Invest: Orlando offers economic insight in a time of uncertainty

Invest: Orlando offers economic insight in a time of uncertainty

By: Beatrice Silva 

Invest: Orlando offers economic insight in a time of uncertainty

AUGUST 4, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ORLANDO, FLA – Capital Analytics’ in-depth research into the Orlando market has never been more important. As the region navigates through the largest economic shock it has experienced in decades, Invest: Orlando 2020, the latest in Capital Analytics’ annual series of business reports, offers comprehensive business intelligence during this time of economic uncertainty. With 120 pages of thoroughly researched analysis, the inaugural edition of Invest: Orlando 2020 highlights the opportunities in the Orlando Metro Area economy through C-level insider insights and key business intelligence. Orlando is known for its aerospace, technology, life sciences and healthcare, real estate, and its reputation as a major tourism hub. The City Beautiful is poised to continue its growth and economic diversification even through current coronavirus-related challenges. In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity. The challenges and impact of the pandemic are just some of the focal points in this edition of Invest: Orlando. The 2020 edition highlights Orange County and beyond, including parts of Osceola County, such as Kissimmee and St. Cloud.“Many of the interviews in Invest: Orlando 2020 were conducted prior to the pandemic’s outbreak, but we have endeavored to reflect recent events throughout our editorial. Those interviewees who were able to comment on the potential long-term impact agree that the U.S. economy remains resilient, and most are optimistic that any downturn will be relatively short-lived. The economy’s underlying strength, many business leaders believe, will give greater growth over the long term,” said Abby Melone, president of Capital Analytics.

Now more than ever, information is not only necessary, it is vital. Invest: Orlando 2020 dives deep into the top economic sectors in the Orlando Metro Area. The business report features exclusive insights from industry leaders, sector insiders, elected officials and heads of important institutions, brought together for a comprehensive release. It analyzes the leading challenges facing the market and uncovers emerging opportunities for investors, entrepreneurs and innovators.

Over seven months, the Capital Analytics team conducted extensive research and interviewed over 200 high-profile industry leaders, including Buddy Dyer, mayor for the City of Orlando; Besty Eckbert, president and CEO of Winter Park Chamber of Commerce; and Craig Ustler, president of Ustler Development. Through their research, the Capital Analytics team identified significant business insights that will serve as important knowledge benchmarks for investors, entrepreneurs and innovators. The publication’s comprehensive report on Orlando’s business climate remains steadfast in its purpose to deliver in-depth insights. 

“Over the course of our extensive research period, we were given the ability to truly peel back the curtain and discover what has gone into making Orlando the hotbed for investment, tourism and development that it has become. What we found was that this economy has not only flourished thanks to cross-sector collaboration but also because of thoughtfully calculated community efforts to raise Orlando’s status as a preeminent destination for both economic and social prosperity,” said Max Crampton-Thomas, regional editor of Capital Analytics.   

About Capital Analytics & Invest: Orlando

Capital Analytics is an integrated media platform that produces in-depth business intelligence through its annual print and digital economic reviews, high-impact conferences and events and top-level interviews via its video platform, Invest: Insights.

Invest: Orlando is an in-depth economic review of the key issues facing Orlando’s economy, featuring the exclusive insights of prominent industry leaders. Invest: Orlando is produced with two goals in mind: 1) to provide comprehensive investment knowledge on the Orlando region to local, national and international investors, and 2) to promote Orlando as a place to invest and do business.

The book conducts a deep dive into the top economic sectors in the county, including real estate, construction, utilities and infrastructure, transportation and aviation, banking and finance, legal, healthcare, education, and arts, culture and tourism. The publication is compiled from insights collected from more than 200 economic leaders, sector insiders, political leaders and heads of important institutions. It analyzes the leading challenges facing the market, and uncovers emerging opportunities for investors, entrepreneurs and innovators.

 

 

For more information contact 

Max Crampton-Thomas 

Regional Editor

mcthomas@capitalaa.com

TEL: 305-523-9708 ext 233

Spotlight On: Tom Slagle, CEO, Rasmussen College

Spotlight On: Tom Slagle, CEO, Rasmussen College

By: Max Crampton Thomas

2 min read June 2020 —With a history spanning more than 119 years, Rasmussen College is well-positioned and experienced in adjusting to unforeseen circumstances like the current pandemic the world is working to eradicate. CEO Tom Slagle spoke to Invest: Orlando about the school’s advantage as a leader in online education for over 20 years. He also spoke about the school being welcomed by the community in Orlando as one of the newest entrants into the local higher education sector. 

 

How is Rasmussen College positioned in Florida?

Rasmussen has been around since 1900. Rasmussen College acquired Webster College with campuses in Holiday and Ocala, Florida, in 2004. These campuses were merged into the Rasmussen College system in 2007. Later, the college expanded into Fort Myers, Tampa and Orlando. Overall, we have campuses in six states and a national online team serving more than 17,000 students. Healthcare education is a strength for the college, particularly licensure-required fields such as nursing. We are the largest producer of ADN (first licensure) nurses in the country and also offer a bachelor’s (BSN) and master’s in nursing (MSN) and soon a doctoral (DNP). We pride ourselves on providing affordable degrees and a student support network with individualized services. Our primary target market is the adult learner seeking to advance or change their career, more so than the traditional high-school graduate. 

 

What role does the school play in the Orlando education sector?

We are excited about our new campus in Orlando. We believe we pinpointed some real gaps in the local education market. Our healthcare portfolio is a great fit, and our offerings in business, technology and social services are also in strong demand. The opportunity to provide affordable and relevant credentials that employers are seeking from graduates is where we excel. Our goal is always to be deeply engaged in the communities in which we live and work, this is why we believe in our local campus network. Our programs offer tremendous flexibility with many fully online, but they also provide the campus-based learning environments necessary for labs and simulations. We have been welcomed by the employer community in Orlando and have developed strong relationships with the local healthcare institutions, which support our graduating students with employment opportunities. We want Orlando to become one of our larger campuses in Florida over the next three to five years.

 

How has COVID-19 impacted the college?

We have been an online leader in education for almost 20 years, so we know how to educate students in an online environment. It is not always simple to incorporate the proper content, curriculum, experience and assessment criteria on a digital platform, but fortunately, we have a lot of experience in that field. As an example, all of our nursing simulation, which typically takes place on campus or at clinical sites, was moved to an online environment, allowing no disruption to our nursing students’ educational journey or graduation. Also, we have seen that individuals displaced by the current environment want to build on their knowledge and competencies to better prepare themselves for the current and future workforce. We made the decision to support our communities by providing our eRasmussen Professional Certificates portfolio (eRasmussen.com) at no cost. We’ve had nearly 9,000-course registrants for the professional certificates so far. We have also sought ways to support our communities by donating much of our PPE to local healthcare organizations to ensure their readiness during this pandemic.

 

Which industries are driving the strongest demand for educational programs in Orlando right now?

Healthcare is probably top of the list, but we are also seeing strength in areas like technology and other business-related programs. Many applicants are looking for short-term certification to improve their options once they rejoin the workforce. Our Early Childhood Education portfolio also continues to perform well. Our model allows us to serve a segment of the population that has traditionally been underserved by other institutions. We are tremendously optimistic about the breadth of opportunities in the Orlando market.

 

What does the future hold for Rasmussen College in Florida?

With the economy potentially moving into a short-term recession, education tends to be countercyclical. As individuals are out of work, they look for ways to position themselves in a competitive market with enhanced skills to get a better job. There are also many people looking to make career changes, and we can help with that and make our local communities stronger. Our enrollment rate has continued to grow, and we believe that demand for our programs will remain strong given the unique experience Rasmussen provides our students. 

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

https://www.rasmussen.edu/

 

Spotlight On: Sandi Bargfrede, Managing Partner, ACRE Commercial Real Estate

Spotlight On: Sandi Bargfrede, Managing Partner, ACRE Commercial Real Estate

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read May 2020 — The real estate market will know a before and after COVID-19 as soon as activities resume. Sandi Bargfrede, managing partner of ACRE Commercial Real Estate, talks to Invest: about what to expect from Orlando’s market as the pandemic unfolds. 

 

How did ACRE Commercial Real Estate close 2019? 

2019 was a stellar year as not only did we see a tremendous increase in volume, but we also saw an impressive uptick in new retail concepts entering the Central Florida/Orlando market. ACRE specializes in retail third-party leasing, property management and tenant representation and we had never seen such a stronger increase in all aspects of our business than we did in 2019. In addition to strong growth in tenant representation, in the last year we also secured a significant stronghold in the Downtown and surrounding area in the mixed-use sector. 

How does your company capitalize on being an all-female commercial real estate firm? 

Women provide a different perspective on retail as we are typically the shoppers and we usually plan the family social activities. We are able to use this to our advantage as we can bring a different point of view to a project. ACRE did not set out to be an all-female firm. That said, we are all-female-owned but we are always open to hiring exceptional professionals, male or female. My business partner and I have been in this business for 20-plus years each and we have witnessed the industry evolve with more 

professional women entering the historically male-dominated field now more than ever. We believe this trend will continue and we will continue to provide the required mentorship platform for all in the business looking to thrive. 

What unique business opportunities does Orlando offer to your business and operations? 

Seventy-two million people per year visit Orlando, bolstering a strong service and hotel industry, where retail spaces are required to provide for these visitors. The retail opportunities are therefore exponential. We are seeing a significant wave of people moving here due to recent job growth figures, with close to 12 percent overall job growth in Orlando itself. With all of this growth, we are seeing a surge in new development from shopping centers to urban mixed-use communities. These new developments provide ACRE the opportunity to use our experience to work with developers before they break ground. Utilizing our extensive background in leasing, tenant representation and development allows us to create a project with not only the proper infrastructure but also the ability to create the synergistic tenant mix required for a project to be successful for the retailer and developer alike. 

What is your assessment of Orlando’s commercial real estate market? 

It is very strong as there are many vibrant areas that are growing in the Metro Orlando market, such as Hamlin, Lake Nona, Apopka, Clermont and downtown to name a few. We are seeing a housing boom in Orlando and these areas are all creating retail destinations for services and amenities along with community-driven gathering spaces for their residents and visitors. 

How has the COVID-19 outbreak altered the Central Florida real estate market? 

We do not believe it will resemble the 2008 crash, especially if we can get back to work sooner than later. It will definitely change the landscape considering the ever-changing social distancing guidelines and measures. These will certainly have a lasting effect on retail and restaurant margins. However, it will also open the door for reinvention and creativity toward preservation. 

We have always been outside-the-box thinkers. Recession-proof and Amazon-resistant have been part of our vocabulary and now we added pandemic and social distancing to the mix. We will find new ways to create tenant mixes that reflect the changes in our “new normal.” We offer consulting and advisory services to our clients and believe these services will be more valuable than ever to assist with navigating this new unknown landscape together. We have always treated our projects like they are our own and will continue to do so. 

What is your outlook for 2020-21? 

There will be a slight correction in the retail portion of the commercial real estate landscape. This will translate into greater inventory of second generation space available, which will most likely result in a reduction of rental rates until the absorption of inventory is stabilized. We do have a positive outlook as we head into 2021 and businesses start to recover. That said, it is difficult to predict as the COVID-19 effect is still unknown. All in all, we believe there is room for a fast recovery and in the end, Orlando will be stronger than before. 

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

https://www.acrefl.com/

Spotlight On: Kenneth Rosenfield, Managing Partner, Rosenfield & Company PLLC

Spotlight On: Kenneth Rosenfield, Managing Partner, Rosenfield & Company PLLC

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read May 2020 — In a crowded accounting and consulting services marketplace, it can be hard to differentiate from the masses. Kenneth Rosenfield, managing partner of Rosenfield & Company PLLC, is accomplishing this by putting a greater investment into his people and by creating a culture that is strong enough to be listed among the “Best Places to Work” for CPA firms last year. He also speaks to his firm’s adaptability as being key to navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, and while most businesses have seen a major slowdown in activity, his firm is experiencing an influx of demand as it works to process SBA loans for its clients.

 

How is the Orlando market conducive to your firm’s success? 

 Orlando’s economy has been doing really well and has been a great place to work. The workforce is plentiful and the universities here are fantastic. We are lucky to have access to the largest university  in Florida, which has been really great for recruiting to our firm. UCF has been fantastic to work with. The manufacturing industry, which is one of our core industries, has been doing really well in Orlando as well. A lot of people have the perception that Orlando is Disney World, but that is actually the third-largest industry in this region behind healthcare and manufacturing. We are big in the automotive retail industry, and Central Florida is the third-largest automotive market in the country. We have a variety of car dealerships in Orlando, including some of the largest in the country, which are all clients of ours, and is one reason our headquarters is located in Orlando. The automotive retail sector is usually the first to go into a recession and the first to come out of it. 

 

In searching for a new office space, what have you identified in regard to vacancies in the Downtown area?

 Downtown is challenged due to the consolidation of space. There are a lot of vacancies in Downtown Orlando. A lot of this is caused by banks and law firms downsizing in that area. I’m not sure what the exact cause is because everybody seems to be doing well. I believe this could be because the thought process has changed. Everyone used to want a big office, but now everyone is going more toward a collaborative workspace, which takes up a lot less space. That has created a big hole in the market and it has caused the rate per square foot to come down. So much space is now available.

 

How do you remain competitive with firms of your size and the larger national firms? 

 We compete with the big national firms for staff and clientele. We have to offer the same level and more creative types of compensation while also offering a completely different work atmosphere that those firms don’t supply. We also have to be different from all the firms our size and price competitive with the large firms. Ultimately, this leads us to making a greater investment in our people. We don’t have the “grind them up and chew them out” environment that the big firms have. We also have made the investment with the local colleges to acquire the best available interns. We have to maintain a really great intern program that allows them to do exciting things and also receive practical work experience. If you don’t provide that environment, you won’t get to participate in that talent pool. Having a great work environment leads to more productivity and ability to serve our clients better. We are really proud to have won, Best Places to Work for CPA firms last year. We also invested heavy into technology over the years, and we are much more efficient than our competitors in serving our clients. 

 

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your operations? 

 Today, we are extremely inundated with processing SBA loans for our clients. Other people had also heard about us doing this, so if they are big enough we have algorithms to figure out the best method to accomplish this. We then put together loan packages and submit them to the banks. We have already completed over 150 of them and these are big SBA loans valued at over half a million dollars, at least. Tax filings were pushed back, so we are still working on those but not as much as we are working on these SBA loans. We also do SEC work, so we have a lot of quarterly and annual filings coming up that we are still working on. Our audit team is very busy. We are going to see a lot of merger and acquisition activity in the coming months, which we are also proficient at. 

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

https://www.rosenfieldandco.com/

Federal, state govts rally to help homeless during COVID-19 outbreak

Federal, state govts rally to help homeless during COVID-19 outbreak

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read  — Since March, shelter-in-place measures have become the norm across the nation, shuttering nonessential businesses, schools and public gathering spaces. While the majority of people transitioned to a new way of life during the quarantine, including remote work and distance learning, the U.S homeless population risks COVID-19 infection as they lack access to testing and basic hygiene facilities, among other measures to combat infectious diseases. Additionally, for the homeless population, many are older adults or have underlying medical conditions, increasing the likelihood of contracting COVID-19. As such, states, municipalities, local health departments, housing authorities, among other institutions, have been working to meet the food, shelter, hygiene and testing needs of the homeless population.   

 

In South Florida, the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, in collaboration with various state and federal agencies, has been helping to protect sheltered and unsheltered homeless households and its staff in the face of the COVID-19 threat. “The Homeless Trust is proactive in engaging our housing and support service providers to offer guidance, assess needs and facilitate vital connections to local, state and federal resources,” said Trust Chairman Ronald L. Book in a press release. “Our preparations have to consider the fact that much of our population does not have a ‘home’ with which to self-quarantine; therefore, we have broader issues to consider. We will continue to work to ensure homeless households have access to shelter, care and food while doing all we can to mitigate the virus’ spread.”

As part of its outreach efforts, the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust is distributing hygiene, safety and food kits to unsheltered homeless persons throughout the county along with educational information. Outreach teams are taking temperatures of unsheltered homeless persons to pre-identify those with symptoms, among other measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In Pinellas County, the city of Clearwater has taken similar steps to help the homeless population of the region. As part of its mission, the city’s economic development department is focused on economic growth and the vitality of the community, which includes the homeless population. As such, the department is encouraging restaurants that have had to close or limit their operations temporarily to donate food to food banks, which then distribute the food to the most vulnerable segments of the community, Economic Development and Housing Director Denise Sanderson told Invest: Insights in an interview. “We have not seen a big increase in street level homelessness,” she said. “We have seen an increase in the presence of our homeless community. Primarily because we have had to close down our recreation centers and libraries.” As those facilities closed, the department pivoted to placing porta-potties and mobile shower units throughout the city to help the homeless community stay clean during this time. “To date, we have not had any cases, at least known to us, where COVID-19 has affected the homeless population.” Sanderson said. 

In Orlando, the shelters are preparing for an influx of homeless people. Shelters are down beds because social distancing precautions require separation of beds, Spectrum News reported. Shelters are concerned with bringing in people who may have the virus. “Right now we have a campus that is fairly safe. How do we bring people on without introducing that,” John Hearn, president and CEO of the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida, told the news outlet. Hearn’s shelter has been screening everyone before they enter the campus. The shelter set up isolation areas for people showing symptoms. This move, along with social distancing measures, cost the shelter close to 50 beds, Spectrum News reported. His shelter has increased the distribution of meals to three times a day and still has open beds available, according to the news outlet. 

At the federal level, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a $2 trillion funding package aimed at protecting the population, industries and businesses from the impact of the coronavirus, set aside more than $12 billion to help the homeless population and those who serve them. Community Solutions, a nonprofit organization focused on ending homelessness, detailed the portion of the CARES act aimed at helping those experiencing homelessness. The Department of Housing and Urban Development would divvy up the funds for Emergency Solutions Grants to assist homeless shelters and outreach workers who keep people who are homeless safer from coronavirus, different rent assistance programs, and other assistance programs aimed at the elderly, Native Americans, and people with AIDS, among other initiatives, according to Community Solutions. Federal, state and local agencies must work together to optimize resources and help for the homeless population, the nonprofit wrote on its website. “While we are pleased that our federal lawmakers provided this needed fiscal relief, we need to ensure that people experiencing homelessness, and those who serve them, continue to be supported as state and local governments work to administer funds and in any forthcoming stimulus package, Community Solutions said. “Following the injection of this stimulus funding, state and local governments must focus on allocating this new funding to protect people experiencing homelessness and homeless response staff, and limit inflow into health care and hospital systems. This includes ensuring people experiencing homelessness — and the people helping them — have immediate access to housing, health and safety training, personal protective equipment, facilities for hand-washing, medical treatment, testing options and ultimately, safe places to quarantine.”

 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

https://www.centralfloridahomeless.org/

http://www.homelesstrust.org/

https://www.myclearwater.com/government/city-departments/economic-development-housing

https://community.solutions/covid-19-and-homelessness/

Spotlight On:  Larry Rice, President, Johnson & Wales University – North Miami

Spotlight On: Larry Rice, President, Johnson & Wales University – North Miami

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read April 2020 —Like all educational institutions, Johnson & Wales University – North Miami has turned to the online universe to deliver its programs amid the containment measures for COVID-19. President Larry Rice discusses the transition to online and what the future could look like in a post-COVID-19 world.

 

 

How have the faculty and student body handled the transition to all online classes?  

Our faculty and staff have had to adapt to moving to virtual teaching during periods of crisis due to hurricane shutdowns that we have experienced in prior years. I must say that past campus preparations did not sufficiently help us in specifically anticipating the unforeseen issues resulting from having to transition to a fully virtual delivery format during a pandemic. Unlike with previous hurricanes, which required us to transition to virtual instruction, we could not predict the swiftness and fluidity of the changing dynamics of this pandemic. Therefore, our transition was peppered with heightened anxiety on all sides – parents, students, faculty and staff. However, together, we managed through those issues and were able to move all academic courses to our virtual platform. The university’s academic technology and instructional design department assisted faculty in adapting course material to the virtual environment. Since our students are conditioned to learn and acquire knowledge through hands-on applications, group collaborations and team-based projects, the transition to online learning was their greatest challenge. I am proud of how our students were able to make the necessary adjustments in such a short period of time, and I am especially proud of how our faculty and staff were able to meet this challenge in ways that can only be commended.

 

What unforeseen challenges did this present for the university and how did you mitigate those challenges? 

The greatest challenge was to ensure the safety and well-being of our resident students, 10% of whom are international students who were away from their families during what could best be described as the greatest crisis in their young adult lifetime. Managing the fear and anxiety of our students in the midst of ever-changing information concerning what we were facing was surely the greatest challenge. Initially, our message to students was that we were moving all academic classes to virtual environments, out of an abundance of caution and we would follow CDC, state, and local guidelines while continuing to house students on campus. 

This quickly changed to sharing with our students that to ensure the safety and well-being of our residences, we would need students to plan for a transition from the residence hall to a return home to be with their families. All but 19 of our 700+ resident students were able to return home to their families. JWU launched a taskforce of staff members to assist students who needed assistance with flights, ride-share transportation, buses, or gas cards. Any student who was unable to travel home or was from a country to which it was not safe to travel, was welcomed to stay at JWU, and the campus provided room and daily meals for those students. 

 

As higher education adjusts to the current situation, what opportunities and innovation do you see carrying over post-COVID-19?  

I believe that this crisis has provided all of higher education several teachable moments that we can learn from. Certainly, our dependence on face-to-face interactions has changed, and we must adapt. Having virtual, blended, and multiple other learning options available to students will become the norm. I foresee that the average classroom experience will shift to maximizing technology to allow for physical classroom instruction while simultaneously providing a remote live-streaming interactive option for students who are uncomfortable with a face-to-face interaction following this pandemic. I believe more time will be invested in moving that classroom experience beyond the physical walls, regardless of discipline, especially for more challenging curricula that require labs and hands-on activities. Prior to COVID-19 this was a nice thought, post-COVID-19, these curricular changes will become necessary and standard. 

 

How does the university plan on handling graduation this year for those students who are slated to graduate at the end of the spring semester?

The university has postponed the May 23 commencement ceremony. Our plan is to host a ceremony for students only on Aug. 22 while providing a live streaming service for families to watch from their homes and any students wishing to be recognized during the ceremony but who do not wish to attend physically. We anticipate that all 2020 graduates will also have the option of participating in the May 2021 commencement ceremony.  

 

What would your message be to the university’s student population and faculty that is sheltering in place and waiting for a return to normalcy?

Be strong and stay safe JWU Wildcats. We are making preparations for your return once the stay-at-home guidelines are relaxed and the CDC, state, and local agencies feel confident that you will be safe in returning to school.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

 

 https://www.jwu.edu/

 

 

Spotlight On: Clay Worden, Office Managing Partner, RSM US LLP

Spotlight On: Clay Worden, Office Managing Partner, RSM US LLP

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read April 2020 — Accounting and consultancy firm RSM’s Orlando practice had little problem migrating its operation to remote after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state. The company’s managing partner for the Central Florida city’s practice, Clay Worden, shares his views on how his company and small business will adapt and learn from the contingency.

What specific markets does your Orlando office focus on?

Hospitality and real estate are key components of the Central Florida economy, and we spend quite a bit of energy serving these sectors. Food and beverage is also an important sector for us. Agriculture is one of the key economic drivers in the state and we serve a lot of Ag-based organizations.

 

We also serve SEC clients, nonprofit organizations and manufacturing companies. Our tax practice is incredibly robust and growing. We seem to be firing on most cylinders.

 

Which area of your practice has seen the largest demand in recent years?

We are seeing a lot of demand related to digital transformation. Organizations, even before the COVID-19 situation, are looking at their systems, especially their legacy systems and saying, “Hey, is this the platform that is going to get us where we need to be?” From a technology consulting standpoint, I think that is one of the areas where we’ve had some exponential growth.

 

Another area where we continue to see organizations focusing on is the internal audit and risk advisory functions. When the economy is robust and companies are generally profitable, they want to make sure their systems, controls and policies are functioning as designed to safeguard their assets.

 

What challenges has the firm faced in dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic?

We recognize that our younger folks embrace technology and want to use technology. With that in mind, our audit practice and consulting practice has been primarily remote for the past several years. We visit clients and still have to access systems and software to be able to work, but we were pretty much prepared for the fact that we might not be at the office and prepared to work from home.

 

Our tax practice was traditionally people going to the office and to some client locations, so it was important to have the technology that provides them with access and to give them the tools they need, which included a little more bandwidth in the system to get to their tools. We started that process and were quickly able to get it to them. For us, it really hasn’t changed much. You still have access to all the data and everything we need to serve our clients.

 

One of the opportunities that we are seeing from this is that we are helping businesses access the stimulus that is being offered, making sure they qualify, follow the rules, and are taking advantage of the tax benefits that are available today. We’ve quickly mobilized people who are or are becoming experts in helping clients navigate these government programs.

 

Another area where we are seeing some changes is travel. We were to hold a firmwide leadership meeting with about 100 firm leaders going to Chicago in April. Instead, we held that meeting virtually. From my perspective it was very effective. We missed the reception and cocktail hour to talk face to face with some of our colleagues we have not connected with for a while, but in terms of disseminating information and communicating, it was very effective.

 

What is your outlook for the Orlando area in the near term?

My cup is always half full. I am confident that our firm and Orlando, Florida, and the country as a whole will come out of this stronger and more equipped than we were going in.

 

I think that certainly the pain is going to be probably worse, and longer, than most people would like. When you live in Central Florida, which is primarily built on hospitality and entertainment, I don’t know how quickly people are going to hop back on a plane and come right back.

 

I do have some serious concerns for the smaller businesses. I don’t know that the smaller businesses, like restaurants, have the capital to withstand being with limited customers for an extended period of time. Big and small,  companies are going to have to rethink how they do business in the future.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

https://rsmus.com/

Spotlight On: Tony Jenkins, Market President – Central Florida, Florida Blue

Spotlight On: Tony Jenkins, Market President – Central Florida, Florida Blue

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read April 2020 — Florida Blue is part of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, providing insurance products to individuals and businesses. Market President – Central Florida Tony Jenkins told Invest: about the company’s actions to tackle the COVID-19 crisis, assistance for policyholders and its experience holding virtual job fairs during the pandemic.

What accommodations to your network of primary care doctors and specialists did you have to make to handle the influx of patients due to the COVID-19 outbreak? 

Our network of providers has quickly adapted to offer more virtual care options to their patients during the COVID-19 health crisis. This allows individuals to chat with their doctor in the safety of their own home. 

 

Florida Blue has taken several measures to increase virtual care options for our members. We added free access to Teladoc for our Medicare Advantage members, and we’ve waived the Teladoc copay for all Affordable Care Act members and most employer group plan members. Teladoc provides 24/7 bilingual virtual care via phone, video or mobile app. 

 

We also are allowing our primary care doctors and specialists, including behavioral health providers, to treat patients virtually at their normal office visit rates during the crisis. We’re even allowing those with our Florida Blue Dental plans to seek emergency virtual care from a dentist at no cost. 

 

Sanitas Medical Centers, which exclusively serves Florida Blue members, has designated select facilities as sites for patients with respiratory issues while other sites are treating other health concerns to reduce the chance of exposure of patients who need to seek care for non-respiratory issues. Sanitas is also providing free bilingual virtual care to its current patients via its mySanitas Chat website and mobile app. 

 

Our GuideWell Emergency Doctors, which provide high-acuity urgent care, are also offering virtual visits via phone or video. They will even come out to your car and administer testing in their parking lot, so you do not have to enter the clinic. 

 

What kind of out-of-pocket cost waivers have you implemented as a result of the coronavirus?

In addition to waiving copays for Teladoc sessions during the crisis, we waived cost-sharing through June 1 for any members who must undergo treatment for COVID-19 for our Affordable Care Act, Medicare Advantage and other individual plans (excluding Medicare Part D drug plans), as well as all fully insured employer group health plans. We also are waiving cost-sharing for medical testing for COVID-19. 

 

Tell us about your initial investment of $2 million to address urgent health and safety needs in communities across Florida. What is the vision for this initiative?

Florida Blue made an initial investment of $2 million to address food security for seniors and children, support hourly workers, behavioral health needs and other crisis priorities in local communities. $500,000 was set aside specifically to support Central Florida communities. 

 

With those funds, we’ve provided 300,000 meals to Second Harvest Food Bank, donated $75,000 to senior organizations across the region offering Meals on Wheels and other in-home support to seniors, and funded free childcare at the two area YMCAs for the children of healthcare workers, first responders and other essential frontline workers. We also worked with four Central Florida school districts to ensure children will continue to receive free meals while they are taking classes from home, in addition to supporting crisis relief funds for our local United Way chapters, which are aiding our neighbors in need. 

 

How is the company dealing with the transition to remote work?

Our IT team did a phenomenal job ramping up quickly so we could transition more than 95 percent of our workforce across the nation to work remotely. We have only a few hundred individuals who are working on site in an office or medical clinic because they serve essential roles that cannot be performed elsewhere. We’ve taken extra precautions to address their health and safety. 

 

We asked a lot of our employees with this transition and they showed unbelievable resilience as some had to adapt to working from home for the first time or sharing a makeshift workstation with their spouse or child. 

 

Despite all the added obstacles, our team has truly stepped up and is delivering on our mission to help people and communities achieve better health. They continue to be innovative and adaptable to ensure we’re keeping our members at the center of everything we do.  

 

You recently held a virtual job fair. What was that experience like? 

We are currently hosting virtual job fairs for roughly 300 Member Care Specialist roles here in Orlando and across the state. These roles have a unique teacher-like schedule where employees get three months of paid leave with full benefits during the summer months. Training for these roles will get underway in mid-June. 

 

We have transitioned all our recruiting and hiring to virtual meetings and interviews right now. We have several other positions open in several fields, including IT, analytics, sales, Medicare, training and more. 

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

https://www.floridablue.com/

Spotlight On:  Grant Cornwell, President, Rollins College

Spotlight On: Grant Cornwell, President, Rollins College

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read April 2020 — Rollins College is a 135-year-old private liberal arts institution. President Grant Cornwell discusses how the school has adapted in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and how faculty and staff are adjusting to the crisis, including moving to a fully online delivery of courses and one on one meetings. 

How has the transition to all online classes and education been for your university, both for students and faculty?  

 

In early March, Rollins started making plans to shift to virtual, synchronous teaching. Our faculty and staff immediately switched gears, canceling many spring break plans to modify their lesson plans and maximize utilization of WebEx, the internet-based meeting platform the College adopted campus-wide.  By the start of remote classes on March 23 they were fully prepared to support our students.

I have been so impressed by our creative, innovative and resilient faculty and staff who are committed to providing our students with the best and most meaningful education, even under these exceptional circumstances. Across the board, departments have stepped up to serve our students from afar. Our librarians serve as consultants, our tutors are demonstrating their online coaching skills at our Writing and Tutoring Center, one-on-one office hours are being conducted via WebEx, our health center has transitioned to telemedicine and counseling – and the list goes on and on. The Rollins community has confronted this challenge by conceiving and executing innovative approaches that continue our educational mission. 

The feedback from students has been largely positive. They are doing their part to complete the semester remotely and are eager to learn more about COVID-19 from all aspects so that they can contribute to solutions. 

  

How is the university working to assist the student body and faculty in mitigating the challenges and impact from the COVID-19 pandemic?  

Our Endeavor Center for Faculty Development has been working closely with our IT department to ensure that everyone has the resources they need to both teach and learn in this new environment. 

Our communication channels are open and transparent as the pandemic evolves. We created and continually update an FAQ on the College’s COVID-19 response webpage to help address questions from our various audiences and stakeholders. Regular updates are communicated through newsletters to students, faculty and staff, parents, alumni and others.  

At first, the information was largely operational, demonstrating the proactive steps we were taking to ensure the health and safety of our community. As we have stabilized and successfully developed new systems for operating remotely, we are also sharing the positive stories about the contributions the Rollins community is making to help others navigate the negative effects of COVID-19. 

 

Do you feel higher education is receiving enough state and federal support in this time of need?  What can the state and federal governments be doing better in this regard?  

We are grateful for the funds dedicated to higher education from the CARES Act.  Every bit is helpful as colleges and universities look to deal with budget challenges. State-funded institutions already receive government funding and that’s certainly acceptable as that is their operating model. What’s important, however, is that private colleges and universities are like private business. We run our institutions based on private revenue and, ideally, that should be accounted for if there is a future funding bill from the federal government.

 

As higher education adjusts to the current situation, what opportunities and innovation do you see carrying over post-COVID-19?  

This experience has emphasized that we can indeed deliver our mission to our students in a new way. In fact, remote classes should be made available to those who are ill or unable to attend a class for other reasons. Post-COVID-19, our culture will need to change to make remote accommodations for those who are vulnerable or ill.

Because the Rollins mission is so focused on community engagement, we are finding other ways to help our communities not only during these difficult days of isolation but in the future, as our country recovers. The tenets of a Rollins education community engagement, responsible leadership and global citizenship  are needed now more than ever.  

 

What would your message be to the university’s student population and faculty that is sheltering in place and waiting for a return to normalcy? 

Stay calm, stay home and carry on. We all have to do our part to keep moving forward to the best of our ability. Finish the semester strong and find ways to be a light to others. Keep in your sights the Rollins motto, FIAT LUX, “Let there be light.” 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

https://www.rollins.edu/