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Opinion: South Florida Must Grow to Become a Tech Hub

Recently, Miami has positioned itself as the newest tech hub, and the hype focuses on big names, Florida’s business-friendly environment and the area’s responsiveness to incoming tech companies.

Downtown Miami, Fla. The city has one of the highest rates of suburbs in its MSA when ranked with the nation's largest metro areas. (Shutterstock)
(TNS) — South Florida is number one in the nation in terms of the emerging number of startups but falls near the bottom of the national rankings in terms of ability to scale. Our innovation ecosystem is short on two key ingredients — investment capital and qualified workers. The ambition to achieve top tech hub status is realistic and is building momentum, but there is a long way to go to achieving this goal, and the tri-county area needs to work together to be known as the South Florida Tech Hub.

Recently, Miami has positioned itself as the newest tech hub, and the hype focuses on big names, Florida’s business-friendly environment, and our area’s responsiveness to incoming tech companies. Along with these factors, South Florida also has the social and professional networks, quality of life and research universities needed. But we must provide increased access to capital. That means angel investors, venture and equity capital and institutional finance.

South Florida also lacks qualified talent for emerging industries and related occupations, meaning there is a major opportunity for workforce training and retraining. Tech companies have specific needs, and there is a clear gap between what academic institutions are providing and the skills that companies in the tech industry require. Degrees are important, but there is a disconnect in the belief that the tech sector requires accelerated credentials. Universities can and should develop new, leading-edge industry certification programs that are relevant. Academic institutions are declining in number, and industry is taking increased responsibility for recruiting and training current and future employees.

This training burden can be shifted from companies themselves to declining institutions, providing opportunities for both. A collaborative model whereby industry, academia, government, community-based organizations and funding sources co-invest to meet the demands of the tech sector is the solution for a scalable and sustainable success story that better links the South Florida innovation ecosystem.

Achieving this model means we can truly call South Florida a tech hub, defined by breakthrough ideation, new technologies, talent skills pipeline, company formation, new jobs and scaling of early-stage and young startup companies. There is a movement evolving in South Florida, and now is our time not to talk but walk as one innovation ecosystem. Miami has taken ownership for success stories not only in the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County, but for companies also located in Broward and Palm Beach counties. The geographic definition of Miami keeps expanding, and in some circles, goes from Key Largo to Jupiter. It is imperative that all of South Florida comes together to achieve these goals.

John Wensveen  is chief innovation officer of Nova Southeastern University and executive director of the Alan B. Levan NSU Broward Center of Innovation.

(c)2021 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.