Key takeaways from Invest: Tampa Bay 2020

Invest: Tampa Bay 2020, an annual event revealing the latest economic news for the region, took place on Thursday, Aug. 20, as a virtual event for the first time.

Hosted by Capital Analytics Associates out of Miami, the program was livecast via Zoom and came off without a hitch.

Indeed, the virtual experience of this year’s Invest: Tampa Bay event exemplifies the key points that local business leaders stated throughout the event: The use of innovative technology is helping drive the region's COVID-19 rebound and recovery.
 
More than a dozen panelists and moderators took part as the program was viewed some 415 registered guests. The overarching topics, including banking, financial planning, law and litigation, and healthcare was influenced both in theme and scope by the pandemic, which has led so far to more than 62,000 cases and at least 1,250 deaths in the immediate area (Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco counties), according to the Florida Department of Health.

As the Tampa Bay Area continues seeing new COVID-19 cases, those leading local health systems, financial institutions, and law firms forge ahead to provide some of the most essential businesses and ensure they run as smoothly as possible. Here are some of the key takeaways from the influencers who shared their insights at Invest: Tampa Bay 2020.

1. Many Florida businesses adapted existing “hurricane plans” to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think all of us had a 'hurricane plan','' shares Terry Igo, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Tampa Bay Trust Company. "We also had a 'financial emergency plan'. But, really, very few of us had a ‘pandemic plan'.''

"So, a big part of the challenge was understanding what we were dealing with. But once we got our arms around the situation, we quickly followed CDC protocols and went about protecting our clients and employees. There are always some positives that present themselves in this environment -- one is technology. We all got up to speed much quicker than we probably would have otherwise.” 

2. Business leaders are impressed by the efficiency of virtual technology.
 
Attorney Michael Lundy of Older, Lundy & Alvarez in Tampa says he can’t sing enough praises about Zoom, email, and other digital communications that have become life links in these pandemic times.

“I always wondered why lawyers had to travel across town and stand waiting in the halls of court sometimes for hours for a five-minute hearing,” he says. “It wastes time and economic resources for everyone when lawyers have to travel and spend time. I have already completed two Zoom trials.”

There are some downsides to hearings and trials held over Zoom and other meetup apps, he adds.

“You must deal with the lowest-common-denominator of bandwidth. If one person on the call has low bandwidth, the entire call is slow.” 

3. Remote work will become the norm, even after the virus is under control.

Lundy says the virtual nature of his firm’s office today has him thinking about making some long-term adjustments.

“The hottest issue I’ve been contemplating is how to restructure and reorganize the business. Law firms take up a large footprint physically. We can take cues from accounting firms and allow some staff to work remotely more often. I might eventually reduce the office size by 40-60%.” 

4. Virtual technology is here to stay.

AmeriLife CEO Scott Perry concurs.

“A lot of the tools [insurance] advisors are using today have existed in some capacity for at least three to five years, but the market has been slow to adopt them,” admits the leader of the Clearwater-based life and health insurance company. “What we’ve seen in the past six months is companies accelerating their use of them, so there has been some good coming from that standpoint. Many of the tools that have seen some utilization during this pandemic will continue to be used long afterward.”

He adds, “Many transactions, perhaps 50%, will be virtual or digital.”

Clarifying further, Perry says, “Face-to-face interactions are important, but we will see a combination of activity that’s virtual and face-to-face.”

5. The key to reopening the economy? Simply follow four rules.

John Couris, President and CEO of Tampa General Hospital, says that since the pandemic began hitting the Tampa Bay Area, his organization and several other healthcare systems throughout the area have been collaborating on caring for patients and sharing best practices.

And while he is concerned about the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, he doesn’t necessarily think it’s because businesses are reopening.

It’s because too many people are not following four simple rules: 
  • wear masks
  • socially distance
  • wash hands
  • make good decisions around crowds.
“If we don’t do those four things consistently, we’re going to have problems going forward,” Couris says.

One of the next most important things in his opinion? “Business executives, business owners need to lead by example.” 

6. Don’t forget: Kindness counts!
 
Pilot Bank President Rita Lowman asserts that we must all practice civility and patience as we grapple with the virus, reopen our economy, and eventually return to a sense of normalcy.

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.''
 

Read more articles by Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez.

Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez is a freelance writer who was born and raised in Tampa. He earned his BA in English from the University of South Florida and spent more than three years as a full-time copywriter for a local internet marketing firm before striking out on his own to write for various blogs and periodicals, including TheFunTimesGuide, CoinValue and COINage magazine. He has also authored local history books, including Images of America: Tampa's Carrollwood and Images of Modern America: Tampa Bay Landmarks and Destinations, which are two titles produced by Arcadia Publishing.
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