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. 

To learn more, visit:

https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_z34pLBUwQlSCObV80dyE7w

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.”

For more information, visit:

https://www.smogarmor.com/breathe-cb

https://www.4ocean.com/

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

 

Understanding and addressing the current reality

Understanding and addressing the current reality

By: Max Crampton- Thomas

The Tampa Bay region, like everywhere else, is feeling the deep impact from the COVID-19 pandemic. In an interview with Invest:, Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce CEO Robin Miller reflects on the economic fallout from the pandemic, how the chamber is supporting local businesses and what role the community can play to help businesses through this unprecedented crisis.

 

What have you already seen in terms of economic impact from the COVID-19 pandemic on the business community in the Tampa Bay region?

 

There has been unprecedented impact in nearly every sector; however, hospitality is at the top of those extremely impacted. When you look at this from the loss of jobs to the closure of hotels, this trickle effect impacts sales tax generated as well. For many years, we would have communities and people complain about visitors and tourists here. Now, the unfortunate reality is that this is what it looks like when we don’t have tourism in our communities.

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

 

We are working extremely hard to provide clear and concise information; assisting businesses in navigating and understanding the stimulus; and lastly, but more importantly, we have created a partnership with Feeding Tampa Bay and are providing food pantries once a week and access to produce.

Do you feel the business community is receiving enough state and federal support?

 

I think it is a good start; however, we are advocating strongly for sector-driven financial support that are not loans. The anxiety and stress of no business at all and keeping people employed is debilitating, and then the pure thought they will need to take out loans is overwhelming. This is a line item in a businesses budget that was not planned. They need access to grants and more of it. I think local governments can play a key role in this as well.


How can the community best assist the local businesses in this time of need?

 

Be patient with businesses as they now have a new normal to exist in. Once we start staggering the openings of our local communities and businesses, we all need to create a new plan to support them. We will all be on limited funds for months to come. I suggest that whenever we need something, let’s not immediately open an Amazon web window. Let’s instill a behavior that we immediately access our local options first. If you think you can get it on Amazon cheaper, tell your local business that. We need to band together in this support now more than ever.

For more information on our interviewee, visit: 

https://www.tampabaybeaches.com/