After running a Twitter campaign to attract big tech to his city, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has admitted that establishing a new big tech imprint could hurt his city’s working poor.
“Gentrification is real,” Suarez told “Axios on HBO,” adding that the city’s “government has a limited amount of resources and a limited amount of ability to stop things that are market-driven.”
Suarez’s comments came after the well-liked mayor went viral on Twitter in December for responding to a big techie’s tweet about moving Silicon Valley to Miami with the question, “How can I help?”
Since then, major tech players such as Peter Thiel of PayPal, Jon Oringer of Shutterstock, Steve Galanis of Cameo and other tech executives, investors and workers have moved to Miami. Billionaire Elon Musk even proposed building underground car tunnels there.
While techies and Suarez are celebrating Miami as the “new home of big tech,” the exodus could be to locals’ detriment. According to a report by Miami Urban Future Initiative, Miami was the second most-unequal large metro city in the nation behind New York in 2019. Its middle class was also shrinking.
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Suarez says attracting big tech to his city will help remedy the problem. “The plan is to continue to build more affordable housing. The plan is to also give people high-paying jobs,” he told Axios.
However, urbanist Professor Richard Florida said such plans will not close the enormous economic inequality gap. “Simply continuing Miami’s current growth trajectory by boosting construction, increasing jobs and employment, or continuing to bolster its startup ecosystem will not be enough,” Florida said. “Miami must make inclusive prosperity – the kind of growth that benefits many more Miamians – the centerpiece of its economic development agenda moving forward.”
Home to 35 billionaires, Miami also has an exorbitant cost of living and pays only $8.56 per hour in minimum wage. The city’s population is composed of 40 percent of working poor households and Black and brown residents are more likely to be in that number.
“If you look past the glittering skyscrapers and mega-yachts, you will see that the City of Miami has a relative rate of inequality similar to that of developing countries like Paraguay and Colombia,” author Mario Alejandro Ariza wrote in September 2020.