Innovation and adaptation: What this could mean for education post-pandemic

Innovation and adaptation: What this could mean for education post-pandemic

By: Beatrice Silva

2 min read September 2020 — The pandemic forced educational institutions to pivot all of their operations to a completely virtual landscape. Many university leaders were planning on returning to normalcy at some point in the upcoming months, but that looks increasingly unlikely. The keys to a successful academic future are in the hands of those educators who are willing to adapt and use innovative technology to their advantage. 

For the majority of universities the rapid transition into an entirely digital world came as a rude awakening. It showed just how fragile the framework of higher education could be without a contingency plan in place. Nevertheless, within days institutions like Drexel University and  Rowan University worked tirelessly to develop new strategies that would not only keep them afloat but would help unify the educational community.  

“Between the financial impact of COVID, the demographic changes, the situation in terms of bringing international students here, and with so many constraints on the system … institutions are really going to have to step back and begin to rethink their model because the sector is not going to be spared continued disruption going forward,” John Fry, president of Drexel University, told DrexelNOW. “More than ever, partnerships — or joint ventures, or mergers, or whatever you want to call them — are the way to go. I think the sector is going to see an almost healthcare system-like response to what’s going on. Healthcare started on its own consolidation and rethinking its model decades ago and it’s obviously still in the middle of it. I think it’s time for higher ed to go through the same types of dynamic changes. I think you’re going to see fewer institutions. I think you’re going to see more networks of institutions. I think you’ll see more hybrid, more online. Hopefully we keep face to face, but that’s just part of what we do.

As Fry mentioned, in the years to come, almost the entirety of higher education’s traditional model could be shifted, not only the logistics concerning profitability but also the student’s overall learning experience. Despite implementations caused by COVID-19, it seems as if a new institutional network was inevitable. Even before the recent pandemic, consumers have been transitioning into the digital realm. Students and parents had started craving alternative options for higher education that involve more flexibility, innovative delivery models and seamless transitions between face to face lectures and online learning. 

Universities are starting to require students to download applications like the DUO, a two-factor authentication system, that helps with the onboarding process. The software works with third-party technology providers to verify a student’s identity. Biometric tools, commonly used by financial technology corporations, are also gaining popularity in this space. “New users will now be asked to take selfies before uploading them to the (UK fintech company) Curve platform alongside pictures of their driver’s license, passport or other official ID documents. FinTech will then use its partner’s biometric capabilities to compare the two images and verify potential customers’ identities,” according to PYMNTS, a B2B platform for the payments industry. 

During this period of evolution, sound insights and collaboration between the public and university leaders will be pivotal for the education sector’s success. To learn more about the future of education in South Jersey, register now for the Invest:South Jersey 2020 Virtual Launch Conference. The conference takes place on Oct. 8 at 11:30 a.m. The virtual conference will feature two robust panels, including “Innovation and adaptation: What this could mean for education post-pandemic,” moderated by Marlene Asselta, president of Southern New Jersey Development Council, and featuring Frederick Keating, president of Rowan College of South Jersey, Monica Adya, president of Rutgers School of Business at Camden, and Barbara Gaba, president of Atlantic Cape Community College. 

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Innovation and Sustainability: Palm Beach County entrepreneurs endeavor to preserve the world

Innovation and Sustainability: Palm Beach County entrepreneurs endeavor to preserve the world

By: Felipe Rivas

5 min read August 2020 — The coronavirus pandemic put a spotlight on the importance of health, wellness, the essentiality of work, and the innovation that is possible in the midst of a constantly changing landscape. The global pandemic also shed light on the need for businesses and companies to ramp up their sustainability efforts, reduce their carbon footprints, support green initiatives and leave the world a better, cleaner place for future generations. In Palm Beach County, from the air to the ocean, local entrepreneurs are working hard to innovate in an effort to preserve the health of the planet in South Florida and beyond. 

For the past two years, local Palm Beach County resident and entrepreneur Tim Sperry has toiled to transform the ubiquity of paint into an air purifying instrument. His company, Smog Armor, is a solutions provider keenly focused on ending air pollution. With its slogan, “We innovate, you improve,” Smog Armor is committed to helping business owners and residents improve the air quality around them in an effort to eradicate air pollution. 

More than an eco-friendly paint, Smog Armor produces a water-based paint that is nontoxic, free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and infused with enhanced zeolite minerals for maximum absorption of air pollutants. Sperry’s patented process is optimal for reducing air pollution for up to five years depending on the condition of the environment it is painted in. Multiple independent testing has shown Smog Armor paint to reduce 95.1% of indoor air pollution in one hour, while its Green Wise certification ensures it has zero VOCs. 

With a background in real estate and business, and a consuming passion for entrepreneurship and preservation of nature and environment, Sperry transitioned from a life as a restauranteur to a biotech entrepreneur. “I needed to come up with something that I was passionate about, fulfilled by. With my love for nature, I wanted to find a way to help nature and do something that I really enjoyed doing,” Sperry told Invest: Palm Beach. As someone with a sensitive respiratory system, he knew helping reduce air pollution would be the main path in his journey to innovation and preserving the environment. 

His journey began by attempting to reduce vehicle carbon emissions because at that time “that’s what I saw,” he said. He spent months on end researching the dense, esoteric, chemistry-related literature revolving around air pollution and efforts to reduce it. “I essentially became a self-taught chemist,” he said. “I had two computers open. One with the research, and another to decipher those readings.” Time and time again he read about zeolite, a negatively charged mineral that is extremely effective at trapping carbon emissions and airborne pollutants. He designed a series of exhaust tips infused with zeolite aimed at directly reducing CO₂ emissions from cars, conducting and measuring air quality with and without the specialty exhaust tip. His exhaust tips proved to reduce car emissions by as much as 80 to 90 percent, he said. But after driving around for a while with the specialty exhaust tip, he realized that the system was impractical for the average consumer because the tips would constantly fall off and would become saturated after a few months of use. After going back to the drawing board, his light bulb moment came when he considered replicating this process with paint rather than the exhaust tips.

“At that point, I had to try something new,” he said. “Everyone uses paint, so I am not teaching people new habits.” After months of researching the proper paint manufacturers, honing the formula and testing the air purification efficacy of the paint, Smog Armor was ready to cover the walls of commercial and residential buildings and beyond. Local hotels have already used Smog Armor paint to improve consumer confidence in the coronavirus landscape, Sperry said. On the community outreach end of the spectrum, the company has tapped into the power of the arts, collaborating with nonprofit organizations to create impactful murals that purify the air of their local surroundings. To put it in perspective, three gallons of Smog Armor paint will remove as much CO₂ as one adult tree does in an entire year, Sperry said. For Sperry, giving back to the community via the art installations, for example, while advocating for a more sustainable future is the ultimate goal. “We have seen a spike in what we are doing because of all that is going on. We’ve got some amazing collaborations, working with amazing artists and companies, that are interested in showing that they are improving customer experience while building customer confidence and showing that they care about the environment in a public way,” he said. 

Similar to Sperry, two Florida Atlantic University alumni and entrepreneurs are on a mission to end plastic pollution in the ocean. Docked at Florida Atlantic University’s Research Park, 4ocean is a public benefit corporation founded by Andrew Cooper and Alex Schulze. 4ocean’s mission is to end the ocean plastic pollution crisis through global cleanup operations and a variety of methods that help stop plastic pollution at its source. In March, the company relocated it’s corporate headquarters to FAU’s Research Park. 

Through it’s “One Pound, One Promise,” 4oceans supports its efforts from the sale of bracelets, apparel and other products made from recycling recovered materials. Each product purchased removes one pound of trash from oceans and coastlines. To date, the company has recovered more than 10 million pounds of ocean plastic and trash, according to the company’s tracker, found on its website.

“Partnerships like this are extremely important in advancing our mission to end the ocean plastic crisis,” said Director of Operations Desmond Reese in a press release related to its move to FAU. The Research Park at FAU was the ideal location for future growth and innovation because it offers an opportunity to collaborate with FAU’s faculty and students on research and development, Reese said. 

FAU’s College of Engineering & Computer Science will work with 4ocean on several projects, such as developing enhanced methodologies to track ocean cleanup volumes in real time, diving deeper to understand the impact of cleaning waste from specific coastal and river outflow locations, developing additional cleanup operation tools and increasing its efficiency at interruption, capture and prevention of ocean inflow waste in remote regions while also developing datasets and tracking models.

“The arrival of 4ocean is very exciting,” Research Park President Andrew Duffell said in a press release. “It offers real-world research opportunities for both the faculty and students at FAU who can see how two of their fellow alumni are making a positive impact on our environment through entrepreneurship.”

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Students face remote learning in return to school

Students face remote learning in return to school

By: Beatrice Silva

3 min read August 2020 — As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, so does the number of universities keeping their physical doors shut this school year. The University of Notre Dame Princeton University, and Rutgers-Camden Business School are just some of the institutes that announced their decision to go fully online. 

Just as businesses needed to pivot during the pandemic and subsequent recession, educational institutions also had to find a way to adapt. “It is an unprecedented event that took us all by surprise,” Dean Monica Adya of Rutgers-Camden Business School told Invest: South Jersey. “We established a COVID-19 task force that includes all of my cabinet members, to look at how to proceed. One of the first things we did was to look at our emergency management plan that tackles infectious diseases, among other things. We focused on operational and communication measures. The former is relative to academic and business continuity. As Gov. (Phil) Murphy enacted the executive order stating that no one was to come to campus, we moved to an online format for all classes. Fortunately, several of our programs were already entirely online. Many of our students were already taking a combination of online and in-class programs, making them familiar with the online platform. We are sparing no resources or action plans to make sure our students get through this semester. We are also launching discussions about recovery, how we are going to help people who are out of work to get back into the workforce, and what specific programs and certificates they will require for that to happen in the shortest of terms.” 

Most students experienced a taste of distant learning back in April when schools were forced to close after lockdowns were issued across the United States. However, that doesn’t make it any easier for undergraduates, postgraduates, and faculty members to pick up where they left off. “We had some challenges on the student side because many students, although we think of them as a digital generation, had difficulty making the switch to online learning.  We’ve worked through much of this but it took some time,” Mike Mittelman, president of Salus University, told Invest: Philadelphia.

Innovation and technology play a huge role in how higher education continues to operate. Virtual learning experiences have replaced physical classrooms and face to face lectures. The new format has left some students feeling overwhelmed and quite frankly ripped off. At Rutgers University, more than 30,000 people have signed a petition started in July calling for an elimination of fees and a 20 percent tuition cut, according to The New York Times

Student housing is another topic of debate in the education community. While some institutional leaders don’t believe it’s safe, others argue that students don’t have anywhere else to go.  Schools, like The University of Pennsylvania and Temple University, are allowing a limited number of students back on their grounds but under strict conditions. Most schools that are letting students live in dorm rooms or attend in-person classes are actively enforcing social distancing, face masks and have provided COVID-19 tests. At Drexel University, international students or students who are experiencing financial hardships will be the only ones allowed to live on campus. 

Along with the many challenges the pandemic caused, it also created new opportunities. COVID-19 pushed educational institutions out of their comfort zones. To stay in business, universities adapted to new technologies and even formed a few alliances along the way. “This whole industry has shifted very, very quickly, so that shows that there’s flexibility, it shows that there’s resilience,” John Fry, president of Drexel University, told the Philadelphia Business Journal. “Those adaptations are incredibly valuable assets and institutions should hold on to that and not say, ‘Once this is over, we can go back to the way it was.’ Going back to the way it was, I think, is not a good idea.” 

Technical college system major component of Georgia’s business climate

Technical college system major component of Georgia’s business climate

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read August 2020 For the better part of the last decade, the Peach State has consistently ranked as the best state to do business year after year, a feat largely driven by Georgia’s robust higher education institutions and the state-funded technical college system. The Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) is the state government agency overseeing Georgia’s 22 technical colleges. As the country slides into a pandemic-led recession, the system remains keen on solidifying Georgia’s workforce, while helping companies land the talent needed to thrive in a volatile economy. 

Georgia’s track record for attracting new industries and companies is largely a result of the state’s pro-business landscape, geographical location and proximity to other key markets, and efforts to nurture a market-ready workforce. The system’s mission is to build a well-educated, globally competitive workforce through technical education, adult education and customized training for Georgia’s businesses and industries. “We provide Georgians with the education and training that will lead directly to a career that is in demand,” Technical College System of Georgia Commissioner Greg Dozier told Focus: Atlanta. “Our colleges work hand in glove with local industry to understand their workforce needs and offer programs that meet those needs.”

According to the National Skills Coalition, 54% of Georgia’s jobs are considered “middle skill,” or jobs that require more than a high-school diploma, but less than a four-year degree, Dozier said. However, only 42% of Georgians are trained to this level. “We are laser-focused on closing this middle skills gap.”

The system is in constant communication with businesses and industry leaders across Georgia, and has close partnerships with companies across different sectors, such as Mercedes Benz, Kubota, King’s Hawaiian Rolls and KIA Motors Manufacturing Georgia. Via its Georgia Quick Start program, the system provides free workforce training for companies considering relocating to Georgia or expanding in Georgia. And market-ready talent is among the top necessities for companies wishing to relocate or expand in the Peach State. “We are at the table with the Department of Economic Development when meeting with companies that are considering Georgia as their new home,” Dozier said. “Businesses want to know how they’ll have a steady pipeline of skilled talent. That’s what we do.” Through these conversations the system can then develop training programs tailored to the businesses’ needs and expectations. “We went through this process with KIA, which now manufactures its Telluride, Sorento and Optima automobiles about 80 miles southwest of Atlanta,” Dozier said. 

Serving counties such as DeKalb, Newton and Rockdale, Georgia Piedmont Technical College is part of the Technical College System of Georgia and provides education for the three-county service area, mostly in the metro Atlanta region. “Across the counties we serve, companies come to us with their recruitment needs and it is our role as a technical college to ensure we have programs that support those jobs,” Georgia Piedmont Technical College President Tavarez Holston told Focus: Atlanta. Though the impact of the coronavirus has squeezed the education sector and the economy at large, Holston says the college remains keen on equipping the local workforce with in-demand skills and training. “As we look at the current environment, there are signs of life in the economy, and we want to make sure we remain relevant in producing a workforce that meets the needs of our counties. Even though COVID-19 has changed the way we do business, we are still getting calls from our industry partners that require training delivered virtually,” he said.  


Healthcare and tech-based training are among the most popular offerings at Georgia Piedmont Technical College. “There are two careers that seem to be gaining a great deal of traction, one of which is healthcare. We train essential frontline workers and we are proud to be part of that,” Holston said. “Another popular course is in manufacturing, which can be attributed partly to the rise of e-commerce. We are getting many requests for training in automation, programmable logic control and advanced manufacturing.”


While the ramifications of the coronavirus are likely to shape the future of business and education, leaders are optimistic that Georgia’s workforce will continue to meet the needs of employers and industries. “Our colleges have done a great job of preparing for in-person reopening following guidelines set by the CDC and GPH,” Dozier said. “I think there will be great needs with economic upticks in various industries across Georgia. As the economy comes back, the needs that TCSG satisfies for businesses and the community will make a difference. Georgia has been named the No. 1 state in the nation to do business seven years in a row. We will continue to build on the legacy Georgia has made for itself as the No. 1 state for business by providing a skilled workforce. The prospects for the state are extremely positive.”

After an overnight transition to remote learning in the spring, Georgia Piedmont Technical College aims to accommodate students’ needs further come the fall semester. “We have always done online and distance learning. But we have realized that we need to be more flexible and accommodating for our students,” Holston said. “We still have to think about the highest quality education we can provide during a pandemic. When the shelter in place order came down, we immediately started putting together an intensive two-year program that could be done in a year, with the reasoning that people at home have more time at their disposal.”


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Tech sector continues to thrive in Atlanta

Tech sector continues to thrive in Atlanta

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read July 2020From coding to game development, there is a great desire for more tech-related training in the metro Atlanta region and major companies are stepping in to help usher the next generation of tech workers.

 The Atlanta area, long known as a logistics and fintech hub, is bolstering its reputation as a producer of tech talent in the Southeast. Recently, Atlanta ranked No. 9 out of 50 North American markets in CBRE’s  annual Tech Talent Scorecard. Atlanta added 31,960 technology jobs over the past five years, the commercial real estate services and investment firm reported. Atlanta ranked No. 6 and No. 7 in the top 10 markets for educational attainment and degree completion, respectively, CBRE noted in its 2020 report. The report compared the number of tech degree graduates versus tech talent job creation to determine if brain gains or brain drains occurred in the different North American markets they analyzed. Atlanta posted a brain gain of +647. In comparison, other large metros did not favor as well as Atlanta, with the nation’s capital posting a brain drain of -28,819 and Boston, not far from historied institutions such Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, sitting at the bottom of the list with a brain drain of -32,426, according to the report. 

Though the metro Atlanta region is home to more than 70 higher education institutions, major companies are ramping up funding to meet the technological needs of students and residents. 

Technology giant, Apple, recently announced the deepening of existing partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), adding more than 10 regional coding centers slated to serve as tech hubs for students and the local community. Among those institutions is Morehouse College, one of Atlanta’s most historic colleges whose alumni include civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr and filmmaker Spike Lee.

This effort is designed to expand coding offerings and workforce development opportunities to learners of all ages, Apple said in a press release. 

”Apple is committed to working alongside communities of color to advance educational equity,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives. “We see this expansion of our Community Education Initiative and partnership with HBCUs as another step toward helping Black students realize their dreams and solve the problems of tomorrow.”

Similarly, the Georgia Game Developers Association (GGDA) in June received a sizable grant from a major video game developer to help educational leaders teach a popular game engine supported by different industries.

Epic Games, host of the Unreal engine, a real-time 3D creation platform for photoreal visuals and immersive experiences, committed $100 million to support game developers and media professionals, students and teachers in the Peach State and beyond. 

“The Unreal engine has become not only the standard for making games, but also for pre-visualizing movies, creating great architecture designs, making great television shows and more,” said Andrew Greenberg, executive director of the GGDA. “Unreal has become one of the most valuable skills new graduates can know when they seek jobs in these fields.”

He added: “The GGDA applied for the grant because the need for skilled Unreal developers has far outstripped the current supply. Georgia companies like Hi-Rez Studios, Tripwire Interactive, the Weather Channel, Pinewood Atlanta Studios and more rely on this technology, and offer great opportunities to recent grads who can use it well.”

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Palm Beach education leaders assess 2020-21 academic year

Palm Beach education leaders assess 2020-21 academic year

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read July  2020Forced to switch from in person learning to remote instruction seemingly overnight, Palm Beach education leaders are now planning the reopening of county campuses as the 2020-21 academic year nears its August start date. The reopening of public schools has been a contentious topic among parents, policymakers and educators, all of whom have different visions for the reopening process. 

The Palm Beach County School Board convened on Wednesday to discuss what the reopening of county public schools could look like under the coronavirus landscape. The Palm Beach County School Board is likely to approve its reopening plans, which will feature a mixture of distance education and a phased reopening process, according to the Sun Sentinel. With this approach, the youngest of each grade category will be among the first students to return to the classroom, along with those students with special needs. This would include students in pre-K, kindergarten, first grade, sixth grade and ninth grade, the paper reported.     

Further complicating the difficult reopening process, many teachers and parents fear that opening campuses would not be safe given the recent spikes in cases and Florida’s standing as the epicenter of coronavirus cases worldwide. Florida has reported 301,810 cases of the virus and 4,521 deaths as of Wednesday, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Dashboard. 

Not everyone is on board with strictly online classes, either. Some Palm Beach County parents gathered in front of the Palm Beach County School District’s headquarters on Monday to protest school officials’ decision to bar students from campuses and deliver only online classes at the start of the new school year. Among the parents’ chief concerns are the needs of students with disabilities, or those struggling with the online learning environment, and the needs of parents who have to choose between working or taking care of their children, the Palm Beach Post reported. 

According to the Palm Beach County School Board’s agenda, Palm Beach County Public School Superintendent Donald Fennoy is recommending “starting the school year with distance learning for all students and allowing for a phased return to brick and mortar in-person instruction when county health conditions permit.”

At the university level, institutions like Florida Atlantic University are also likely to begin the school year with an emphasis on remote learning while enforcing mask measures and strict social distancing rules for students and staff present on campus. Florida Atlantic University President John Kelly announced in late June that the university’s fall 2020 reopening plans were approved by the State University System of Florida Board of Governors. The school’s 25-page plan features the requirement of face coverings, with most classes remaining online, including classes with more than 50 students and all graduate-level courses, according to the university. Classrooms are to remain at 25 percent capacity and faculty, staff, and students will be required to observe social distancing measures while in the classroom.

Each of the state’s 12 public universities was required to file such a plan. School leaders still have to submit their reopening plans to the Florida Department of Education for final approval by July 31, 2020.

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Georgia’s business reputation stays strong in midst of pandemic

Georgia’s business reputation stays strong in midst of pandemic

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read July 2020 — The Peach State’s methodical investments in economic development, workforce training, support for small businesses, and overall pro-business environment continue to pay dividends for the region, even in the midst of a global pandemic.


Georgia was once again celebrated as a leader in economic development in June by Area Development Magazine, which awarded the state its 12th Silver Shovel Award. This distinction, Georgia’s 11th consecutive award, celebrates the region’s excellence in economic activity, job creation and investment attraction. Besides this latest recognition, the region also saw significant technology-based business expansion in June, while its film industry readies to meet pent-up studio demand, which is set to employ some 40,000 people — a significant boon to the local economy afflicted by coronavirus-related challenges. 

“It’s an honor to accept this award on behalf of all of the hardworking Georgians who consistently create opportunities in their communities,” Gov. Brian Kemp said of the 12th Silver Shovel Award, according to a press release. “For 11 years in a row, Georgia has earned this recognition thanks to our pro-business environment, unmatched workforce, world-renowned logistics, and long-standing commitment to attracting jobs to every corner of the state. I want to thank our state’s economic development team and our local partners for their tireless work to promote prosperity throughout the Peach State.”

While compounded economic activity prior to the coronavirus slowdown may have significantly maintained the state’s pro-business reputation, recent June business expansion announcements continue to highlight the strong economic fundamentals found in the Peach State. 

Three technology-based companies announced investments and job creation plans in different Georgia communities. Milletech Systems Inc., SK Innovation, and Perspecta, companies that span the gamut of technology services from software solutions to advanced manufacturing to cybersecurity, are set to bring more than 1,200 jobs to the region while providing millions of dollars in investments. These announcements are testaments to Georgia’s “top-notch college and university system and training programs,” Kemp said. “I am confident that Milletech will be pleased with their decision to expand and invest in Georgia along with the skilled talent we have right here in the Peach State.” Kemp had similar sentiments when speaking of the other recent technology company expansions.

To go along with editorial recognition and recent business expansions, the Peach State’s film sector officially opened for business following months-long coronavirus-related shutdowns. Major motion picture, television, and streaming companies are gearing up to hire approximately 40,000 production workers, the governor’s office announced in June. The announcement follows revised safety protocols provided by the Georgia Film Office, which complements further safety guidelines published by the Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Task Force, aimed at ensuring a safe workplace environment and reducing the spread of the virus. 

An expected 75 productions are set to resume filming. They are projected to inject over $2 billion into the Georgia economy during the next 18 months, helping more than 17,000 small businesses in the process. “The entertainment production industry is coming back and ready to jumpstart the Georgia economy by creating jobs and generating greatly needed investment and spending in communities across the Peach State,” said Gov. Kemp, according to a press release.

“Georgia is open for business, and we look forward to an even stronger relationship with the film industry moving forward,” said Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson. In 2019, 391 film and television productions filmed in Georgia, supported by 3,040 motion picture and television industry businesses. “Thanks to the historic best practices guide, Georgia is able to safely send the tens of thousands of film and TV industry employees back to work and restart production. The economic impact of film touches local communities and small businesses across Georgia. We look forward to resuming the hundreds of productions across the state and to keeping Georgia as the nation’s film and TV capital,” Wilson said.

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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. 

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Florida’s phase 2 reopening and what it means for South Florida

Florida’s phase 2 reopening and what it means for South Florida

By: Beatrice Silva 

2 min read June 2020 On June 3, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced his plans to transition the majority of the state into the second phase of its recovery plan. However, the three southeast counties hit hardest by COVID-19 — Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach — will not be included in the reopening. 


 “We’ll work with the three southeast Florida counties to see how they’re developing and whether they want to move into phase 2,” DeSantis said during a news conference in Orlando on June 3. “They’re on a little bit of a different schedule.”


Gov. DeSantis will allow the three southeast counties to enter phase 2 under certain circumstances. The county mayors or county administrators will have to seek approval to enter phase 2 with a written request. Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner and County Administrator Verdenia Baker wasted no time sending their request letter to DeSantis. 


“Palm Beach County is ready to go into ‘phase 2,” said Kerner at a news conference on Friday afternoon. “But we want to do it with some particular carve-outs that are necessary for the unique nature of Palm Beach County.” The county’s public officials are waiting for approval from Gov. DeSantis. 


As for Miami-Dade, their previous reopening date was pushed back by protests against police brutality. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez lifted the countywide curfew on June 8, and approved the reopening of gyms and fitness centers under Amendment 2 to Miami-Dade County Emergency Order 23-20. Although the city isn’t officially included in the initial phase 2 reopening date, Gimenez says he is working with the state on reopening locations very soon. 


Upon approval, restaurants may allow bar-top seating with appropriate social distancing. Bars will be able to operate at a 50 percent capacity inside and full capacity outside. Retail stores are going to be allowed to operate at full capacity and entertainment venues like movie theaters and bowling alleys will be able to welcome back guests at a 50 percent capacity. Residents who do decide to venture out will still have to follow CDC guidelines like wearing a mask, social distancing, and frequently washing their hands.


Although the north and south regions of Florida are on different opening schedules. State universities will have to submit their blueprints by Friday. The State University System of  Board of Governors recommends things like social distancing, disinfecting, face masks and student’s desks being as far away from one another as possible. School districts on the other hand, will be given the final say on their own social distancing protocols. It is expected that students will have a much different learning experience upon returning to the classroom. 


“We have a great opportunity to get back on good footing,” DeSantis said. “I know our kids have been in difficult circumstances. … Getting back to the school year is going to be really, really important to the well-being of our kids.”


Broward County school districts are in the process of surveying parents to gauge what they would like their child’s school to look like this coming fall. “We will have schools open. We will have teachers in schools. We will have students in schools … including hybrid models that some parents are rightfully demanding,” said Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public School, at Wednesday’s school board committee meeting. 


Within the past four months, there have been 70,971 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 2,877 related deaths in Florida, according to the Florida Health. 


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