Orlando scores a win for its tourism sector

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read June 2020 — Hospitality leaders and sports fans alike are cheering for the Central Florida region as the city of Orlando prepares to score a major win for its embattled tourism sector this summer. 

 

 Orlando will be the epicenter of professional sports this July as both the National Basketball Association and Major League Soccer set up camp at Disney’s ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex in an effort to resume their respective seasons following the aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak. 

Earlier this month, Major League Soccer announced plans to restart the 2020 season with all 26 clubs competing in the “MLS is Back Tournament,” a month-long World Cup-style tournament set to begin on July 8. The tournament, which will be played without fans in attendance, allows the league to salvage its 25th season. 

“We are pleased to team up with Disney to relaunch the 2020 MLS season and get back to playing soccer,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber, according to a press release. “The opportunity to have all 26 clubs in a controlled environment enables us to help protect the health of our players, coaches and staff as we return to play,” he said. 

In similar fashion, NBA fans will cheer for their favorite team from afar as players, coaches and staff settle in Orlando for the coming months. A 22-team NBA season is set to resume on July 31 with the playoffs slated to end in early October.  

Though the different games will be played without fans in attendance, these major sporting events will likely introduce visitors to the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex, further solidifying Orlando’s penchant for holding world-class events while helping mitigate the immediate impact of the coronavirus on Orlando’s hospitality and tourism industry. 

“Event organizers are familiar with Orlando as a destination, but for the public, they’ll learn an awful lot about what a wonderful venue the Wide World of Sports is,” Greater Orlando Sports Commission President and Chief Executive Officer Jason Siegel said, according to Front Office Sports. “It enhances the already great perception of the community for when we have the next conversations with FIFA as it relates to the World Cup or the bids we’ve put out for the 2022 to 2026 NCAA championship events. It just lends itself to an already robust portfolio of hosting marquee events,” he said.

 

Since March, 13 events have been canceled and not rescheduled, according to Front Office Sports, while another seven have been postponed, costing the region more than $49 million in economic impact. 

Another estimate by Orange County Comptroller Phil Diamond showed that tourism and development tax dollars dropped 97 percent in March, according to WKMG News 6. Diamond’s report said last year in March, the county collected nearly $27 million in tourism and development tax dollars. This March, less than $800,000 was collected, WKMG News 6 reported. 

Hoteliers and theme park officials are also rooting for the success of the region’s tourism sector. Hotels and parks are beginning to open up after more than three months of closures and severe layoffs and furloughs. 

Major parks like SeaWorld, Universal, and Islands of Adventures are operating under limited capacity and following the CDC guidelines, while Disney World is expected to begin its phased opening in July. “We are seeing the impact slowly coming back,” Visit Orlando CEO and President George Aguel told WKMG News 6. “Seeing Universal kicking off, SeaWorld following and naturally Disney coming into their own in July is big news.”

 

Charlotte: Toe to Toe with Coronavirus

Charlotte: Toe to Toe with Coronavirus

By: Felipe Rivas

4 min read June 2020—The tenacity of the coronavirus has challenged, and at times highlighted, the economic strength of cities across the nation. While the pandemic has severely bruised the Queen City’s economy, the city’s dexterity and sound fundamentals are helping to soften the blow as Charlotte recoups and prepares for an uncertain future. 

 

Marked by serious losses and promising victories, June has been a roller coaster of economic activity for the Charlotte Metro Region. Unexpectedly, the city’s hospitality sector, an already embattled segment of the economy, suffered a further blow when President Donald Trump and Republican leaders swiftly yanked the Republican National Convention (RNC) out of Charlotte after coronavirus-related concerns prevented North Carolina leaders from guaranteeing a fully operational Spectrum Center, hotels and other amenities. But as Charlotte reeled from this sudden blow, the region jabbed back at the coronavirus-related adversity with positive job expansion and promising rezoning announcements slated to be catalysts for growth in the near future. 

Two years of RNC preparations vanished as RNC leaders decided to move more than half of the August festivities to Jacksonville, Florida. Since winning the bid to host the 2020 RNC in 2018, the host committee and Charlotte’s hospitality and business leaders have toiled to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience for the thousands of delegates, journalists, and visitors expected for the event. However, as government and business leaders entered 2020 confident about the state of the economy, the contingency plans unsurprisingly failed to factor in a global pandemic and the subsequent reduction in major events and large gatherings of people. 

In late May, in a letter to Gov. Roy Cooper, RNC leaders demanded that Charlotte, which remains in a state of emergency, guarantee a “full convention,” and “full hotels and restaurants, and bars at full capacity,” according to a response letter published by the governor’s office. Citing uncertainty and the state of the coronavirus come August, Gov. Cooper said planning for a scaled-down convention with fewer people, social distancing and face coverings is a necessity. “As much as we want the conditions surrounding COVID-19 to be favorable enough for you to hold the Convention you describe in late August, it is very unlikely,” Gov. Cooper wrote to the RNC leaders. “Neither public health officials nor I will risk the health and safety of North Carolinians by providing the guarantee you seek.” 

This lack of guarantee prompted RNC leaders and President Trump to move three of the four convention days to Jacksonville, according to different news sources. Charlotte will host the first day of the convention, with the traditional speeches and fanfare occurring in Jacksonville. The convention is scheduled to run Aug. 24-27.  

“We wanted to host the RNC because we hosted the Democratic National Convention in 2012 and so we want to prove to the world that we are capable of delivering high-quality events,” Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles told Invest: Charlotte in the spring, before the RNC decision. She further explained the advantages for Charlotte: “It is a great branding opportunity for the city, as we expect up to 50,000 people, including many international journalists, to visit during the event. It will also provide a huge boost to our hospitality industry.” she said. The convention was expected to generate more than $150 million in revenue for the area’s restaurants, bars and hotels, the Charlotte Observer reported.  

As the hospitality and tourism sector begins to gather its composure after such a punch, Charlotte heavyweights aim to continue to strengthen the region’s foundation. Two significant redevelopments projects moved forward on Monday after receiving unanimous approval from city leaders. Rezonings were approved for the redevelopment of Atrium Health’s Midtown flagship campus and the former Eastland Mall property in east Charlotte, according to the Charlotte Business Journal. 

Atrium Health, the region’s largest employer, seeks to rezone close to 70 acres at the Carolina Medical Center to accommodate a live, work, and play environment, complete with a new bed tower, rehabilitation hospital, office space, affordable housing and more. In 2019, Atrium Health announced more than $1.5 billion investment in the Charlotte metropolitan area to help build new infrastructure, including new hospitals and medical facilities, President and CEO Gene Woods Told Invest:Charlotte in the spring. “This is about more than just adding brick and mortar. It’s about investing in this community because this is the place our friends, our neighbors and our loved ones call home, and we want to see it continue to thrive,” Woods said. “As the major healthcare system in the state of North Carolina, we know we can play a key role in helping our economy flourish as well.”

The Eastland rezoning includes close to 78 acres of mostly city-owned property, according to the Charlotte Business Journal. The site will be the future headquarters of the yet-to-be-named Charlotte Major League Soccer team, owned by business leader David Tepper. Similar to the Atrium Health project, Eastland will be the site of mixed-use development featuring residential units, office and retail space, and athletic fields. 

And while these projects are expected to pay dividends to the community in the future, the region scored significant economic development victories on Tuesday when Chime Solution and Ross Stores announced the addition of 250 and 700 jobs respectively to the region’s economy. 

Georgia-based Chime Solutions, a provider of customer contact services for several industries, will add jobs for licensed life and health insurance agents and will pay $16 an hour and include training and licensing,  WFAE reported Chime Solutions  opened an office in the University City area last fall. Leading off-price apparel and home fashion retail chain Ross Stores Inc. announced it will expand its distribution and warehousing operations in York County, according to the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance. The company’s $68 million investment is projected to create 700 new jobs over five years. 

To learn more, visit:

https://files.nc.gov/governor/documents/files/2020_06_02_RNC-Response-Letter.pdf

https://www.bizjournals.com/charlotte/news/2020/06/16/eastland-mall-atrium-health-rezoning.html

https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/rnc-2020/article243540772.html

https://charlotteregion.com/index.php?src=news&submenu=Relocation_Expansions&srctype=detail&category=Investor%20News&refno=8639&hurl=n

https://www.wfae.org/post/charlotte-says-chime-solutions-250-job-expansion-offers-economic-mobility#stream/0

 

Spotlight On: Dilip Barot, President & CEO, Creative Choice Group

Spotlight On: Dilip Barot, President & CEO, Creative Choice Group

By: Beatrice Silva 

2 min read June 2020—Creative Choice Group is a U.S.-based investment and development company involved in the business of private real estate investment and development. President and CEO Dilip Barot, the company’s founder, spoke with Invest: Palm Beach about the county’s place in the company’s strategy, the impact from a changing demographic and the outlook for the sector.

 

How have your projects evolved in the last year and how is Palm Beach important for your strategy?

We have focused on strengthening our company, both nationally and internationally. In Palm Beach County in particular, our goal is to create 1,000 jobs in the near future. We want the community at large to benefit from the wellness programs we are providing so we are looking at ways to bring wellness programs to the community beyond what Amrit will be bringing. Palm Beach County’s profile continues to grow and we are part of that ecosystem. Of course, in 2019, construction costs increased and that impacted us. But there is always some impact from construction prices and this needs to be offset by creative thinking and collaboration between business owners and community leaders. 

How are the changing demographics impacting your business and how is the county encouraging more young people and families to settle here?

The people coming to Palm Beach County want to learn more and assimilate into the community. Parents with school-aged children will make a decision based on the choice of schools and the younger generation tends to focus on the live-work-play lifestyle. We try to assist them as much as possible to make the right choices when settling in Palm Beach County.

Palm Beach County has a reputation of being home to a lot of wealthy older people. But we have to be diverse because that is what creates the growth and injects the vitality into the county. We therefore need to create an attractive environment for this generation. One way we can do this is by providing a means to have a social lifestyle, providing entertainment, physical activities and most importantly, affordable housing. At a younger age, earning power is typically lower than for older generations. We should appreciate the services and future the young generation bring. New industries will bring new jobs.

How are the Palm Beach authorities providing the auxiliary infrastructure that is needed for population growth?

The county has a good road system but the interconnectivity, particularly from east to west, can be improved greatly. We may need to implement cycle paths and introduce infrastructure, such as bike stands. Lessons should be learned from other communities that have faced the issue before us so that we do not make the same mistakes. The one-person, one-car model is outdated, and people are now learning through this pandemic that open spaces and a healthier, more active lifestyle are far superior.

More and more people are now realizing the importance of a more balanced life, particularly between materialistic needs and good mental health. I believe people in general are constantly striving for improvement and this goal is really coming to the forefront now. In the last 100 years, materialistic growth has been significant, but the inner journey has not kept up with that momentum. We are now seeing that much more in the younger generation, who do not need a lot of money or possessions but instead value experiences and opportunities. I think that is the correct path. 

How has COVID-19 affected your business and what innovation do you see coming from the crisis?

We were able to keep our construction site operating despite the pandemic by ensuring we were practicing the guidelines of the WHO and CDC. We did allow our office employees to work from home.   We are only now reopening through a structured approach. Within days of the outbreak here, we created a virtual online sales center where customers could interact in real time with our sales professionals and have access to all the marketing collateral, including virtual tours. In doing so, we had to consider minute details such as data protection, but we still were able to do this within weeks. We had our best month on record in April in terms of condo and residential sales. We have now implemented a virtual open house system and any in-person showings now have increased hygiene measures in place. We feel our employees are now more engaged at home and productivity is off the chart. We think going forward we will allow a portion of our workforce to work from home, which also builds an automatic contingency into the business model. We have learned a lot from this experience.

How will space and touchless technology be incorporated into everyday life moving forward?

There are already technologies that exist, although perhaps in a more niche space. In our ongoing development, we already have touchless toilets that we see on a widespread basis, but there are also things such as touchless showers that we can incorporate. We see a greater desire for more space going forward. We are learning as we go and welcome feedback from customers at every step of the way. Early next year, we will complete construction on the residences at Singer Island and the resort side will be open early in 2021.

What does your pipeline look like for the next year and a half?

We have a very promising pipeline. There are four sites that could be great wellness and real estate developments for us. We are also looking to develop some of the technology related to wellness. People are spending more money on wellness and developments like those we provide can offer them the opportunity to live their lives in a development with these features already incorporated.

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: www.creativechoicegroup.com

 

 

Spotlight On: Mary Beth Tarter, Principal, Frankel, Loughran, Starr & Vallone

Spotlight On: Mary Beth Tarter, Principal, Frankel, Loughran, Starr & Vallone

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read June 2020 Many of the nation’s largest capital operators are increasingly moving headquarters and operations to South Florida to take advantage of the business and tax advantages available in the Sunshine State. As a result, the region is starting to transform its reputation as a playground to be recognized as an environment for serious business, Mary Beth Tarter, the regional head of tax advisory and accounting services firm Frankel, Loughran, Starr & Vallone, told Invest: Palm Beach.

 

What main services does the firm provide in the Florida market?

We are a tax advisory and accounting firm. Our clients are primarily in the financial services industry, such as hedge funds, venture capital, private equity and distressed debt. We also do a lot of commercial real estate. 

 

I work on the individual side of the practice, so I work with fund principals and fund managers, helping with compliance and advisory. We look at their estate planning, trust, gifts, private foundations, all those tools that the high-net-worth group uses.

 

We’ve been here for three years, and we expect to continue growing, to continue expanding our staff within the next six to eight months.

 

What are the particular opportunities that South Florida offers for the kind of clients your firm specializes in?

 

Our firm has always had connectivity to South Florida, because the ultra-high-net-worth community will have vacation homes here. But it really started in 2017, with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which was the most sweeping tax law change we’ve had since 1986. Hedge funds and private equity funds could stand to lose millions because of the deductions that were not allowed at the individual level, even at the partnership level. It got to the point where some of them looked at it very analytically, and recognized that moving to Florida could save them $1 million a year because of the tax situation, and so they moved.

 

Over the course of 2018 and 2019, I think our firm handled more residency planning for our clients than we did in the previous 24 years. Many of them did it from an analytical standpoint, while for others, it was just the impetus that they needed: they decided that now was the time.

 

The wonderful part of already having connectivity is that it was seamless for our clients. Now we are here, boots on the ground, and that’s very important for us. They expect a certain level of service and we did not want any disruption to that.

 

People are also starting to recognize that Florida is not just a playground. This is a very serious business area as well. The median age of people moving down here is younger, and that speaks tremendously to the local commerce, the lifestyles that people want for their families, for their businesses. There are so many companies relocating or expanding down here, and of course, taking advantage of the fact that it is, in a lot of cases, tax driven.

 

Has that recognition created a new environment for investors in Florida?

 

It has. New York is rebalancing its budget because Carl Icahn is moving to Miami. New Jersey is rebalancing its budget because David Tepper left. They are coming to Miami to be part of the hedge fund community there, which is amazing.

 

We’ve actually just created another division, with a gentleman who has been in the hedge fund community for the last 25 years. He is Latin by birth and is looking to expand and help those startup funds, even those that are coming from Latin America as well. A big part of our clientele also has international connectivity.

 

How do you see the reactivation of the commercial real estate industry after COVID-19 is left in the rear-view mirror?

 

I think the real estate industry is going to be a little stalled until people can get outside again. Then they are going to start taking advantage of the opportunities they have been denied over the last couple of months. I truly believe that for anybody who has the available cash, for the most part, our clients among them, we will see an increase of activity in both commercial and residential real estate because you weren’t allowed to do it. 

 

All companies, not just those in commercial real estate, need to be really thoughtful about what they do in the future, especially those people who have taken the stimulus loans, such as the PPP loans. You have certain requirements that you have to certify in order to go through the application process, but I also believe there’s going to be heavy oversight to limit the potential of fraud.

 

This has forced a lot of people to pivot their business model, and I think that some of the things that people have come up with are amazing, and a true credit to the ingenuity of the entrepreneur. I see nothing but positives after this is done. I really don’t see any negatives.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: http://www.flsv.com/

South Florida real estate leaders analyze opportunities in current economic cycle

South Florida real estate leaders analyze opportunities in current economic cycle

By: Felipe Rivas

Virtually every sector of the economy has been pinched, crushed, or depleted by the initial impact of conducting business during the coronavirus landscape. Months into the “new normal,” industries and businesses have had to adapt operations to cope with COVID-19 related challenges. While many businesses remain embattled by the current economic cycle, innovation and opportunity are beginning to rise from the initial shocks of the novel coronavirus. 

 

In South Florida, a region hit particularly hard by coronavirus, real estate professionals are closely monitoring the impact of COVID-19 to the market while analyzing current and future opportunities. “Simply put, the South Florida industrial real estate market is healthy, even in the midst of a global pandemic,” Miami Cushman & Wakefield Managing Partner Gian Rodriguez told Invest: Miami. When you factor in the scarcity of developable industrially-zoned land, a growing population, single-digit vacancy rates, steady air and sea cargo volumes from our ports, as well as positive lease absorption of industrial product, it’s no wonder the major institutional owners and occupiers have a large stake in our market,” he said. These factors coupled with demand for e-commerce provide opportunities for distribution, logistics and warehousing subsectors in Miami-Dade County. “With the onset of COVID-19, we’ve only seen an increase in demand for well-located distribution space, further spurred-on by stay-at-home mandates which have only bolstered online orders.  Just take a look around, there are UPS, FedEx, DHL and Amazon trucks rolling down our streets almost on an hourly basis, and each one of those come from a warehouse within our market,” Rodriguez said. 

New construction will likely experience a growth in demand as population growth continues in South Florida and residents settle into the suburbs and other communities away from the downtown areas. “While we are only in the early innings of the COVID-19 impact on real estate, we are following several trends closely. New construction may have an advantage over existing, as residents will likely equate “new” with “clean and safe,” Lesley Deutch, principal with John Burns Real Estate Consulting in Palm Beach, told Invest: Palm Beach. “We are also anticipating a trend we call ‘the Great American Move.’  For safety reasons, financial prospects, life change improvements, personal comfort, or employment, we expect a surge in household and business relocations that will provide new strategic opportunities for the real estate market,” she said. This trend will likely create opportunities for real estate developers, investors and home builders. “New construction can incorporate technology such as air purification and touchless lighting which will appeal to future residents. A stronger focus on health and wellness will translate into new housing product with better home offices or private workspaces in apartments, flexibility for multigenerational living, private outdoor space, and a preference for functionality over design appeal in the home,” she said.   

 

 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit: https://www.realestateconsulting.com/

https://www.cushmanwakefield.com/en/united-states/people/gian-rodriguez

 

 

Spotlight On: Angelo Bianco, Managing Partner; Crocker Partners

Spotlight On: Angelo Bianco, Managing Partner; Crocker Partners

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read June 2020Shrinking office space has led companies to focus more on the rehabilitation and renovation of Palm Beach’s office space. Angelo Bianco, managing partner of Crocker Partners, walks Invest: through the main trends in the office niche, how it imbues sustainability and resilience into its projects and why Boca Raton is the buoyant business center it is today.

 

 

What is your take on the evolution of the office sector in Palm Beach?

Palm Beach County’s office market has not changed as much as others. Office users by and large have not changed. Even considering new trends such as co-working spaces, it makes up a small fraction of our portfolio. We have observed tenants in Palm Beach County making an effort to reduce their square footage per employee, parallel with technological advances. The need for law firms to have file storage, for instance, has declined dramatically. We still see the desire for private offices and a significant portion of traditional office use. Some companies have switched to open offices, but the pendulum is swinging back even faster now due to the pandemic. The trend to create more private offices and more square feet per employee will offset the impact from the other trend we expect following the coronavirus crises: more telecommuting. Although technology has changed the need for space, the human condition has not changed. People still appreciate privacy and separation from their co-workers.  

What primary factors explain these preferences?

Our Palm Beach portfolio consists of 3 million square feet of office space. Most of our tenants have renovated their space over the past 10 years. Even though firms have grown since the 2008 crisis, their footprint has not gotten larger than it used to be because they use the same office space much more efficiently. Shortly before the coronavirus crisis, we reached the point where employment gains fueled by the longest economic expansion in our history backfilled the space lost during that last downturn.

We are on the cusp of a new disruption with the COVID-19 pandemic. The good news for office landlords is that tenants have already reduced their space needs per employee significantly and during this past economic expansion have not taken additional space for growth. Although some office tenants will be significantly impacted by the pandemic, office tenants and their landlords should be in a good position to weather this storm.

How do you view the residential and industrial sectors?

During the first 10 years of our company’s existence, we developed and invested in many property types: hotels, multifamily, retail, office and industrial. Over the years, we specialized in office buildings primarily and although our business has done quite well as a result, the over concentration in one product type has prevented us from participating in the significant growth experienced in multifamily and industrial property over the last 10 years, particularly in Palm Beach. Despite the recent impact on the multifamily market, we believe that this sector will continue to benefit from the constant inflow of people moving into the area who require housing. This is the same reason that we are bullish on industrial. The Southeast region of the United States is an area that continues to see fast-paced growth in employment and population so investing in front of that is critical. 

What is your assessment of the up-and-coming Boca Raton market?

Boca Raton is by far the biggest employment base in the county. It dwarfs any other market. If you took all the office space in West Palm Beach and doubled it, you would still fall short of where Boca Raton is positioned. It has been a business hub for decades and will continue to be an attractive place for companies to headquarter. The quality of life is phenomenal, plus it has an unparalleled access in Palm Beach County to an incredibly well-educated, well-informed workforce. This is part of the reason we have been headquartered there for 35 years.

What is Crocker Partners’ outlook for 2020?

2020 is going to be a muted year. Any noncritical, ongoing investment project is likely to be delayed until 2021. Everything has stopped dead in its tracks due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Regardless of when businesses restart, it takes time to remobilize, meaning projects will not realistically recommence any sooner than 4Q20. The delay will be made worse by the fact that everyone will want to restart their projects at the same time. By Q121, we expect to be back to business as usual. We expect to spend much of the remainder of 2020 focusing on ensuring a safe workplace environment for our tenants. In April, we formed a Remobilization Task Force headed by our director of construction and development and consisting of senior regional managers in consultation with our vendors and contractors to review and implement governmental and industry guidelines and evaluate best practices and potential capital improvements to facilitate a healthy work environment. We are also in the process of hiring a full-time director of environmental health who will absorb the responsibilities of the Remobilization Task Force on a permanent basis and research and implement physical changes and protocols with the hope of making our buildings the paragon of environmentally health and safety in the industry.

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: https://crockerpartners.com/

 

Peach State leaders analyze current market opportunities

Peach State leaders analyze current market opportunities

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read June 2020 — Virtually every sector of the economy has been pinched, crushed, or depleted by the initial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Months into the “new normal,” industries and businesses have had to adapt operations to cope with COVID-19-related challenges. While many businesses remain embattled by the current economic cycle, innovation and opportunity are beginning to rise from the initial shocks of the novel coronavirus.

 In the Peach State, a region known for its sound business environment and one of the first states to reopen its economy, leaders across economic sectors in Atlanta are analyzing the opportunities and possible innovations created as a result of the virus outbreak. For the legal industry, an industry already comfortable with remote work prior to COVID-19, technology is at the forefront of the evolution of the sector’s business model and best practices. “I believe that remote depositions, virtual oral arguments, and maybe even some virtual trials are here to stay,” Holland & Knight Immediate Past Executive Partner J. Allen Maines told Focus: Atlanta. “These new technologies are easy to arrange and the cost-benefit analysis is pretty compelling for implementation, although It may still be necessary to have an in-person interview in order to size up the credibility of key witnesses. The virus has forced law firms to accelerate their adoption of technology and training,” he said. As businesses and law firms embrace the benefits of balancing in-person and remote work, it is likely the need for office space will change as well. “Currently, law firms can do everything electronically and remotely. I would expect law firms will not use the amount of office space that was customary in the past,” Maines said.   

The coronavirus landscape may possibly have positive residual effects related to work-life balance for lawyers and the way in which law firms think about pro bono work. “Hopefully, one permanent change will be a focus on the well-being of lawyers, which has been real positive during this time,” Maines said. “Another positive that has emerged has been an even greater pro bono assistance to the underserved and vulnerable communities. A lot of our clients have employees in the gig and hospitality industry and it has been rewarding to help them get through this period.”

Similarly, for Atlanta’s construction sector, some projects were halted as a result of the initial COVID-19-related shocks, while other projects continued a successful trajectory. “The COVID-19 crisis was completely unpredictable, which has caused significant disruption to the economy,” DPR Construction Business Unit Leader Chris Bontrager told Focus: Atlanta. “We have continued to see success in the healthcare sector through March and April but some of the private commercial work has been put on hold. So far, we have weathered the storm very well,” he said. DPR has been running multiple scenarios to account for the current volatile economic cycle. “No one knows the true impact of COVID-19. Relatively speaking, the Southeast is doing well. The market was very strong prior to COVID-19 and our industry was deemed essential from day one in the Georgia market. We have had some projects that we were unable to start but we have not had any ongoing projects that were shut down,” Bontrager said. “It feels like most contractors will maintain a positive year for 2020 due to a strong backlog going into this recession and the construction community won’t truly feel the recession until the first half of 2021. If the project owners move forward with current plans, we will finish the year at or just below our current business goals.”

 

To learn more, visit: https://www.hklaw.com/en/professionals/m/maines-j-allen

https://www.dpr.com/company/leadership/chris-bontrager

 

 

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: William Pate, President and CEO, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau

Spotlight On: William Pate, President and CEO, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau

By: Max Crampton- Thomas

2 min read April 2020 — As the full wrath of the COVID-19 pandemic strikes the country, tourism is among the worst-hit sectors. Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau President & CEO William Pate calls the impact “unprecedented” and points to an expected 95% drop in business in May. Pate outlines the actions the bureau is taking to help businesses in the sector and also provides his outlook for the second half of the year.   

 

 

In comparison to where the numbers were last year, what have you seen in terms of drop off from the COVID-19 pandemic on the tourism and hospitality community in the region?

The hospitality industry is on the front line of those affected financially, and the impact is unprecedented. We experienced a 70% reduction in business in March and expect a 95% reduction in April and a 95% reduction in May. Smith Travel Research estimates hotel occupancy in the city of Atlanta for March was 33 percent, compared to 81 percent in March 2019 and March 2018. Destinations across the country are seeing similar downtrends or worse. Our priority is now on recovery. Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau is laser-focused on making sure our city’s hospitality industry comes back strong so we are able to spread the economic benefit throughout the city as quickly as possible.

How is your organization working to assist the tourism sector in mitigating the challenges and impact felt from the COVID-19 pandemic?

Many of our 850 members are facing extreme financial challenges. We have aggregated online resources on Atlanta.net designed to help them along with their employees. These include fundraising efforts on behalf of employees in our industry as well as restaurants that are providing pickup and delivery services. For locals and visitors, we list attractions offering virtual experiences as well as updates on event cancellations and venue closures.

How quickly do you believe the tourism and hospitality industry in Atlanta will be able to recover from this pandemic? 

Atlanta has a strong convention calendar in the second half of this year, and our sales team is actively working with the staff at Georgia World Congress Center to optimize space and bring additional meetings to the city. It is difficult to forecast how quickly travel will rebound. This is an unprecedented situation, and the length of this event and the rate at which people will travel again and attend conventions remains to be seen. Atlanta is a very attractive destination for travelers though, and we continue to see substantial activity in booking meetings and conventions over the next five years.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

 

https://www.atlanta.net/acvb/