When hearing the word “tech,” images of Silicon Valley or New York City most likely come to mind. But Fort Lauderdale is making noise as an unlikely frontrunner in the race to becoming the next major tech hub. Case in point, this past week Broward’s home-grown e-commerce juggernaut, Chewy.com, which has captured more than 50% of the online pet food market, announced its Initial Public Officering at a valuation of more than $7 billion. The company’s shares shot up nearly 60% to close at $35 on their first day of trading.
Over the past few years, Florida has seen more Americans relocating here than anywhere else in the U.S., reeling in about $17 billion from those migrants. What was once America’s nest for retirees and senior citizen living has evolved into a flourishing urban town with billions in new investment, a growing Downtown population, luxury high-rises, new transit options, and a booming tourism industry.
South Florida also consistently ranks at the top amongst the country’s top cities for startups, lured by warm weather, a favorable zero-income tax, access to global markets, growing urbanization, relative affordability, and a more laid-back lifestyle. Recognizing this, Fort Lauderdale has piqued the interest of tech companies around the country. Let’s take a deeper look into why tech companies favor setting up shop in Fort Lauderdale over other cities:
Downtown Booming: Fort Lauderdale’s urban population has grown by 30% as new apartments and condos rise. A slew of new restaurants and a new location of the popular Miami River pop-up, The Wharf, are also set to open and cater to Downtown’s growing presence of young professionals.
The Virgin Effect: The country’s first private train in over a century, Brightline (now Virgin Trains) has unlocked the Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach corridor (with an expansion to Orlando and Tampa on the way). In Fort Lauderdale alone, more than $43 million was invested within a 1-mile radius, while expanding the regional talent pool and making it possible to spend an afternoon exploring Fort Lauderdale’s art scene or the newly revamped Las Olas Boulevard, while still making a dinner reservation in Miami.
Neighborhoods on the Rise: A slew of high-density, mixed-use projects are under development including FatCity (Flagler Arts and Technology City), which is located two blocks from Brightline’s Fort Lauderdale Station and encompasses 1.35M sqft of mixed-use space to foster Broward’s growing urban community of artists, technology businesses and young professionals. These projects are breathing in new life to Fort Lauderdale, creating vibrant and diversified neighborhoods in creative ways.
Investment Drives Job Growth: Increased interest in Fort Lauderdale from investors and global brands is moving the needle where it matters most: The Greater Fort Lauderdale area added over 14,000 jobs in 2018 and continues to have the highest annual job growth of any other region in Florida.
A Growing Tech Cluster: Plenty of cities lay claim to being ‘the next Silicon Valley,’ but Broward was a tech hub dating back to the early 1980s, when it served as home base for the IBM team that created the first PC. Today, Broward is home to many of the biggest names in tech, from Blackberry and Microsoft to Citrix and MagicLeap, who are descending on Broward in hopes of snapping up talent and gaining a foothold into the Latin American market. Broward is also seeing a growing number of startups putting down roots in the area with the goal of being acquired by a larger player that’s already here.