« CareCloud makes Forbes' Most Promising Companies list | Main | Clearpath names Felice Gorordo CEO, moving HQ to Miami »

Miami Beach mayor responds to tech hub comments

LevineMiami Beach Mayor Philip Levine said his comments published in a Washington Post blog  earlier today were taken out of context but that “I stand by what I said.” He also said high tech can and is rising across the bridge.

While speaking at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, DC, he called a tech hub in Miami Beach a dumb idea. “Miami Beach is never going to be a high tech hub. As much as it sounds great, it's sexy, that's not who we are,” the WonkBlog quoted Levine as saying under  the headline “Miami Beach mayor: Take your tech start-up gospel, and shove it.”

Reaction from the tech community was vocal and varied. In social media, some called Levine's comments “outrageous” and “embarrassing” and said  sentiments like that are a setback to  South Florida’s efforts to build and promote its tech community throughout the region. Some thought the mayor was excluding just the type of high-wage job creation he should be welcoming. Others thought he was right that Miami Beach may not be the place for a tech hub, but that doesn’t mean Miami isn’t.

In a phone interview this evening from Washington, Levine said because he is an entrepreneur mayor he was asked to talk about how he would advise other mayors to help push business in their cities. “I said, No. 1, the best thing governments can do is get out of the way, No. 2, make it easy for businesses to operate … and  the third thing I said is be who you are, don’t be something you are not as far as your city.”

What Miami Beach is, according to Levine: "A tiny piece of land" with core competencies in travel and tourism and conventions, and it certainly welcomes high-tech conventions. What it isn't: a fertile ground for a technology hub because it doesn't have inexpensive office space or a critical mass of programmers. "That’s not who we are. If there's anyone who knows this, it is going to be guys who started from nothing and built large companies. And that was me, and I did it on Miami Beach and I did as an offshoot of the travel and tourism industry, which of course was Onboard Media,” Levine said.

“I love entrepreneurial startups, I invest in them, I love high tech, but when you are talking to mayors and describe your own city, you have to say this is what our core competency is. …. To me, a  high tech hub is Wynwood, where you have inexpensive warehouse and office space and you are much more set up for high-tech startups.”

What do you think?

Posted Jan. 22, 2014