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Oranjestad, May 16, 2014 - It’s easy to envision what a world-class technology hub for the Americas could look like in Florida. There’s already a shining example in Fort Lauderdale at Microsoft’s Latin America headquarters.
The tech giant employs 400 at its bustling offices, up from 100 five years ago. Its business in Latin America and the Caribbean has tripled in that time to top $1 billion a year.
From the Fort Lauderdale headquarters, Microsoft oversees operations in 46 countries and territories in Latin America and the Caribbean, where it employs about 2,000 in factories, research, sales and other operations.
Latin America has been Microsoft’s fastest-growth region in recent years, said Hernan Rincon, the company’s Latin America president.
“We believe that Latin America is a land of opportunities,” said Rincon, a Colombian industrial engineer.
Last year, the region ranked No. 5 in sales among Microsoft’s 13 world regions. Its growing middle class snapped up computers, game consoles, smartphones and many other tech offerings. Speedy growth should continue.
Rincon cited studies from researcher IDC predicting that investment in information technology in Latin America could reach $139 billion this year, up 8 percent from 2013. Sales of tablets will rise 34 percent in the region this year, IDC predicted.
Tapping into that economic activity should bring more tech jobs and business to southern Florida, say organizers behind eMerge Americas, a group pushing to make the region a tech hub for the Americas. The movement’s first conference is going on through Tuesday in Miami Beach.
Microsoft is involved with the eMerge conference, especially with sessions on helping cities use technology to better connect systems, data and people. Microsoft already is working on its CityNext programs with officials in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Sao Paulo, Brazil;and Medellin, Colombia, to make information more accessible and services more affordable, Rincon said.
Microsoft chose southern Florida for its Latin America headquarters about two decades ago. It moved to Fort Lauderdale in 2002.
The company’s presence and expansion serve as selling points for business in Broward County, Fla.
“For Microsoft to have their Latin America headquarters in Broward is a huge vote of confidence for our area,” said Bob Swindell, chief executive of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, the county’s economic-development partnership.
Southern Florida long has worked to lure corporate headquarters for Latin America. Those offices typically offer jobs paying above-average salaries based on staffs with language and cultural skills.
The headquarters’ foreign links also often lead to increased trade through regional ports.
The foreign connections also tend to bring in employees, customers and others from Latin America and other world regions, boosting business at area hotels, restaurants, nightspots and shops, Swindell said.