In other words, Suarez has Miami pulsing through his veins. Francis’s father Xavier -- a Cuban immigrant -- was elected mayor of Miami twice and has long been a fixture in the city’s political scene. His cousin is Rep. Alex Mooney, a Republican who represents West Virginia in the House. Suarez graduated from Florida International University and picked up a law degree at the University of Florida.
Shortly after law school, Suarez was elected to the city commission at the age of 32. He battled crime, helping set up the city’s gunshot detection system and worked to create a dedicated revenue stream for transit projects.
In 2017, Suarez was elected mayor with 86% of the vote. He is up for re-election again this year. Suarez is the city’s top hype man and magnet for businesses looking for a new home in south Florida.
How Miami Was Affected By COVID-19
Miami is a tourist mecca. It’s the nation’s second-largest destination for international travelers – second only to New York City. Tourists pump a whopping $18 billion each year into the city’s economy. But Covid ground all that to a halt. Tourism plummeted by 52%, costing the city billions of dollars in lost revenue. The cruise industry – which has a big presence in Miami – was shut down by the federal government. Music festivals were canceled. Suarez himself contracted Covid on March 13, 2020 – one of the first political leaders in America to contract the virus.
Andrea Lisbona grew up surrounded by entrepreneurs and knew that one day she’d disrupt an industry. In 2018, she launched Touchland, a skincare-forward hand sanitizer mist, in Miami. The young company leaned on Google Analytics, looking at conversion rates to understand how to improve site performance, and they built their social media, content, and paid strategies around parallel search terms using the Google Search Console.
When the pandemic hit, Touchland moved to a pre-order model, using Google Analytics and Google Ads to manage the surging customer demand. “After 10 years creating better-for-you sanitizers, I never could have predicted the scale we’ve experienced due to COVID-19,” Andrea says. Touchland saw over 1,200-percent growth in 2020, selling out several times.
How Miami Is Handling COVID-19
With calamity came opportunity.
Most Miami onlookers point to a single tweet as being the turning point that turned the city into a new and unexpected magnet of business, investment, culture and technology. On Dec. 4, 2020, Delian Asparouhov, a prominent venture capitalist, tweeted: “ok guys hear me out, what if we move silicon valley to miami.” Suarez responded: “How can I help?” And an exodus was born.
Suarez has promised to keep the city friendly and welcoming to business. Suarez and other Miami officials have drawn direct contrasts with California’s high taxes, and San Francisco’s problem with homelessness. Suarez has hired a liaison to help companies that move to Miami. But it isn’t all just wooing companies from other states — Miami is putting policies in place to help startups grow. For example, the city just passed an ordinance to allow for “ghost kitchens” to ensure food startups have a place to cook.
Of course, Miami’s sunny climate helped lure visitors from the West Coast. Plus, Miami has a comparatively low crime rate for a large city. And the tax climate in Florida -- no state income tax! -- is favorable. Investors and large companies alike said they had tired of what they called an onerous tax-and-spend regime in the Golden State.
And the results have been astounding: More technology jobs moved to Miami in the last year than anywhere else in America. Big-time venture capitalists like Keith Rabois of the Founders Fund and Daniel Blumberg of Blumberg Capital moved to the city.
Suarez’s team is quick to point out just how many big companies have committed to their city. Notables include Blackstone, which is projected to bring 215 jobs; Thoma Bravo, a private equity firm; and Blockchain.com.
The people who make Miami work
Suarez has put a team around him to help attract businesses and keep them in Miami – and keep them happy.
Cedro is an Emmy award-winning journalist who serves as the mayor’s spokesperson, engaging with the media and crafting communications strategies.
Senior Adviser on Innovation & Tech
Senior Adviser on Innovation & Tech
Ishoof came to Suarez’s office through a partnership with Florida International University, and he helps manage Miami’s innovation “ecosystem.” Saif leads VentureMiami, an initiative that brings together experts from within the city and professionals that give “concierge” support for the flourishing tech, venture and private equity industries in Miami.
Constituent Affairs Director
Constituent Affairs Director
Quintero is in charge of all constituent services in Miami -- one of the most critical roles in the mayor’s orbit. Quintero is the single operator in charge of serving as a liaison to all city departments.
What Was Miami Searching For?
The pulse of the city of Miami can been seen through the search results of the last year. In April 2020, unemployment surpassed healthcare and continues to be the top political issue search term in Miami.
What's Next For Miami Post COVID-19
Suarez has become a darling in Republican circles. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has visited Suarez’s office, while also hosting the mayor at the GOP retreat in Orlando this winter. The mayoralty of Miami allows for outside employment, and Suarez has been scooped up by the large Los Angeles law firm Quinn Emanuel and the venture firm DaGrosa Capital Partners.
Just look at Miami this month: It hosted a cryptocurrency conference and drew people from across the globe. Suarez says he wants the city to be the most forward leaning when it comes to alternative currency. He hosts “Cafecito” conversations to showcase all of the people who have fled to Miami -- the most recent was Ben Shapiro, the conservative commentator.
Suarez’s challenges are multi-faceted. First of all, climate change is certain to continue to impact Miami. Of course, climate change policy is going to come from the federal government, but the city needs to continue to prepare for the realities of the changing climate.
Miami also needs to keep pace with a group of cities looking to attract talent and business evacuating Northern California. Miami finds itself in competition with cities like Nashville and Austin, and Suarez and his colleagues in the city’s government need to keep Florida’s second-largest city attractive.
From The Mayor's Office
According to research commissioned by the Connected Commerce Council and Google, approximately 11 million small businesses nationally (37%) would have closed all or part of their business without digital tools as a result of COVID-19. Google is helping small businesses in Florida adapt and grow. The Grow with Google Digital Coaches program in Miami, which provides free hands-on coaching and digital skills training to help Black and Latino small businesses, has helped train over 7,600 small business owners around the state through 120+ digital skills workshops.Learn More