Florida’s economy is booming, influencers say it’s time to disrupt it

According to environment panel member and eMerge Americas President Melissa Medina, tech-related startups racked in $1.4 billion in startup funding during the first half of 2019 in Miami alone.

By Gerard Albert III

PantherNOW / Florida International University

Florida’s economy continues to grow, and so does its population.

At the Florida Priorities Summit, produced by the Miami Herald and hosted by the University of Miami, experts weighed in on how they think the state’s economy needs to adjust. Some influencers think the next step in Florida’s economy is technology, not tourism. 

Melissa Medina, president of eMerge Americas, says the state government needs to change for the future. 

“Our government needs to look at a long-term strategy to pivot a bit from just focusing on tourism, agriculture and real estate,” she said.

Mark Vitner, a senior economist at Wells Fargo, agrees. He says Orlando’s growth isn’t coming from tourism like it has in the past. A record 126.1 million out-of-state visitors came to Florida in 2018. The tourism industry brought in $86 billion in 2017, much of that thanks to Orlando’s theme parks.

“Orlando had 130 million tourists this year, their growth is occurring outside tourism, it’s more in tech and aerospace,” Vitner said.

Richard Florida is a researcher at the Florida International University Creative City Initiative. He acknowledged the need for different jobs to revitalize the mostly-service driven economy where over a third of renters in Miami are cost-burdened.

“I think the problem in Florida, and in particularly for Miami, when it comes to housing, it’s not housing for tech workers — it’s housing for poor people,” he said. Miami is the worst large metropolitan area in the country, according to an FIU Metropolitan Center study.

Housing was another issue addressed at the summit. Experts called on state legislation to amend bills and incentivize developers to build more affordable housing units.