Big Tech and billionaires suddenly can’t resist the lure of South Florida

Big Tech and billionaires suddenly can’t resist the lure of South Florida

Big Tech staffers may be swapping out their beloved Patagonia vests for sunglasses and shorts as the sector continues to migrate to warmer climes.

Traditionally,, America’s enterprise hubs have centered around New York and Silicon Valley.

But over the past decade, and particularly since the pandemic, Miami has pushed itself up the rankings to become a powerhouse in its own right.

The Sunshine State is now home to some of the nation’s highest-profile brands across various industries.

In finance, Ken Griffin’s Citadel and Citadel Securities have made Miami their permanent headquarters, while JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon used his annual shareholder letter to highlight the renovation of the company’s Tampa offices and the $210 million it will add to the local economy.

The likes of Microsoft, Amazon, and now Apple are also reportedly increasing their presence in the area.

The post-pandemic shift of Big Tech companies moving to South Florida began with Microsoft, which announced in 2021 it was moving its Latin America regional team to Miami’s seafront Brickell district.

A couple of years later, Amazon announced its hunt for a further 50,000 square feet in the area, following its founder, Jeff Bezos, from Seattle.

Bezos announced in November 2023 that he was leaving his longtime home city of Seattle for the ‘billionaire’s bunker‘ of South Florida’s Indian Creek Island, where he now owns three mansions.

More recently, it was reported that Apple was joining the tech exodus to Florida, taking 45,000 square feet (4,181 square meters) in a new building in Coral Gables, a wealthy suburb just south of Miami.

Apple did not respond to Fortune’s request for comment.

VC money

New York and San Francisco have long been considered the frontrunners in fostering enterprise, and VC data supports that.

Between 2019 and 2021, 27.8% of venture capital investments went into the metro districts of San Francisco, Oakland, and Fremont (one of the cities in Silicon Valley).

Per data from PitchBook, a further 8.1% of the VC spending pot went to other parts of Silicon Valley, such as Santa Clara and San Jose.

Coming in behind San Francisco was—perhaps unsurprisingly—New York, which swiped 14.4% of the VC funding across those three years.

This dynamism correlates with the bedrock of talent available to both metropolitans, which have a handful of America’s top universities on their doorsteps.

This human capital, combined with billions of dollars of investment, has allowed both areas to establish seemingly unshakeable reputations as the seats of power for two of the biggest industries in the U.S.

It might seem impossible that Miami, with its balmy weather and beachfront lifestyle, could ever truly compete.

However, according to experts Fortune spoke to, the South Florida region also has the ingredients to shake up the current landscape.

Why is Florida becoming so popular?

While 250 days of warm weather may be a perk of living in the southeast, it’s certainly not enough to catch the eye of titans of enterprise.

Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, Florida does not have a personal income tax, which may be particularly attractive to high-earning individuals.

But Kenan Fikri, director of research at bipartisan public policy organization the Economic Innovation Group (EIG), believes it may go deeper than that.

He explained: “The pandemic really saw a huge shift in intensity, especially in net losses from New York to South Florida.”

Moreover, traditionally, people who moved south tended to be of retirement age, but the pandemic caused younger people to look at their lifestyles and leave the Big Apple in search of larger homes with more amenities.

With these individuals still in the prime of their working lives came skills and purchasing power, which is accelerating a trend Fikri believes would have happened over time.

The EIG tracks states’ economic dynamism’, which means firm growth rates, startup rates, the number of entrepreneurs per capita, worker churn, and labor force participation rates.

By this measure, New York has been sinking—down from a score of 35.9 in 2000 to 23.4 in 2024—while Florida’s nationwide ranking has conversely jumped from seventh place to fifth.

“Population growth and economic growth feed on each other so as New York has deepened its decline, its relative attractiveness has diminished. Florida has continued to grow, bringing more workers and capital investment,” Fikri added.

Investment in local education

One of the many people who recently relocated to Florida is Professor David Andolfatto, chair of the Miami Herbert Business School at the University of Miami.

Andolfatto relocated to Florida in 2022 after serving as senior vice president of research at the St Louis Fed and said skills and talent are readily available courtesy of the “high caliber” student body at UMiami.

“I don’t think the southeast of the U.S. has this tradition of academia in the way the northeast and California does, but I see tremendous potential in developing the partnership between the corporate sector with the University [of Miami],” he said.

“I’m very excited about the prospect of our students feeding the needs of these firms that are coming in. It’s a great attractor for talent, but a lot of this talent is locally bred,” Professor Andolfatto added.

And while business schools in Florida aren’t as common as higher up the east coast, that could all change.

Citadel CEO Ken Griffin, for example, has already invested in an economics department at the University of Chicago and, in April, made a $9 million donation to bring a math program backed by the school to public school students in Miami.

“It would be a good signal if you see folks investing not just in the companies but in the institutions,” said Fikri.

“It’s a good signal that places are not just attracting people because of lower costs of living but are committed to investing in a place and its future.”

Avoiding the San Francisco ‘doom spiral’

South Florida may want to ensure its moment in the sun doesn’t replicate the problems blighting rival areas.

San Francisco, for example, has been repeatedly blasted by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who said the area is in a “doom spiral,” labeled it a “disaster,” and likened it to “a derelict zombie apocalypse.”

Musk’s criticism comes on account of violent crime rates in the city, as well as a drug abuse and homelessness crisis.

Fortune spoke to experts who believed that the investment influx needed to be spread across infrastructure—or, as Professor Andolfatto calls it, “the basics.”

“What do people want?” he said. They want a safe and secure environment in which to raise their families and peace of mind by having access to decent healthcare, basic education, and affordable housing. These are perennial issues. And then just let people run with the opportunities they’re presented with and the freedom to choose what they want to do.”

If Florida can increase its investment without increasing inequalities, it also stands a chance of retaining individuals for the rest of their working lives.

Fikri explained: “The idea of being a place where you not just get those first formative years in the labor market and then leave, but a place where you can build an entire career and afford to stay as long as you want would be very attractive.

“A lot of people who have left high-cost city centers over the past couple of years would have preferred to be able to stay but felt that they couldn’t, so they felt they had to move.”

Lifestyle, talent, and investment a lure for finance and Big Tech

While a career goal for Andolfatto prompted a move to Miami, the lifestyle hasn’t hurt either.

“I haven’t worn a jacket since I moved here,” he tells Fortune. “The weather is lovely, the mango trees are out, the restaurants are exceptional, you’ve got the beach or maybe a pool in your complex.”

The combination of lifestyle, talent, and investment could allow Miami—and South Florida more broadly—to cherry-pick the industries it wants to be known for.

“By and large I would expect the community will grow both finance and tech, whether the resources are currently available here I’m not sure, but I’m sure Miami’s not going to have a problem in finding the talent they need to grow both sectors,” Andolfatto added.

These factors are why cities like New York cannot afford to rest on their laurels—as Jamie Dimon recently put it, while New York is still “obviously” the financial center of the world “no one has the right, in my view, to think they have a divine right to success.”

Speaking this week at the Economic Club of New York, Dimon added: “You’ve seen it with cities, you’ve seen it with governments, you’ve seen it with countries — people go the wrong way.”

The data suggests that New York will already be feeling the pinch.

Research by EIG found that during the pandemic, $16.5 billion in taxable income flowed out of Manhattan, and $4.6 billion of it was bound for Florida.

Florida was the biggest beneficiary of inflows between 2020 and 2021, raking in an additional $39 billion from inhabitants moving from other states.

Fikri concluded: “New York has so many assets that are irreplicable for any place—it can afford to lose some Citadels, but it can’t afford not to incorporate the lessons from these cases.”

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