It may still be awhile before businesses are back to being able to operate as they did pre-COVID-19, but the positive attitude and forward thinking are palpable in Palm Beach County as a lot of businesses have been able to reopen their doors in phase 1 of Florida’s reopening process. Troy McLellan, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce, discussed with Abby Melone how happy the business community was to be reopening their doors, and how they have been following the mandates of the law to ensure a safe environment.
Palm Beach County has experienced a rough transition from a low unemployment rate to a high unemployment rate as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. However, Business Development Board President and CEO is confident Palm Beach County will be able to weather this storm and successfully emerge from the current volatile economic climate, she told Invest: Insights. Palm Beach County boasts a diversified economy and is happy to welcome new residents and businesses seeking to relocate to the region and tap into its educated workforce and available office space. To help the embattled business community, the county is offering close to $70 million in assistance dollars to small and large businesses.
While social distancing measures help to reduce the spread of disease, research is ultimately the key to defeating disease and global pandemics like COVID-19. David Fitzpatrick, Scientific Director and CEO of the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience, discussed with Abby Melone how research has really come into the foreground during this pandemic, and that this experience has been a glaring example of the need to support the global science community. He also spoke on how his institution is monitoring how the virus may affect the brain and that it will be incredibly important to continue to watch, fund and support these efforts.
COVID-19 has challenged everyone in the United States, but the challenges have had varying degrees of impact. For Palm Beach County, small businesses are hurting while hospitals in the region are preparing for a possible surge of patients but are currently only sitting at about 50% capacity, Robert Weinroth, Vice Mayor of Palm Beach County discussed with Abby Melone.
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.
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.
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.
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.