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View: Miami is the brand, Miami is the region

By Brian Breslin

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Recently, while attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ winter meeting, Miami Beach mayor elect Phil Levine made a few regrettable comments that reflect poorly upon our community. Levine argued that focusing Miami Beach on technology and startup ecosystem was “the dumbest idea in the world.” It’s possible that much of the vitriol that has shot up around this might be an overreaction, but there is something to this topic that deserves to be discussed. As an advocate and steward of the local startup and tech community in Miami, I feel compelled to respond. I know the Mayor has already issued a response via Nancy Dahlberg’s Starting Gate column in the Miami Herald (he suggests other areas are better suited in Miami to foster tech), however I feel it necessary to have a voice from someone who has been in the thick of things for nearly a decade.

Mayor Levine was attempting to argue that the City of Miami Beach (not to be confused with the City of Miami or Miami Dade County, both completely independent government bodies) shouldn’t focus on things it isn’t good at. That is a completely reasonable request/statement. The city should focus on what it is good at, but it shouldn’t shun the future, and it shouldn’t shun what might not be its strongest industry, but has quite a bit of potential. There are a number of factors that don’t lend to growing a startup community that Miami Beach lacks at the moment (cheap rents, office space, non-transient residents, schools, etc., etc. etc). The industries that Levine suggests are our existing strong points and are a more efficient use of resources, are all industries that depend on technology whether they realize it or not.

I have never met Mayor Levine, however, I have met many of the other local politicians who are in fact supportive of fostering tech here in Miami proper. I have met countless individuals over the years that are truly passionate about making Miami into a 21st century city, a city that leads the world in innovation, a city that embraces technology as it is becoming integral into all of the industries Levine mentioned in his statements. I welcome Mayor Levine to join me to learn about the work we’ve been doing over the last decade to turn Miami (the area) into a city we can be proud to bequeath to our children and grandchildren. In fact I invite all of the local political leaders to come together and discuss the things that our burgeoning tech community needs to accelerate its existing growth.

The biggest issues with Levine’s statements are not that he thinks Miami Beach can’t be a tech hub (who knows if it can or can’t be, but if the mayor isn’t supporting it, it likely won’t make it easier), but that it looks to the outside world that this was a statement about Miami in general. Miami is the brand, Miami is the region, Miami is the name people outside of our sunny enclave use whether it is in reference to Miami Beach, or Kendall, Coral Gables, Wynwood, Aventura, Ft. Lauderdale, and even on some occasions Boca Raton.  We don’t really need Mayor Levine to endorse us, but it wouldn’t hurt to have our elected officials show some pride in what we are trying to accomplish.

The fact of the matter is that we are already “refreshing” Miami’s tech scene. Over 8000 people in Miami know there is something cooking here. Hundreds of people every month are already joining us to “Refresh Miami” and support our local startups and tech companies. We need our community to stand up and pledge their support for Miami tech and startups.  

 If you are a member of the Miami tech or startup community and want to show your support, join our Refresh Miami newsletter, signup to be a volunteer, or show your pride by joining our “I Refresh Miami” campaign.  I’m proud of Miami’s tech community, are you?

Brian Breslin is the founder of Refresh MiamiInfinimedia and Maker Market. Brian is best known his work with Refresh Miami, the largest technology networking organization in South Florida that has held 100+ meetups and events with over 8000 members strong. 

 

Comments

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Nate

"He who says he can, and he who says he can't, are both usually right."

Ulises I. Orozco

Well said Brian.

Edgar Caballero

Miami (as a whole) can only attract and retain increased business opportunities and clientele via superior data capabilities, I.E. lower cost broadband via fiber optics. Tech can only grow where it is allowed to germinate and foster. Fiber offers consumers a lower cost HD TV, voice, Internet access, security monitoring and even cell phone call option, which can all be transported cheaply and efficiently via fiber and communities all benefit when its capacity is employed.

The same argument by Levine was made in the 90s when Manny Medina attempted and built the NAP in downtown Miami, and now that area is burgeoning, only because the data infrastrucure was preplanned and already there. China, Europe and even Africa are outpacing the U.S. in fiber deployments, despite the tech being primarily a U.S. innovation.

Data flows in and out of Miami by sea, air, sky and strung for poles and buried lines, we carry its "opportunities" with us in our pockets and handbags with mobile phones and tablets, but the only way the U.S. can stay ahead of the curve, is to first admit there is one in the first place.

Brad

Silicon Valley real estate isn't exactly cheap... High real estate prices and technology start-ups aren't mutually exclusive!

Josh

Having lived in South Florida, San Francisco, and New York City - I find it strange that Miami is always in this "can we" - "can't we" conversation regarding tech. This is not the fault of the tech community, which against the odds- remains resilient due in no small part to the efforts of people like Brian.

However, these conversations hurt the perception of South Florida, and has driven many companies and individuals to grow up, and grow out of Miami for greener pastures elsewhere. The governing bodies should support all industries, including tech. What is the mayor afraid of?

Vicequeenmaria

Very well said, Brian and most accurate!

Also, Miami Beach is home to the New World Center -- one of the most technologically advanced music education buildings in the world, which relies on Internet2 and very sophisticated technology to run its operations. It's amazing that wasn't mentioned in the Washington Post article.

JP

Thanks for the post Brian. I congratulate Mayor Levine on engendering, albeit unintentionally, so much discussion on Miami as a "tech hub" (that was the exact term he was discussing in relation to the City of Miami Beach).The reactions I have read in response to Mayor Levine's "out of context" statements published in the Miami Herald and Washington Post, all fail to clarify how each person defines a "tech hub," themselves. Personally, I am so sick of hearing this term, see: http://venturebeat.com/2012/04/11/tech-hub-envy-or-why-you-should-stop-trying-to-be-silicon-valley/ . There is no question that technology and tech start-ups are important, and thriving, in the Miami area (including Miami Beach). The question Mayor Levine was answering is "what is the role of government?" He gave a pretty good answer (go back and read both WaPo and Herald accounts). I would add only one thing - government, at every level, needs to do everything it can to ensure access to cheap, fast internet. If that means bringing Google Fiber, or its equivalent, to Miami, Miami Beach, etc., then do it!

Mario

He needs to get out more often and see how Miami is evolving, rather than just spouting comments like that off the cuff. The silver lining is that now everybody's talking about it and I'm sure there's many people who will want to proove him wrong.

@tomordonez

Here are some recommendations for the Mayor of Miami Beach:

* Attend a coding class at The Lab Miami
* Go to Refresh or a tech oriented event, SXSW for example.
* Attend a hackathon demo

Tomorrow there is a Bitcoin conference...guess where? Miami Beach

Guess where the largest software conference was last year? Miami Beach

There was a big event last year called Startup City including celebrities like Manny Diaz, Tony Hsieh, Cisneros, Bellumio, Cappello, Calle...guess where this was? I will give you a clue. You can smell seawater a few blocks away.

Mayor Levine...you must have been sleeping.

Brad Nickel

Great response Brian. If I lived in Miami Beach, I would look at a more fundamental issue in his comments and that is that he doesn't understand the fundamentals of economic. He's leading his community into a future fraught with risk.

http://clickbrain.com/miami/people-miami-beach-fear-mayor/

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