Selling South Florida
Mayor Francis Suarez of Miami is selling his city as the world’s cryptocurrency capital. “We want to be on the next wave of innovation,” he told DealBook. To make that happen, Mr. Suarez said he was “refashioning” the city’s “fun in the sun” image. Thanks in part to the mayor’s marketing efforts, tech and finance titans have flocked to Miami during the pandemic.
Visions of Bitcoin City. Last month, the Republican mayor suggested Miami pay municipal workers and accept tax payments in Bitcoin, as well as invest city funds in the cryptocurrency. Local officials have agreed to study the proposals. The notion made him popular in the crypto community, advancing his rebranding campaign. His efforts have also won him campaign donations from tech investors, attracted money to cultivate Miami’s burgeoning tech sector and may soon pay a big county bill.
The cryptocurrency exchange FTX is seeking naming rights for the city’s N.B.A. arena, currently known as AmericanAirlines Arena. Miami-Dade County took over branding deals in 2018 and is supposed to pay the team $2 million per year, sponsor or no (American’s contract ended in 2019). The FTX agreement is nearly final, pending a Friday vote by county commissioners. “It’s awesome that we’ve attracted a huge cryptocurrency exchange,” Mr. Suarez said, noting that FTX’s bid “complements the brand” that Miami is establishing.
It would be the N.B.A.’s first crypto sponsorship of an arena, The Miami Herald notes, but it would also tie a county revenue stream to a relatively young exchange and C.E.O. FTX was founded in 2019 and is run by Samuel Bankman-Fried, a 28-year-old billionaire who was one of the biggest donors to President Biden’s campaign.
The tech center exodus and crypto boom converge in Miami. The pandemic prompted people to relocate to Florida from Silicon Valley and New York as Bitcoin gained legitimacy and value. The mayor sees the trends as interrelated, and he is seizing the moment. “People come here and start realizing that there’s way more tech talent than they thought,” he said.
All that’s missing is a regulatory scheme, Mr. Suarez said: Lawmakers are modeling Florida’s approach on Wyoming’s crypto policies. Ultimately, the success of the mayor’s effort won’t be apparent until it’s clear that people are making their moves permanent and maintaining their enthusiasm for crypto if — or when? — there is another market downturn.
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
Not so fast, AstraZeneca. American officials said early today that the company may have included “outdated information” from a U.S. clinical trial of its Covid-19 vaccine, providing “an incomplete view” of data that could cast doubt on promising news.
a huge infrastructure proposal. It will go beyond roads and bridges to also address climate change and racial and gender equity.
Microsoft will ease workers back to the office starting next week. The 57,000 employees who left the tech giant’s Redmond, Wash., headquarters because of the pandemic can choose to work from the office, home or both.
BlackRock investigates allegations of employee misconduct. The money-management giant hired a law firm after employees said that they had faced harassment and discrimination over their sex, race and religion. A senior executive, Mark Wiedman, apologized for making inappropriate comments at work events.
Goldman Sachs’s C.E.O. promises to ease the burden on junior bankers. David Solomon told employees that the firm would better enforce a ban on working Saturdays and hire more analysts, after a presentation by first-year bankers that described 100-hour work weeks drew media attention.
Personnel is policy. Or is it?
Though she lost the Democratic presidential primary, Senator Elizabeth Warren is exerting considerable sway over President Biden’s financial policies, judging by the number of people from her orbit who have been picked to join the administration. But her influence is increasingly being tested, The Times’s Alan Rappeport writes.
on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
manufacturers of batteries for electric vehicles. The International Trade Commission recently ruled in favor of LG Chem in a trade secrets case against SK Innovation, issuing a default judgment based on a problematic absence of documentation. SK says its partially built factory in Georgia is threatened by the decision.
ban on imports of a Botox competitor.) But a federal court could order SK to submit to monitoring and impose damages, if warranted, “without killing jobs and setting back the Georgia economy,” Ms. Yates said.
Automakers will need lots of batteries for electrical vehicles, and the decision could make American manufacturers less competitive, said Carol Browne, the former Obama administration “climate czar.” President Biden signed an executive order last month aimed at strengthening the domestic supply chain, including for EV batteries, and “one way to guarantee that is domestic production,” Ms. Browne said.
“The Georgia plant will not sit idle,” countered LG’s lawyer, David Callahan of Latham & Watkins. LG’s attorneys say SK exaggerates the order’s impact on American manufacturing and minimizes its I.P. violations. SK can “redesign” or settle, they suggested, but in any case “the demand for these batteries ensures that another manufacturer will step in” if it abandons the plant. (The Botox dispute was ultimately settled.)
The Biden administration can veto the I.T.C. by early April. Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia has urged the president to do so, citing a 2013 reversal of a ruling in a dispute between Apple and Samsung. (The administration did not respond to a request for comment). Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio — where LG is constructing a battery plant with General Motors — has asked the president to uphold the ruling, saying that “stolen intellectual property” shouldn’t be used to compete with his state’s workers. Mr. Biden is visiting Ohio today.
THE SPEED READ
The social media platform Discord has held talks to sell itself to Microsoft in a deal that could top $10 billion. (NYT)
WeWork said it lost $3.2 billion last year — less than in 2019 — in an investor presentation supporting its potential merger with a SPAC. (FT)
Box, the online storage provider, is reportedly considering a sale as it faces pressure from the activist investor Starboard Value. (Reuters)
Politics and policy
President Biden formally nominated Lina Khan, a critic of Big Tech, to the Federal Trade Commission. (NYT)
Sweden will link aircraft landing fees to greenhouse gas emissions, encouraging the use of newer, more efficient planes. (Reuters)
Shalanda Young is the front-runner for the nomination to lead the Office of Management and Budget, but Asian-American groups are pushing for Nani Coloretti, a former Obama administration official. (WaPo)
Cybersecurity researchers at the University of Toronto say TikTok isn’t a national security threat. (WSJ)
Companies including Mastercard and SoftBank pressed Group of 7 governments to coordinate tech issues like A.I. and cybersecurity. (FT)
The C.E.O. of a blockchain tech company won an auction of Jack Dorsey’s first tweet — sold as a nonfungible token — for $2.9 million. (CNBC)
Best of the rest
Ellen DeGeneres has faced a steep ratings decline, losing more than a million viewers after reports of a toxic workplace at her show. (NYT)
Should workers be paid while they sleep? (FT)
Americans over 65 are fully vaccinated, and ready to party. (NYT)
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SAINT-AMBROISE, Quebec — In a retirement community north of Quebec City, 30-foot plastic palm trees overlook Miami, Orlando and Cocoa Avenues, cookie-cutter streets where residents glide by some days on snowshoes.
The pool area — complete with straw-covered umbrellas, a candy-colored inflatable children’s slide and a nearby tiki bar — evokes countless oceanside condos in Florida. Except for the snow, and temperatures that dipped this month to minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
Domaine de la Florida, a Canadian make-believe Miami, whose 520 residents are so in love with the Sunshine State that they have recreated it here. In the summer, golf carts whisk silver-haired retirees to games of beach volleyball, shuffleboard and Bingo. In the winter, as many as half of them fire up their R.V.’s or hop into their cars or a plane, and head south for the real deal.
Le Soleil de la Floride, as well as a local ecosystem of Francophone real estate agents, accountants and dentists.
Even the unofficial Queen of Quebec, the singer Celine Dion, kept a 13-bedroom beachfront estate in Florida, with a private water park, before selling it in 2017 for a reported $28 million.
Before the pandemic, an estimated one million Canadian residents spent their winters in the United States; at least 500,000 of them were Quebec snowbirds who traveled to Florida, according to the Canadian Snowbird Association, a group that advises snowbirds on matters like insurance.
half a dozen restaurants offering poutine, the zipper-bursting Quebecois delicacy of French fries, cheese curds and gravy.
But this year, the closure of the land border with the United States and fears of catching the virus deterred many of Quebec’s snowbirds from the annual pilgrimage. Florida has had more than 1.96 million cases of Covid-19 compared with 922,848 in all of Canada.
And while it is still possible to take quick flights from Montreal to Miami — a more expensive option than driving — some residents of Domaine de la Florida said they were repelled by rules requiring them to quarantine for 14 days after flying home to Canada. That would include spending three days in a designated hotel at a cost of about $2,000 Canadian dollars, or about $1,600.
Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean. The region is proud and picturesque, surrounded by mountains and famed for its aluminum and forest industries.
Mr. Bouchard, who owns an RV dealership across the street, said about half of the Domaine’s residents were snowbirds.
His faux Florida took root about a decade ago when he noticed how many Quebecers spent their winters in Miami. To reproduce Florida’s tropical sensibility, he said he “planted” dozens of plastic palm trees each year — imported from China. The largest cost about 5,000 Canadian dollars, or about $4,000, each.
Florida. Part of the appeal was the possibility of getting vaccinated against the coronavirus at a time when Canada’s vaccination rate has been lagging other countries, including that of the United States.
Perhaps predictably, there was a backlash against Canadian vaccine tourists on social media.
Century Village East, a condominium complex in Deerfield Beach where about half of the more than 8,000 condominiums are owned by Canadian snowbirds. Mr. Roboz, who has a lung ailment, said that after arriving in Florida in January, he had been vaccinated within 48 hours.
“This is my life we are talking about,” he said, explaining his rationale for traveling. He said vaccinating Canadian residents in Florida, big contributors to the local economy, was a public health imperative.
Real Vachon, 60, a resident of Domaine de la Florida, recently traveled to Fort Lauderdale to join his wife, Linda, and their French bulldog, Daisy. He said getting vaccinated had been a draw, along with the opportunity to pass the days lolling at their Florida home’s outdoor spa, surrounded by real palm trees, sans frostbite.
He and his wife are planning to depart Florida by the end of April for home. That should be just in time to see the plastic palm trees “bloom.”