Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has pledged to turn Miami into a hub for crypto innovation and technology companies.
From viral tweets and highway billboards to luring tech companies from cities like San Francisco to his YouTube Cafecito conversations with influencers and celebrities, the mayor’s tactics are gaining attention, but some question whether this hype will ultimately bring. benefit 470,000 Miami residents as they look. recover from a pandemic.
Suarez said Cities today“There is one defining reason for my desire to attract technology to Miami: my residents.”
The mayor believes that with today’s fast-paced economy, cities must be prepared for potential shocks, and attracting high-paying, quality jobs is the best way to diversify and make a city more resilient.
“This Miami movement is not attracting the very rich,” he added. “It’s about bringing in innovative and productive classes from all over the country and the world where people were taken for granted by local authorities.”
Suarez cited companies such as Spotify, Goldman Sachs, Blackstone and Boston Private, which have already decided to call their home in Miami. Several entrepreneurs and investors have also moved, and SoftBank recently announced plans to invest $ 100 million in startups in the city.
The mayor even tweeted with Elon Musk and met with Boring Company executives regarding the possibility of building a tunnel in Miami.
In addition to striving to attract bitcoin companies to the city, Suarez put forward the idea of paying city employees and investing the city coffers in cryptocurrency. The city commissioners cautiously voted to study the proposals.
One of the challenges for the mayor will be to ensure that residents and existing businesses do not feel alienated or crowded out by the high flow of technology. Cities like San Francisco and Seattle have experienced this firsthand, so switching to bitcoin doesn’t necessarily seem like the most convenient place to start.
More than one in ten US adults have never heard of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Dogecoin, according to a recent survey by Harris Poll. Six out of ten people who heard about them said they had little or no understanding of how they work, and 43 percent expressed doubts about the legality of using them as a form of payment.
Mayor Suarez said, “The easiest and cheapest way to teach people about bitcoin – or anything for that matter – is to make it more culturally widespread, and that starts with accessibility. By making Bitcoin an option to pay bills or even compensate, we stimulate conversation and people have a natural inclination to know what it is. ”
He added, “The drive to bring technology to the city of Miami has nothing to do with pushing someone new, but it has to do with empowering my residents for financial freedom – if people want to accept Bitcoin or not, it must be entirely up to them.”
Aside from communicating with residents, there are also concerns about the amount of energy consumed when mining bitcoin and the environmental impact.
In January 2020, Miami joined the C40 Cities Climate Action Network and announced a city-wide goal of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. On how the bitcoin boom can align with Miami’s environmental goals, Suarez said, “Bitcoin’s energy use is only as dirty as the source of that energy.
“If you are using coal to power your city, how can you expect bitcoin mining to be done cleanly and ethically? Miami presents a unique opportunity not only to bring some of the mining market back to the US, but to do so in a location where most of the energy comes from a nuclear power plant. ”
Although nuclear power does not produce direct emissions, some do not classify it as “clean” energy due to waste problems and concerns about safety and cost. Miami is also working to expand the use of other renewable energy sources such as solar power.
As cities become technology hubs, skills can also be a bottleneck as the demand for data, software development and analytics talent grows.
“Something that has become apparent from the massive influx of tech companies coming to Miami is the fact that we do have the necessary infrastructure and talent pool to support the growing Miami ecosystem,” Suarez said. “I’ve heard this directly from the CEOs themselves, they just couldn’t have moved their companies here without this infrastructure.”
However, he added that developing this is a priority.
“As Miami continues to grow and our businesses continue to grow, so does our technology infrastructure, and we need to take a multi-faceted approach to this conversation,” he said. “We need to invest and strengthen our educational institutions, not just our universities.” This also includes vocational training programs and continuing education schemes.
The work to attract large investment companies will also be the focus to stimulate new venture start-ups and business development.
“And maybe this is where we, as government, will play a more important role,” he said, adding that he is asking businesses ahead of time what they need to make Miami attractive to them, and the city is looking into incentive programs.
Suarez has also appointed an innovation advisor as a “concierge” for high-tech companies opening in Miami, as well as a permanent venture capitalist.
“This should be a status quo, not a one-off attempt,” commented Suarez.
Not your traditional government
George Bursiaga, managing partner at Ignite Cities, a consultancy that works with Miami, said that while Suarez’s approach may seem unconventional for the government, it is part of a “well-thought-out strategic plan to improve and develop the city.”
He added: “If you do nothing, you are only talking about what it could have been. If you take a step, then you can start creating change, culturally, technically, and as you learn, the environment begins to change. ”
Miami is working with Ignite to roll out direct assistance through grocery gift cards, develop public-private partnerships, and explore ways to deliver municipal broadband.
It remains to be seen if Mayor Suarez’s high-octane approach will be anything more than headlines, but other mayors are watching closely.
In June, Suarez was elected second vice president of the United States Conference of Mayors. At the end of his term, he will serve as First Vice President and then President.
He said, “The US Conference of Mayors gives me the opportunity to bring the work that my team and I have done in Miami to the national level.”