By: Max Crampton-Thomas
4 min read November 2019 — Acting as both the CEO of his company City Furniture and the Chairman of the Broward Workshop, Keith Koenig provides a unique perspective and insight on various facets of business and progress being made in Broward County. He not only discusses how the Workshop is working to address the effects of climate change on the county, but also the progress it has made on the goals set forth last year. In regards to his business, Koenig reveals his key to longevity in the marketplace as well as what today’s consumers are looking for when choosing where to shop.
How is the Broward Workshop addressing the issues related to climate change in Broward County?
Wherever anyone stands on the science of climate change, one issue is undeniable, and that’s the economics of resiliency. Smart people in the insurance world believe that our risks and insurance costs will go up in the years to come if we do not get ahead of resiliency. Broward Workshop members understand that issue and want to lead a public, private effort to improve the resiliency not only of South Florida, but to create opportunities for coastal communities around the world to partner and learn. We are still in the process of setting our priorities for our annual goals, but in all likelihood they will include supporting the Army Corps of Engineers’ $20-million research project. In addition, our members are supporting Broward County’s efforts to jump-start our resiliency efforts. We will also be supporting South Florida water management efforts to finish phase two of the C-59 reservoir, which is an important step forward in our resiliency efforts.
What progress has been made on the goals set by the Broward Workshop last year?
When we look back over the last year, we have really moved all our goals forward. At the top of the list was addressing homelessness. A little over a year ago, we had a major encampment of close to 100 homeless in Downtown Fort Lauderdale and they were in an area right next to the library. Earlier this year, we worked to help place these homeless people into more permanent housing. The best way to end homelessness is to provide people with housing that is respectful and valuable. Our second goal revolved around education, particularly K-12 education in Broward County. When Superintendent Bob Runcie arrived in 2011, the Broward County school system was in disarray. Members of the school board had been accused of improprieties, morale was low and we were facing over $20 million in fines for not meeting state-mandated class size. Runcie has worked diligently to address those issues and to move our Broward County school system forward. The good news is that our school system has improved greatly with higher graduation rates and higher rated schools. Broward County Public School System nearly achieved an overall A rating in 2018 and they are working to continue to improve. We set a goal to support the Broward County public schools and our measure of success was to make sure Bob Runcie stayed as superintendent. I’m proud to say Bob Runcie is still our superintendent today.
The third big goal was the transportation sales tax initiative. Last year, county leaders put this sales tax increase on the ballot to fund transportation initiatives. It was a major initiative and members of Broward Workshop fell on both sides, but like any good organization we listened to the majority. We put our support behind it and the sales tax initiative passed. The last goal we set was around tourism. Tourism is Broward County’s biggest industry, and the biggest need we have is an expansion of our convention center and to build a convention center hotel. We were active both on the forefront and behind the scenes, and the expansion and the convention center hotel are going forward.
How has City Furniture maintained its longevity in the market?
The key to City Furniture’s longevity in the Broward County marketplace has been reinvesting back into our business. We operate financially conservative, meaning that we are careful and never try to bite off more than we can chew. That being said, growth has been a cornerstone of our business. If you do not have growth as a cornerstone strategy for your business, you can’t attract the talent you need or want. For instance, millennials all want to see opportunity to advance, grow and succeed, so they are attracted to companies that embody that vision. In our case, we just opened up big stores in Orlando, and we are planning to open in Tampa over the next few years. The other key to this business has been private ownership. We are able to invest for the long-term benefit of our associates, our customers and our community.
How have you seen priorities shift in regards to consumers making a decision on where to shop?
Retail needs to be more of an experience. What will drive you to a store as opposed to buying online is the experience. When the consumer is given a choice, they prefer to do business with local companies that genuinely support the local communities that they are in and companies that move in a direction of sustainability toward a carbon neutral footprint. Mostly, our shoppers and customers learn that City Furniture does these things after they come to our stores. It becomes a better value proposition for them to do business with us. All of these elements are aimed at tilting the customer experience factor a little more in our favor.
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