South Florida faces long odds for Amazon’s HQ2, FIU researchers say

4:30 p.m Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018 Business
AP Photo/John Minchillo

Researchers at Florida International University crunched the numbers on South Florida’s bid for Amazon’s second headquarters. The conclusion: South Florida compares unfavorably to the other 19 finalists.

“The odds are not in Miami’s favor,” says Maria Ilcheva, senior researcher at FIU’s Metropolitan Center. 

Related: Moody’s Analytics says South Florida not such a long shot for Amazon’s HQ2

One major strike against South Florida: The region’s lack of educated workers. By FIU’s count, the Miami metro area ranks dead last in the percentage of workers with a bachelor’s degree. 

Just 27.8 percent of South Florida adults have earned four-year degrees. New York leads the way, at 57.2 percent, FIU said.

South Florida also ranks dead last in jobs in science, technology, engineering and math, despite a billion-dollar bet on biotech that brought Scripps Florida and Max Planck Florida to the northern edge of the Miami metro area. Just 8.3 percent of South Florida workers toil in STEM fields. Toronto leads the pack at 25 percent.

“We’re making strides, but we have a long way to go,” Ilcheva said about STEM employment.

Meanwhile, South Florida STEM wages are comparatively low, ranking 17th among the 20 finalists. The typical STEM wage here is $74,000. Washington, D.C., leads the way at $101,063.

Cheap wages could be interpreted as a selling point, but Ilcheva warns that landing Amazon – which aims to hire 50,000 workers at an average wage of $100,000 – could disrupt South Florida’s thin labor market for tech talent.

Related: Bookie calls South Florida long shot in Amazon HQ2 contest

“What will happen to the existing businesses if we have a behemoth like Amazon come and compete for labor? That kind of competition might not be good for the existing businesses,” Ilcheva said.

In its report, released Thursday, FIU didn’t assign an overall rank to Miami’s bid. Ilcheva said the news isn’t all bad: South Florida’s position as gateway to Latin America could act in its favor.

Economic development organizations in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties joined forces to submit one bid for Amazon’s HQ2.

Related: South Florida among “overvalued” housing markets bidding for Amazon HQ2