Silicon Valley techies and Wall Street titans have bought homes and moved businesses there in the pandemic, coaxed by an eager mayor.
MIAMI — America’s business leaders, freed from the office, looked around the country, taking note of its coronavirus lockdowns, taxes and rabble rousers. And many said as if in unison: Miami!
Blackstone Group: Miami!
Elliott Management: Miami!
Silicon Valley venture capitalists: Miami!
And the charming mayor, Francis X. Suarez, a registered Republican, knowing he had an especially easy sell at the moment, said: Welcome.
As tech leaders have decamped from San Francisco and Wall Street titans from New York, many have spread across the country to locations with sun, lower taxes and — preferably — more relaxed lockdowns. Coming from places run by progressive governments that were sometimes openly antagonistic toward local elites, many were thrilled to move to towns that seemed to want them more.
Some chose Austin, Texas. Others gravitated to Boulder, Colo. But perhaps the most vocal faction came to Miami.
“It was a lightning-in-the-bottle moment,” said Mr. Suarez, 43, who became mayor in 2017. “For them to hear an elected official saying, ‘Hey, we want you, hey, we appreciate you’ — I didn’t realize what a sensitive moment it was in terms of how people felt they were being treated by the governments where they lived.”
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Dozens of big names have arrived. There was a tech contingent: Keith Rabois, a PayPal co-founder and investor, and his husband. Then their friend Peter Thiel, the tech investor and prominent conservative. Jon Oringer, founder of the stock-photography provider Shutterstock, and the media mogul Bryan Goldberg. Steven Galanis, the head of the celebrity-video product Cameo, is here. Elon Musk is talking about building car tunnels under Miami.
There are also hedge funds and private equity funds. Paul Singer’s Elliott Management is moving its headquarters to the Miami area, as is Carl Icahn’s firm, Icahn Enterprises. Others are opening major Miami offices: Kenneth Griffin’s Citadel as well as Blackstone. Goldman Sachs is weighing moving parts of its operation to Miami.
Rich people have always moved to Miami to enjoy their wealth and while away their time on the water. It is unclear if these newcomers are just the latest generation to do that, or if they will really build new companies in the city.
But that hasn’t stopped Miami Tech Welcome drinks from happening weekly at an outdoor bistro, where usually 25 or 30 people gather. There are growing WhatsApp and Telegram groups to organize activities among the 300 tech newcomers, with chat rooms on the encrypted messaging app dedicated to dealflow, fintech, healthtech and Miami-specific topics like kitesurfing. Every Saturday, the tech crew goes biking. Tennis is every Thursday. There are big, fancy-dress parties.
“I run the book club and the kitesurfing club,” said Natalia Martinez-Kalinina, who works at Reef Technology, a logistics start-up in Miami. She said this week’s book was “The Price of Everything: A Parable of Possibility and Prosperity.”
She likes the newcomers and socially onboarding them. “My life prior to the pandemic involved a lot of hosting, so this isn’t all that different,” she said.
The new arrivals have manifestoes. It seems no business leader can move to the city without one.
“We recognize the amazing and unique natural gifts that G-d and geology bestowed on California, but enough is enough,” wrote David Blumberg, a venture capitalist who runs Blumberg Capital and moved from San Francisco to Miami in November. “We certainly hope and pray that California will take action to remedy the disastrous self-inflicted political situation and restore its former luster and quality of life, but for now we are voting with our feet.”