Georgia’s business reputation stays strong in midst of pandemic

Georgia’s business reputation stays strong in midst of pandemic

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read July 2020 — The Peach State’s methodical investments in economic development, workforce training, support for small businesses, and overall pro-business environment continue to pay dividends for the region, even in the midst of a global pandemic.


Georgia was once again celebrated as a leader in economic development in June by Area Development Magazine, which awarded the state its 12th Silver Shovel Award. This distinction, Georgia’s 11th consecutive award, celebrates the region’s excellence in economic activity, job creation and investment attraction. Besides this latest recognition, the region also saw significant technology-based business expansion in June, while its film industry readies to meet pent-up studio demand, which is set to employ some 40,000 people — a significant boon to the local economy afflicted by coronavirus-related challenges. 

“It’s an honor to accept this award on behalf of all of the hardworking Georgians who consistently create opportunities in their communities,” Gov. Brian Kemp said of the 12th Silver Shovel Award, according to a press release. “For 11 years in a row, Georgia has earned this recognition thanks to our pro-business environment, unmatched workforce, world-renowned logistics, and long-standing commitment to attracting jobs to every corner of the state. I want to thank our state’s economic development team and our local partners for their tireless work to promote prosperity throughout the Peach State.”

While compounded economic activity prior to the coronavirus slowdown may have significantly maintained the state’s pro-business reputation, recent June business expansion announcements continue to highlight the strong economic fundamentals found in the Peach State. 

Three technology-based companies announced investments and job creation plans in different Georgia communities. Milletech Systems Inc., SK Innovation, and Perspecta, companies that span the gamut of technology services from software solutions to advanced manufacturing to cybersecurity, are set to bring more than 1,200 jobs to the region while providing millions of dollars in investments. These announcements are testaments to Georgia’s “top-notch college and university system and training programs,” Kemp said. “I am confident that Milletech will be pleased with their decision to expand and invest in Georgia along with the skilled talent we have right here in the Peach State.” Kemp had similar sentiments when speaking of the other recent technology company expansions.

To go along with editorial recognition and recent business expansions, the Peach State’s film sector officially opened for business following months-long coronavirus-related shutdowns. Major motion picture, television, and streaming companies are gearing up to hire approximately 40,000 production workers, the governor’s office announced in June. The announcement follows revised safety protocols provided by the Georgia Film Office, which complements further safety guidelines published by the Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Task Force, aimed at ensuring a safe workplace environment and reducing the spread of the virus. 

An expected 75 productions are set to resume filming. They are projected to inject over $2 billion into the Georgia economy during the next 18 months, helping more than 17,000 small businesses in the process. “The entertainment production industry is coming back and ready to jumpstart the Georgia economy by creating jobs and generating greatly needed investment and spending in communities across the Peach State,” said Gov. Kemp, according to a press release.

“Georgia is open for business, and we look forward to an even stronger relationship with the film industry moving forward,” said Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson. In 2019, 391 film and television productions filmed in Georgia, supported by 3,040 motion picture and television industry businesses. “Thanks to the historic best practices guide, Georgia is able to safely send the tens of thousands of film and TV industry employees back to work and restart production. The economic impact of film touches local communities and small businesses across Georgia. We look forward to resuming the hundreds of productions across the state and to keeping Georgia as the nation’s film and TV capital,” Wilson said.

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The Post-Pandemic City

The Post-Pandemic City

By: Abby Melone, President & CEO, Capital Analytics

It’s a truism in today’s hyper-connected world that people go where the jobs are, more so now than ever before. But what happens when your job suddenly can be done from anywhere?


The 19th century ushered in the first and second Industrial Revolutions that saw more and more people move to urban environments, precisely because that’s where the jobs were. In the United States, the rise of manufacturing opened a new world of employment possibilities, pushing people from the farm to the factory. It’s a push that in one way or another continued into the 20th and 21st centuries. The result is seen today in the population densities that cram big cities from coast to coast, border to border.

According to the United Nations’ World Urbanization Prospects report and the website Our World in Data, the world crossed over in 2007. That’s the fist year the number of people living in urban areas rose above the number living in rural areas (3.35 billion versus 3.33 billion). In the United States, around 82.3% of the population lives in urban areas, according to the World Bank. Growth trajectories project a steady increase in urbanization as far out as 2050. 

Today, the millennial generation is changing the character of urbanization by spearheading the live-work-play ethos. This generation prefers to skirt the traffic jams and live and play near where they work. The goal to have it all close by has given rise to the mixed-use building concept that puts everything – your living options, your entertainment choices and your shopping – all in one convenient location, which preferably, is near your workplace. 

It also means we are all living closer to each other in smaller and smaller spaces. That seemed to suit a lot of people just fine. Then the COVID-19 pandemic happened, and all of sudden, none of that seemed fine at all.

The pandemic resulted in shelter-in-place orders that forced people to live 24 hours a day in their homes while also working from their home offices, if they had one, or their kitchen tables if they didn’t. The very idea of needing to go somewhere else to do your job turned out to be not so much of a necessity after all. In just a few months, priorities appear to have shifted. Now, many of us seem to crave space, the great outdoors, and we seem to be split 50-50 on whether we want to continue working from home, wherever we choose that to be, or prefer an official office setting, mostly for the socializing.

There is little doubt that the world has changed as a result of the pandemic. Most experts are puzzling on whether that change will last and just what our cities will look like as a result. The fact is, though, that change was already in play before COVID-19 hit.

My company focuses on nine major U.S. markets like Orlando, Miami, Atlanta and Philadelphia. We talk to industry and political leaders to understand the issues their communities face to gauge the direction in which they are moving. Today, everyone is talking about the pandemic’s impact on the retail sector, for example. Yet, e-commerce was already a thing before COVID-19. In 2019, a record 9,800 stores were shuttered, according to a Bloomberg report, with 25,000 closures expected in 2020 due to the coronavirus impact, the report said, citing Coresight Research. Yes, that’s a devastating impact, but the pandemic really has only accelerated the pace of implementation. It pushed more people online immediately, but those people were likely headed there anyway.

Many of the leaders we have spoken with during the pandemic agree that retail and commercial real estate was already undergoing a slowdown as industrial space to accommodate last-mile delivery for the Amazons of the world was booming. Many expect this trend will continue.

More importantly, what the pandemic has done has caused a rethink of priorities among individuals and it is this impact that will likely shape the post-pandemic city. Living in lockdown awakened people to the “smallness” of their space, forced on them by a combination of convenience and higher and higher housing prices in big cities. The median listing price for a home in Miami-Dade, for example, was $465,050 in May compared to the average U.S. listing price of $329,950, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Interestingly, population growth in Miami-Dade was already slowing as more people moved out, with escalating living costs among the factors. With the pandemic highlighting the risks of living so close together, will more people decide that farther away is not only cheaper, but safer?

Big city living will change in the post-pandemic world as social distancing forces “people places” like gyms and restaurants to accommodate lingering fears from the virus. Tens of thousands of small businesses have already closed down for good, clearly altering the very unique characteristics of cities that attracted people in the first place.

The biggest impact, however, will be on how – and where – jobs are done. Remote working is hear to stay in some form or another. Like the industrial revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries, people will always go where the jobs are. For many, those jobs will now be done from home, which means that home can be virtually anywhere. It creates choice like never before, and this will dramatically alter the character, although not likely the course, of urbanization. That’s an important difference. 

Big cities have seen the ebbs and flows of population growth before and will likely see them again. Through it all, they have more often thrived than not. The post-pandemic city may look and feel a bit different – the way condo units are built, for example, may change to accommodate working from home, while adding elements like air filters to battle any future virus outbreak – and there may even be a greater push to the suburbs in the short term. Overall, however, continued urbanization likely will remain on the cards. If we’re lucky, there may just be a little more distance between all of us.


Florida’s phase 2 reopening and what it means for South Florida

Florida’s phase 2 reopening and what it means for South Florida

By: Beatrice Silva 

2 min read June 2020 On June 3, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced his plans to transition the majority of the state into the second phase of its recovery plan. However, the three southeast counties hit hardest by COVID-19 — Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach — will not be included in the reopening. 


 “We’ll work with the three southeast Florida counties to see how they’re developing and whether they want to move into phase 2,” DeSantis said during a news conference in Orlando on June 3. “They’re on a little bit of a different schedule.”


Gov. DeSantis will allow the three southeast counties to enter phase 2 under certain circumstances. The county mayors or county administrators will have to seek approval to enter phase 2 with a written request. Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner and County Administrator Verdenia Baker wasted no time sending their request letter to DeSantis. 


“Palm Beach County is ready to go into ‘phase 2,” said Kerner at a news conference on Friday afternoon. “But we want to do it with some particular carve-outs that are necessary for the unique nature of Palm Beach County.” The county’s public officials are waiting for approval from Gov. DeSantis. 


As for Miami-Dade, their previous reopening date was pushed back by protests against police brutality. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez lifted the countywide curfew on June 8, and approved the reopening of gyms and fitness centers under Amendment 2 to Miami-Dade County Emergency Order 23-20. Although the city isn’t officially included in the initial phase 2 reopening date, Gimenez says he is working with the state on reopening locations very soon. 


Upon approval, restaurants may allow bar-top seating with appropriate social distancing. Bars will be able to operate at a 50 percent capacity inside and full capacity outside. Retail stores are going to be allowed to operate at full capacity and entertainment venues like movie theaters and bowling alleys will be able to welcome back guests at a 50 percent capacity. Residents who do decide to venture out will still have to follow CDC guidelines like wearing a mask, social distancing, and frequently washing their hands.


Although the north and south regions of Florida are on different opening schedules. State universities will have to submit their blueprints by Friday. The State University System of  Board of Governors recommends things like social distancing, disinfecting, face masks and student’s desks being as far away from one another as possible. School districts on the other hand, will be given the final say on their own social distancing protocols. It is expected that students will have a much different learning experience upon returning to the classroom. 


“We have a great opportunity to get back on good footing,” DeSantis said. “I know our kids have been in difficult circumstances. … Getting back to the school year is going to be really, really important to the well-being of our kids.”


Broward County school districts are in the process of surveying parents to gauge what they would like their child’s school to look like this coming fall. “We will have schools open. We will have teachers in schools. We will have students in schools … including hybrid models that some parents are rightfully demanding,” said Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public School, at Wednesday’s school board committee meeting. 


Within the past four months, there have been 70,971 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 2,877 related deaths in Florida, according to the Florida Health. 


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Technology professionals curious about Gwinnett’s Peachtree Corners

Technology professionals curious about Gwinnett’s Peachtree Corners

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read June 2020 — Techies, entrepreneurs and business owners throughout the Peach State and beyond are curious to explore the possibilities found in Gwinnett County’s newest and largest city. Officially incorporated in 2012, the city of Peachtree Corners and it’s Curiosity Lab, a publicly funded economic development initiative, is drawing the attention of tech-related professionals looking to test their ideas and projects at the lab’s 1.5 mile autonomous vehicle testing track and 25,000-square-foot innovation center.  



Peachtree Corners, which boasts a growing population of more than 43,000 residents, is quickly reaping the fruits of its calculated investments in the tech sector, while simultaneously testing and perfecting the future of smart city technologies.

In May, the city announced the launch of a fleet of the world’s first tele-operated e-scooters to operate on public streets. Technology companies Tortoise and Go X came to Curiosity Lab to perfect their vision of offering an e-scooter that could, through the use of Tortoise’s remote tele-operators, respond to a customer’s call to action, or reposition itself to a parking spot. Peachtree Corners has been working with the two tech companies to revolutionize city e-scooter mobility, while solving complications related to finding an e-scooter and their return to home base for appropriate overnight parking and charging. In other words, no more e-scooters left haphazardly in the middle of a sidewalk because they’ll park themselves. 

The e-scooters will operate in the city’s Technology Park Atlanta, a 500-acre technology park with more than 7,000 employees that is also home to Curiosity Lab. The tele-operated e-scooters will be available for use by the general public. The e-scooters’ initial pilot will run for six months and marks the first time that tele-operated e-scooters are deployed on public streets.

“We are excited to showcase this innovative technology,” Mayor Mike Mason said, according to a city press release. “It’s another opportunity for the city to look beyond traditional transportation and seek innovative ways to improve mobility. We invite our citizens and the business community to see and experience this new technology.” 

Tortoise and Go X’s e-scooters are the latest vehicles to roll through Curiosity Lab’s autonomous vehicle testing track. Last fall, Olli, the self-driving shuttle designed and built by Local Motors, began operating along the city’s 1.5-mile testing track, which offers companies a facility to test emerging technologies in a real-world environment. 

“An important goal for us was to ensure that residents can enjoy the convenience of using e-scooters, right here in Peachtree Corners,” said City Manager Brian Johnson, according to a city press release. “As a reflection of our commitment to making cities smarter, we didn’t hesitate to partner with Tortoise to launch the first-ever fleet of self-driving e-scooters for public use. We are extremely pleased to be a partner in this innovative and world-changing technology.” 

In March, Curiosity Lab’s autonomous vehicle testing track and smart city laboratory won the transportation category in the third annual IDC Smart Cities North America Awards (SCNAA) for its connected and autonomous vehicles project. “Curiosity Lab is a unique economic development investment that helps advance new technologies and grow the employment base of the city,” said Curiosity Lab’s Executive Director Betsy Plattenburg, according to a city press release. “We have had interest in testing from both startups and Fortune 500 companies,” she said.

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Peach State leaders analyze current market opportunities

Peach State leaders analyze current market opportunities

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read June 2020 — Virtually every sector of the economy has been pinched, crushed, or depleted by the initial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Months into the “new normal,” industries and businesses have had to adapt operations to cope with COVID-19-related challenges. While many businesses remain embattled by the current economic cycle, innovation and opportunity are beginning to rise from the initial shocks of the novel coronavirus.

 In the Peach State, a region known for its sound business environment and one of the first states to reopen its economy, leaders across economic sectors in Atlanta are analyzing the opportunities and possible innovations created as a result of the virus outbreak. For the legal industry, an industry already comfortable with remote work prior to COVID-19, technology is at the forefront of the evolution of the sector’s business model and best practices. “I believe that remote depositions, virtual oral arguments, and maybe even some virtual trials are here to stay,” Holland & Knight Immediate Past Executive Partner J. Allen Maines told Focus: Atlanta. “These new technologies are easy to arrange and the cost-benefit analysis is pretty compelling for implementation, although It may still be necessary to have an in-person interview in order to size up the credibility of key witnesses. The virus has forced law firms to accelerate their adoption of technology and training,” he said. As businesses and law firms embrace the benefits of balancing in-person and remote work, it is likely the need for office space will change as well. “Currently, law firms can do everything electronically and remotely. I would expect law firms will not use the amount of office space that was customary in the past,” Maines said.   

The coronavirus landscape may possibly have positive residual effects related to work-life balance for lawyers and the way in which law firms think about pro bono work. “Hopefully, one permanent change will be a focus on the well-being of lawyers, which has been real positive during this time,” Maines said. “Another positive that has emerged has been an even greater pro bono assistance to the underserved and vulnerable communities. A lot of our clients have employees in the gig and hospitality industry and it has been rewarding to help them get through this period.”

Similarly, for Atlanta’s construction sector, some projects were halted as a result of the initial COVID-19-related shocks, while other projects continued a successful trajectory. “The COVID-19 crisis was completely unpredictable, which has caused significant disruption to the economy,” DPR Construction Business Unit Leader Chris Bontrager told Focus: Atlanta. “We have continued to see success in the healthcare sector through March and April but some of the private commercial work has been put on hold. So far, we have weathered the storm very well,” he said. DPR has been running multiple scenarios to account for the current volatile economic cycle. “No one knows the true impact of COVID-19. Relatively speaking, the Southeast is doing well. The market was very strong prior to COVID-19 and our industry was deemed essential from day one in the Georgia market. We have had some projects that we were unable to start but we have not had any ongoing projects that were shut down,” Bontrager said. “It feels like most contractors will maintain a positive year for 2020 due to a strong backlog going into this recession and the construction community won’t truly feel the recession until the first half of 2021. If the project owners move forward with current plans, we will finish the year at or just below our current business goals.”


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Spotlight On: Michael Simon, Executive Director, Boynton Beach CRA

Spotlight On: Michael Simon, Executive Director, Boynton Beach CRA

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read May 2020Affordable housing, business and economic development are issues at the heart of every buoyant city. Michael Simon, executive director of the Boynton Beach CRA, goes over the different projects and initiatives in place for the city to continue its growth despite the COVID-19 outbreak.


What is Boynton Beach CRA’s contribution to Palm Beach?

The Boynton Beach CRA is tasked with community development, whether that is in the form of affordable and workforce housing, business and economic development, or physical redevelopment, such as mixed-use projects,  streets, parks and sidewalks. For the last 15-plus years, the CRA has been heavily focused on physical and economic redevelopment, as well as affordable housing. That has taken various forms, including business promotion events and assisting with the development of a $70-million, 354-unit mixed-use project with commercial space on Ocean Avenue. Recently, we’ve done a lot on affordable housing. We have 123 units going up that should open toward January 2021. There is another ongoing project with the Centennial Management Corporation for another mixed-use project in the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard redevelopment corridor.


Our business development activities have intensified due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but we have always offered commercial improvement grants focused on our businesses and matching grants for façade improvements, interior buildout and rent-reimbursement programs to assist businesses in the first year of their lease. Our matching grants go as far as 50 percent of their lease rent, up to a maximum of $1,750. We pumped several million dollars over the last two years into those programs and have assisted 85 businesses since 2015. 


How has the Downtown area benefited from these initiatives?

The CRA district, which extends along the federal highway corridor, lacks the commercial spine that Delray Beach, Lake Worth and West Palm Beach have. Boynton has a small main street called Ocean Avenue that has a mix of existing residential and commercial units. All of the infill redevelopment projects have been focused on the main hub corners. We are focusing our efforts on recreating our Downtown in the sense that people are used to thinking of one. 


How have your affordable housing efforts been received?

We have been really blessed on different fronts. First of all, finding the land. The CRA made major land investments in 2005-6, one of which was purchasing 8 acres on North Seacrest Boulevard. That provided an opportunity for single-family and multifamily space. We built 21 homes in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of South Palm Beach County and the  Boynton Beach Faith-based CDC on half of those acres. Affordable multifamily rental apartments are being built on the remaining 4 acres. Like most towns, we have a higher need for affordable rentals and ownership properties. We showed creativity in those projects as we distanced from the usual use of down payment funding, resorting to land acquisition instead and turning it over as the subsidy to the nonprofit developer to build the housing. The rental side is a difficult market to get into for affordable builders. It is hard for them to find financing.


What local partnerships have you put in place to meet your objectives?

We have a good relationship with CareerSource of Palm Beach County. We have relied on them during our job fairs and to assist with our placements. They are a big player in Palm Beach County and the Business Development Board has an excellent relationship with them as well. South Tech, an academic institution, provides marine technology degrees and certifications, as well as for plumbing, automotive and electrical. We are looking to partner with them more in the future through their relationship with the city and feed those graduates and school alumni into these larger construction projects within the CRA district. 


How has the CRA reacted to the COVID-19 landscape?

The CRA took immediate action just prior to the shutdown and remains active during the pandemic. We are reaching out personally to our grant recipients and local businesses to maintain a line of communication as the economic activity reopens to remain attentive to their needs, address their fears and assist them in any way possible. We designed and implemented a Small Business Disaster Relief Forgivable Loan program, totaling $500,000 for maximum loans of $10,000 each. If the loan is spent on eligible payroll, utilities and inventory for their business within one year of the loan date, we can turn the forgivable loan into a grant, provided the required justifying documentation is presented. We released the funding on April 23 and by April 24, we received  about 100 applications and issued the funds in less than a week. 


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How to shake the COVID-19 blues in South Florida

How to shake the COVID-19 blues in South Florida

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read May 2020For the better half of a year, the majority of news across platforms, watercooler talk and virtual meeting conversations has revolved around the coronavirus pandemic, its impact on the local and global economy, and what the “new normal” may look like. As a result, many South Floridians, like their counterparts elsewhere, are likely suffering COVID-19 fatigue. As South Florida begins its reopening process, here are a few positives from the tri-county area to think about heading into the Memorial Day weekend. 


Miami-Dade County

Fun in the virtual sun: The city of Miami Beach wants to bring the tropical vibes to travelers’ living rooms as they plan future vacations and travel. The new social campaign, “From Miami Beach, With Love,” created by the Miami Beach Visitor and Convention Authority, is designed to deliver the city’s experiences to audiences from the comfort and safety of their own homes. Travel lovers can enter to win different Miami Beach experiences as they contemplate their next South Florida visit. The campaign also features specials and discounts to promote local small businesses in the area. Visit @ExperienceMiamiBeach on Facebook, Instagram and @EMiamiBeach on Twitter for a chance to win and support local Miami Beach businesses. 

Shopping!: For those wanting to help stimulate the local economy or take a stroll through one of the most prestigious fashion centers in the region, the Bal Harbour Shops is open for business. Following all CDC guidelines, Bal Harbour Shops will implement increased safety precautions to protect customers, retailers and employees, according to its management team. In keeping with Miami-Dade County and Bal Harbour Village ordinances, retail stores and indoor restaurant seating occupancy will be limited to 50% and salons will limit occupancy to 25%. Bal Harbour Shops will be open Monday–Saturday from 11:00am–10:00pm and Sunday, 12:00pm-6:00pm, though individual store hours may vary.

Broward County

Largest mall in the county welcomes visitors: Sawgrass Mills, the largest mall in Broward County, is officially open for business. The mall will offer masks, and signage has been placed to account for social distancing. Mall hours will be altered to 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday through Saturday and 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday until further notice. Simon, which operates Sawgrass Mills, also announced the reopening of other malls such as Coral Square, Dadeland, The Falls, Miami International and the Florida Keys Outlet Marketplace. 

Palm Beach County

As Palm Beach County begins the reopening of its economy, it has its eye set on providing extra help to those small businesses hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. This week, the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners approved the CARES Restart Business Grants Program to accelerate the reopening of businesses hardest hit by the outbreak. The $60-million Business Restart Program uses a portion of the county’s $261-million allocation from the Federal CARES Act approved by Congress. The BCC has dedicated $50 million toward businesses with 25 or fewer employees and $10 million toward businesses with greater than 25 employees. The online application is expected to launch on Friday, May 22, and will be processed on a first come, first eligible basis, according to the county.

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Spotlight On: John Aneralla, Mayor, Town of Huntersville

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read May 2020 Developing a sense of community through a revamped downtown is the overall concept that Huntersville is working to materialize. Mayor of Huntersville John Aneralla shares the details of his three priority pillars: enact a 2040 Growth Plan, accelerate infrastructure development and bolster the town’s school capacity. 

What are your primary goals for your recently inaugurated third term (November 2019) as mayor of Huntersville?

There are three main goals. First, establishing and enacting our 2040 Land Use Plan. It is a refresh of the guidelines relating to our town’s growth objectives and how to achieve them. Second, continue to invest in and accelerate infrastructure development. That includes greenways and sidewalks. Another example is our Town Hall, which was obsolete the day it was built 20 years ago and the town has outgrown it. One of the things we have been pushing for in the last few years is to develop Huntersville’s Downtown infrastructure and optimize the town’s Downtown assets. Third, we are severely lacking in school capacity. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools system has no planned new school funding for North Mecklenburg. We need to figure out a way to stress our need for more schools sooner rather than later. 


What are the short-term objectives for Huntersville?

The trick is to make sure we keep things as affordable as possible so people can actually live, work and play here. We are working on increasing the number of people who can work and live here, and the numbers are improving. Within the overall scheme of the town, the big focus from the governmental point of view is building out the infrastructure. Considering the rapid growth that we have witnessed over the last 25 years, the infrastructure component is lagging behind. Since 2015, we have been pulling out all the stops to accelerate growth projects, and even more so since 2019. 


One area that we are most excited about is shedding the poor reputation of our Downtown. Part of this plan is to revamp Main Street. We are widening the road and getting rid of some old buildings and houses to start the improvement. Highway 115, our north/south route through the Downtown, is the only way people can get north and south. Building out our Main Street, which is east of the 115, will relieve a lot of the pressure on that one particular road. As a result of building out the infrastructure, developers are noticing that there are going to be multiple routes to get in and out. The town is investing between $18 million to $20 million, which is attracting much of the developer interest in our Downtown. 


What are the main challenges inherent to the goals Huntersville has set for itself?

Our No. 1 job as a government is the safety of our people. We are facing difficulties in recruiting police and law enforcement. We are looking to be more creative. We’ve offered bonuses to our employees for referrals and we are examining changing the pay scale. We are undermanned as an entity of 65,000 people. Despite the shortfall, Huntersville consistently scores as one of the safest places in North Carolina. Our officers are doing a great job, albeit not with as many resources as we would like to bring in.


What are the town’s plans in terms of talent attraction?

That’s a question that’s on everyone’s mind. We have made a commendable effort to connect both the local business and education communities. We have the Merancas Campus of the Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) and UNC Charlotte is close by. We are also integrating our high schools in this effort. The ultimate goal is to connect high-school seniors with jobs, particularly relating to light manufacturing. Huntersville is home to top-tier, high-tech companies, such as a 3D printing of metals manufacturer. We want to bring the Career & Technical Education (CTE) teachers and kids to the businesses to give them hands-on experience and for the schools to integrate the skills inherent to such businesses into their curriculum. We are working closely with the Lake Norman Economic Development Chamber (EDC) on this initiative. 


What is the 2020 outlook for Huntersville?

We have a diverse business community. Although some sectors will be hit more severely by COVID-19 than others, we have a fairly broad business base, including a 3D manufacturing company, a fruit-netting manufacturer, even a NASCAR team. Money will be slower to come by in the short term like everywhere else, but if one wants to be close to Charlotte, with a business-friendly community at less cost, Huntersville is the place to be. 


We are also looking forward to providing a sense of community by offering a walkable, playable and livable Downtown. Finally, we are thinking ahead. Conservative projections estimate the town will grow to at least 85,000 people over the next 8-10 years, with all the inherent adjustments such a population surge implies.


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Pennsylvania ready for a partial reopening; Philly, New Jersey not there yet

Pennsylvania ready for a partial reopening; Philly, New Jersey not there yet

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read May 2020 — Along the East Coast, states are phasing in the reopening of their respective economies after weeks of economic inactivity as a result of the coronavirus. In the Northeast, Pennsylvania is the latest state to begin the battle of balancing public health and economic recovery by partially opening 24 counties along the northwest and north-central regions of the state beginning Friday. Most notable during this process, Philadelphia County, a major economic driver for the state and its most populous county, will remain shut down. Across the Delaware Valley, New Jersey remains in a health battle as Gov. Phil Murphy extended his shelter in place order for another 30 days.

“Over the past two months, Pennsylvanians in every corner of our commonwealth have acted collectively to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Gov. Tom Wolf said in a press release. “We have seen our new case numbers stabilize statewide and while we still have areas where outbreaks are occurring, we also have many areas that have few or no new cases.” The 24 counties reopening on Friday are Bradford, Cameron, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, Montour, Northumberland, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Union, Venango and Warren. These counties were deemed ready to move to a reopening because of low per-capita case counts, the ability to conduct contact tracing and testing, and appropriate population density to contain community spread, according to the governor’s office.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney says he’s “not going to sacrifice people’s lives” in reopening the city too soon during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to local news sources. Kenney said there is no timetable as to when the city will open. “You can’t set a timeline. The timeline is what the virus dictates. We certainly have targeted things we’d like to see happen, but unless the data indicates that it’s safe, then it’s not safe,” Kenney said, according to CBS 3 Philly. 

Gov. Wolf urged citizens to adhere to all social distancing and health guidelines. “Every human-to-human contact is a chance for the virus to spread, so more contacts mean a higher likelihood of an outbreak,” Wolf said. “If we see an outbreak occur in one of the communities that has been moved to yellow, we will need to take swift action, and revert to the red category until the new case count falls again. So, Pennsylvanians living in a county that has been moved to the yellow category should continue to strongly consider the impact of their actions.”

In New Jersey, Gov. Murphy erred on the side of caution, as the state continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. “I want to make it absolutely clear that this action does not mean that we are seeing anything in the data which would pause our path forward, and it should not be interpreted by anyone to mean we are going to be tightening any of the restrictions currently in place. These declarations, unless extended, expire after 30 days,” Murphy said. 

No formal timeline was given as to when the economy will reopen. In the meantime, Murphy urged residents to continue to observe all social distancing and health guidelines. “If this extension of the public health emergency signals one thing, it is this: we can’t give up one bit on the one thing that we know that is working in this fight, social distancing,” Murphy said. “Remember, in the absence of either a vaccine, or proven therapeutics for COVID-19 specifically, our only cure is social distancing, covering our faces, washing our hands with soap etc. And we know, by the way, that the effort of millions in this state is working. We have made enormous strides, folks, unlike any American state. Let’s keep it that way.”


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