Brazilians are spending more money in the U.S. than ever…and Miami is benefitting big.
A port of indulgence for Brazil’s elite, Miami has catered to South American investors for decades, helping them funnel huge sums into lavish, coastal condominiums. But now, following the recent reelection of Brazilian President Dilma Roussef, a number of the country’s biggest spenders are looking to increase their overseas holdings, and Miami is benefitting in a big way.
In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, Alyce Robertson, executive director of the Miami Downtown Development Authority, affirmed the impact Roussef’s reelection is having on South Florida.
“After the last election, we were talking to a lot of people concerned about getting their capital out of Brazil,” she said, adding that the exodus was largely a response to politics.
With specific data unavailable, it’s difficult to quantify the recent influx of Brazilian investment. But throughout South Florida, developers, agents, bankers and a slew of other industry insiders are abuzz with talk of Brazil.
They speak of a swelling of Brazilian capital, aimed not just at property investments, but an increase in more prolonged and involved ventures, such as setting up businesses and obtaining residency and later citizenship for themselves and their families.
Genilde Guerra, an attorney at Kravitz & Guerra, told the Journal that Brazilian clients are mainly “concerned about the instability of Brazil’s political environment.
“They don’t want to be the last one’s to leave,” she said.
Not a 1980s/90s Repeat
According to the Brazilian Foreign Ministry, in 2013, approximately 3 million of the country’s 200 million lived abroad, and of those, one-third were in the U.S. Drawing from local sources, the Journal reported that Florida has become one of the most attractive destinations for these emigrating Brazilians, with as many as 300,000 living in the Sunshine State. Their presence is now so prominent in Miami that in 2013, Brazilians accounted for 51 percent of the city’s tourism.
This isn’t the first time the U.S. has taken on weighty injections of Brazilian immigrants. During the 80s and 90s, Brazil was brought under the wing of a harsh, U.S.-backed military junta that drove the country into near ruin, igniting a rash of economic problems, including hyperinflation and unemployment. Thousands of Brazilians fled the regime for a safer economic climate, with many finding haven in the U.S.
The difference between today and earlier migrations, is that before, Brazilians were entering the U.S. with little to their name, satisfied working low paying labor jobs. Today, it’s far more likely for them to bring wealth.
A New Class of Wealth
In the last year, the Brazilian real has lost approximately a fifth of its value against the dollar, and the country’s inflation rate is nearing its 6.5 percent limit, the Journal reported. According to the Economic Freedom Index, a joint project from the Journal and The Heritage Foundation, researchers also noted significant setbacks for businesses in Brazil, including declines in investment freedom and monetary freedom.
In the face of state-imposed hardships, many of Brazil’s elite are taking preemptive measures and moving their accounts offshore, building strong U.S. portfolios to support their emigrating families. They’re sinking their money into promising developments, buying land and building.
In 2014, Brazilian investor Jose Assumpcao, founder of Lider Aviacao, purchased a 37,000 square-foot plot in Edgewater, which included approvals to build a 16-story, 127-unit residential tower, the Daily Business Review reported. And he’s not the only one.
According to the Journal, Brazilians are now among Miami’s top three foreign buyers of high-price real estate, along with Argentines and Venezuelans.
Miami Hot, U.S. Hotter
To account for the high volumes of international investors pouring into the city, particularly those from China and Brazil, local officials recently created a special foreign investment center downtown to process EB5 visas, which are awarded to individuals investing $1,000,000 and who are creating or preserving at least 10 jobs for U.S. workers, not including investors and immediate family members.
The benefits for Miami are expected to be substantial.
“The City of Miami is staying true to the intent and mission of the United States Citizen Immigration Services by offering top-tier EB5 Regional Center projects to foreign investors which in turn will provide for the creation of thousands of jobs for our local residents,” Mikki Canton, managing director of Miami’s Office of International Business Development, said in a 2014 statement. “The mission of the City of Miami EB5 Regional Center is to create thousands of jobs for local residents and strengthen economic growth in South Florida.”
However, despite business between Miami and Brazil being up last year – 0.82 percent year-over-year from January to November, according to the U.S. Census Bureau – the city is losing market share. Brazil’s overall trade with the U.S. rose nearly twice as fast as with South Florida. With healthier savings, Brazilians are looking to the entire U.S. for opportunities.