We may miss Goldman Sachs job bonanza if we don’t act
In the midst of all-consuming twin scourges of a worsening pandemic and an endless drive to subvert an election, pivotal long-term news for South Florida’s economy requires fast action.
Ten days ago, word leaked that Wall Street trendsetter Goldman Sachs Group is aiming at South Florida as home for its asset management arm, which brings in about a quarter of the corporation’s $8 billion in annual revenue. If the workforce is similarly split, that’s 10,000 very well-paid jobs heading south from Manhattan.
Miami-Dade’s economic development partnership, the Beacon Council, has for decades targeted finance jobs, and Miami’s Downtown Development Authority has been scouting to lure finance firms from high-tax areas. Though we’ve successfully added financial offices, none has been close to this scale. Indeed, in size and stature Goldman Sachs is far above anything here now.
So news that the corporation is targeting South Florida could be a bonanza – except that insiders say the hunt has ruled out Miami-Dade. The focus is Broward and Palm Beach counties and maybe farther north. But not us.
Which begs the question: Why exclude a global magnet metropolis that is approaching the financial industry with arms wide open? We don’t denigrate living and working in Broward or Palm Beach counties, but they aren’t Miami.
But perhaps that’s Goldman Sach’s point: they aren’t Miami.
The Beacon Council and Downtown Development Authority should be probing this instant why a hunt for a major financial industry divisional headquarters could rule out Miami.
Objectively, we see reasons Miami might not make the cut. Some of those are Miami assets rather than liabilities, but let’s view the choice through the lens of the buyer rather than the seller. That’s why the Beacon Council and Downtown Development Authority should get the inside story, so that we can sell our attributes as assets.
The only Goldman Sachs quibble we know of is education. It’s true, we’re not New York – but then, New York failed to lure our superintendent to upgrade its own schools. We have a good case for improved education, and we must make it not to educators but to corporate decision-makers.
What isn’t Goldman Sachs talking about that might rule out Miami?
■Crime. Well, Miami Vice was decades ago, and crime statistics today prove far greater safety. They should be even better, but the same is true of every big city. For example, New York.
■Big city problems. We admit to vast inequality, drug problems, issues of size, geographic spread, future sea level rise, cost of living, insufficient housing at the lower cost end and more. But Goldman Sachs is coming from New York, whose issues may be worse in every category.
■Ethnicity and language. If you like cookie-cutter populations, Miami can be hell. But diversity has long been our major strength. We hail from all over the world. Our school students speak dozens of native languages. If you do business around the globe – that is, if you’re Goldman Sachs – diversity should be a sales tool for Miami. If you’re coming from New York, you’d better already know that.
■Transportation. Like Miami’s, New York’s transportation is ailing. Unlike us, however, you still can take New York mass transit from anywhere to anywhere. On the other hand, what we consider gridlock on our roads is like a Sunday drive in the country for New Yorkers.
■Affordable housing. Although our workers struggle with housing, at its pay levels Goldman Sachs would face no issues. It’s true, however, that you might get more house for your dollar in Palm Beach County and Broward than in Miami.
■Arts and culture, professional sports, and outdoor recreation. We lose hands down to New York on arts and culture, but lots of what we do have is world class. New York also has more sports teams. We win by a mile on outdoor living. And since our competition is not Manhattan but the rest of South Florida, we win all around.
■Prepared professionals with good work ethics. Miami has more financial workers at high levels than the rest of South Florida combined. As for work ethic, we don’t match Manhattan for nose-to-the-grindstone effort but we certainly outpace most of Florida.
In most of those categories we far exceed the rest of our region. But problems may lurk in:
■Office availability and rent. Where would 10,000 or even 5,000 jobs cluster in Miami-Dade without building something? And could you lease or own at prices matching the rest of our region? In other words, is the decision to look north of Miami based on a known aim to quickly wring $1.3 billion a year out of Goldman Sachs expenses?
■Economic incentives. Is this a pay-to-play game, with Goldman Sachs exacting payback to move in? If so, the Beacon Council may be hard pressed to woo the firm, since agreements among area counties are to not lay out public funds to lure a business across a county line. Would the agreement apply in this case? We may find out.
■Local government, politics and red tape. It’s hard to imagine a community gouging Goldman Sachs on permits, but Miami plays tough with businesses that don’t support favored politicians. It varies by the commission district in which you set up shop. New Yorkers should be familiar with the concept.
But Goldman Sachs is not just a restaurant. It’s 10,000 jobs, a global name, an industry leader that would become a magnet for prime smaller firms and high-income executives, a lever to raise area wage levels and a major user of office space as urban vacancies rise with the pandemic, so much so that many Manhattan offices may be converted to apartments. The economic impact of Goldman Sachs would be great and measurable.
We don’t know if the Beacon Council, Downtown Development Authority, governments or others have been trying like hell to get Miami’s name into the selection race. We sincerely hope it’s not too late.
There’s job recruitment and then there’s job recruitment. Miami-Dade has hyped an Amazon warehouse opening. This Goldman Sachs division has 10 time the jobs of an Amazon warehouse, and far more economic leverage than 100 Amazon warehouses that pay just above minimum wage.
If economic development is not just total jobs but jobs that make a difference, this is the real deal. Nobody is saying so aloud, but we should be in there dealing. Today – before a location is set in stone.