Bucs primed for success this year in the Bay

Bucs primed for success this year in the Bay

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read September 2020 There were points this summer where it seemed impossible to fathom how the National Football League would be able to reorganize itself to work in a pandemic landscape. Fast forward to present day and the league has been able to return in a resounding fashion, with telecasts like Week 1’s New Orleans Saints versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers attracting an average audience of 25.85 million viewers, which FOX credited as its most watched telecast since Super Bowl LIV in February 2020. And while this game may have ended in a loss for the Buccaneers, there is a lot to be excited about in Tampa Bay for this upcoming season on and off the field. 

March 2020 marked a momentous moment for longtime fans of the Bucs when the announcement was made that six-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Tom Brady would be taking his talents to Tampa Bay. Brady’s Buccaneers jersey quickly became the league’s highest selling football jersey prior to the start of the 2020 season. With Brady at the helm, it wasn’t long before multiple big name free agents fixed their sights on the Bucs franchise and were quickly added to the roster, including tight end Rob Gronkowski, linebacker Jason Pierre Paul, running back LeSean McCoy and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. The addition of Tom Brady and increased talent level on the overall team has ultimately resulted in financial benefits as well. The Tampa Bay franchise, which in 2018 was valued at an estimated $2 billion, is now worth an estimated $2.3 billion.  

This reinvigorated roster has also reignited the fanbase for Tampa Bay’s football team who have not seen a postseason victory or success since their sole Super Bowl win in 2002. The team, which ranked 30th in fan attendance in 2019 with an average of 51,898, now faces a new challenge, but this time, it’s not due to lack of ticket sales. Although the return of football may have returned some sense of normalcy to people’s daily lives, there are still the constant reminders of the current pandemic that the world finds itself in. For football, one of those reminders is the limited capacity of fans allowed at stadiums across the league. The Bucs, who saw a surge in season tickets sales for this season, have now also had to come to terms with what these crowd restrictions will mean for the near-term future. This has resulted in the team making the decision to hold their first two home games with no fans in attendance, much to the dismay of Gov. Ron DeSantis who hoped these games would serve as an example of how Tampa Bay is prepared to host this season’s Super Bowl. 

“I really want to be able to show that Tampa is going to be a great place to host the Super Bowl,” DeSantis told the Tampa Bay Times. “Showing this community is ready to host a great Super Bowl, having some fans there would’ve been a good first step. It’s not where we need to be.” The Bucs are currently looking toward a tentative reintroduction of some fans to Raymond James Stadium in their game against the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 18.

Nonetheless, residents of Tampa Bay can take comfort in knowing that the region they call home will also be home to this year’s Super Bowl. Tampa Bay has, seemingly overnight, become one of the football meccas in the nation. 

Tampa Bay’s ingenuity and innovation in face of adversity highlighted second annual launch conference

Tampa Bay’s ingenuity and innovation in face of adversity highlighted second annual launch conference

By: Max Crampton Thomas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

August 21, 2020

Tampa Bay’s economic resilience in the face of unprecedented challenges and innovation stemming from the pandemic highlighted the launch of the second edition of Invest: Tampa Bay 2020.

 

Tampa Bay, FL – In this time of uncertainty, it has never been more important to showcase the strength and overall resilience of the local community and economy. On Thursday, integrated media platform Capital Analytics provided an opportunity to shed light on the challenges and opportunities in the region as it launched its 156-page analysis Invest: Tampa Bay 2020 with a virtual launch conference held via Zoom Webinar.

The 2020 edition of Invest: Tampa Bay highlights the region of Tampa Bay, including both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, as well as a special focus chapter on the city of Clearwater. The in-depth and well-researched economic analysis also highlights business opportunities that exist for investors, entrepreneurs and innovators within the Tampa Bay region despite the harsh economic climate resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the opportunities spotlighted throughout the publication include Tampa Bay’s healthcare market that has made significant strides to establish this region as one of the preeminent medical hubs in Florida. The region’s real estate market is also covered in great detail as new developments continue to rise from the ground despite major roadblocks caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a true testament to the thoughtful and strategic planning by the sector’s leaders. The publication also dives into the banking and finance sector, which has remained strong while also aiding the local business community through this unprecedented time. 

The launch conference was the first that Capital Analytics has held in virtual forum, and by all it was a resounding success, reflecting the get-it-done character of the region. “When I think of our global readership and the Tampa Bay business community’s lean-in attitude over the past couple of months, it’s a testament to the ingenuity and collaborative spirit of the Tampa Bay community,” said Capital Analytics’ CEO Abby Melone in her opening remarks. “Rather than shelter in place and do nothing, we sheltered in place and did plenty to promote community and push our business forward despite the challenges. Businesses across the Tampa Bay region are being innovative and embracing technology as they pivot from a pre-pandemic to a post-pandemic world.”  The event featured three robust panel discussions and ended with a thoughtful closing keynote speech by Pinellas County Commissioner Kenneth Welch.

All three panels addressed the current economic climate as well as prevailing themes currently dominating the Tampa Bay region’s economy: finance and banking in the time of a pandemic, adaptation and transformation for the legal sector, and innovation within the business community stemming from the current crisis. Gregory Kadet of UBS Global Wealth Management U.S., Terry Igo of the Tampa Bay Trust Company, Scott Perry of AmeriLife Group and Travis Jennings of Finance Cape all participated in the panel, “Making the right financial choices amid economic uncertainty.” Rita Lowman of Pilot Bank moderated. The second panel, “Adaptation for legal professionals in the wake of the pandemic,” featured Marie Tomassi of Trenam Law, William Schifino of Gunster, Michael Lundy of Older, Lundy and Alvarez and Alan Higbee of Shutts and Bowen. The moderator was Kevin Johnson of Johnson Jackson. The final panel, “Crisis breeds innovation: What this means for the business community,” consisted of John Couris of Tampa General Hospital, John Johannessen of AdventHealth and Douglas Wright of Holland & Knight. The moderator for this panel was Christopher Bowen of RD Management. 

Over 450 high-level guests and officials from Tampa Bay’s key industries and economic institutions tuned into the event via Zoom Webinar. For those who missed the event or would live to revisit some of the highlights from the day, please visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=le35fKJv4Lo&feature=youtu.be

“The value of Invest: Tampa Bay is that it brings us together to listen, to learn, to collaborate and to build a stronger, more resilient and prosperous Tampa Bay,” remarked Commissioner Welch in his closing keynote speech. 

***

About Capital Analytics & Invest: Tampa Bay

Capital Analytics is an integrated media platform that produces in-depth business intelligence through its annual print and digital economic reviews, high-impact conferences and events and top-level interviews via its video platform, Invest: Insights.

Invest: Tampa Bay is an in-depth economic review of the key issues facing Tampa Bay’s economy, featuring the exclusive insights of prominent industry leaders. Invest: Tampa Bay is produced with two goals in mind: 1) to provide comprehensive investment knowledge on the Tampa Bay region to local, national and international investors, and 2) to promote Tampa Bay as a place to invest and do business.

The book conducts a deep dive into the top economic sectors in the county, including real estate, construction, utilities and infrastructure, transportation and aviation, banking and finance, legal, healthcare, education, and arts, culture and tourism. The publication is compiled from insights collected from more than 200 economic leaders, sector insiders, political leaders and heads of important institutions. It analyzes the leading challenges facing the market, and uncovers emerging opportunities for investors, entrepreneurs and innovators.

For more information, contact: 

Max Crampton-Thomas, Content Manager, 305-523-9708 Ext: 233
Adaptation, innovation are the new normal for legal professionals

Adaptation, innovation are the new normal for legal professionals

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read August 2020 In the span of just a couple of months, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted, in some form or fashion, every sector of the economy in the United States. In fact, Dori Foster-Morales, current president for the Florida Bar, was recently quoted as saying, “Everyone’s lives have changed, and anyone who says it hasn’t just doesn’t get it. I look at it like we’re in a tunnel, and we have to figure out a way to get out of it.” 

The idea of adaptation is nothing new for the legal sector as over the last decade it has seen an uptick in its professionals embracing the benefits newer technologies and innovations can bring to their operations. With the onslaught of challenges caused by the pandemic, it has become a necessity for legal professionals to quickly embrace innovation and truly adapt to an uncertain landscape. 

One of the most significant changes for legal professionals, and most business sectors for that matter, was the swift adaptation that had to happen to a work from home environment. While some in the legal world may have viewed this as just a temporary measure during this time of pandemic, the reality is beginning to set in that this may not be just a temporary solution for some. In an article posted by Law.com, it discusses how the idea of remote work as it pertains to the legal profession may have seemed like a foreign concept even a year ago but now has become a viable and workable option for the future thanks to technology platforms like Zoom. Video conferencing platforms have quickly become the norm for legal teams to collaborate, communicate and in some cases even conduct depositions using this technology. Technologies like Docusign, which had already been in use by the legal world, have expanded their solutions to include options like online notarization. While this technology had been available prior to COVID-19, the forced adaptation caused by work from home measures has seen the legal sector begin a transformation that, prior to the pandemic, may have taken years and is now coming to fruition in mere months. 

Technological embrace has not been the only adaptation from the legal community, as this time has given firms the opportunity to evaluate their teams, understand their clients’ changing needs and ultimately refocus some of their practice groups to engage and prepare to handle issues stemming from the pandemic. In an interview with Abovethelaw.com, Mark W. Brennan, lead innovation partner at Hogan Lovells, spoke on this type of adaptation as well as the opportunity to continue to strengthen communication efforts between a firm and its clients. “Communication throughout this pandemic is absolutely critical — and so is the strength of your culture,” Brennan said. “We are keeping a steady flow of information to our clients and our people to explain how our response is evolving. These efforts include keeping our clients informed on the latest developments affecting their business, as well as keeping our people informed about our firm and ways to stay safe.”

In the Tampa Bay region, a variety of firms have taken heed of this opportunity for adaptation, with some already refocusing parts of their practice to prepare for what they are imagining could be an influx of demand for legal services as it pertains to bankruptcy, business restructurings, M&A activity and other challenges associated with the pandemic. 

To learn more about how the legal sector is adapting to this changing environment, register now for the Invest: Tampa Bay 2020 Virtual Launch Conference. The conference, which takes place on Aug. 20 at 11:30 a.m., will feature three robust panels, including a legal panel moderated by Kevin Johnson, managing partner of Johnson Jackson, with panelists Marie Tomassi, managing shareholder and president of Trenam Law; Michael Lundy, managing shareholder of Older, Lundy and Alvarez; Bill Schifino, managing partner of Gunster; and Alan Higbee, managing partner of Shutts & Bowen. 

 

To learn more, visit:
 
Making the right financial choices in economic uncertainty

Making the right financial choices in economic uncertainty

By: Max Crampton Thomas

2 min read July 2020 To say the least, the COVID-19 pandemic has been nothing short of an unexpected wildfire to peoples’ health and financial stability. While the onus can’t be placed on the general public for not being prepared for something they didn’t expect, the past four months have proven that personal prosperity in the future will rely on preparing for the worst and expecting the unexpected. Coming on the heels of President Trump’s most recent address on the COVID-19 pandemic where he appeared to change tack and was quoted as saying, “It will get worse before it gets better,” it has never been more vital for individuals to make sound financial decisions as they are now faced with an economically uncertain future. Invest: explores some of the best practices for safe-guarding personal finances in the current economic climate.

 

Establish a relationship with your banking institution

There was a time when having an established relationship with your bank and a banker was a common practice, whether it was personal or business-related. Fast forward to 2020 and what was once commonplace has become more of a rarity, especially as it pertains to people’s personal finances. This in large part due to the ease of fintech and mobile banking technologies that have eliminated the need to visit a brick and mortar banking branch. Now with certain aspects of the CARES Act reaching their deadlines with no extension currently in place, like the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payments that are scheduled to run out this week, it would be advisable to visit your banking institution and continue to foster that relationship. If you don’t have a bank for your personal finances, now is as good a time as any to explore the variety of banking options available in the Tampa Bay region and find one that will best suit your personal financial needs. 

Create a budget and stick to it 

According to Forbes, “about half of Americans reported they had three months of expenses in savings for emergencies” while almost “40% said they would struggle to cover a $400 expense in cash.” In times of economic growth and prosperity, it is always advisable to establish a budget that allows you to tuck away some money in the case of unforeseen circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic is the most significant unexpected circumstance in recent years. For those who did not already have an established budget prior to the pandemic, the last four months may have been quite difficult to push through. With no end date on the horizon for this crisis, it is now crucial to establish a livable budget with an emphasis on intentional spending and a more frugal lifestyle. 

Find ways to cut back unneeded expenses

Before COVID-19, Tampa Bay was in line for another record-breaking year in terms of economic growth, which set a positive tone that permeated throughout the local community and people’s spending habits. Now faced with a year of economic pullback, it is time to reassess how you are spending your money and find the areas where you can cut back. An article by Forbes discusses understanding your “spending triggers” and addressing them head on. This can be in the form of recognizing that you don’t need to spend money on the daily coffee from your local coffee shop and instead brew your own at home, or stopping a habit of needless spending on e-commerce hubs stemming from boredom. One of the easiest expenses to cut back on is dining out and takeout. The U.S. Bureau of Labor reported that in 2018, consumers spent an annual average of $3,459 on these options. With a large majority of businesses still offering work from home to their employees, it is the perfect time to sharpen those culinary skills. 

Continue to reinvest in yourself

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported an unemployment rate of 10.4% for the state of Florida in June 2020. This number can be directly attributed to the fallout from the economic challenges that the pandemic has presented to all business sectors. While there is no way to 100% recession-proof yourself as it pertains to job security, and ultimately financial security, you can continue to make yourself as valuable an asset as possible by strengthening your skill sets and acquiring new ones. This may be in the form of continuing education, picking up a new skill set in your free time or even just pushing yourself the extra mile at your job. There is no way to be immune from layoffs and furloughs, but reinvesting in yourself and your work can make that decision a lot harder for a company if it ever comes time. 

These practices toward making sound financial decisions don’t just apply to individuals, as most companies have also applied these ideas to their operations in order to acclimate to the current economic conditions. For example, a variety of businesses in the region have leveraged their relationships with their banking institutions to help them with PPP loan applications and acquiring any additional funding that is available to them. Businesses have reorganized their budgets and found ways to cut back unneeded expenses, which unfortunately has sometimes come in the form of laying off portions of their workforce. Finally, almost every business has had to reinvest in their operations and in some ways reinvent themselves to continue on through these unprecedented times. 

To learn more about making the right financial choices in this economic uncertainty as it pertains to your business or personal well-being, register now for the Invest: Tampa Bay 2020 Virtual Launch Conference! The conference, which takes place on Aug. 20 at 11:30 a.m., will feature three robust panels including a banking and finance panel moderated by Rita Lowman, president of Pilot Bank, with panelists Gregory Kadet, managing director of UBS Wealth Management; Terry Igo, CEO of Tampa Bay Trust Company; Scott Perry, chairman and CEO of AmeriLife Group; and Travis Jennings, CEO of Finance Cape. 

If ever there was a time to seriously look at your finances and improve your financial standing, it’s now. Get started by registering to access these valuable insights.

Tampa Bay’s ingenuity and innovation in face of adversity highlighted second annual launch conference

Invest: Tampa Bay 2020 Press Release

By: Max Crampton Thomas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

July 12th, 2020

Tampa Bay’s economic resilience in the face of unprecedented challenges to highlight the launch of the second edition of Invest: Tampa Bay 2020.

 

Tampa Bay, FL – In this time of uncertainty, it has never been more important to showcase the strength and overall resilience of the local community and economy. Throughout the 156-page analysis, Invest: Tampa Bay 2020 presents a detailed and well-researched showcase of the strengths and opportunities in regional Tampa Bay’s economy. Tampa Bay’s durable real estate market and prominent healthcare sector, along with the challenges in the face of adversity across other sectors, are just some of the focal points in this edition of Invest: Tampa Bay from Capital Analytics. The 2020 edition highlights the region of Tampa Bay, including both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, as well as a special focus chapter on the City of Clearwater. 

Invest: Tampa Bay is an in-depth economic analysis that highlights business opportunities that exist for investors, entrepreneurs and innovators within the Tampa Bay region despite a harsh economic climate due to the pandemic. Some of the opportunities spotlighted throughout the publication include Tampa Bay’s healthcare market that has made significant strides to establish this region as one of the preeminent medical hubs in Florida. The region’s real estate market is also covered in great detail as new developments continue to rise from the ground despite major roadblocks caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a true testament to the thoughtful and strategic planning by the sector’s leaders. The publication also dives into the banking and finance sector, which has remained strong while also aiding the local business community through this unprecedented time. 

The official launch of the publication will take place on Thursday, August 20, at 11:30 AM via Zoom Webinar. This event will consist of a brief introduction by Capital Analytics’ CEO Abby Melone and will be followed by three robust panel discussions.

The panels will address the current economic climate as well as prevailing themes currently dominating the Tampa Bay region’s economy: finance and banking in the time of a pandemic, adaptation and transformation for the legal sector, and innovation within the business community stemming from the current crisis. Gregory Kadet of UBS Global Wealth Management U.S., Terry Igo of the Tampa Bay Trust Company, Scott Perry of AmeriLife Group and Travis Jennings of Finance Cape will participate in the panel, “Making the right financial choices amid economic uncertainty.” Rita Lowman of Pilot Bank will moderate. The second panel, “Adaptation for legal professionals in the wake of the pandemic,” will feature Marie Tomassi of Trenam Law, William Schifino of Gunster Law and Alan Higbee of Shutts and Bowen. The moderator will be Kevin Johnson of Johnson Jackson. The final panel, “Crisis breeds innovation: What this means for the business community,”  will consist of John Couris of Tampa General Hospital, Michael Schultz of AdventHealth, Santiago Corrada of Visit Tampa Bay and Douglas Wright of Holland and Knight. The moderator for this panel will be Christopher Bowen of RD Management. 

Hundreds of high-level guests and officials from Tampa Bay’s key industries and economic institutions will be tuning into the event via Zoom Webinar. We are inviting all attendees and those wanting to register for the event to participate in the following survey, the results of which will be presented at the Invest: Tampa Bay 2020 launch conference. 

“Never before has it been so essential to have accurate and comprehensive investor intelligence during these uncertain times,” said Abby Melone, president of Capital Analytics. “Capital Analytics is playing a pivotal role in ensuring a safe landing from this flash economic recession. Reports and events like ours enable the business community to take the right steps toward rebuilding. Following this event, we will be releasing our next South Florida titles, Invest: Miami and Invest: Palm Beach in early Q4 of 2020.”  

***

About Capital Analytics & Invest: Tampa Bay

Capital Analytics is an integrated media platform that produces in-depth business intelligence through its annual print and digital economic reviews, high-impact conferences and events and top-level interviews via its video platform, Invest: Insights.

Invest: Tampa Bay is an in-depth economic review of the key issues facing Tampa Bay’s economy, featuring the exclusive insights of prominent industry leaders. Invest: Tampa Bay is produced with two goals in mind: 1) to provide comprehensive investment knowledge on the Tampa Bay region to local, national and international investors, and 2) to promote Tampa Bay as a place to invest and do business.

The book conducts a deep dive into the top economic sectors in the county, including real estate, construction, utilities and infrastructure, transportation and aviation, banking and finance, legal, healthcare, education, and arts, culture and tourism. The publication is compiled from insights collected from more than 200 economic leaders, sector insiders, political leaders and heads of important institutions. It analyzes the leading challenges facing the market, and uncovers emerging opportunities for investors, entrepreneurs and innovators.

For more information, contact: 

Max Crampton-Thomas

Regional Editor

305-523-9708 Ext: 233

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.

 

2020 Hurricane season in the face of coronavirus

2020 Hurricane season in the face of coronavirus

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read May 2020—A few days shy of the official start of the 2020 hurricane season and the Southeast has already seen two named tropical storms. Tropical Storm Arthur brought inclement weather to the Carolinas a full two weeks before the June 1 start date and on Wednesday Tropical Storm Bertha formed quickly in the morning and drenched South Carolina before dissipating to a depression, all in a day’s notice. 

 

As the country reels from the devastating effects of the coronavirus, states on the East Coast can expect an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season, according to forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service. States like Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas can expect a 60 percent chance of having an above-normal hurricane season with a likelihood of three to six major hurricanes making landfall. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, peaking in August and September.

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to have 13 to 19 named storms, six to 10 hurricanes, and three to six major hurricanes, according to the National Weather Service. As states juggle coronavirus-related safety concerns with the reopening of their economies, state leaders urge residents to begin their preparation and evacuation plans early while emphasizing the importance of hygiene and keeping in mind social distancing measures. “This early season storm reminds us that we always need to be prepared for severe weather,” North Carolina Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said during the formation of Tropical Storm Arthur, which set off tropical storm warnings along the North Carolina coast from Surf City north to Duck. “The time to prepare is now,” Sprayberry said.  

COVID-19 may put a damper on the way residents traditionally prepare for the months-long season. “Social distancing and other CDC guidance to keep you safe from COVID-19 may impact the disaster preparedness plan you had in place, including what is in your go-kit, evacuation routes, shelters and more. With tornado season at its peak, hurricane season around the corner, and flooding, earthquakes and wildfires a risk year-round, it is time to revise and adjust your emergency plan now,” said Carlos Castillo, acting deputy administrator for resilience at FEMA, according to the National Weather Service. “Natural disasters won’t wait, so I encourage you to keep COVID-19 in mind when revising or making your plan for you and your loved ones, and don’t forget your pets.”

In Florida, a magnet for constant hurricane activity throughout the season, leaders are strategizing on how to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the midst of a hurricane threat.      “We don’t know how the virus is going to react as we move into these various stages,”Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference in Sarasota, according to the U.S News & World Report.  “We don’t know what it’s going to look like a month from now, three months from now, but we have to assume that it’s going to be with us in some capacity, so how do you deal with hurricane issues?” he said. 

Days before the official start to hurricane season, Florida has reported more than 52,000 cases of the coronavirus and more than 2,300 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University & Medicine’s Coronavirus Resource Center. “This virus really thrives and transmits when you have close sustained contact with people inside an enclosed environment,” DeSantis said. “As you’re looking at sheltering for a hurricane, you have to keep that in mind. If you pile people into a place, under normal circumstances that may be fine, but that would potentially allow the virus to really spread if somebody is in fact infected,” he said.  

Florida leaders are working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency on changes to sheltering and evacuation procedures to account for the coronavirus implications. Florida emergency management Director Jared Moskowitz said those changes could include shelters that only accept people infected with the coronavirus, or shelter in place orders depending on the strength of the building and magnitude of the storm. “We’re going to do more non-congregate sheltering instead of mass congregate sheltering,” Moskowitz said.

In similar fashion, Georgia leaders and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency urged all Georgians to prepare and follow activity in the tropics. Tropical Storm Arthur did not cause too much impact as it curved away from the Peach State while traveling through the Atlantic Ocean. Though unfazed by Tropical Storm Arthur, Georgia has dealt with severe weather conditions since the start of the spring. In March and April, Georgia experienced heavy rainfall and severe flooding in more than 100 counties while also dealing with the aftermath of the coronavirus. In March, Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency for 120 Georgia counties south of I-20. “The state is working to ensure counties impacted by flooding across Georgia have access to all the resources necessary to respond,” Kemp said at the time. “I encourage residents to listen to their local officials and news sources and heed the directions of their local emergency management officials,” he said. 

To learn more, visit: 

https://www.noaa.gov/media-release/busy-atlantic-hurricane-season-predicted-for-2020

ReadyNC.org

https://gema.georgia.gov/

https://floridadisaster.org/

https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1589997234798-adb5ce5cb98a7a89e3e1800becf0eb65/2020_Hurricane_Pandemic_Plan.pdf

 

Spotlight On: Catherine Stempien, President, Duke Energy Florida

Spotlight On: Catherine Stempien, President, Duke Energy Florida

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read April 2020 — Duke Energy is among the largest electric power holding companies in the United States. In March, as the COVID-19 pandemic caused a virtual economic shutdown, Duke Energy took its own measures to alleviate the stress for customers, announcing it would not suspend customers’ power during the course of the pandemic. President Catherine Stempien discusses the region’s energy needs during the crisis and the impact from the virus, and its own transition to remote work.

 

How have both shelter-in-place measures and reduction of business activity impacted the region’s energy needs?

 

It’s too early to understand the full impact of the coronavirus on our business operations. However, there are a few things that are obvious given the current circumstances. More energy is being consumed by residential customers and less in the commercial spaces – especially hotels and the tourism industry. For our residential customers, keeping the power on is more important than ever. We know business owners are operating from home, employees are working remotely and many are teaching their children at home as well. Even a brief interruption can cause a huge disruption to what some customers may feel is an already stressful situation.

Right now, we are focused on continuing to deliver the reliable power customers and communities need while helping to protect the health and safety of those we serve and our employees.

I am proud of the work our 3,800 Duke Energy Florida employees do to make sure our customers’ lights stay on, our hospitals are powered up and important food supplies stay cooled. Now more than ever, we feel a heightened sense of urgency because our customers and communities are counting on us to deliver the reliable service they expect. That’s why you will see us out in communities, continuing to respond to power outages and completing essential work.  

Duke Energy works with local Emergency Operation Centers to develop a critical customer list that includes hospitals, emergency rooms and other medical facilities. We have proactively been checking the feeders – which are the backbone of our system – to be sure these critical lines have reduced risk of an outage impacting the critical facilities that our customers need. 

To protect the communities we serve, we’re asking our essential workers in the field or operating power plants to maintain safe distances and use enhanced protective gear. If they need to interact with a customer, they will follow strict CDC guidance, which we are closely monitoring for developments.  

We are also implementing worker screening measures (including temperature checks), enforcing social distancing, restricting certain areas of power plants, increasing CDC disinfectant cleanings between and during work shifts, staggering start times, adding physical barriers, placing some workers on-call and having others work remotely, and implementing a no-visitors policy.  

Our business continuity plans have contingencies to sequester certain employees at plant sites and other critical facilities, however we are not sequestering employees at this time.

We want our customers to know Duke Energy is working hard 24/7 to deliver this essential service during this critical time.

 

Duke Energy temporarily suspended disconnections for nonpayment and waived late payment fees effective March 21. How has the community since responded to this initiative? 

Many of our customers are facing economic challenges. We want to help relieve the financial burden on our communities. In mid-March, the company stopped service disconnections for unpaid bills and waived returned check and late payments fees for all customers. On April 28, The Florida Public Service Commission approved our plan to significantly reduce customers’ bills for the May 2020 billing cycle by giving the annual fuel savings in a single bill. Traditionally, these fuel savings would be refunded over the following year. A typical residential customer will see a decrease of nearly 21% on May’s bill. Commercial and industrial customers will see significant savings ranging from approximately 20% to 45%.  

However, hot weather and additional time at home, can mean more energy consumption and could result in higher bills. We strongly encourage customers to use many of the tools we provide to help them manage their usage and to pay what they can to avoid building up a large balance that may be harder to pay off later. If customers are struggling to pay bills, we have a variety of programs to help, including our Florida Energy Neighbor Fund duke-energy.com/FLNeighbor, or please contact us at duke-energy.com. For those who are fortunate enough to be in a position to give, we would ask you to consider a donation to the Energy Neighbor Fund. The dollars go to agencies that help customers pay any utility bill.

The Duke Energy Foundation also announced $1 million in COVID-19 response and education grants. The company’s $450,000 COVID-19-related grants address immediate social service and hunger relief needs resulting from the virus pandemic. In addition, the Duke Energy Foundation recently granted $550,000 to 22 Florida-based organizations to support energy, engineering and environmental educational initiatives. Given the COVID-19 crisis, the Foundation has also provided each organization with the option to use the funds to address unforeseen operational challenges.

 

What has the transition to remote work been like for Duke Energy?

Our IT team has taken steps to expand our bandwidth and prepare our technology systems, including adding more remote connections and conference line capacity.  Corporate-wide, we have been able to support approximately 18,000 employees working remotely, that includes 90% of our call center staff. We’ve been using new technologies to keep in touch and stay connected. 

Scammers target victims year-round but often hit hardest when people are vulnerable. So, we’ve seen an increase in phishing scams, in addition to phone scams targeting our customers. Be aware of scammers, threatening disconnection of service and asking for immediate payment over the phone. Duke Energy never asks for personal information over the phone or demands payment using money orders or gift cards. And remember, Duke Energy has stopped service disconnections for unpaid bills.

We are already evaluating the best way to transition back into our more traditional workplace, but also evaluate what we’ve learned. We do measure, for example, our customer care center call response performance. There have been some areas such as the call center, that have stood out as doing extraordinarily well during these challenging times. We have a lot to evaluate and consider as we move forward. Each situation may be different and require a different response in the future. There will be great lessons learned, both to replicate and improve, that we’ll take away from this response.

 

How do you see the Florida region emerging from this pandemic?

I am on the Florida Governor’s Re-Open Florida Task Force Industry Working Group Related to Administrative, Education, Information & Technology, Manufacturing, Mining, Utilities and Wholesale. We are working closely with the Governor’s Office to consider the best ways to reopen Florida and its businesses. The task force is focusing on short-, medium- and long-term plans. There are multiple groups made up of local and state elected members, as well as business representatives working on a plan. Our goal is to determine how this will be accomplished with the health and safety of Floridians as the priority.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

www.duke-energy.com

Federal, state govts rally to help homeless during COVID-19 outbreak

Federal, state govts rally to help homeless during COVID-19 outbreak

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read  — Since March, shelter-in-place measures have become the norm across the nation, shuttering nonessential businesses, schools and public gathering spaces. While the majority of people transitioned to a new way of life during the quarantine, including remote work and distance learning, the U.S homeless population risks COVID-19 infection as they lack access to testing and basic hygiene facilities, among other measures to combat infectious diseases. Additionally, for the homeless population, many are older adults or have underlying medical conditions, increasing the likelihood of contracting COVID-19. As such, states, municipalities, local health departments, housing authorities, among other institutions, have been working to meet the food, shelter, hygiene and testing needs of the homeless population.   

 

In South Florida, the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, in collaboration with various state and federal agencies, has been helping to protect sheltered and unsheltered homeless households and its staff in the face of the COVID-19 threat. “The Homeless Trust is proactive in engaging our housing and support service providers to offer guidance, assess needs and facilitate vital connections to local, state and federal resources,” said Trust Chairman Ronald L. Book in a press release. “Our preparations have to consider the fact that much of our population does not have a ‘home’ with which to self-quarantine; therefore, we have broader issues to consider. We will continue to work to ensure homeless households have access to shelter, care and food while doing all we can to mitigate the virus’ spread.”

As part of its outreach efforts, the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust is distributing hygiene, safety and food kits to unsheltered homeless persons throughout the county along with educational information. Outreach teams are taking temperatures of unsheltered homeless persons to pre-identify those with symptoms, among other measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In Pinellas County, the city of Clearwater has taken similar steps to help the homeless population of the region. As part of its mission, the city’s economic development department is focused on economic growth and the vitality of the community, which includes the homeless population. As such, the department is encouraging restaurants that have had to close or limit their operations temporarily to donate food to food banks, which then distribute the food to the most vulnerable segments of the community, Economic Development and Housing Director Denise Sanderson told Invest: Insights in an interview. “We have not seen a big increase in street level homelessness,” she said. “We have seen an increase in the presence of our homeless community. Primarily because we have had to close down our recreation centers and libraries.” As those facilities closed, the department pivoted to placing porta-potties and mobile shower units throughout the city to help the homeless community stay clean during this time. “To date, we have not had any cases, at least known to us, where COVID-19 has affected the homeless population.” Sanderson said. 

In Orlando, the shelters are preparing for an influx of homeless people. Shelters are down beds because social distancing precautions require separation of beds, Spectrum News reported. Shelters are concerned with bringing in people who may have the virus. “Right now we have a campus that is fairly safe. How do we bring people on without introducing that,” John Hearn, president and CEO of the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida, told the news outlet. Hearn’s shelter has been screening everyone before they enter the campus. The shelter set up isolation areas for people showing symptoms. This move, along with social distancing measures, cost the shelter close to 50 beds, Spectrum News reported. His shelter has increased the distribution of meals to three times a day and still has open beds available, according to the news outlet. 

At the federal level, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a $2 trillion funding package aimed at protecting the population, industries and businesses from the impact of the coronavirus, set aside more than $12 billion to help the homeless population and those who serve them. Community Solutions, a nonprofit organization focused on ending homelessness, detailed the portion of the CARES act aimed at helping those experiencing homelessness. The Department of Housing and Urban Development would divvy up the funds for Emergency Solutions Grants to assist homeless shelters and outreach workers who keep people who are homeless safer from coronavirus, different rent assistance programs, and other assistance programs aimed at the elderly, Native Americans, and people with AIDS, among other initiatives, according to Community Solutions. Federal, state and local agencies must work together to optimize resources and help for the homeless population, the nonprofit wrote on its website. “While we are pleased that our federal lawmakers provided this needed fiscal relief, we need to ensure that people experiencing homelessness, and those who serve them, continue to be supported as state and local governments work to administer funds and in any forthcoming stimulus package, Community Solutions said. “Following the injection of this stimulus funding, state and local governments must focus on allocating this new funding to protect people experiencing homelessness and homeless response staff, and limit inflow into health care and hospital systems. This includes ensuring people experiencing homelessness — and the people helping them — have immediate access to housing, health and safety training, personal protective equipment, facilities for hand-washing, medical treatment, testing options and ultimately, safe places to quarantine.”

 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

https://www.centralfloridahomeless.org/

http://www.homelesstrust.org/

https://www.myclearwater.com/government/city-departments/economic-development-housing

https://community.solutions/covid-19-and-homelessness/