Magic Leap officially announced on Wednesday that is will expand its operations in Broward County, creating 725 high-wage positions and making a capital investment of $150 million.
The South Florida technology company said it selected Broward County for its R&D Center of Excellence over locations in Texas and California. Magic Leap has been approved for $9 million in government incentives, in an effort by the state of Florida, the city of Plantation, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance and Broward County. “Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County is proud to be the home of Magic Leap and its transformational technology,” said Bob Swindell, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance.
With locations in Plantation and Dania Beach as well as offices around the world, Magic Leap is developing a mixed-reality platform to enable people to seamlessly experience the real and virtual environments together. The company’s new virtual retinal display technology superimposes 3D computer-generated imagery over real world objects. Magic Leap was founded by Rony Abovitz, who also co-founded Mako Surgical in Davie and is a University of Miami alumnus.
The incentives package has been in the works for about a year, and the $150 million capital investment will be for its Plantation facility. Magic Leap broke ground on its new 260,000-square-foot campus in Plantation last fall and has begun moving in. The new headquarters and manufacturing facility is in the former Motorola campus. Magic Leap employs about 800 globally and between 200 and 300 in South Florida. The company currently lists about 175 openings in Plantation and Dania Beach.
“Our new location in Plantation will create many new jobs in the area, and we hope to continue to grow and expand our efforts over the coming years. We see Florida as an emerging hub for both technology and creativity, and we at Magic Leap are inspired by events such as the first launch to the moon, which happened right here in Florida just a few decades ago. Florida is a place where people can dream, and where amazing things can happen,” said Abovitz, in a statement on Wednesday.
To fund its innovation, Magic Leap raised $1.4 billion from investors including Google, Alibaba and others, a record in Florida. “Now it’s heads down for us and we will be accelerating everything. We are super focused on our getting first product out and getting it right, and letting it speak for the company. We know we have to deliver against high expectations,” Abovitz said earlier this year.
The secretive company, which hasn’t released timelines or launch dates on its product development, hit media turbulence earlier this month: Tech publication The Information reported that some former employees say its development is behind schedule and that some technology the company invented couldn’t be applied to its consumer product, thought to be spectacles. Management changes followed. New Chief Marketing Officer Brenda Freeman, formerly of National Geographic, recently responded in Recode that Magic Leap "is absolutely on track" and "racing toward launch."
To be sure, Magic Leap’s commitment to creating 725 jobs in Broward paying an average of $96,066 — twice Broward County’s average annual wage — over a five-year period would make a large bump in South Florida tech employment. Florida is home to more than 26,000 IT companies employing nearly 250,000 professionals; nearly 80,000 people work in information and communications technologies in South Florida. Still, in a Bloomberg study released last week, Florida ranked 34th out of 50 for innovation measures including R&D, patent activity and science and engineering degree holders.