Some time ago I wrote about the need for the South Florida tech community to act regionally is we are to be competitive with the major technology centers in the rest of the country. This is a good time to revisit that subject because a recent flurry of press is starting to attract welcome attention to the Miami technology community. However, it is based on a highly Miami-centric view and that is weakening the argument that Miami is on the road to becoming a world-class tech center.

It misses out on the strength of the South Florida region as a whole, as it only tells part of the story. Miami is the center of a metropolitan area that has significant high technology assets widely distributed throughout the area. To ignore those assets outside Miami-Dade is to greatly weaken the case. After all, where would the Boston high tech center be if it didn’t include Cambridge and Route 128 and where would San Francisco be if it didn’t include Palo Alto and San Jose? Although centered on major cities, they have a regional view, and it makes them stronger.

Alan McGlade wrote a very good article in Forbes that described the Miami start-up community as vibrant and growing, but also said serious people recognize Miami’s limitations.… (including the lack of a) critical mass. But the latter is true only if you don’t look north of the Broward border.

Just consider the following:

  • Broward County is one of the nation’s top global locations for wireless research with Google’s Motorola Mobility (NYSE: GOOG), General Dynamics (NSYE: GD), China’s Foxconn and Canada’s Blackberry (NASDAQ: BBRY) all having engineering centers in the county. “
  • Broward is also the home of Citrix, that brings you GoToMeeting and a host of other products.
  • The EDC Incubator in Boca Raton has 35 companies in residence and a long waiting list, and is working with more than 50 other companies throughout the region.
  • Two of the Forbes “Hot 100” companies are in Palm Beach County – 3Cinteractive and Modernizing Medicine
  • The leading clean energy company in the United States, NextEra, is also in Palm Beach County.
  • Scripps and Max Planck Florida are up and running and are collaborating with FAU on research.

All of those things are happening within commuting range of Brickell Avenue, and all add to the attractiveness of South Florida technology. There is no reason they should be excluded.

Miami and the rest of South Florida are competing with other high technology centers in the United States for attention, investment and jobs. Let’s not forget that. If we look at the region from a competitive standpoint – the way investors and relocation experts do – we can see clearly why we need to consider the region as a whole.

For example, let’s compare this region with the Austin, TX region, which certainly is considered a leading tech center:

The US Economic Census counts:

.                                                       High technology jobs       High Technology Establishments

Miami-Dade                                                 16,778                                             1708

Broward                                                       21,699                                             1718

Palm Beach                                                 12,293                                              1125

Regional Total                                              50,770                                             4551

Austin Region Total                                      48,491                                             1845

The South Florida region has 5 universities across the three counties vs. 1 in Austin, and 2 ½ times as many students. It has 10 incubators throughout the geography vs. 12 in Austin, and it has more tech organizations and regular networking meetings. But, again, all of this is spread through the region and not concentrated in just Miami-Dade. (My earlier blog posting called all this out in much more detail.)

So clearly, this region is competitive with major technology centers around the United States, but only if the entire region is considered. No one of the three counties even comes close by itself. And unless people starting thinking of ALL South Florida as one tech center they won’t have any reason to look here for investment, jobs or company location.

It is time we overcame our parochial tendencies and started to consider South Florida is a significant region, centered in and based on Miami, but including the surrounding geography. If we do, Miami and South Florida, together, can become a world-class center of excellence.

 

About the SFTA

The South Florida Technology Alliance (SFTA) promotes the growth, success and awareness of the regional technology community. Through events, networking, programs and education, we provide south Florida’s technology-related companies, academic institutions, entrepreneurs, governments and related organizations with an active forum to grow the business of technology in our region.

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