Higher education institutions were called upon to rise above the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Based in Miami-Dade, St. Thomas University is committed to enabling social mobility and educating leaders for life, especially in the face of ongoing disruption. President David Armstrong spoke with Invest:Insights about the university’s standing in the aftermath of the pandemic, the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion strategies and the future of higher education.

Hamptons Group is an alternative investment and advisory firm headquartered in Miami with offices in New York. In an interview with Invest:Insights, Hamptons Group chairman and managing director Jeff Bartel discussed the current state of commercial real estate lending and investment and how the firm successfully managed the COVID pandemic. Bartel also talked about the impact of federal, state, and local public policy and the variables facing some segments of the real estate market.

South Florida’s construction sector is on the cusp of a major transformation. Fueled by demand and technological innovation, the local market is positioned to benefit from the combination of business and population growth. As the growth continues, South Florida will need to continue to keep a close eye on public transportation and infrastructure, Flux Architects Founder and Principal Eddie Seymour told Invest:Insights.

It has been a busy cycle for tax professionals. For Taxfyle, the pandemic led to an uptick of business. This was due to a mixture of technological advances, companies restructuring, and younger people wanting to do their taxes in a digital environment rather than the traditional accountancy environment, CEO & Co-Founder Richard Lavina told Invest:Insights. Though the last year has been tough for businesses, the pandemic has also pushed entrepreneurs in startups forward, he said.


Throughout the pandemic Florida Blue, a solution maker and healthcare leader, took steps to provide easy access and coverage for Floridians by covering the cost of testing and treatment and now for vaccines. Virtual health is here to stay and is especially important in tackling the mental and behavioral health of the community, Market Leader Doug Bartel told Invest:Insights. Special open enrollment will help the under-covered and uninsured citizens of Florida. Due to a tumultuous year, this is a welcomed open enrollment season, Bartel said.


Experts believe Florida is poised for a strong recovery by the end of 2021, especially as industries like the service sector begin to recuperate. In the meantime, the passing of another stimulus package is essential to the recovery process, PNC Financial Services Group Florida Economist Abbey Omodunbi told Invest:Insights. The first stimulus packages last year enabled the Florida business ecosystem to weather the storm better yet further assistance is needed in the recovery process. The housing market is a bright spot throughout the state and is predicted to remain strong in 2021. Overall markets like Tampa, Miami and Orlando have performed very well despite the tumultuous landscape, Omodunbi said.


SBA loans have been key in helping businesses maintain operations throughout the pandemic. These loans are essential and can really propel businesses forward at this moment in time, Florida Business Development Corporation’s President and CEO Bill Habermeyer told Invest: Insights. The SBA 504 loan program is vital in helping small businesses and clearing up any kind of misconceptions around fees is important, he said. 



The initial pandemic shock to the construction industry was filled with uncertainty and unanswered questions about the future of projects. In markets where construction was deemed essential the activity moved forward despite the pandemic related challenges. For ANF Group, business grew around 40 percent year-over-year and hiring continued, President Al Fernandez told Invest: Insights. He believes this experience demonstrated the industry’s resilience and ability to bring more talent to the labor pool.


Brick and mortar retail business operators have had an extremely challenging 2020 to say the least, so remaining resilient to the challenges of the pandemic and the ever-growing presence of e-commerce is key. Jackie Soffer, Chairman & CEO for Turnberry spoke to their efforts to assist tenants at the Aventura Mall during this time, finding opportunity and how they have remained resilient despite the current less than conducive business climate.


For Florida National University adapting the nursing curriculum has been difficult during the pandemic when nurses have to spend time in hospitals yet cannot go to school. Tackling these very unique obstacles has been challenging for administrators and faculty, President & CEO Dr. Maria Cristina Regueiro told Invest: Insights. Making it past the pandemic will rely on strong community ties and collaboration, she said.


Given the disruption created by the coronavirus, businesses and professionals should prepare to see corporate restructuring and bankruptcies. The storm is not over yet which is why bankruptcies are not so evident but they are coming, Michael Chavies, Judge and Equity Shareholder for Akerman, told Invest: Insights. Akerman has always been a leader in social justice and is proud of the work the firm is doing in New Orleans and its work with the ACLU, he said. Moving forward, the firm is closely following the economic fallout from the pandemic while also thinking about the economic recovery.


OneBlood, operator of Florida blood donation centers, much like other companies in the healthcare sector, had to adjust operations due to the ever changing pandemic landscape. Their traditional partners, schools, universities, and businesses closed as a result of the pandemic. It is important to reach out to partners for sustainable donations during the pandemic, One Blood President & CEO and Mayor of the City of Sunny Isles Beach, George “Bud” Scholl told Invest: Insights. OneBlood had to adapt operations to accommodate work from home and the wellness of their employees, especially as 80% of them have to be out in the mobile units throughout the pandemic.


Like many other educational institutions, Florida Memorial University, South Florida’s only Historically Black College, is adjusting to the disruption created by the coronavirus. The university is adding E-Sport offerings that will allow students to partake in a very competitive field. Additionally, the school continues to expand its curriculum and add new extracurricular activities such as a football team and band. This year society finds itself with both a health crisis and racial pandemic, President Jaffus Hardrick told Invest: Insights. The University is taking serious action in response to fight both of these fronts as it has historically done in the past.


The University of Miami Health System went from seeing 200 telehealth appointments a month to 2000 a day. Telehealth has allowed the University of Miami Health System to ensure their patient health care is conducted safely and efficiently, Dr. Dipen Parekh, Chief Operating Officer of the University of Miami Health System discussed with Invest:. He also highlights the importance of preparing for the unexpected, and believes that telemedicine will continue to see more developments like AI in virtual medicine.


Financial planning is important in all economic cycles. In South Florida, The Coral Gables Trust Company has been able to attend to client needs on a more individual basis. With capital moving to South Florida, their most competitive edge is the trust side of the business and they have seen an uptick in helping clients establish trusts in Florida, Chairman and CEO James Davidson told Invest: Insights. Their focus is on capital preservation and during any economic cycle the trust is keen on helping clients achieve comfortable retirement.


For more than 50 years Banyan Health Systems has been meeting the healthcare needs of South Florida residents. Teamwork has been paramount during the pandemic to ensure successful telehealth access to patients The system was awarded an FCC grant to develop its telehealth offerings, President and CEO Vince Carrodeguas told Invest: Insights. More than 2000 patients without access to telehealth were reached as a result. Additionally, mental health continues to be a major area that needs to be addressed, Carrodeguas said.


In 2007 it was a financial crisis but this time around it is a health crisis that has influenced the financial aspect. Despite challenges caused by COVID-19, the current banking climate remains strong. Israel Velasco, Florida Region Executive of Popular Bank, is confident the banking sector and economy will be able to get through to the other side of the pandemic. Resilience means being nimble, adjusting quick, acting fast and maintaining a team spirit. All of which Popular Bank bank has been able to do these past few months.


Truist, an American bank holding company, created Truist Cares to provide philanthropic support to its communities by distributing funds to nonprofit organizations. Tony Coley, Regional President South Florida of Truist is incredibly proud of these initiatives that not only had one round of $25 million for non-profits but another round of $25 million for small businesses. The portal that was created to process the payment protection program loans has become something the bank will continually use moving forward in terms of online technology and e-signatures. Truist remains capable and confident moving forward despite its three main South Floridan clients, tourism, hospitality and professional services, being hit the hardest.


Months into the pandemic, Miami-Dade’s hospitality and services industry has reeled back due to the strong blows dealt by the Covid-19 pandemic, while other sectors such as trade, logistics, and healthcare have seen plenty of activity. From helping small businesses organize their back offices in order to access capital to equipping displaced workers with techskills, the Beacon Council is guiding Miami-Dade’s business community through the recovery efforts. President and CEO Michael Finney joins season two of Invest: Insights to talk about the future of Miami-Dade’s industries and economic sectors

Communication with clients and the community at large is essential during the flash recession caused by the aftermath of the coronavirus. Though the future remains uncertain, an uptick in litigation is likely to occur, Gunster Law Firm Shareholder and former Senator George LeMieux told Invest:Insights. The state of Florida is doing the right thing by addressing each area of the state differently, as the needs of South Florida are different from other parts of the state, he said.

For the legal profession, the last few weeks have been a time of fast transition and calls for equality as the coronavirus and civil unrest caused by the killing of George Floyd mix for an extremely volatile period for the profession. To address the current calls for equality, the school held different events and webinars featuring renowned experts on race and law. The school recognizes it has a moral obligation to the community when justice is undermined, Dean Anthony Varona told Invest: Insights.

While most people and organizations have stepped up to try and help their communities through this difficult period of time, there are those select individuals who find opportunity in others’ struggles. David Schwartz, President & CEO of Florida International Bankers Association, discussed with Abby Melone that there has been a significant uptick in COVID-19 related fraud as corrupt individuals look to take advantage of others during this uncertain and confusing time.

Like all business sectors, live sports were hit hard by the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now as the world begins to reopen and adjust operations to accommodate social distancing and safer measures, sports entities are in the process of figuring out how to come back, and in some cases finish their seasons, within this ‘new normal’. Matthew Caldwell, President and CEO of the Florida Panthers, spoke on his team’s preparations to return and finish out the NHL season via a new, innovative playoff structure. He discussed what it has been like for the organization to work completely remote, retaining everyone’s full salary and preparing their arena with more touchless technology.

Thanks to South Florida’s reputation and favorable tax structure commercial real estate will weather the storm caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Many international and out of state investors have taken a boots on the ground approach to their investment activity, Location Ventures CEO Rishi Kapoor told Invest: Insights. The firm saw $12 million in new sales during the outbreak of the coronavirus as investors from the Northeast look at Miami for viable commercial real estate. A potential surge in flex space is likely as social distancing measures and remote work disrupt office dynamics across businesses, Kapoor said.

Miami-Dade County is full steam on reopening the local economy, but the city of Miami’s business community has recognized that it has a long road ahead in terms of economic recovery. Christina Crespi, Executive Director for the Miami DDA, discussed with Abby Melone the DDA’s ongoing efforts to assist the business community in multiple capacities. She discussed the survey that her organization conducted in order to identify businesses greatest needs, and that their findings uncovered that financial assistance is and will continue to be the greatest need during this time. She also touches upon local businesses needing help with marketing efforts, specifically needing assistance with best marketing practices via social media outlets.

To help minimize the impact of the coronavirus on the local community, Florida International University tapped into its global roots to help students and residents face the present challenging times. Through its network of partners, FIU quickly mobilized to supply personal protection equipment to students and the local community as the coronavirus spread throughout Miami-Dade County. As the school thinks about a future under the coronavirus landscape and beyond, leadership skills will be a critical component to their curriculum and class offerings, College of Business Dean Joanne Li told Invest: Insights.

While the initial rollout for the PPP loans may not have been the smoothest process for banking institutions, many were able to quickly overcome and adapt. Israel Velasco, Florida Region Executive for Popular Bank, discussed with Abby Melone that although information was not clear in the beginning, his bank was still able to process a significant amount of loans for both rounds of the PPP. He noted that this also allowed them the ability to showcase the bank as they have been servicing both current clients of the bank and individuals not with the bank through this PPP loan process.

Smart business practices are not always innate in every business owner or leader, but thankfully there are a lot of advisory options available to support these individuals. Meredith Tucker, Principal at KaufmanRossin, spoke with Abby Melone about businesses needing to be more sophisticated about their cash flow as well as managing it more effectively during times of crisis. She also touched upon the importance of promoting entrepreneurialism, especially in times of doubt stemming from crisis, which ultimately provides support towards economic recovery.

As Florida pushes full steam ahead on its reopening process, the community has many questions about how certain things will operate in a post-COVID-19 world. A good portion of these questions surround what the future of in-person education will look like, which was a main topic of conversation during John Quelch’s, Vice Provost for the University of Miami and Dean of the Miami Herbert Business School, interview with Abby Melone. He discussed that for his university, the arriving class will have a ‘flex arrival’ to address how new students come back onto campus. He emphasized that leadership will play an even more important role as he observed that there has been a leadership deficit throughout this pandemic

The pandemic has caused financial hardships for most business sectors, and the healthcare sector was not immune. Dr. Jorge Sosa, Medical Director of Bariatric Surgery at Palmetto General Hospital, discussed with Abby Melone that the financial impact for hospitals and healthcare centers has been tough, and we may see an increase in M&A activity amongst solo practices in the near future. He touched on the fact that the reintroduction of elective surgeries has been a much welcomed relief for hospital systems in regards to recouping some of the lost income from the last few months.

After the challenges the real estate market faced in the last economic recession in 2008-2009, many speculated how the current economic slowdown may affect real estate this time around. Jorge Guerra Jr., the President and Chief Executive Officer of Real Estate Sales Force (RESF), spoke with Abby Melone about the current state of the market in which he says that, so far, he has seen sales prices and rental rates hold steady even though the available volume of listings has decreased.

The world may be hyper-focused on one specific virus for the moment, but that does not mean people should be avoiding hospitals and not addressing health concerns. This was an important message relayed by Michael Bell, CEO of Hialeah Hospital, to Abby Melone during their discussion. He also made sure to highlight that his hospital is well equipped to handle the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the massively important role that his hospital’s employees have played during this crisis

During times of crisis, the emphasis on being able to circulate the most current news and happenings is heightened ten-fold. This need for current information showcases the importance of great journalism during these uncertain times, especially local journalism. This was one of the messages Raul Moas, the Miami Program Director for Knight Foundation, relayed to Abby Melone as well as speaking to the importance of entrepreneurialism during times of economic crisis.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the nation as a whole, certain segments of the population have been disproportionately affected. Eric Knowles, President & CEO of the Miami Dade Chamber of Commerce, spoke to Abby Melone about how the black community has been hit much harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than most and that they are some of the last to receive federal support. He also touched upon petitioning Senator Rubio, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, to forgive felons that would not be able to apply for loans because they have been in jail within the last seven years and to reduce that number to 2-3 years.

It was only months ago that the nation was experiencing record low levels of unemployment, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic this is no longer the case. As both job seekers and hiring managers attempt to navigate this unprecedented time, government leaders and community organizations like CareerSource South Florida are doing their best to help however they can. Rick Beasley, Executive Director for CareerSource South Florida, discussed with Abby Melone how the Paycheck Protection Program and the CARES Act are helping to bring many people back into the workforce. He also suggested that while individuals wait for the employment to rebound, that they should be working on sharpening and broadening their skills as well as working on acquiring certifications.

With Gov. DeSantis turning his attention from responding to the initial pandemic to now slowly beginning to reopen the state, he is aided and advised by the ‘Re-Open Florida Task Force’ that includes some of the most well known and respected business and community leaders in the state. Included in this is Dev Motwani, the President and CEO of Merrimac Ventures, who discussed with Abby Melone about addressing the needs of the business community upon reopening. He also spoke on lenders, landlords and tenants working together through the pains of this crisis as the real estate market is slower to recover from economic downturns compared to areas like the stock market.

Commercial real estate is in a precarious position due to the COVID-19 pandemic as there is pressure for rent forgiveness from commercial retail clients and pressure from the banks on landlords of these commercial properties. Michael Feuerman, Managing Director of Berger Commercial, spoke on how his company is dealing with these pressures while also looking towards what the future of commercial real estate may look like post-COVID-19. He identified that the future will see more available commercial real estate space, less people crammed into a space and an increased emphasis on incorporation of things like ‘no touch’ technologies into these spaces.

Since the passage of the CARES Act, banks around the nation have been inundated with PPP loan applications. Jose Cueto, the CEO of International Finance Bank who was recently appointed to the City of Miami’s COVID-19 recovery board, spoke to Abby Melone about his bank’s forward thinking and planning as it relates to the PPP loan applications and how his bank is helping both clients and non clients in submitting and processing these loan applications.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on every city in Florida, the severity of the impact has fluctuated on a case by case basis. In Raúl Valdés-Fauli’s, Mayor for the City of Coral Gables, conversation with Abby Melone he told of the severe impact the pandemic has had on his city but that they are a conservative city and would be able to weather this storm. He also spoke on being a very international city with a finger on the pulse of the concerns for the international community and how they are working towards more communication in an effort to be well positioned when borders open back up.

While the economic and social recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is going to be a long and gradual process, there are large organizations currently working to help where they can in easing this process along. One of the organizations that has stepped up in a big way is UnitedHealthcare who have provided more than $70 million directly to the global community since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Michael Lawton, Chief Executive Officer of the UnitedHealthcare Community and State Health Plan of Florida, spoke on the organization contributing two $500,000 donations to two Florida agencies, Feeding Florida and the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida.

When COVID-19 began its descent upon America’s public and the economy, the country was in a state of economic excellence. Since then, the pandemic has caused the economy to struggle and all sectors within have been impacted and challenged on varying degrees. Construction was one of those sectors that was hit hard but was not brought to a full stop, as construction companies had various projects at differing stages of completion within their pipeline. One of these companies that has had the fortune of being able to continue to conduct business during this crisis was Plaza Construction, as told by their President Brad Meltzer in his discussion with Abby Melone. To be able to continue their projects in development, Mr. Meltzer describes adapting new safety measures and protocols to avoid the spread of COVID-19, and that these same protocols could continue well after the pandemic is over.

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.

While the world is seemingly on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this is the time the 5G industry should be using as an opportunity to push ahead on their larger infrastructure projects, Alice Bravo, the Director of the Miami-Dade Department of Transportation, expressed to Abby Melone. She also speaks on the unprecedented steps that have had to be taken in order for local governments to continue their work, like the governor approving virtual platforms as a way to pass public initiatives in this time of social distancing.

While many hospitals across the United States have experienced a significant influx of patients due to COVID-19, certain specialty outpatient centers have begun to see a decrease in new patient volume. Todd Schonherz, COO of Florida Cancer Specialists, spoke about this decrease in volume with Abby Melone which he attributed to the pandemic causing many people to not have their regularly scheduled procedures and doctors visits. He discussed that a lot of the time these procedures and visits are where doctors initially discover cancer in patients.

Similar to our economy in the United States, the countries that comprise Latin America have been experiencing similar economic challenges and struggles brought on the COVID-19 pandemic. This was expressed to Abby Melone in her conversation with Driss R. Temsamani, the Head of Channels and Enterprise Banking at Citigroup Latin America, who also discussed the financial institution’s well-received community relief efforts and facilitating clients needs on case by case basis as economies around the world prepare to reopen.

The economic and health related challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic will not be resolved by any one individual or entity. Tackling the issues caused by this crisis is going to continue to rely on a collaborative community effort. This was the collective message throughout the roundtable discussion between the South Florida Business Council and Abby Melone. The three local leaders who participated, Alfred Sanchez, Dan Lindblade and Dennis Grady, all touched upon their three individual counties pulling together to help the South Florida region come out successfully from these challenging economic times.

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.

Agriculture is a sector of the local economy in Miami-Dade that is quite often overlooked but is very much a major employer and valuable source of revenue for the county. Steven Losner, Mayor of the City of Homestead, explained to Abby Melone that while the local farms and nurseries haven’t had to lay people off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they have been significantly reducing their hours. The answers to the questions surrounding the future of local agriculture still remain to be discovered.

The most at risk communities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic have been the disadvantaged and elderly communities. Dionne Polite, Director of State Operations – Florida for AARP, spoke to Abby Melone about the action that her organization is taking to disseminate information to the public as fast as possible, as well as the importance that intergenerational dialogue has had throughout the pandemic and will have for the foreseeable future.

In order for the business community to begin to recover and revitalize, it is going to take a collective effort from all organizations, both small and large. Truist, one of the larger organizations that has stepped up during this time of crisis, saw their $25 million Truist Cares initiative immediately garner interest from the business community and within days it was tapped out. Now the organization is looking to reup on this relief fund to help benefit the small business community, Truist’s South Florida Regional President, Tony Coley, told Abby Melone.

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.

In order for the business community to begin it’s healing process, we must first truly understand the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has left on these businesses. Alfred Sanchez, President and CEO of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, told Abby Melone about the impact they have seen on the local business community as informed by their research and survey. He discussed that people have had to reduce their staff as well as their businesses working hours and uncertainty is the shared emotion among the business community.

While daily life has not had a sense of normalcy since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still normal and routine processes at work. One such process is the 2020 Census that is currently being conducted, but unlike years past, it has not had the same participation volume. During his discussion with Abby Melone, Mark Trowbridge, President & CEO of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, spoke of the census not coming back in the volume that it has in years prior with a return rate of 50% versus 74% seen in years past. He also discusses the various programs the Chamber is offering their members based upon their needs.

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.

By now most people have come to terms with the impact that COVID-19 is having on the community, but those that have firsthand experience with the virus truly understand the magnitude of this situation. CEO of Capital Analytics Abby Melone spoke with City of Miami’s Mayor Francis Suarez about his first hand experience with COVID-19 and the city’s initiative to offer at home tests for its residents.

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.

Invest:Insights presents Jaret Davis, Co-Manging Partner, Greenberg Traurig

Invest:Insights presents Eugene Anderson, Dean, University of Miami School of Business

Invest:Insights presents Steven Altchuler, CEO, UHealth – The University of Miami Health System

Invest: Insights presents Roberto Munoz, South Florida Market President, BBVA Compass

Invest: Insights presents Alice Bravo, Director of Miami-Dade County’s Department of Transit

Invest: Insights presents Kerri Barsh, Shareholder, Greenberg Traurig