CEOs were asked: In just a few sentences, what is your business outlook for the rest of 2020, assuming there is not another COVID-19 shutdown in the fall?
I think it’s in the fabric of who we are as Americans, and Miamians, to rise to the occasion. Despite the fact that 2020 has presented us with unprecedented challenges, we are stepping up to address them with new solutions. I believe there is a lot of opportunity for creativity and growth in business overall; as we move toward a new post-COVID-19 normal, particular verticals — namely travel and tourism — that are vital to Miami will rely on innovations to products and experiences. The talent landscape is poised to see a boost as well. With companies like Twitter allowing teams to work remotely indefinitely, and other companies needing to find more cost-efficient work locations than, say, San Francisco, we become a very attractive option. Our homegrown talent pool is working to up-skill as we see growth in online courses offered by local organizations like General Assembly and Wyncode. Finally, America is at its best when it embraces the power of diversity. Our businesses thrive when we elevate the voices of people of color and take notice of staff diversity metrics to build more inclusive teams.
Michelle Abbs, Miami director, Mana Tech
As I look into the next six months, I think that our economy will be soft. You simply can’t start and stop on a dime. There are too many variables that come into play. As a media owner, my company lost several advertising accounts due to COVID-19. However, very slowly they are starting to come back. Unfortunately I don’t predict a full recovery until 2021 or until a vaccine is discovered. In South Florida, we depend on tourism as our number one industry. It is very difficult for me to see our hotels, beaches, bars nightclubs and restaurants back to pre-coronavirus days until after 2021.
Dexter Bridgeman, CEO, founder, M•I•A Media Group
My business outlook for the rest of 2020 is an uptick in real estate activity as the investors and lenders that have been sitting on the sidelines during the stay-at-home orders return to the playing field. Although there is typically some stagnation in the third and fourth quarter of election years, I expect the remainder of 2020 to reverse prior trends as the public returns to work, businesses adapt to the new normal, and we gain further information on a potential vaccine for COVID-19. During the second half of the year, we should also expect an increase in bankruptcy filings and distressed transactions tied to assets and companies that depend upon business travel.
Luis Flores, managing partner, Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr’s Miami office
With the sudden and dramatic impact of COVID19, we have significantly lowered our earnings outlook. We are working closely with our clients to better understand how the virus will impact them personally and their businesses. We anticipated significant impact on real estate values, as the ability for commercial and residential tenants to meet contractual obligations will be difficult. The despair of record unemployment is challenging for our community.
Veronica Flores, executive vice president, First National Bank of South Miami
It’s important, though sometimes difficult, to remain positive, optimistic and resilient during this time. At Guy Harvey, we had strong e-commerce sales going into the COVID-19 shutdown and have seen a surge in online shopping and engagement since then. We expect that to continue through 2020. We have also used this downtime in traditional retail to implement new data analytics and management strategies so that our brick and mortar retailers can hit the ground running with new products and partnerships as businesses reopen.
Guy Harvey, founder, Guy Harvey Enterprises
In South Florida, for black-owned businesses, a pandemic has been occurring for years. The coronavirus will be the catalyst that will take the life from so many of us by the year’s end. Local small businesses, especially black-owned businesses, were struggling prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The lack of opportunities afforded to area small businesses from local municipalities and anchor institutions coupled with social distancing, new operational requirements, and the inability to secure sufficient capital, will not only devastate our ability to remain open but may bring closure to so many other struggling small and black-owned companies. After years of advocating for and discussing with local leaders regarding small and black business inclusion, Miami-Dade County finally approved a Small Business Task Force to tackle the eye-opening disparities resulting from systemic exclusionary tactics, but this may have come a little too late. The state of emergency the pandemic caused is still allowing procurement officers locally and nationally to ignore existing small business contracts. Diversity and inclusion can no longer be feel-good words in South Florida, but must become a local imperative. Operating hospitality, entertainment venues and events at 25-50 percent guest capacity will make it extremely difficult for many of us to remain open. The business outlook for area small businesses, especially black-owned businesses, looks bleak. There must be a razor sharp focus by elected officials, business leaders, and community stakeholders in developing economic programs and resources to support small businesses operating in disadvantaged, under-served communities. Until there is a COVID-19 vaccine, local inclusion in procurement opportunities, and the ability for our local economy to safely operate at full capacity, we will be fighting for our survival.
Darryl Holsendolph, president, CEO of Holsen Inc. Merchandising
For real estate, if June new contracts are a good indicator, 2020 will exceed 2019 numbers. The low interest rates, surge of movement from the northeast and the desirability of “home” due to COVID-19, are putting a solid wind in our sails. Written contracts are up 30 percent for the first nine days of June — with our mortgage, title and insurance companies experiencing the same.
Mike Pappas, president, CEO, The Keyes Company/Illustrated Properties
We remain optimistic about the last quarter of 2020. Our company is nearing completion of River Landing Shops & Residences on the Miami River and currently transitioning into our retail opening phase. Publix Supermarkets is working toward opening in July/August to help meet the demand for grocery service in our immediate neighborhood. Our other anchor retailers, such as TJ Maxx, Ross Dress for Less, Burlington Stores, Hobby Lobby, Five Below, Chase Bank, AT&T and Old Navy, are working now to set their opening dates in either fall of 2020 or in early 2021. As our community’s quarantine ends, and the fear of the epidemic subsides, we believe there will be a surge of demand for in-person, in-store shopping, dining, entertainment experiences as shoppers seek retail therapy particularly in open-air environments such as River Landing.
Coralee Penabad, principal, Urban-X
As a member-owned cooperative financial institution, the remainder of 2020 will see targeted efforts to work closely with members negatively impacted by the stay-at-home orders. Many incomes have been reduced or eliminated in the tri-county area and we stand ready to assist our members as they navigate the financial rough waters. As we monitor our financial numbers through the phases of re-opening thus far, we are very encouraged by material improvement, in terms of commerce transaction activity via credit/debit cards, and loan application volume. In addition, we have seen very strong deposit growth on our balance sheet via stimulus funds, reduced spending activity, and a general increase in the savings rate often seen in crisis situations. The extremely low interest rate environment, uncertainty of how long these deposits will remain idle, and unknown level of loan losses, all combine to challenge us to prudently maximize our return on loans/investments in order to maintain our healthy deposit account rates and very competitive loan rates, while preserving the safe, strong, and sound institution our members have enjoyed for decades.
Allan Prindle, president, CEO, Power Financial Credit Union
COVID-19 and the death of George Floyd has opened many wounds, exposing generations-old underlying, unhealed systemic wrongs. Women and communities of color have a long road ahead not only TO recover, but to thrive economically and socially. YWCA’s mission outlook is clear in our work to eliminate racism and empower women through services that provide equitable access to healthcare, economic justice and educational opportunity. The nonprofit business outlook for the remainder of 2020 is skewed by the ability of those who care about these issues the most to be able to financially support them. Foundations, governments, donors, and program participants will all feel the squeeze of the unstable market, between small businesses closing, hurricane season looming, and corporate and tourism uncertainty. This will most certainly color how we serve for the remainder of the year.
Kerry-Ann Royes, CEO, YWCA Greater Miami-Dade
I believe that there will be a lot of enthusiasm for “home grown” retail. With limitations and uncertainty around travel, I think the community will be anxious to get out and spend money. The virtual sales experience may be wearing thin and direct interface with material and people will be a refreshing and needed change.
Mindy Solomon, owner, director, Mindy Solomon Gallery
For the culture and tourism sector, I would describe our business outlook as cautious. We are in a wait-and-see mode, but we expect business to slowly recover over the summer and fall season. We still anticipate a seasonal dip in the fall, but we remain optimistic about the winter season, particularly as tourists began to travel again and visit the market. However, we are still planning for the rest of 2020 to be much softer than prior years.
Frank Steslow, president, CEO, Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science
THE MIAMI HERALD CEO ROUNDTABLE IS A WEEKLY FEATURE THAT APPEARS IN BUSINESS MONDAY OF THE MIAMI HERALD. RECENT QUESTIONS TO THE ROUNDTABLE HAVE INCLUDED: