Government

Forget Silicon Valley: Commissioner Wants to Attract Big Pharma to Miami-Dade

Tired: Big Tech. Wired: Big Pharma.
Tired: Big Tech. Wired: Big Pharma. Photo by Kiran Foster/Flickr
click to enlarge Tired: Big Tech. Wired: Big Pharma. - PHOTO BY KIRAN FOSTER/FLICKR
Tired: Big Tech. Wired: Big Pharma.
When it comes to the future of Miami, the buzz for the past six months has pretty much focused on Mayor Francis Suarez's push to make the city a hub for tech companies and startups. That's been the narrative ever since December, when the mayor responded to a throwaway suggestion on Twitter ("ok guys hear me out, what if we move silicon valley to miami") with a now-famous tweet: "How can I help?"

Since then, other South Florida leaders have attempted to ride that wave — Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, for example, met with Elon Musk's tunnel-building Boring Company, and Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava commissioned a report outlining how the county might rebrand itself to attract more tech entrepreneurs and investors.

But one county commissioner has another idea for how Miami-Dade might attract companies with well-paying jobs. Rebeca Sosa, a longtime local leader who has been in office since 2001, is gunning to get pharmaceutical companies to make the move to Miami-Dade.

At a June 8 meeting of the county's Health, Emergency Management, and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, Sosa sponsored an item asking county leaders to explore ways to recruit pharma companies.

Sosa, who represents residents in Hialeah, Miami Springs, Coral Gables, and the surrounding area in District 6, tells New Times the aim is twofold: Having pharmaceutical manufacturers in Miami-Dade would help the U.S. combat drug shortages and supply-chain issues while bringing higher-paying jobs to the county.

"This is job development and economic development for Miami-Dade," she says.

As an example, Sosa points to Puerto Rico, which attracted pharmaceutical companies in the 1960s with generous tax breaks.

"In the past in Puerto Rico, they had many of the pharmaceutical companies that distributed in the U.S.," Sosa says. "With time, everything went to other countries. We learned with this pandemic what that can cause."

Last year, when countries around the world began closing their borders and issuing stay-home orders amid the coronavirus crisis, drug manufacturing screeched to a halt and the U.S., which imports much of its medical supplies, was in many ways unprepared. President Joe Biden and several members of Congress are now pushing to reduce the nation's reliance on other nations for pharmaceuticals and personal protective equipment.

Sosa believes Miami-Dade can help. She says the existing cargo infrastructure at PortMiami and Miami International Airport make the county an attractive place for pharmaceutical companies that might be looking to relocate. Miami-Dade might also be able to sweeten the pot with tax credits or other incentives, something she's asking county leaders to explore.

And Sosa says her initiative won't hamper Suarez's — if anything, she thinks the two campaigns dovetail nicely.

"We need to do everything that we can do to increase technology, which is part of the future, and pharmaceuticals become part of that technology for the future," she says.
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Jessica Lipscomb is news editor of Miami New Times and an enthusiastic Florida Woman. Born and raised in Orlando, she has been a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists.
Contact: Jessica Lipscomb