What South Florida Gained by Losing Amazon Bid
While South Florida didn’t get the deal to host Amazon’s HQ2, the tri-county area is still boasting successes in the learnings that came from participating in the bid process itself.
“This process showed an extraordinary level of regional cooperation, done in a record amount of time,” said urbanist Richard Florida, who led the discussion of the panel, “What Did We Learn From Our Amazon Adventure.”
The panel included about 80 attendees and was hosted by the Miami-Dade Beacon Council. The event was produced by the Miami Herald, the Downtown Development Authority and Florida International’s Miami Future Urban Initiative, which Florida leads.
“It was clear that the young folks working for Amazon, some significant portion would want to live in Miami, even if Palm Beach or Broward won the site,” Finney said. “There was an incredible potential for a win-win.”
A tri-county executive leadership meeting will be held as part of the ongoing regional collaboration. The Business Development Board of Palm Beach County (BDB) is hosting the meeting in Palm Beach County on Friday, Feb. 15. Executive board members of the Beacon Council, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, and the BDB will be in attendance.
On Tuesday, new details were announced regarding Miami’s Amazon bid. Finney said a total of 54 South Florida business, academic and political leaders had signed nondisclosure agreements in the run-up to the bid. Seven of the nine Amazon delegates who met with Miami’s delegation were “millennials” and showed particular interest in advanced-degree and post-graduate opportunities, along with happenings in Wynwood and the Design District.
However, South Florida’s long-held “brain-drain” problem is seemingly still a problem, according to Shereena Coleman, vice president of business facilitation and The Glades region at the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, which participated in the Amazon bid. The real estate group CBRE showed a report last year that displayed more tech graduates were moving out of Miami-Dade than coming in, although that was not the case for Broward County. “No one is coming here if the talent isn’t here,” she said.
John Boyd was the only non-South-Floridian on the panel. As a resident of Princeton, New Jersey, Boyd is a relocation specialist who stated that the Miami metro’s inclusion on Amazon’s finalist list was nevertheless a signal that other companies like Amazon – and possibly even Amazon itself – would now heighten Miami’s metro region’s standing on its on its list of relocation landing spots.
“We now have a treasure trove of contacts, of people paying attention to what’s happening in Miami,” said Finney.
Brightline, which is now rebranding as Virgin Trains USA, continues to prove the biggest recent development for South Florida’s reputation in the corporate world, as told by Boyd. Relocation promoters and companies are focusing on “regionalization,” including assets that may not be physically close but which can be easily reached. Brightline’s ability to connect the tri-county area will prove a key asset, he said.
Locally, by constructing the Miami Central Station, locals will now be satisfied to have a downtown destination through the inter-county Tri-Rail line. Nitin Motwani, managing principal of Miami, stated how the rail line would open up the region to everyday commuters.
All in all, the bid at least accomplished the breaking of the “invisible line” that many South Florida residents recognize as dividing Miami-Dade from its northern county neighbors. Finney said that the tide would soon begin turning from seeing rail projects as not-in-my-backyard nuisances to desirable assets as property values increase, noting that this is usually how transportation-oriented development works in most other cities.