Florida Trend | Florida's Business Authority

Southeast

Southeast

5 Deep-water Seaports

5 Commercial Airports

16 Colleges / Universities

Southeast Nobody likes a show-off. But when you’re the Florida region with the 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, it’s hard not to brag. With ready proximity to global markets, a multicultural/multilingual workforce, outstanding educational institutions and an incomparable quality of life, Florida’s Southeast is an easy choice for where to site your business. Picking just one city or county to settle in? Now that could be tough.

 

Logistics, Transportation and Trade

With five deep-water ports, four international airports and a multimodal network of rails and roads connecting them all, Southeast Florida is the right choice for companies needing seamless logistics. The proof is Amazon, which opened its first fulfillment centers here in 2019-20 and will add two more by the end of 2021, along with five “last-mile” delivery stations spread across Miami-Dade and Broward counties. And coming to St. Lucie County: a 245,000-sq.-ft. FedEx regional sorting center in fall 2021 and a 1.1-million-sq.-ft. Amazon fulfillment center in 2022.

PortMiami, the closest U.S. East Coast deep-water container port to the Panama Canal, typically sees its cargo stats rise each year, but after logging a record 1.121 million TEUs of containerized cargo in FY2019, the port moved just 1.066 million in 2020. At Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, TEUs slipped below 1 million for the first time since 2013, and at the Port of Palm Beach, TEUs were logged at 273,000, a 2.5% year-over-year decline.

Not surprisingly, however, it was ocean cruising that took the hardest hit at Southeast ports. PortMiami, for example, which in FY2019 welcomed an all-time record 6.8 million passengers, saw its passenger count for the subsequent 12-month period ending September 30, 2020, plunge to 3.4 million and then stop completely. Today, some 18 months from the first COVID outbreak aboard a cruise ship, there’s good news to report. Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Edge sailed out of Fort Lauderdale on June 26, 2021 — the first U.S. vessel with paying passengers aboard to do so; cruise ships are returning to their home ports across the region; and new cruise terminals are nearing completion at PortMiami.

There’s news to share at this region’s three smaller ports too. A $26-million expansion at the Port of Palm Beach is on track to more than double its intermodal rail freight capabilities. The Port of Fort Pierce in St. Lucie County continues tweaking its plan to become a luxury yachting center with a facility for refitting mega yachts and large sailing vessels; Derecktor Shipyards Fort Pierce is overseeing the transformation. And at the Port of Key West, a debate over limiting the number of large cruise ships allowed to visit each day rages on.

The pandemic took a toll on airport activity across this region too. In 2020, Miami International Airport handled a record 2.32 million total tons of freight, but just 18.7 million passengers compared to 2019’s 46 million. Nevertheless, among U.S. airports, MIA retained its No. 1 position for international freight and in 2021 moved up from third to second for number of international passengers served. A $5-billion upgrade of the airport that was rolled out in March 2020 continues in anticipation of MIA’s growth in passenger and cargo traffic over the next five to 15 years, to reach 77 million travelers and 4 million tons of freight by 2040.

And one more milestone to note: In September 2021, MIA became the first U.S. airport to test COVID-19 detector dogs that can sniff out the metabolic changes caused by COVID-19 that are common for all people regardless of their individual scents.

Elsewhere in this region, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport served 16.49 million passengers in 2020, a 55.1% decrease compared to pre-pandemic 2019, and at 3.12 million, international traffic was down by 64.7%. The good news, however, is that with 16,212,260 passengers as of July 2021, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood appears well positioned to handily overtake last year’s dismal year-end total. Likewise at Palm Beach International Airport, which on the heels of a record breaking 6,920,858 passengers in 2019, logged just 3,460,429 passengers last year. However, as of July 2021, with 2,856,892 passengers to date, Palm Beach is on track to easily surpass its 2020 total.

In other airline news:

• After breaking ground in Dania Beach in January 2020, South Florida-based Spirit Airlines continues to work toward a 2022 opening at its new, state-of-the-art headquarters. The $250-million, 500,000-sq.-ft. facility, located just minutes away from Spirit’s largest operating base at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, is expected to create an additional 225 jobs.

• Monroe County officials are moving forward with a planned upgrade of concourse A at Key West International Airport. The project, which includes additional seating and baggage claim conveyors, will begin by early 2023, with completion expected by the end of 2024.

KEY PLAYERS: Amazon, Seattle, Wa.; FedEx Latin America, Miami; Norwegian Cruise Line, Miami; Royal Caribbean International, Miami; Ryder Integrated Logistics, Miami; Spirit Airlines, Miramar

Fintech & Business Services

Looking to align with the big names in banking and finance? Look no further than Southeast Florida where Blumberg Capital, Blackstone, Icahn Enterprises and Elliott Management have re-located and more are on the way:

• The digital platform Blockchain.com, which allows users to buy, sell and trade Bitcoin and other forms of digital payment, plans to move its U.S. headquarters from New York to Miami and create up to 300 jobs. Blockchain.com is among the 15 largest cryptocurrency exchanges by number of weekly visitors, according to CoinMarketCap.com.

Also headed to Miami:

• San Francisco-based cryptocurrency exchange Okcoin with plans to hire 100 Miami-based employees for its new location in Brickell.

• Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo will open a Miami office before the end of 2021. The firm, with a total of 114 employees between its Chicago and San Francisco sites, plans to hire local talent.

• PJ Solomon, a Manhattan-headquartered investment bank, has established a new office in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

• Sweden-based Majority, which sells bundled digital banking, wire transfer and international calling services to immigrant communities in the U.S., has expanded to Miami, opening a customer “meet up” center focused on South Florida’s Cuban population.

KEY PLAYERS: American Express, Sunrise; Office Depot, Boca Raton; Zimmerman Advertising, Fort Lauderdale

Innovation & Technology

Southeast Florida has a long history of supporting innovation and technology. After all, it was here, that in 1980, a team of engineers in Boca Raton designed and built the first IBM PC. Today, Florida is third in the nation for high-tech industry and first in the Southeast for high-tech employment.

Among Southeast Florida’s technology superstars is UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group). Formerly known as Ultimate Software, the firm merged with Kronos, another similarly-minded human capital management firm, in April 2020 to become one of the world’s largest cloud companies focused on workforce management and employee experience solutions. In September 2020, Ultimate Software was ranked No. 13 on People magazine’s 2020 list of “50 Companies That Care,” an annual recognition of firms devoted to caring for employees, customers and their communities. On October 1, Ultimate Software and Kronos officially re-branded as UKG.

Elsewhere in the region:

• ACI Worldwide, one of the world’s largest electronic payment software firms, is relocating its headquarters from Naples in Florida’s Southwest region to Miami-Dade with plans to build a 23,000-sq.-ft. head office, expand its software design and research/development operations and hire 182 full-time employees.

• Global finance giant Blackstone has signed a multi-year lease for its new in-house technology unit, which will occupy 41,000 square feet in the 2 MiamiCentral office building downtown with the expectation of hiring at least 200 employees.

• Microsoft has announced plans to open a 50,000-sq.-ft. Latin America-focused office in downtown Miami’s growing Brickell Financial District.

• The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has pledged $15.3 million to Florida International University, the University of Miami and Baptist Health South Florida to develop a deeper pool of local tech talent. FIU and UM will receive $10 million and $4.3 million, respectively, to expand their computing and data sciences schools; Baptist Health will receive $1 million to create a fellowship program focused on health care innovation.

• Global IT solutions provider Future Tech Enterprise plans to open its new executive headquarters on the top floor of Broward Financial Centre in downtown Fort Lauderdale with the expectation of creating 25 jobs.

• Vero Beach-based Piper Aircraft has sold nearly 60 of its Piper M600 SLS turboprops, which come with Garmin “Autoland” self-landing technology as a standard feature. In an emergency, the technology connects with air traffic controllers and lands the plane on a runway. But it comes with a hefty price. The Autoland feature contributes about $150,000 to the total price tag of $3.1 million.

KEY PLAYERS: Accelirate, Sunrise; Citrix, Fort Lauderdale; Cyxtera Technologies, Coral Gables; UKG, Weston

 

Manufacturing

Manufacturing remains an important business sector in Southeast where three counties are among the top eight 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 and Palm Beach at No. 8, each representing more than 20,000 manufacturing jobs.

Wire and cable manufacturer Accel International Holdings is nearing completion on its new manufacturing plant in Port St. Lucie. The 150,000-sq.-ft. facility in Port St. Lucie’s Tradition Center for Commerce will produce high-performance cables, wires and conductors for the aerospace, medical, industrial and telecommunications marketplace. It’s expected to create 125 new jobs.

Central Florida-based design-builder and manufacturer Finfrock has begun construction on 140,000-sq.-ft. of precast manufacturing facilities and administrative offices, located on approximately 94 acres in the Palm Beach County community of Belle Glade. Previously headquartered in Apopka, Finfrock’s new facility is positioned to better serve commercial developers in Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, Broward and Southwest Florida counties. Located in the Glades Gateway Commerce Park, the new facility is expected to employ 200.

Other manufacturers finding new homes in Florida’s Southeast:

• JanSteel, an Israel-based heavy equipment manufacturer of transport products such as bodies for all truck types, tip trailers, flatbed semi-trailers and lowboys, has plans to construct a 45,000-sq.-ft. facility.

• Orchid Island Juice, maker of Natalie’s Juice, is expanding its warehouse and administrative offices by more than double its previous square footage in St. Lucie County.

• Charcoal maker Green Carbon Solutions, manufacturer of an eco-friendly charcoal-like substance, approved to construct a plant in Indiantown that will employ up to 80. The firm’s highly porous, high-carbon charcoal is used in the industrial and environmental sectors.

KEY PLAYERS: Automated Manufacturing Systems, West Palm Beach; Injex Manufacturing, Port St. Lucie; Piper Aircraft, Vero Beach; Tectronic Industries, Fort Lauderdale

Tourism & Hospitality

Not surprisingly, Greater Miami’s tourism industry registered a pretty big dip in 2020 — attracting just 7.9 million overnight visitors and 3.7 million day trippers compared to 16.3 million and 7.9 million in the same categories a year ago. Despite a strong start in the first two months of the year thanks, in part, to Super Bowl LIV in Miami, when all was said and done, total visitors were down 52%, generating a total economic impact in 2020 of $7.9 billion.

Visitor volumes ebbed and flowed throughout the year, starting with a strong January/February followed by a complete shutdown in March, April and May, to be followed by an uneven recovery throughout the rest of year. When travel and tourism might return to pre-pandemic levels is difficult to predict. Many in the industry are calling 2021 a recovery year, but travel isn’t expected to fully recover before 2022 or even 2023.

Hotels were also hit hard during the pandemic. At Miami Worldcenter, the 27-acre, $5-billion mixed-use project underway in downtown Miami, developer Royal Palm Cos. is thinking ahead and taking a different road to completion. RPC now plans to make its Legacy Hotel & Residences pandemic-resistant, with voice-activated elevators, touch-less room key access and autonomous disinfection robots to sanitize common areas. The 50-story tower will have 256 hotel rooms, 274 condo units and a 100,000-sq.-ft. medical center on the ground floor. And the center’s medical-grade air purification system and anti-microbial surfaces will be expanded throughout the building.

 

Education

Nineteen Southeast Florida high schools were named among the top 300 nationwide in U.S. News & World Report’s “2021 Best U.S. High Schools” rankings. One of them — School for Advanced Studies in Miami – was ranked fifth best high school in the nation. And in St. Lucie County, the Economic Development Council, St. Lucie County Public Schools and the Treasure Coast Manufacturers Association are partnering to pair high school graduates with local manufacturing job opportunities. Now in its second year, 44 students have completed the program, and within 60 days, 65% of these participants joined local companies, including Maverick Boat Group, Expert Shutter Services and Phoenix Metal Products.

This region is also home to 16 institutions of higher education, including Florida International University, which began offering a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity in fall 2020 and has since launched Cyber-CAP, a one-year apprenticeship program combining technical skills, industry credentials and on-the-job training with an employer to prepare learners for work in the fast-growing field of cybersecurity. In FY2020, FIU garnered $310 million in research awards and with 60 patents is ranked No. 42 among the world’s top 100 universities granted U.S. utility patents in 2020.

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, a “finalist with distinction” for that same prize in 2021; and The College of the Florida Keys, formerly known as Florida Keys Community College, offering bachelor’s degrees in nursing, hospitality and marine resource management and conservation and associates degree programs. Miami Dade College recently began partnering with the University of West Florida to expand cybersecurity workforce development in Florida.

 

Life Sciences / Health Care

Florida’s Southeast has reason to be proud of its health care facilities, starting with the University of Miami Hospital and Clinics. For the 18th consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Hospitals 2021-22” ranked UM’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute No. 1 in the nation for ophthalmology. UM also earned high marks in neurology and neurosurgery (No. 35) and in ear, nose and throat (No. 44). Elsewhere in the region, Cleveland Clinic Florida in Weston was recognized for gastroenterology and GI surgery (No. 33), and Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach was singled out for geriatrics (No. 45).

Pediatric facilities received notice too. On U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Children’s Hospitals 2021-22,” Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami took honors in five pediatric specialties: neurology and neurosurgery (No. 24); pulmonology & lung surgery (No. 36); orthopedics (No. 40); cardiology & heart surgery (No. 46); and diabetes & endocrinology (No. 49). Also recognized: Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital at Memorial Regional Hospital, Hollywood, for orthopedics (No. 32) and cardiology & heart surgery (No. 49); and Holtz Children’s Hospital at UM-Jackson Memorial Medical Center in Miami for diabetes & endocrinology (No. 47).

In other news across this sector:

• Baptist Health South Florida, the region’s largest health system, has launched a $100-million “total digital transformation” aimed at revolutionizing how patients seek and receive health care across its facilities.

• Baptist Health’s new Fishermen’s Community Hospital celebrated its “official grand opening” in Marathon in July 2021. Designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane, the 37,300-sq.-ft. structure replaces the previous Fishermen’s Hospital, which was leveled by Hurricane Irma in 2017.

• Cleveland Clinic Florida has opened the Florida Research and Innovation Center in Port St. Lucie. Focusing on the prevention of infectious diseases, the new 107,000-sq.-ft. facility will be closely aligned with Cleveland Clinic’s Ohio-based Center for Global and Emerging Pathogens Research established in April 2020 to broaden understanding of emergent pathogens.

• Florida International University has launched a program to train nurses to perform forensic exams of sexual assault survivors in rural areas. The program — a partnership between the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing & Health Sciences and the Global Forensic and Justice Center at FIU — teaches nurses how to collect DNA evidence, tend to patients’ physical and emotional needs and become expert witnesses in civil and criminal trials.

 

Life & Leisure

Open to Exploration
Walk along the beach any time of day — there are no land-locked counties here. Catch a sunrise over the Atlantic and a sunset along the Gulf of Mexico; you can do both in a single day. Spend some quality time browsing the designer boutiques along Worth Avenue in Palm Beach, or the Riverwalk in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Join a sea turtle walk during 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 and lose track of time altogether. Or try something new: Take a spin on the new 200-foot high Skyviews Miami Observation Wheel at Bayside Marketplace in Miami. It’s not free, but the view is worth the price.

Natural Appeal
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 outside the city); and Dry Tortugas, 70 miles off the coast of Key West accessible only by boat or seaplane. Two dozen state parks offer hiking, fishing, kayaking, camping and cycling, plus 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!

Good Sports Galore
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 about every sport. Miami-Dade boasts three pro 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, and the Miami Open tennis tournament at The Tennis Center at Crandon Park. Broward County also hosts some pro teams — the NHL Florida Panthers, the MLS Inter Miami CF and the NASL Fort Lauderdale Strikers. And scheduled to open in 2025: the International Swimming Hall of Fame and the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Center.