Why Microsoft Latin America made Florida the Home Office
Cover Wrap of Fortune Magazine
Since 1994, the tech giant has watched its Latin American operations steadily grow from its regional headquarters in … Fort Lauderdale? Welcome to South Florida, where phrases like “another Silicon Valley” are being heard with increasing frequency. Armed with a multilingual, high-tech workforce and the infrastructure to keep everyone connected, Microsoft is taking Latin America by storm. “We have experienced a significant expansion in the region and it is our priority to make a real impact on the people and the communities in which we operate,” said president of Microsoft Latin America Hernán Rincón. From using its Azure cloud platform to bring the Rio 2016 Olympic Games to life to equipping startups with the mobile toolkit to stay nimble in a dynamic marketplace, Microsoft continues to honor its commitment to make an impact in what is now its fastest- growing market. Serving more than 46 countries and territories, Microsoft Latin America is an undeniable force, harnessed and controlled from the newest tech hub for global business: Florida.
GROWING A TALENT ECOSYSTEM
More than 20 years have passed since Microsoft established its Latin American and Caribbean (LATAM) headquarters in 1994. What began as a relatively small, 20-person office now staffs a team of 400, responsible for overseeing sales, marketing and services for the entire region. “For Microsoft, Latin America is a highly relevant region,” said Rincón. “We focus on fueling local economic growth, creating jobs, enabling entrepreneurs and building digitally inclusive societies through supporting technology access.” Within the region, Microsoft Latin America depends on an expansive network of 80,000 business partners and an ecosystem of more than 900,000 developers—in addition to an extended team of 4,000. Rincón, who became president in 2007, has witnessed the rapid evolution of Latin America’s technological landscape, especially in Mexico and Brazil, the region’s two largest markets. With both countries projecting double-digit population gains by 2030, the Latin American market shows no signs of deviating from its current trajectory.
HIGH-TECH AT A LOWER COST
With more than 1,100 multinational companies calling South Florida home, Microsoft isn’t alone in recognizing the region’s innate advantages for international business. It’s the ideal state for both foreign ventures in search of a U.S. foothold and domestic companies looking to expand operations into the rapidly growing Latin American market. For most, the strategic geographic location and global connectivity that have solidified Florida’s position as the “Gateway to the Americas” are the region’s major draws. But for those in the tech industry, the area delivers a different competitive edge. “We’re convinced of the potential South Florida has as a center of technological innovation,” said Rincón, pointing to the “prospective entrepreneurs and investors looking to expand their reach, and a community of scholars, developers and startups—among others—thirsting to transform lives through technology.” The Miami/Fort Lauderdale/Palm Beach area is home to emerging tech companies such as Modernizing Medicine, eBuilder and CareCloud that benefit from tech giants like Motorola, Foxconn, Brightstar, Citrix and Blackberry that are already established in the area.
There is, however, one major difference: cost. “When compared to other tech hubs in the country, such as Silicon Valley, the cost of living is lower and there is no tax on local or state income,” Rincón pointed out. “Corporate tax from Florida is only 5.5 percent—one of the lowest in the country.” Thanks to a competitive corporate tax structure and no personal income tax, Florida ranks as the best tax climate in the Southeast. With such a fertile business environment, it’s understandable why a growing number of startups are putting down Florida roots, adding to the 26,000 IT companies already in the state. Last year, $700+ million in venture capital funding went to Miami/ Fort Lauderdale/Palm Beach startups alone. “Diversifying our economy is one of the most important things we can do for Florida, and I’m happy that Microsoft is helping us do that,” said Florida Secretary of Commerce and President & CEO of Enterprise Florida Bill Johnson. “With record funding for our infrastructure and high-skilled workforce, companies like Microsoft will continue to look at Florida for their growth and expansion.”
ASSEMBLING A MULTITALENTED WORKFORCE
For an established company like Microsoft, nurturing the next generation of tech entrepreneurs plays a vital role in its own continued growth. In late 2014, Microsoft opened the Microsoft Innovation Center (MIC Miami)—the first of its kind in the United States. “Our vision is to serve as the main technology center that connects the city with key communities in the Latin America region,” Rincón emphasized. Open to students, startups and the local community, the center strives to drive technological innovation and equip entrepreneurs with the necessary tools for success.
As South Florida’s tech ecosystem grows, so does the region’s robust talent pool. “Miami is a young and innovative city with great potential for development, capable of attracting and retaining talent,” said Rincón. Ranked fifth in the nation for high-tech talent, Florida’s total tech workforce numbers more than 245,700, giving companies like Microsoft access to a cutting-edge applicant pool that’s equally rich in size and experience. Both linguistically and culturally diverse, Florida’s workforce is also ideally suited for global companies. “It’s full of variety, from a rich combination of people of different origins, with different ideas and experiences which result in bigger and better ideas,” he added.
ERASING THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE
Ultimately, an extensive travel infrastructure and geographic proximity sealed South Florida’s fate as the nerve center for Microsoft’s LATAM enterprise. Indeed, with three international airports within 38 miles of the Microsoft LATAM office, South Florida offers more Latin America connectivity than most other regions in the U.S. Featuring more airline carriers than any other region in the country, South Florida plays an essential role in Microsoft’s success. Part of Florida’s top-rated infrastructure, which includes 19 commercial and more than 100 public-use airports, Miami International Airport alone saw a record 40.9 million passengers pass through its terminals last year. “The fact that all major airlines serve South Florida, including some that hold hubs here, offers the travel flexibility needed to succeed and be able to travel and be close to our customers and partners,” said Rincón.
CONNECTING TO GLOBAL SUCCESS
As populations grow and economies continue to excel, Latin America is positioning itself as tech’s new land of opportunity. In the United States, international companies like Microsoft are coming to the same realization about Florida. “Microsoft is a great company, and I’m proud they are recognizing that Florida is the best state for business,” said Florida Governor Rick Scott. “As the gateway to Latin America, with an advanced workforce and world- class ports, Florida is well positioned as we continue our mission to become the global destination for jobs.” From startups to established leaders, companies across all industries are taking advantage of Florida’s cost-competitive business climate and diverse resources to secure long-term success.