Florida’s Southeast is an exceptional region for many reasons: largest population, largest labor pool, longest ocean coastline, most seaports, closest to Latin America, home to three national parks and the world’s busiest cruise port. Add to that its ready proximity to global markets, a multicultural and multilingual workforce, outstanding educational institutions, an incomparable quality of life … and the challenge for companies looking to relocate here becomes less about finding a right site and more about choosing just one.
Logistics, Transportation and Trade
With five deep-water ports, four international airports and a multimodal network of rail and roads connecting them all, it should come as no surprise to learn that companies in need of seamless logistics have clustered in Florida’s Southeast. Among key players in this industry sector are: Chewy, with a Florida headquarters in Dania Beach and a 100,000-sq.-ft. customer service center in Hollywood; online home goods retailer Wayfair with a 47,320-sq.-ft. distribution center in Pompano Beach; and Amazon, which, over the last 18 months, has opened two fulfillment centers in Southeast Florida — an 855,000-sq.-ft. facility in Opa-Locka and a 60,000-sq.-ft. facility in Fort Pierce — and is making plans for more. Two Amazon warehouses boasting a million square feet each are slated for Palm Beach County and south Miami-Dade near Homestead. And also under consideration is a “last-mile” delivery station in Pompano Beach to provide speedier transmission of packages from warehouse to consumer.
Also providing logistical support in this region is Shipmonk, which gears its fulfillment services toward small and medium-sized e-commerce companies that sell on multiple sites. Opened in 2014 at Florida Atlantic University’s Tech Runway incubator with just 3,000 square feet of space, Shipmonk has prospered to the point of outgrowing four Broward County-based office sites in four years, while also adding offices in California and the Czech Republic. In early 2019, Shipmonk moved its operations — for the fourth time in four years — into a 220,000-sq.-ft. facility in Pompano Beach and opened an office in Pennsylvania.
PortMiami, the closest U.S. East Coast deep-water container port to the Panama Canal, moved 1.121 million TEUs of containerized cargo in FY2019, breaking its previous cargo record of 1.084 million TEUs set in 2018. During the same period, PortMiami once again retained its position as the world’s busiest cruise port, welcoming a record-breaking 6.8 million cruise passengers. And for the second year in a row, PortMiami set a single-day cruise record with 55,819 passengers on December 9, 2019. That still wasn’t enough to top Port Everglades, however, which eight days earlier had logged 55,964 cruise passengers, topping its own previous record of 55,885 set on March 13, 2016. In November 2019, Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas, which can carry up to 6,680 guests, began sailing from PortMiami.
In Fort Lauderdale, Port Everglades maintained its status as Florida’s No. 1 container port, exceeding 1 million TEUs for the sixth consecutive year in 2019 with a total of 1.053 million TEUs. Meanwhile, at the world’s fourth busiest cruise port and home to 10 cruise lines, business increased by 2.6% in 2019 for a total of 3.9 million passengers. Among new ships welcomed to Port Everglades in 2019 were Celebrity Cruises’ first new ship class in a decade, Celebrity Edge, Holland America’s newest Pinnacle-class ship, the 2,650-passenger Nieuw Statendam, and Princess Cruises’ Sky Princess, equipped with wearable technology allowing guests to personalize their shipboard experience.
As the new year began with ever-flashier cruise terminals and bigger ships on the immediate horizon, both ports were looking forward to a profitable 2020. Then came COVID-19 and all bets were off. The cruise industry worldwide took a particularly hard hit as passengers sickened and cruise lines pushed sailing dates back by weeks, then months. According to both ports, cruising will resume in Southeast Florida, but firm dates have yet to be determined.
Meanwhile, in the Port of Palm Beach, operations have been anything but sluggish. The Port of Palm Beach serves as an essential lifeline to the Bahamas, moving more than $3.3 billion worth of essential goods to the island chain each year. But never was this port more essential to the island chain than in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian. Between September 2019 and February 2020, the port handled more than $600 million worth of lifesaving cargo earmarked for Grand Bahama Island, the Marsh Harbour in the Abaco Islands and Nassau, including food, water, hygiene kits, telephone poles, school supplies, roofing materials, construction equipment, fire engines and shipping containers to be converted into homes.
Airport activity across Southeast Florida continued to be impressive in 2019. Among U.S. airports, Miami International ranks first for international freight and third for the number of international passengers served and is the only U.S. airport certified as a pharmaceutical freight hub by the International Air Transport Association. In 2019, MIA handled 2.3 million total tons of freight and 46 million passengers, 49% of them international. A $5-billion upgrade of the airport rolled out in March 2020 is still underway, but not exactly as originally planned. For example, a comprehensive redevelopment of MIA’s Central Terminal has been provisionally paused to await a clearer understanding of how passengers and employees will move through the terminal post-COVID and whether social distancing and contactless checkpoints will still be necessary. In the meantime, domestic airlines continue to fly and international carriers return in small batches as travel restrictions are lifted.
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport served 36.7 million passengers in 2019, a 2.2% increase over the previous year, and at 8.8 million, international traffic was up by 2.7%. Palm Beach International Airport recorded a passenger increase of 5.9% in 2019 for a total of 6.9 million passengers. In June 2019, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International embarked on a four-month, $90-million overhaul of its primary runway including electrical, signage and draining system upgrades. The runway was reopened on October 1.
In January 2020, Miramar-based Spirit Airlines broke ground on a new, state-of-the-art headquarters in Dania Beach with plans to move its current staff of 1,000 to the new site, while adding 225 additional jobs. The $250-million, 500,000-sq.-ft. project, located just minutes away from Spirit’s largest operating base at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, is slated for completion in 2022. In addition to corporate offices, the new headquarters will include corporate housing and a crew training facility with flight simulators.
To help commuters, the Florida Department of Transportation has embarked on an $802-million project in downtown Miami to reduce traffic congestion at the Dolphin Expressway/I-95 interchange leading to the MacArthur Causeway and Miami Beach. A signature piece of the project is an arched bridge spanning 1,025 feet over Northeast 2nd Street and Biscayne Boulevard, providing easier access to and from the beach. The area under the bridge will become a 55-acre park to be known as Heritage Trail.
KEY PLAYERS: Amazon, Seattle, Wa.; FedEx Latin America, Miami; Norwegian Cruise Line, Miami; Royal Caribbean International, Miami; Ryder Integrated Logistics, Miami; Spirit Airlines, Miramar
Innovation & Technology
In 1980, a team of engineers in Boca Raton designed and built the first IBM PC, a machine that would forever change the American workplace. Forty years later, Florida continues to be an innovator, ranking first in the Southeast and third in the nation for high-tech employment growth.
Ultimate Software, one of Southeast Florida’s largest and most profitable tech firms, in April 2020 announced its merger with Massachusetts-based Kronos. The new company with 12,000 combined employees and approximately $3 billion in revenue plans to announce a new company name. Meanwhile, in June 2020, IDG’s Insider Pro and Computerworld “Best Places to Work in IT” ranked Ultimate Software No. 1 among large organizations for the fourth consecutive year; Kronos was No. 2 among midsize organizations.
Elsewhere in the region:
• Accelirate, an IT firm focused on helping companies accelerate automation within their business processes, plans to double its workforce in Sunrise over the next few months as it launches new services in the areas of process automation and artificial intelligence.
• Misfits Gaming Group, an e-sports and gaming leader in the IT industry, is expected to create 30 new jobs with the opening of its $1.35 million, 18,000-sq.-ft. corporate headquarters in Boca Raton.
• Music streaming service Spotify plans to open a 20,000-sq.-ft. office in the mixed-use development Oasis that is a part of Miami’s Wynwood Arts District. Other high-tech companies with a presence in the area include Facebook, Google, Uber and Chewy.
• The new investment group, Black Angels Miami, aims to increase opportunities for budding entrepreneurs to receive startup funding by helping African-Americans and other minorities become angel investors. It launched in January 2020 with $250,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
KEY PLAYERS: Accelirate, Sunrise; Citrix, Fort Lauderdale; Cyxtera Technologies, Miami; Modernizing Medicine, Boca Raton; Prolexic Technologies, Hollywood
Manufacturing is big business in the Southeast region where three counties are among the top 10 for manufacturing jobs in Florida. Miami-Dade County is ranked No. 1 with more than 41,000 people employed, followed by Broward at No. 5 with more than 28,000 and Palm Beach at No. 8 with just under 20,000.
Manufacturers in the aerospace and defense industries are particularly active. Vero Beach-based Piper Aircraft nearly tripled its output of aircraft and doubled its workforce since 2009, and in 2018, jet engine maker Pratt & Whitney announced plans to expand in northwest Palm Beach County and create 215 new engineering jobs. Joining Palm Beach County’s growing aerospace hub is engineering firm Cyient Defense Services, adding 50 jobs to its existing workforce and a new 30,000-sq.-ft. facility near Jupiter. Sintavia, a leading manufacturer of metal additives for the aerospace and defense industries, opened its new 55,000-sq.-ft. advanced manufacturing facility in Hollywood, and AAR Landing Gear is increasing its workforce by 100 jobs, expanding its Medley headquarters.
Manufacturers in other industry sectors are growing too:
• Sports equipment maker Fluorotek USA plans to add nearly 75 employees at its new facility in Riviera Beach.
• Lighting and electrical products company Tamco Group has consolidated operations with the opening of its $38-million, 411,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing center in Port St. Lucie.
• Maverick Boat Group, maker of Cobia fishing boats in Fort Pierce, has increased its local workforce from 287 to nearly 400.
Wire and cable manufacturer Accel International Holdings has selected Port St. Lucie as the site of its new 150,000-sq.-ft. facility for the manufacture of high-performance cables, wires and conductors; an estimated 125 new jobs are expected by 2021.
KEY PLAYERS: HEICO, Hollywood; Noven Pharmaceuticals, Miami; Pratt & Whitney, East Hartford, Conn.; Tectronic Industries, Fort Lauderdale
Business Services & Support
Global investment banking services firm Corporate Finance Associates is expanding its North American operations to Miami. The Los Angeles-based company provides merger and acquisition, business evaluation, capital resources, and financial advisory services to middle-market businesses at more than 30 locations throughout the U.S., Europe and India.
Slalom, a consulting firm focused on assisting companies of all configurations with strategy, technology and business transformation, has opened a Miami office, its first in Florida. Founded in 2001 and headquartered in Seattle, Slalom was named one of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2019. Slalom’s plans call for expansion throughout Florida within the next 24 months, including the addition of offices in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Orlando and Jacksonville.
KEY PLAYERS: American Express, Sunrise; Office Depot, Boca Raton; Zimmerman Advertising, Fort Lauderdale
Health Care & Life Sciences
Health care facilities in Florida’s Southeast are top of the line. For the 17th consecutive year, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami has taken 1st place nationwide for ophthalmology on U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Hospitals 2020-21.” Also cited: Cleveland Clinic Florida in Weston for gastroenterology and GI surgery (No. 29); and University of Miami Hospital and Clinics for ear, nose and throat (No. 28). On U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals 2020-21, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami was singled out in five pediatric specialties: neurology & neurosurgery (No. 23); pulmonology and lung surgery (No. 35); orthopedics (No. 36); cardiology & heart surgery (No. 46); and diabetes & endocrinology (No. 49). Also cited: Holtz Children’s Hospital at UM-Jackson Memorial Medical in Miami for diabetes & endocrinology (No. 48) and Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood for orthopedics (No. 25) and cardiology and heart surgery (No. 48).
Making news in this sector:
• The University of Miami Health System’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center is only the second Florida facility to be designated a National Cancer Institute Cancer Center (Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa is the other one.). The designation gives Sylvester access to NCI trials, treatments and research grants. In other developments, Sylvester has signed an affiliation agreement with Jupiter Medical Center.
• The University of Miami Health System is expanding its clinical reach, bringing destination academic medical programs fueled by the research of the Miller School of Medicine to more South Florida communities. Currently underway is the construction of comprehensive clinics at Solé Mia, the 184-acre mixed-use development in North Miami, and in downtown Doral. These new centers will include multispecialty services, advanced imaging technology, infusion and radiation therapy and operating rooms for outpatient procedures.
• At UHealth/Jackson Memorial Medical Center in Miami, the Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation Center for The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis is growing by 100 beds to house inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation facilities for adult and pediatric patients with spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries.
• Baptist Health South Florida, the region’s largest health system with 11 hospitals, more than 23,000 employees and 4,000 physicians spanning Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, has joined forces with Mayo Clinic on a clinical trial focused on increasing convalescent plasma therapy for COVID-19 patients. And coming this fall: the reopening of Baptist Health’s newly rebuilt/refurbished Fishermen’s Community Hospital in Marathon in the Florida Keys, designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane.
• Nova Southeastern University is remaking the southwest portion of its main campus in Davie into an “Academical Village” anchored by a new HCA hospital. The 200-bed hospital, under construction on 7.5 acres where a shopping center once stood, is scheduled to open in 2021. The next phase — a 30-acre mixed-use project — will add 2.5 million square feet of retail, residential units, office and medical space and a hotel and conference center.
Companies engaged in medical research or providing services to the medical industry are finding homes and/or expanding.
• Cytonics, a Jupiter-based biotechnology company that develops osteoarthritis therapies, is expanding its research group in Plantation. The firm plans to use the $470,000 it raised from more than 300 investors in a 2019 crowd-funding campaign to fund pre-clinical trials of its CYT-108, a new drug that can be applied to damaged joints to slow and eventually halt the progression of arthritis.
• R&D-focused life sciences accelerator firm Beacon Pharmaceutical will construct a state-of-the-art sciences accelerator and biologics synthesis facility on nine acres in Jupiter. The planned 160,000-sq.-ft. company headquarters is expected to create 137 new jobs.
• MPLT Healthcare has announced plans to relocate its headquarters to a 23,000-sq.-ft. facility in Boca Raton. A national leader in health care staffing, MPLT will add 75 new jobs to its existing workforce of 56.
Fifteen Southeast Florida high schools were named among the top 200 nationwide in U.S. News & World Report’s “2020 Best High Schools” rankings.
This region is also home to 16 institutions of higher education, including Florida Atlantic University, which has begun offering Florida’s first master’s degree in artificial intelligence and broke ground in 2020 on a 60,000-sq.-ft. neuroscience building at its Jupiter campus; Florida International University, where research expenditures totaled $226 million in 2019 and the goal is to reach $300 million by 2025; and University of Miami, logging $358.9 million in research and sponsored program expenditures in FY19.
Also located in this region: two state colleges — Miami Dade and Indian River — which shared the 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence; Broward College, which is a finalist for that same prize in 2021; and The College of the Florida Keys, formerly known as Florida Keys Community College, which has begun offering bachelor’s degrees in nursing, hospitality and marine resource management and conservation.
Life & Leisure
All seven Southeast counties are brimming with fun things to see and do … and many of them won’t cost you a dime. Walk along the beach any time of day — every county in this region has at least one. Catch a sunrise over the Atlantic on Jupiter Island; watch the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico in Key West. Browse the eclectic galleries in Miami’s artsy Wynwood neighborhood and the designer boutiques along Worth Avenue in Palm Beach; there’s no rule that says you have to buy. Take a stroll along the Riverwalk in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Join a turtle walk after dark during sea turtle nesting season. Snorkel along the underwater trail at Phil Foster Park in Riviera Beach. Or simply do what the natives do — sit by the sea or in a shady public park and lose track of time altogether.
Naturally appealing, Southeast Florida’s reputation for glitz and glam pales by comparison to its natural wonders. This region is home to three national parks: Biscayne (a watery wonderland within sight of the Miami skyline); Everglades (a lush “river of grass” just a short drive west of the city); and Dry Tortugas (70 miles off the coast of Key West, accessible only by boat or seaplane — you won’t believe how big Florida lobsters can grow in these protected waters!). Also to be found in this region: some two dozen state parks for hiking, fishing, kayaking, camping and cycling, plus some pretty spectacular beaches — ones you’ve heard of like South Beach and Fort Lauderdale and many more you haven’t like tiny Tiger Shores in Martin County — zero amenities, but outstanding views!
For diehard fans of professional sports, Southeast Florida is more than paradise — it’s nirvana. This region, which hosted the Super Bowl for a record-breaking 11th time in February 2020, is home to major and/or minor teams in baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer and football as well some legendary sites where championships are determined. Miami-Dade boasts three teams — the MLB Miami Marlins, the NBA Miami Heat, the NFL Miami Dolphins — and two championship venues — the Homestead-Miami Speedway where the Ford Championship Weekend in November decides all three of NASCAR’s premier series crowns (Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Trucks) and the Miami Open tennis tournament at The Tennis Center at Crandon Park. Broward County also hosts three professional teams — the NHL Florida Panthers, the MLS Inter Miami CF, owned in part by soccer legend David Beckham, and the NASL Fort Lauderdale Strikers. And two counties in the region host a total of five MLB teams for Grapefruit League play each spring: the Houston Astros, Washington Nationals, Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals in Palm Beach; and the New York Mets in St. Lucie.