The Real Deal Miami

High-tech firms looking for high-tech office space

By Jennifer LeClaire | July 24, 2008 02:13PM

News headlines have heralded the growth of South Florida’s high-tech industry prospects in recent years – and new office developments are springing up to accommodate start-ups and established firms alike.

But will the slowing economy stymie office developers’ plans for wired environments that cater to the next Microsofts and Ciscos of the world? Or will office developments evolve to target the special needs of tech-heavy companies?

A recent report published by American Electronics Association, or AeA, sheds some light on the possibilities, but also reveals some troubling discoveries for office developers that cater to the high-tech industry.

Consider the statistics. Miami-Fort Lauderdale’s high-tech industry employed 72,900 workers in 2006, according to the recently released AeA’s Cybercities 2008: An Overview of the High-Technology Industry in the Nation’s Top 60 Cities.

The good news: These jobs are high paying, with the average tech worker in Miami-Fort Lauderdale earning $66,600 in 2006, or 61 percent more than the average private sector wage of $41,300. The bad news: the state lost more than 11,000 high tech jobs between 2001 and 2006, the latest figures available.

“Miami-Lauderdale’s high-tech industry employs nearly four percent of the area’s private sector workforce,” said Maryann Fiala, executive director of the AeA’s Florida Council. “These are exactly the type of jobs we should be working to retain and attract.”

Economic development groups are doing just that, and recent efforts are bearing fruit.

Three tech firms announced in June plans to open offices in Broward County. Cell phone manufacturer Foxconn International Holdings and Communications, information systems firm General Dynamics C4 Systems and BlackBerry maker Research in Motion will create more than 400 jobs.

High-tech company expansions like these are a boon for new project developers with advanced construction methods, according to Mark Pateman, an associate at Cushman & Wakefield. “High-tech companies prefer buildings with hurricane resistance, power redundancy, and T-1 and wireless capabilities,” he said.

Beyond the typical tech environment demands, high-tech firms also tend toward differently laid out spaces. These firms may need to accommodate up to five people per 1,000 square feet, compared to a law firm that only needs to accommodate three people in a 1,000-square-foot area, said Rich Bamonte, a commercial broker at Cushman & Wakefield.

“High-tech firms need more parking, so it becomes difficult to find strategic locations in a downtown location or a Central Business District,” Bamonte said. “There are alternatives emerging to cater to tech firms’ needs.”

One such alternative is the Omni Offices, a component of the $142 million redevelopment of the Omni Complex that stretches from 1501-1701 Biscayne. The Omni Offices will boast 425,000 square feet of Class A office space, with 2,500 parking spaces. The anticipated completion date is 2009, with rents set at $36 per square foot.

Bamonte said the building could benefit from the “shifting tenants” in today’s market.

“We aren’t seeing office tenants coming into the market from other cities as much as in years past,” he said. “Right now, the corporate policy is to hunker down, cut costs and remain flexible until we understand the changes the economy is bringing.”

Recession or no, the next big trend in high-tech office space is green buildings, and brokers expect some companies to move to green spaces when their current leases expires. In Palm Beach County, for example, the EcoPlex could be a major attraction for high-tech companies just outside of Downtown West Balm Beach.

EcoPlex is one of the first multi-tenanted green office buildings in Palm Beach County. Located in Centrepark West, the building offers 100,000 square feet of Class A office space that boasts a U.S. Green Building Council “Silver” LEED rating, which translates to increased energy and water efficiency, lower operating costs, healthier work conditions, less environmental damage, and even greater worker productivity, according to boosters.

“Boca Raton is going to see some green office buildings come online soon, so this is an important new trend,” Pateman said. “Young high-tech companies appreciate that kind of LEED design and what it means for their workers and their image.”