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Billionaire leads ‘Wall Street of the South’ migration to Miami-Dade County

Since pandemic, companies are setting up shop here from other places

SUNNY ISLES BEACH, Fla. – Legendary billionaire investor Carl Icahn, one of the wealthiest New Yorkers, is ditching the city for South Florida amid the coronavirus pandemic. Icahn moved his company headquarters into a more than 23,000-square-foot-office at Milton Tower in Sunny Isles Beach with an oceanfront view.

He is the anchor tenant and Milton Tower management said they are already getting requests from financial sector firms in New York who want to occupy other parts of the building. They want to be near Icahn.

“We have other hedge funds reaching out,” Guy Gil, Milton Tower executive director, said. “Trying to be his neighbor, obviously.”

Icahn’s move signals a shift that’s been thriving during the pandemic.

Guy Gil, executive director of the Milton Tower, said that Icahn had other choices in Brickell or Wynwood. “He’s like I live close by, I don’t want to do the long commute. I have a beautiful oceanfront view here; make the building to my standards.”

Nitin Motwani, a board member with the Miami Development Authoriy, said: “Carl is a legend in the industry. He’s not someone who is afraid to make bold decisions.”

The pandemic may just be accelerating a migration that’s already been underway. The MDDA has been working to position South Florida as the “Wall Street of the South.”

“This does not look like a short-term trend. It looks like an acceleration of what we have been seeing over the last 6 to 7 years,” Motwani said.

Ian Campbell, CEO of Nucleus Research, said he decided to move his Boston-based firm of 20 employees to Miami.

“Boston was closing down for the pandemic and Miami was certainly a place where my employees could move and find reasonable real estate. “We looked around and said, ‘If we could move anywhere’ — since my employees were remote at the time — ‘where would we pick?’ And Miami turned out to be one of the top spots. It’s becoming a hub for financial companies,” Campbell said.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said firms are also considering tax benefits.

“We have zero income tax and the tax situation is much better here,” Gimenez said.

Motwani said there are businesses and their employees migrating here from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Boston, Chicago and California.

“All of which are buying homes, renting apartments, shopping in our grocery stores, in our restaurants, utilizing out arts and culture and being part of our wonderful society here,” Motwani said.

Campbell said he’s already hired locally, a recent Florida International University graduate, and his employees are in Boston packing up right now. They plan on arriving in mid September.

Another calling card? MDDA offers incentives. Here are some of the highlights:

  • A company has to create a minimum of 10 full-time jobs within three years
  • The average salary of the new jobs has to be 125% that of the City, County or State average or at least $67,860 annually (as of June 2020).
  • The incentive is a cash grant of: $500/employee for the first 50 jobs; $350/employee for the 51st job, up to the 100th; $250/employee for the 101st job and above.
  • Bonuses
    • Additional money will be allocated for firms located within the Flagler district as defined by the City of Miami, if the new hire has recently received a degree from a local university or technical school located within Miami Dade County, additional funding for hire was previously unemployed or working below the Miami-Dade living wage ($17.06 per hour as of 2020) , and lastly if your employee’s primary residence is within the DDA District.
  • The incentive cannot exceed $150,000/firm (unless the agency BOD decides otherwise).
    • $50,000 cap per year for 3 years

Other key components of the program:

  • The objective is to grow high wage jobs and retain local talent.
  • The company must sign an incentive agreement before making any announcements and prior to signing a lease/extension and making hires.

(See Miami Downtown Development Authority’s Incentive Fund Guidelines below)


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