he’s prioritizing the income side of the equation.  

“We need to focus on building careers and building people up so that every single Miamian is competitive and competing in a modern-day economy,” he shared.

Suarez reiterated his excitement for the Miami tech quest and shared his surprise at all the events that have transpired since his famous “How can I help?” tweet.

“If you would have told me the day before my tweet went out that the next day I was going to send out a tweet that was going to be seen by 2.7 million people and lead me to talk to Jack Dorsey, Elon Musk, the Winklevoss twins, Fred Ehrsam, Bryan Armstrong from Coinbase, Kevin O'Leary, Kevin McCarthy, Nikki Haley, Dave Portnoy, and all the people that have come through our office, I would have told you, you were crazy,” he exclaimed. “I would have told you there's no way you can create a world where all these things are going to collide and that Miami would go from relative obscurity in tech to being the most talked about city in America and in the world and tech in six months,” Suarez added.

At the conclusion of the “Herbert Half Hour,” Quelch shared that more M.B.A. applicants have shown interest in the Miami Herbert Business School because of what the mayor has been doing in terms of turning Miami into a great technology hub.