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Miami and New York City compete to become the center of the crypto industry

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

As cryptocurrencies enter the mainstream, they are attracting money, investors and entrepreneurs. As a result, many U.S. cities are vying for the title of crypto capital. And as NPR's David Gura reports, one of the biggest rivals for that title is between the cities of Miami and New York.

DAVID GURA, BYLINE: When Eric Adams was elected mayor of New York City, he had grand visions of making it a crypto destination.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

SHEPARD SMITH: Eric Adams pledging to take his first three paychecks in bitcoin.

MARIA BARTIROMO: He tweeted yesterday, New York City is going to be the center of the cryptocurrency industry.

GURA: But it turns out it's impossible for New York City employees to get paid in bitcoin, at least right now. Adams' pledge was an attempt on his part to one-up Miami, which has become New York's crypto rival. Adams fears the financial capital of the world, the city that never sleeps, is sleeping on what he believes is the future of finance.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "BLOOMBERG RADIO")

ERIC ADAMS: We need to look at what's preventing the growth of bitcoins and cryptocurrency in our city. What is in the way of that?

GURA: Well, for one thing, New York is playing catch-up to a city that's gone all in. In Miami, the mayor's office says he is converting his pay into bitcoin. And last year, Miami hosted one of the world's largest crypto conferences.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Welcome to Bitcoin 2021. Are y'all ready to make some history?

GURA: Miami's Mayor, Francis Suarez, was on hand to kick things off.

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FRANCIS SUAREZ: What I love about the bitcoin community is the enthusiasm, the energy, the energy for innovation. And that's something that's going to define our city and our world going forward. God bless you. Thank you.

(CHEERING, APPLAUSE)

GURA: Suarez says Miami was first out of the gate with its own cryptocurrency called MiamiCoin. And he's perfected his pitch to crypto entrepreneurs.

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SUAREZ: There's a cost-of-living differential, which is about 2 to 1 right now. It's twice as expensive to live in New York as it is to live in Miami.

GURA: That's already motivated traditional financial firms to move to South Florida and some crypto companies, including blockchain.com. Peter Smith is its co-founder and CEO.

PETER SMITH: It's the gateway to Latin America. It's on the East Coast time zone. And more importantly, it's probably the most excited city in the world about crypto right now.

GURA: In New York City, Mayor-Elect Adams is trying to capture some of that excitement, but a lot stands in his way. Unlike Florida, New York does have a state income tax, and New York state has crypto regulations Florida doesn't. But New York City is still New York City.

Brock Pierce, the chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation, has been a kind of unofficial adviser to the mayor-elect on crypto. He told Bloomberg News he's tried to help Adams understand both the value of crypto and how it could extend New York's influence.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "BLOOMBERG QUICKTAKE")

BROCK PIERCE: Certainly the financial capital or the capital of capital - cultural capital. And what happens here in New York City doesn't just affect New York City, it affects the whole country and the world.

GURA: Crypto entrepreneur Patrick Stanley welcomes the competition we're seeing among cities. He's part of a loose collective called CityCoins that created that MiamiCoin. Stanley says the rivalry is a response to how attitudes have changed during the pandemic.

PATRICK STANLEY: People who are working in information-based fields are kind of choosing cities the way they choose products.

GURA: And they're looking for leaders who are, as Stanley puts it, technological progressives. He considers Adams one of them. So far, Adams hasn't put forward any concrete proposals, but he's floated adding crypto to the school's curriculum. And he says that if New York City embraces crypto, it'll lead to higher-paying jobs. With Adams' inauguration just a few weeks away, the mayor of Miami has some advice for New York City's mayor-elect.

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SUAREZ: Hang on tight. There's a lot of things coming. And listen; being No. 2 is - there's no shame in being No. 2.

GURA: Oof - something no self-respecting New Yorker wants to hear.

David Gura, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF WHITEFIELD BROTHERS' "SAFARI STRUT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.