A lot of my friends in the San Francisco Bay area (looking at you, Adam), New York and Seattle often ask me "why I still live in Miami." This post will, hopefully, explain why I love Miami so much as a Web developer and entrepreneur.
When I refer to "Miami," I mean the downtown area, where everything is walkable or dense -- not Miami Beach, North Miami, Coral Gables or South Florida.
1. Affordability is the name of the game.
I recently found out the difference in taxes my friend in San Francisco pays is enough to cover a McDonald's employee's salary for a year. I nearly vomited. Just being aware of a state that doesn't have a zero percent state income tax makes me quiver.
To put the numbers in perspective, the average Web developer in San Francisco makes $124,000 per year -- that's about $1,490 after taxes each week. In Florida, that salary would come up to $1,700 a week. The tax burden is a serious deterrent. In San Francisco, I'd need to find a position that pays in the $275,000 range just to stay at my current take-home pay.
Moving on. The places are much nicer and more-affordable here. I've visited a handful of friends in San Francisco and New York who pay what I pay ($1,800 to $2,000) for well located but small or run-down places.
Here, you can live in a condo with 15-foot ceilings, across from the AmericanAirlines Arena for $1,600 a month, or in Midtown for $1,800 with floor-to-ceiling windows and a coastal view.
Say what you will, but I'm stoked to wake up every day and see Miami on one side and the bay on the other. I don't think I'd be able to find a similar view or quality of living space in SF or NY for less than $3,500 to $4,000 per month, based on what I've read about rents there.
2. Deliciousness is steps away.
For me, food is a huge selling point on never leaving. I live within walking distance of two Zagat Top 10 restaurants. That's just where I live. Where I work, there are tons of places that serve fresh vegetables -- I'm a vegetarian/wannabe vegan -- and are never crowded.
3. The neighborhoods are awesome.
You've got Brickell, which is essentially the financial district and home to tons of start-ups including 1SaleADay and LearnerNation, as well as the amazing coworking space Pipeline. There are tons of great places to eat and a bunch of bars, and you're just a stone's throw away from Vizcaya Museum and Gardens and the Miami Science Museum.
Then there's the Wynwood and Midtown area, which is filled to the brim with art and music. You can be walking down the street and see graffiti artists working on commissioned pieces any time of the year. And you can't forget about the monthly art walk through the dozens of art galleries.
The coolest musical acts pass through all the time -- there was just this awesome festival called III Points -- and the neighborhood is home to what Rolling Stone recently named one of the best dance clubs in America. Plus, there are a ton of great restaurants between Sugarcane in the Midtown Mall and Wynwood Kitchen and Bar in the heart of the district. All this not even mentioning the massive coworking and event space LAB Miami. And I can't forget the awesome indie theater, O Cinema!
Downtown, you have the AmericanAirlines Arena, home back-to-back NBA champions the Miami Heat; tons of restaurants; Bayfront Park and some great live-music venues such as the Gusman Theater and Grand Central; a really awesome park also called Grand Central with a skate park built in, all within walking distance to a Metromover station.
4. The developer ecosystem is healthy and growing.
Back when I first started Web development in South Florida, there was not a lot of community involvement from companies. Now, a bunch are providing support to the developer community. Large companies with revenue in the millions -- such as .CO, 1Sale and ISPrime -- are providing space, sponsoring events and consistently hiring programmers at above-market rates to compete with smaller local start-ups.
There are regular developer meetups for Ruby, Python, Front End, Android and iOS platforms. They're hosted all over: LAB Miami, O Cinema, 1Sale HQ and more. As a developer, I can go to any of these events any week of the month to learn and meet new people.
And RefreshMiami's growth has been amazing. It went from a few guys in a coffee shop to 400 to 500 people attending the entrepreneurial meetings and $150,000 in funding from the Knight Foundation, a grant given to improve meeting content quality and connect more people to the tech community here.
Check out all the couple hundred local startups on MapYourStartup.co.
5. The over all entrepreneurial climate is awesome.
It used to be hard to meet investors in South Florida, but lately they've opened up and made their presence known as the start-up community has shown signs of maturity. We're fortunate enough to have some smart investors -- the same people who put money into successful companies Salesforce, TaskRabbit and Rapleaf have offices here and are making investments.
Go to my blog for a breakdown of the players in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
On top of killer investors, no matter what area you're in, there is support. Everyone in the local tech scene is always trying to lift everyone else because they know that a rising tide lifts all ships. Whether it's a monthly entrepreneurship dinner, a Facebook group to ask Web-development questions, a customer referral or referring you to a journalist for a story -- we all care. And I'm happy to be a part of this ecosystem.
A version of this blog post was originally published in Auston Bunsen's blog.