By Riley Kaminer

South Florida mayors outline plans to develop region as a global tech hub

Read Time 4 Minutes

On Thursday, May 12th, four mayors from South Florida came together at ADT’s Boca Raton headquarters to discuss our region’s development as a tech hub.

Who attended the roundtable?

  • Mayor Dean Trantalis, City of Fort Lauderdale
  • Mayor Keith James, City of West Palm Beach
  • Mayor Scott Singer, City of Boca Raton
  • Mayor Michael Udine, Broward County

In the audience was an exclusive group of our region’s top executives who collectively employ tens of thousands of South Floridians.

“ADT was proud to host the South Florida Tech Hub team at our corporate headquarters in Boca Raton,” commented Bob Tucker, ADT’s Director of Corporate Affairs.

“ADT believes in delivering cutting-edge technology in our products and services to help protect and connect our customers to what matters most,” Tucker continued. “Participating in the conversation about how to attract and retain tech companies and top talent to our region was very inspiring.”

In a panel discussion moderated by Sheela VanHoose, Partner at the Southern Group and Ashton Adler, Director of Talent & Policy at South Florida Tech Hub, the mayors discussed the origins, current state, and future prospects of tech in South Florida.

 

Here are the top three takeaways from this recent discussion.

 

  1. South Florida’s tech scene is vibrant and growing.

Each of the mayors highlighted the strong presence of tech entrepreneurs in their respective communities – from Citrix and Hotwire in Fort Lauderdale and Magic Leap in Broward to a host of tech-powered corporates and startups in Boca Raton and West Palm Beach.

They all acknowledged the major influx in tech companies, employees, and investors that the region has experienced since the onset of the pandemic.

“There’s an image that we don’t have the tech talent,” acknowledged Singer. “I think that’s a myth. I want to bust that myth in every way possible.”

Singer also mentioned that Boca Raton has partnered with Endeavor Miami to help stimulate the city’s startup ecosystem. He noted that FAU’s Tech Runway recently had upwards of 200 applications for only 10 spots. “That means there were 190 more companies wanting to come to Boca Raton that weren’t able to,” said Singer. “That’s why we’re trying to connect founders and funders.”

Udine asserted that Broward is happy to do their part to build the county’s tech ecosystem. “We’re willing to make the investment where we see a positive return,” asserted Udine, citing the example of NSU’s Levan Center as a public-private partnership that is having a tangible, positive impact.

“We need to understand that business moves way faster than government, and that government needs to be nimble,” said Udine. “Government needs to make the investment where they can to assist these companies. And government needs to be a partner with these tech companies.”

 

  1. Looking past the hype, there are still challenges we need to address to continue this rapid pace of growth.

“We need to be careful about having a lopsided presence of tech like they have in Palo Alto and Seattle, where other people have been pushed out,” said Trantalis.

Housing is also top of mind for James: “Even people with six figure incomes are having difficulties finding housing.” He noted initiatives mandating that developers build affordable housing alongside new market rate units.

James also highlighted the importance of alternative mobility options, a sentiment echoed by all mayors on the panel. “You also want to make sure that you incorporate transportation options which are beyond just cars to get people from where they might be living to where the jobs are.” 

“We want to make West Palm Beach a community of opportunity for all,” said James. “That requires intentionality.”

Two executives in the audience expressed their interest in working with the government to help spearhead their tech and innovation efforts. “I think we need to do a better job promoting  all the different companies that are here in the three counties,” responded Udine. “Most people doing business don’t care where the county boundary lines are. They want to see all of us working together.”

 

  1. The future is bright.

Optimism abounded at the roundtable. “We’re doing something right – something that’s drawing people down here,” said Trantalis. “I think that’s the conversation that we need to be having: how do we foster those elements? And how do we encourage those aspects that seek to attract not just tech industries but other industries?”

Singer and Udine were particularly bullish on web3. “Blockchain and crypto technologies are going to have a massive impact here,” said Singer, noting that there is already a growing crypto community in Boca Raton.

Udine acknowledges that there are some who criticize his interest in these new technologies. But he said that even the skeptics must admit that these businesses still bring positive knock-on effects to our community. “Transportation companies, janitorial companies, small construction companies – all of these businesses are ancillary to the new tech companies that are coming here.”

Are you interested in getting involved in South Florida Tech Hub’s Policy or Branding Committees? Please contact us at team@techhubsouthflorida.org for more information.