Code For South Florida Is Creating Civic Technology in Miami

Written by: Code for South Florida 

Miami is the crossroads of the western hemisphere. Thanks to its central location and unique tropical ecosystem, the big city we all love has developed a world-wide reputation as a place for commerce, tourism, and culture. It is often rated as one of the best places in the country to start a new business, and its mythos as “The Magic City” attracts people from all over the world to live here, be it temporary or for the long haul. 

However, even with its world-class reputation, Miami is not without its shortcomings. The city has the lowest rate of volunteers among 51 major cities in the United States. Although civic leaders and organizations are making great progress in this area through direct civic engagement, there was no civic organization solely advocating for better technology in the non-profit and government sectors. 

 Gregory Johnson and Livio A. Zanardo saw an opportunity for applying technology startup models to Miami’s public sphere. For them, the future was an organization designing, developing, and deploying technology to modernize public services that at the same time fostered an ecosystem of technologists and community partners for its work to have a lasting impact. After they inherited Code For Miami in late 2019, they merged with their sister organization in Fort Lauderdale, and founded the first technology-oriented non-profit in Miami, Code For South Florida.  

Gregory Johnson teaching Civic Hackers about User-Centered Design during National Civic Day of Hacking 2019 – Civic Action for Justice. Photo by Jonieth O’Neill.

Code For South Florida is an organization that designs technology services with the public interest in mind, leveraging a local network of technologists, designers, and problem solvers. To start they work with private and public institutions to access open datasets which helps them identify problems. They then focus on improving the way the general public interfaces with public and social services, and builds bridges with groups and organizations like non-profits and government agencies that can maximize the impact of these solutions.  

Building Civic Technology is no small endeavor and implies much more than sitting behind a computer developing software. It requires extractingtransforming, loading and most cases cleaning up datasets to uncover ways to service the public in meaningful ways. It also involves connecting with agents directly on the frontlines of socioeconomic problems, collaborating with community leaders to reach a common definition of said problems, and designing solutions around public interest. Equip a unified community with cutting-edge tools specifically created to address social problems, and they can amplify civic engagement and improve service delivery in unprecedented ways. 

The organization has worked on several public interest projects since its inceptionOne of the organizations recent projects addresses evictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. With the help of the Community Justice Project, Code For South Florida volunteers built Eviction Protection, a platform that displays the status of evictions in counties across Florida. Users can input their location and get immediate information on evictions in their county. The tool stands to help both citizens and the organizations representing communities at-risk of unfair eviction practices (You can read more about Eviction Protection in this blog post). 

Another recent project involves improving access to free tax filing assistance remotely. The organization observed the work of Code For America, which built a national Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) solution titled Get Your Refund. Code For South Florida saw the opportunity to localize this initiative in our city by creating a coalition of VITA partners, including non-profits like Branches FL and Catalyst Miami, and public institutions like the City of Miami. The Get Your Refund initiative transformed VITA filing process from analog and in-person to digital and remote, reducing overhead for partners and improving access to tax resources for the publicall from the comfort of their personal devices (read more about Get Your Refund in this blog post).

Code For South Florida has also worked with the City of Miami to implement an affordable housing filing solution called GetHousing, in which users can look up affordable housing units for low-income renters. More recently, the organization also began installing air quality sensors around Miami with the aim of improving understanding of local air quality and advocate for better data governance principles in the region with the collected data 

These are only some examples of the organization’s recent work. The success of these public interest projects is based on transplanting software methodologies and product development strategies inspired by both the private sector and the open-source movementBoth private and open-source technologies made tremendous strides in the last decade thanks to the boom of startup culture in Silicon ValleyCode For South Florida is reframing those methods for the public interest. When people can accomplish anything out of their smart devices – hail rides to the next destination, order a full month’s supply of groceries, or run an entire business operation  there is no excuse for essential services like social support systems to get behind the times, as it happened with Florida’s Unemployment portal in the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Livio A. Zanardo holding one of Code For America’s mottos during National Civic Day of Hacking 2019. Photo by Jonieth O’Neill.

The future cannot wait for an invisible hand to err on the side of change while people rely on services that are supposed to work for them on paper but leave them stranded in practiceCode For South Florida strives to improve the status quo not by replacing the systems that already exist, but rather bolstering them by informing, educating, and building a local ecosystem of public interest technology, as displayed in the organization’s growing catalog of projects. Only proper representation of Civic Technology will bring public services up to speed with the digital age, and through a localized effort we can design unique solutions at scale that represent and address South Florida’s unique challenges in the 21st century and beyond.  

No one is coming. It’s up to us South Floridians to acknowledge the past and build better future – and for that, there’s no time like the present. 

To learn more about Code For South Florida, visit, and follow @CodeForSouth on Instagram and Twitter. Contact us via email 

Hebron Pharmaceutical Group, Brazilian-based company opens first International Sales Office in Miami

Hebron Pharmaceutical Group to create 25 new jobs in Miami-Dade County

Hebron Pharmaceutical Group, a pharmaceutical research and manufacturing company, will create 25 new jobs in Miami-Dade County with the opening of its first international sales office. The company made this decision after working alongside Miami-Dade Beacon Council.

The Brazil-based company is set to launch with an initial lease of 1,000 square feet at the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency Miami office known as Apex-Brasil. In the coming years, Hebron plans to expand its footprint and eventually launch a manufacturing operation in Miami-Dade County.

“Having already settled our operation in Brazil and seeing the growth of sales in Latin America, the next strategic step for Hebron is the office in the USA,” stated Wedja Henrique Pires, Chief Marketing Officer of the Hebron Pharmaceutical Group.

“The Miami-Dade Beacon Council played a decisive role in our decision by providing specific data and analysis, reassuring the area’s great economic capacity, commercial integration and proving that Miami Dade County offers the ideal location for our plans. Given the current situation with COVID-19, strengthening America’s ability to produce pharmaceutical and healthcare products is vital and Hebron is willing and able to contribute,” stated Pires.

Hebron was founded in 1990 in the city of Caruaru, in northeast Brazil and now operates in more than 2,000 Brazilian cities with pharmaceutical representatives in more than half of these locations. With 40 products being traded, Hebron’s activities extend into the specialties of Pediatrics, Internal Medicine, Gastroenterology and Gynecology. The company focuses on both manufacturing pharmaceuticals as well as developing analytical processes and research in the above-mentioned specialty areas.

“Despite the current environment we have found ourselves in recently, the Miami-Dade Beacon Council is continuing to do the important work of growing our  target industry sectors. With the recruitment of Hebron, we are growing our life science industry as well as strengthening our pharmaceutical supply chain,” stated Michael A. Finney, President & CEO of the Miami-Dade Beacon Council.

As the life science industry grows worldwide, opportunities for economic connections between Miami and Brazil, such as the example of Hebron, continue to occur. The United States is the largest pharmaceutical market in the world, and Brazil is the 7th largest and growing, according to InterFarma, a Brazilian non-profit that promotes health innovation in Brazil.

“We are excited to have Hebron Pharmaceutical Group locate at Apex-Brasil here in Miami-Dade County Commission District 5. Given the challenging environment our residents and workers are facing in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, it’s encouraging to see innovative companies choosing to locate in our community with the promise of future economic growth and job opportunities for our residents,” stated District 5 County Commissioner Eileen Higgins.

My Advantage Miami

Riding in Style from Kendall to Brickell: Adventures of a First Time Train Commuter

By: Tere Garcia

What if there was a solution to the morning commute?

Well there is, and after 6 years of commuting from Kendall to Brickell and being extremely familiar with Kendall Drive and 104th Street, I decided to give something new a try and join the rest of the train commuters.

Monday, January 6th, 2020 – Woke up, resolutions on my mind, year of change, new year new me and somehow everything seemed the same. Same routine in the morning, same clothes, same car and same drive. As I drove in the dreaded commute, I thought to myself, “If this is a year of change, why am I not taking advantage of the train to maximize my time?”. Many of my coworkers that live in the area have been taking it for years and have encouraged me to do so. That morning as I got into work, I was convinced that I was going to join the train crew! During my lunch hour, a coworker and long-time commuter walked me to the Brickell Station where I bought my very first EASY ticket week pass and I was ready to go! I also downloaded Miami’s new transit app, Velocia, which rewards commuters for using public transportation, and if you know me, you know I am ALL ABOUT perks! For some reason everything seemed way easier than what I had envisioned.

Tuesday, January 7th, 2020 – A morning like no other, rushing to get ready, trying to prep my lunch, feed the baby and run out the door by 7:20am. For those that are familiar and know the area, you know that leaving on time makes quite the difference. Even though the day before I was determined that I was ready to ride the train, I decided I would drive in. That is until my GPS notified me that I would arrive to work 1 hour and 30 minutes later! To top it off, the GPS rerouted me to Dadeland to take US1 instead of my regular Turnpike North commute. Technological glitch? Fate, perhaps?

So, there it was: the huge, concrete and imposing Metro Parking building, I held my breath and drove in. I parked, all while having no idea what I was doing and followed the crowds, acting like I knew where I was going, and took the elevator down to the first floor. Up one flight of stairs (which added to my daily step quota) and forty seconds later, I watched uncertainly as it approached, THE TRAIN. While it may seem silly to many, I did have real fear of riding the train, aka Siderodromophobia or train phobia, due to the lack of control. But I was determined to face my fears. Afterall, it’s New year new me, right?

Once the doors opened, I took a seat by the window and gazed at the motionless cars on US1. Suddenly, I realized I now had 20 extra minutes all to myself in the morning and the perfect excuse to finally incorporate some of my new year’s resolutions. These included catching up on the novel I’ve been trying to finish for weeks and listening in on my favorite podcast, “The Doctor’s Pharmacy with Mark Hyman M.D”. I ended my commute with a 2-minute mediation. Twenty minutes after stepping on the train, I had arrived at Brickell Station, relaxed, refreshed and ready to take on the day! Five minutes later, I was sitting at my desk checking my phone when I noticed I had already taken 3,000 steps! More steps that I normally accrue in an entire day (don’t judge).

As a 34-year old new wife and mom, I’m still trying to figuring out the routine that works best for me now.  Living in Kendall (which I love and is perfect for my family) and having commuted for years, I never would have thought I would be so excited about riding a train! But at that moment, knowing how much time I had saved by not driving in, as the doors opened at the station, I had the exact feeling of biting into a warm, gooey Knaus Berry Farm Cinnamon Roll (for those Miamians that are familiar with this)! A bit dramatic, perhaps but it felt like I had made it! MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. That morning, I was overjoyed. I felt so proactive that I decided to share #MyAdvantageMiami and maybe convince others to join me on this experience! I might even convince others that there is #MoreToExplore and to come visit the growing South Dade area and give our culinary scene a try? Trust me, it is worth the ride!


About the Author:

Tere Garcia, 34-years old, recent mom of a baby boy, communications professional at the Miami-Dade Beacon Council. Lives in Kendall, works in Brickell and is a first time train commuter.


Miami-Dade County Heads North for Dade Days in Tallahassee

Miami-Dade County Heads North for Dade Days in Tallahassee

By: Dr. Jaap Donath, SVP of Research & Strategic Planning, Miami-Dade Beacon Council 

Miami-Dade Beacon Council’s own Dr. Jaap Donath, SVP of Research & Strategic Planning, took part in this year’s Miami-Dade County Days (Dade Days) in Tallahassee recently.

Commencing with the “World Famous Paella Fest” on Capitol Courtyard, Dr. Donath joined other attendees at the annual 2-day event including representatives from all Miami-Dade County municipalities (elected officials and staff), non-profit organizations and educational institutions.

During the Legislative Briefing, Dr. Donath spoke on behalf of the Beacon Council about Miami-Dade County’s thriving economy. In addition to the events and meetings organized by Dade Days, Dr. Donath had the opportunity to meet with Jamal Sowell, President & CEO of Enterprise Florida, Ken Lawson, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunities and several other state legislators from Miami-Dade County. He also attended the press conference by the Florida Economic Development Council (FEDC) where they announced this year’s Economic Development week.

Trade & Logistics Committee Hosts Meeting at Royal Caribbean’s New Terminal “Crown of Miami”

Trade & Logistics Committee Hosts Conversations on the Economy of Cruises at Royal Caribbean’s “Crown of Miami’

Content provided by Lewis Greenberg, Senior Manager at Marcum LLP and Co-Chair, Marketing Sub-Committee of the MDBC’s Trade & Logistics Committee. Photos: Shoot My Travel

The numbers speak for themselves: Miami is THE Cruise Capital of the World and it was this reality that prompted Miami-Dade Beacon Council’s Trade & Logistics Committee’s decision to host a discussion highlighting the cruise industry’s importance to our city’s economy. Cruising is essentially passenger logistics, but this discussion focused more on the business logistics of supplying and operating these magnificent “cities on the water.”

President & CEO of the Beacon Council, Michael Finney, opened the meeting with an overview of the impact this industry has on Miami-Dade County. Russell Benford, Vice President of Government Relations – Americas at Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. then presented a short film documenting Royal Caribbean’s post-hurricane relief efforts.

The discussion was then turned over to a panel of experts, featuring Moderator Mary Buckley (Assistant Professor for the College of Hospitality Management at Johnson & Wales University), Michael Cheng (Interim Dean for Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at Florida International University), Doris Miranda (Director of Global Logistics & Warehousing at Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.) and Paul Osburn (Chief Operating Officer – USA at Hellmann Worldwide Logistics Inc.)

The event took place in Royal Caribbean’s Terminal A, which opened in 2018 and is know as the “Crown of Miami”. Special thanks to Royal Caribbean and Prologis for hosting and sponsoring the meeting attended by over 150 professionals in the industry and additional thanks to Shoot My Travel for photographing the event.

To view all photos, click here.

WeWork Labs Launches in Downtown Miami

Miami is home to a rapidly growing and thriving startup ecosystem and the global business community has taken note. As the region’s innovation economy continues to evolve, WeWork is launching its first Labs location in the Magic City which will provide local entrepreneurs with the space, community, programming and mentorship connections they need to succeed. WeWork Labs, WeWork’s innovation arm supporting early-stage startups and corporations seeking to transform their industries, will be housed within the Security Building located at 117 NE 1st Avenue in the heart of Downtown Miami.

Miami is consistently recognized as being ripe for opportunity. In fact, earlier this year WalletHub ranked Miami as the second-best environment in the US for starting a new business. The region’s continued upward trajectory made it an ideal fit for WeWork Labs unique model and services.

“Since opening our first location in Miami in 2015, we have been committed to delivering inspiring workspaces and a global platform that can help foster the growth of South Florida’s workforce,” said Bobby Condon, WeWork Southeast General Manager. “Through WeWork Labs, we are taking our support for Miami’s entrepreneurs and creators to the next level. We look forward to creating a hub where innovative start-ups and companies can leverage our dedicated support to make their mark in a global city that is brimming with talent and opportunity.”

WeWork Labs has a dedicated space housing up to 60 startups at the Security Building. The space is equipped with a dedicated Labs Manager who builds out a custom curriculum for each individual startup, which includes a combination of 1:1 learnings and group workshops with local mentors. As part of the WeWork Labs membership, startups are given access to a network of over 1,800 mentors globally in addition to all the benefits and services that come with a full WeWork membership.

“Miami is consistently ranked as one of the top cities in the country for starting a new venture.  It is clear that the region is embracing innovation and hungry for the tools needed to turn big ideas into successful enterprises,” said WeWork Labs Miami Manager, Pedro Sostre. “WeWork Labs will create a critical mass of forward-thinking companies in Miami and arm them with the global resources they need to succeed and scale.”

For more information on WeWork Labs or if you are a startup interested in the program, please reach out to Pedro Sostre directly at  or visit

$1 Billion Company, Slalom, expands to Florida bringing hundreds of new jobs

Miami is first of several new offices coming to the sunshine state

MIAMI, Fla. Oct. 8, 2019 – Slalom, the $1B modern consulting firm focused on strategy, technology, and business transformation, has opened its Miami office located in South Florida, with plans to debut several more offices across the state over the next 24 months. Slalom’s Florida offices will employ more than 600 people statewide.

“Florida is glad to welcome Slalom and the hundreds of jobs the firm will bring to the Sunshine State,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “From our pro-business climate to our top-ranked university system, Florida is a place where firms like Slalom can employ exceptional talent and expand without the burdens of high taxes and stifling regulations.”

Slalom was founded in Seattle in 2001. Today, Slalom has 31 offices across the U.S and three countries. Clients include more than half the Fortune 100 and a third of the Fortune 500—along with startups, not-for-profits, and innovative organizations of all kinds.

“When we first started planning Slalom’s Florida expansion, anchoring our office in Miami was a perfect fit, and we’re excited to have Beau Williamson at the helm,” said Troy Johnson, Slalom Chief Growth Officer and Co-Founder. “Beau is dedicated to building a world-class team that will drive amazing outcomes for our clients.”

In addition to Miami, Slalom has plans to open offices in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Orlando, and Jacksonville. For Slalom, Florida is the perfect place for a pioneering company. Florida’s business community is the nation’s third-largest workforce, home to several Fortune 500 companies, a rapidly growing set of mid-market companies and the cruise line capital of the world.

“We’re successful because we invest in people. Invest in communities. Invest in our clients’ success,” said Beau Williamson, Slalom Florida General Manager. “And now, we’re ready to invest in Florida. We’re excited to grow a team who can offer local solutions to clients here that are innovating – from hospitality and retail, to manufacturing, logistics, financial services, healthcare and more.”

South Florida is also the gateway to Latin America, offering Slalom access to many companies that operate and serve customers in central and South America. The other major metros in Florida are diversified with companies spanning a number of industries from casual dining to grocery and theme parks.

“Global firms choose Miami-Dade County again and again for our diverse talent, international access and unparalleled lifestyle,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez. “As Slalom establishes their Florida headquarters in Miami-Dade they will enjoy immediate access to our dynamic business community and burgeoning tech and innovation ecosystem.”

Along with Slalom’s Florida offices, the company currently employs 7,500 people and plans to hire more than 2,000 people this year.

About Slalom

Slalom is a modern consulting firm focused on strategy, technology, and business transformation. In cities across the US, UK, and Canada, Slalom’s teams have the autonomy to move fast and do what’s right. They’re backed by seven regional innovation hubs, a global culture of collaboration, and partnerships with the world’s top technology providers. Founded in 2001 and headquartered in Seattle, Slalom has organically grown to 7,500 employees. Slalom was named one of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2019 and is regularly recognized by employees as a best place to work. Learn more at

The Miami-Dade Beacon Council Kicks Off Its 35th Year With Three Promotions

Chief Operating Officer, Chief Marketing Officer and Director, International Economic Development

(Miami, FL) October 1, 2019 –  The Miami-Dade Beacon Council, the County’s official public-private economic development partnership, is pleased to announce three promotions as it kicks off its 35th anniversary.

Camela Glean-Jones, Chief Financial Officer & Chief Operating Officer

  • Chief Financial Officer Camela Glean-Jones also assumes role of Chief Operating Officer. Formerly CFO and Executive Vice President, Camela has been invaluable to the organization’s stability and growth for more than 25 years. In addition to her role as CFO, she has long managed a broad array of administrative responsibilities across operations, human resources and governance; the addition of COO to her title serves to recognize the scope of her responsibilities in the organization’s leadership.

Maria Budet, Chief Marketing Officer

  • Maria Budet has been promoted to Chief Marketing Officer.

Maria draws on a significant depth of marketing knowledge and over 20 years of brand management experience, bringing a new perspective to the organization. Grounding integrated marketing efforts in an increasingly strategic approach, her direction of Beacon programs over the last year has successfully increased The Beacon Council’s profile in key markets, engagement with key targets and overall awareness with priority audiences.

Madeline Mesa, Director, International Economic Development

  • Madeline Mesa has been promoted to Director, International Economic Development.
    Madeline has been part of The Beacon Council family since 2015 – first supporting the Economic Development team and, most recently, working in the Office of the President. In her new role she will partner with Mario Sacasa, Senior Vice President, International Economic Development, and Diana Londono, Vice President, International Economic Development, to support international development efforts for new and expanding companies.



About The Miami-Dade Beacon Council

Miami-Dade Beacon Council is the official economic development organization for Miami-Dade County. Its mission is to increase jobs and investment through marketing Miami as a world class business destination; helping grow local companies; and shaping Miami’s economic future.  Since 1985, the organization has assisted more than 1,000 businesses that have created nearly 70,000 direct jobs and added more than $4.7 billion in new capital investments. A professional staff and volunteer community leaders work to promote Miami as a world-class 21st century community at the forefront of a changing global economy. For more information: