‘The floodgates have opened’: 2020 sees surge of business transplants to South Florida

As seen in the Miami Herald 

Anthony De Yurre had “the Miami talk” down to a stump speech.

The Bilzin Sumberg partner had become the point person at the firm for fielding questions from people contemplating uprooting themselves from wherever they were living and making the move to the Magic City.

“I think a lot of people were playing with the idea, or considering it at some point in time — the cost of Miami, the opportunities in Miami, doing their due diligence,” said the lawyer.

After the Trump Administration eliminated deductions on state and local taxes, the frequency of “the talk” increased, De Yurre said. But it was still mostly with older workers looking to move up their retirement schedules.

Then came 2020.

Sparked in part — but not entirely — by COVID, local real estate professionals like De Yurre say they are receiving more inquiries than ever from businesses and individuals looking to land in South Florida.

“They look at Miami as having the weather, the quality of life, a place to avoid the winter,” he said. “But now with COVID, it’s just a completely different conversation.”

The prevailing sentiment is that the usually steady stream of transplants South Florida has always attracted has accelerated this year to a pace hardly seen before.

“I think COVID has opened up the floodgates,” said Danet Linares, vice chairman at Blanca Commercial Real Estate. “They’re locked down in their homes, and with technology enhancing the work environment, they’re now saying I can work from home from anywhere.”


Alex Taub, founder of startup networking app Upstream, which has already been the subject of a TechCrunch.com profile, is a textbook case.

Taub and his family decided to leave New York City for Miami indefinitely in April after they all tested positive for COVID (they’re all fine now). They had also considered Los Angeles and Austin among warm weather destinations, but settled on Miami based in part on a positive stay at a friend’s house in Mid-Beach last winter.

They signed a one-year lease in a 3,500 square foot, three-bedroom house with a pool in North Miami.

“It was comparable to what we were paying in New York — but three times the space,” Taub said.

While COVID has made it harder to develop friendships in his new town, he said, he is grateful that his eldest daughter is able to attend school in person. Wednesday, New York City announced it was once again shutting down its schools.

Florida’s tax structure is a definite bonus.

“The state tax situation here is amazing,” he said. “Going from New York to Florida is a revelation. That might keep us here for a little while longer.”

Joining Taub among a wave of tech professionals is Harry Hurst, founder of Pipe, a platform for selling the revenues earned from subscription products and services off to investors.

In an email, Hurst, who is British, said he left for Miami after many years in Los Angeles to take advantage of its East Coast connections, its growing tech community and proximity to other investors.

Taub and Hurst are part of a COVID-fueled techie migration to South Florida. Their presence demonstrates that Miami’s selling points are resonating beyond the usual constituencies of finance and real estate professionals.


Those popular sectors are still drawing strong.

Ian Campbell, CEO of Nucleus Research, a research and advisory firm, said in email the arrival of COVID prompted him to take a fresh look at Nucleus’ office space in Boston.

“With the staff working from home at the time, a move to Miami would not create the business disruption it might have at any other time,” he said in an email. “We were always aware that Miami was a growing area and it had been on my long term plans for expansion… COVID gave me the opportunity to make a complete and clean move.”

With the number of private capital firms and family investment offices here in South Florida, it made long-term business sense for his company to homestead in Miami, he said.

Other financial firms that have announced moves amid COVID include Marathon Asset Management, whose CEO Bruce Richards told Bloomberg his firm had chosen Miami over other cities including Charlotte and Atlanta. Bloomberg also reported in September that Chicago-based Balyasny Asset Management had decided it would open an office in Miami.

A spokesman for Marathon declined to comment for this article. A spokesman for Balyasny declined to comment.

In September, the Miami Herald reported New York-based investment firm Hidden Lake Asset Management, along with New York-based luxury car storage company Hagerty Garage and Social and London-headquartered public relations company Purple, had all signed leases for commercial space in South Florida.

Jonathan Miller, President and CEO of Miller Samuel Inc., a real estate appraisal and consulting firm, said the activity he is seeing now from northeastern residents is much more substantial than what occurred after state and local tax deductions were eliminated.

“When the SALT tax [change] passed in Jan. 2018, the real estate community in Florida was thinking that a switch had been flipped, and that everyone would be loading up their cars and trucks and moving to Florida,” he said. “That didn’t happen as scripted. It was much more modest. There was an uptick in activity over the last couple of years, but not a surge.”

The pandemic is proving much more of a catalyst, he said.

“It’s almost as if, like many things, COVID has become the disruptor,” he said. “It put people who had been on the fence the last decade or so over the top.”