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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

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Even During These Slow Times, Local Business Continues To Speed Along

Even During These Slow Times, Local Business Continues To Speed Along
by Kevin J. Kieft, President/CEO Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council

Every Tuesday, I host a call with the city leaders, both in the private and public sector, where we discuss the various happenings and developments in the city limits. The main takeaway from our latest meeting was that Lake Wales has always been a place that helps its businesses in its good times and its bad, and you can definitely see it during this time.

There’s no doubt the current COVID-19 crisis has had a significant effect on business, especially with the safer at home order from our state governor. Non-essential businesses have closed, schools are dismissed. Public events have been postponed and canceled. Countless employees have either been furloughed or laid off. Even major theme parks like LEGOLAND and Disney World have shut down indefinitely.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit the Florida business sector like “an economic hurricane,” as described by Robert Stern, veteran Tampa attorney at Trenam Law, in the Tampa Bay Times. He specifically mentioned the economic damage to the real estate and construction industry, claiming that it’s worse than a hurricane “because hurricanes usually strike only part of the state.”

However, no matter how grim or grave the current situation, I choose to remain optimistic. My outlook for the area is still strong. Florida’s economy will come back quickly; I do not doubt that. People want to be here, businesses want to be here, so I am optimistic that things will improve following the pandemic.

Even with many local businesses closed, the Lake Wales area continues to thrive with economic development. Many local projects are moving forward and making significant progress. Along Chalet Suzanne Road off of US Highway 27, 50 acres of land is being developed by Equinox of Florida LLC to construct 335 new residential units. Other notable developments include Alsim, Pamlico Air, and the newly built Dyer Kia and the other advancements near that location.

As someone who also works in real estate, I have yet to see many projects halted. There might be a slowing of progress, especially if there are large scale development projects, which might push timelines back by several months, but I have not seen the cancellation of any projects.

Furthermore, even if the real estate market has slowed, people are still buying homes, and banks and mortgage companies are still loaning money and re-financing. The economy is still moving along despite all the challenges. I think that is a good sign of how we will come out of this eventually.

While many areas of the economy have slowed down, other divisions have picked up steam. Most notably, our agricultural and food sector is thriving. Florida’s Natural shared recently that their business is doing exceptionally well. As healthy food and drink demand has increased, they have reacted accordingly by continually hiring for production and management.

What we see right now are businesses shifting and adapting. While one part of the economy may be slowing down, another is proliferating. Non-essential businesses that are still in operation have adapted to these changes, allowing employees and employers alike to work remotely through technological innovations.

I am remaining optimistic that once we have a vaccine for COVID-19, or at least once we mitigate it, the economy will come roaring back. Obviously, there will be bumps along the way. I don’t have a crystal ball or a premonition of what things will look like, but we can certainly plan for the near future, and we here at the Chamber and EDC are doing as much planning as possible.

We at the Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council have been aiding local businesses through these hard times by compiling vital information, especially about business loans and relief funds. To learn more, visit our website at https://lakewaleschamber.com.

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Staff Reporter

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