Invest:Insights
Fort Lauderdale

After four consecutive years as being ranked as one of Florida Trend’s ‘Best Companies to Work For’ Gunster has maintained their emphasis on company culture even whilst in growth mode and mitigating challenges brought upon by the pandemic. H. William ‘Bill’ Perry, Managing Shareholder and CEO of Gunster, spoke on their continued success and how their solid company culture allowed them an easier transition in working remotely yet staying well connected through the crisis. He also touched upon opportunities that are and will be presenting themselves in the near term future for the legal sector and how their firm is prepared to handle these.

The health and safety of guests continues to be the top priority for Heiko Dobrikow, Executive Vice President & General Manager for The Las Olas Company & Riverside Hotel. He has been impressed with how the hotel and clientele have embraced technologies like QR codes and virtual events. Dobrikow believes new innovations will help position the hospitality industry to have a more secure footing moving forward. In terms of resilience, the Riverside Hotel has chosen to sit at the table rather than be on the menu.

Spirit Airlines broke ground in January for its new $250 million headquarters in Dania Beach and, despite challenges caused by COVID-19, the project is still moving forward. Another major major project for the region is the Dania Beach Clean Energy Center. Ana Garcia, City Manager of Dania Beach, told Invest: Insights that the center will bring millions of dollars in tax revenue and that it has already written its first $23,000 check to the city. The money will be used to improve programs and city initiatives. During this period of resilience, Garcia believes that flexibility and adaptation will be the keys to serving the needs of her community.

The 2020 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show is ready to set sail. It is important to host the event while also taking the proper health measures, Marine Industries Association of South Florida President & CEO, Philip Purcell, told Invest: Insights. The association looked at Disney and Universal as successful examples of doing events in the coronavirus landscape. Given the economic impact of the show, it is imperative to host it this year, Purcell said. Resilience taught Purcell to let go of what worked in the past and adapt to the changes of the now.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been especially challenging for ports as no federal funding was available to offset the heavy blow to the cruising industry. Port Everglades will have to remain self-sustainable at a time where it lost $60 million in cruise industry revenue. The port had to present a new budget adjusted to account for the effects of the pandemic, Port Director Jonathan Daniels told Invest: Insights. The port’s masterplan has been able to move forward especially as it relates to construction projects. Bringing people back to the cruises will be key in the recovery efforts, so the port is spending its time and resources to ensure a safe environment for staff and travelers.

The second half of this year has been particularly difficult for the aviation industry, however, Mark Gale, CEO & Director of Aviation for the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, has been utilizing funds and grants to continue improvements to the airport in anticipation of a pent-up demand for travel once the economy recovers. Gale and his team continue to work tirelessly in efforts to make the airport safer and more tech-savvy to give consumers confidence in flying once again.

Governor Ron DeSantis’ announcement that the state of Florida was ready to move into Phase 3 caused a lot of confusion in Broward County. Per the announcement, each county and municipality is handling the phased reopening process according to their cases and Broward County has not yet entered Phase 3, Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance President & CEO Bob Swindell told Invest: Insights. Allowing hotels to safely open in the appropriate occupancy levels is important and the messaging was challenging. Allowing the Greater Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show is a major win for the county as it is a major economic engine for the region, and allows Broward County to position itself as a model for cities as they reopen and host events safely.

The strength of the U.S. economy is dependent upon a strong business community and the entrepreneurs behind these successful businesses. Andrew Duffell, the President of Research Park at Florida Atlantic University, wholly supports this notion and expressed to Abby Melone that it is essential for there to be continuous investment in education and research to support these entrepreneurs. He also noted that, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there is a lot of adaptability and collaboration happening within the business community, as demonstrated by those businesses in the Research Park.

Today is a big day for Broward County as many businesses around the county are able to reopen their doors for the first time in months as part of Florida’s Phase one of the reopening process. Mayor of Broward County Dale V.C. Holness expressed the shared excitement among the business community in his region, and the generally positive feedback he has been receiving. He spoke on his view that the state has been handling the situation well and has the right measures in place to ensure a safe reopening.

While no one could have been prepared for the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon the United States, there are organizations that specialize in helping guide through the community through disasters like this. One such organization is Witt O’Brien’s, who are currently playing the role of communicating the needs of the business community to the various governments that they work with and vice versa. Brad Gair, Senior Managing Director of Witt O’Briens, told Abby Melone about the organization’s efforts to supply as much information as possible so that people can understand what is accessible to them and what will be helpful in helping them pull through this pandemic.

A company’s ability to be able to quickly adapt and shift their operations in accordance with the current time of social distancing is an accomplishment within itself. Broward County based beauty company Kira Labs not only was able to quickly adapt their operations, but they took it a step further and quickly pivoted their normal focus from producing beauty products to producing hand sanitizer and cleansing products to help fulfill the national demand in this time of crisis. David Rosen, the CEO and Founder of Kira Labs, spoke to Abby Melone about his company’s quick transition as well as what it means from a manufacturing, logistics and retail side of the business.

Preparedness is a term that has been used at length in the conversation surrounding COVID-19 and some feel that preparedness was not emphasized enough at the start of this pandemic. Dan Lindblade, President & CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce, expressed this to Abby Melone in regards to the region’s preparedness in the wake of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has touched all sectors of the economy, and the real estate market may see more long-term effects than most. Ryan Kratz, President of Colliers International’s Southeast Region | US Brokerage, discussed with Abby Melone that prior to the events of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a sufficient amount of supply in regards to available real estate in Miami-Dade so post COVID-19 there should not be a risk of oversupply or undersupply on the market. He also expressed that real estate professionals should be using this time to educate themselves in preparation for the market reopening.

COVID-19 has presented many challenges for higher education, and for those newer institutions this has been the ultimate test of adaptability and resilience. In the case of Florida Polytechnic University, their President Randy Avent detailed to Abby Melone the struggles of quickly building an online platform and curriculum in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. He expressed that the most difficult transition has been figuring out how to conduct labs via online education.

While the state and federal grant and loan bridge programs to support local businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic have been a plus, they are, for the most part, tapped out. This has left many businesses searching elsewhere for funds including on the local level which Dennis Grady, President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches, spoke on during his conversation with Abby Melone. He also discussed the repercussions that public agencies in Florida will face from the lack of state sales tax currently being collected and what that could mean for their budgets in the future.

While all demographics of people have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact on the African American population has been disproportionate to the rest of the population. This was one of the main topics Oliver Gilbert, Mayor of Miami Gardens, discussed with Abby Melone as well as how the city is working to assist in this matter.

For some universities the transition to an all online curriculum has been handled with relative ease, and has left many educators excited to be on the frontline of how higher education will be permanently changed post COVID-19. Robert Bishop, Dean of the University of South Florida College of Engineering, relayed these same sentiments with Abby Melone, as well as diving into the challenges that this disruption has caused for the graduate programs offered by the university.

As COVID-19 began to rapidly spread throughout the country, the severity of the economic impact it would have was quickly realized by the Federal Government. This ultimately lead to the $2 trillion economic stimulus package known as the CARES Act. In speaking with Abby Melone, Michael Finney, the President and CEO of The Beacon Council, implores that small businesses in the Miami-Dade region should explore and go after the additional funds the stimulus package is offering.

As all activity in the Miami-Dade region has seemingly come to a sudden halt due to COVID-19, the local leaders are working tirelessly in the background to respond to the pandemic. Abby Melone, CEO of Capital Analytics, sat down with Juan Carlos Bermudez, Mayor for the City of Doral.