Message from our Director

We Will Rebuild: As What?

Greetings and best wishes.

These are challenging times. Going into supermarkets that look like they’ve been attacked by locusts doesn’t inspire confidence. Incessant news coverage about COVID-19, punctuated by gloomy forecasts of its spread and economic impact are equally disconcerting. “Keep Calm and Carry On,” adopted by the British in 1939 to prepare the public for World War II, has as much credence today as it did 81 years ago. We will carry on knowing that America will meet and beat this challenge as it has with past wars, recessions, and natural disasters. There will be a better tomorrow, albeit with significant human and financial costs.

Meanwhile, the Jorge M. Pérez Metropolitan Center (PMC) remains open. We are operating remotely, but our team remains in close contact with each other and with the communities we serve. The nature of our work lends itself to telecommuting, which we’ve practiced for the last five years. Ned Murray, Maria Ilcheva, Caroline Bernard-Stokes, and I are here to assist you with the community development and applied social science needs you and your organizations are meeting during this new normal. We're already counseling local government officials on the economic and community impacts of the virus and preparing status updates to assist all community leaders.

As a first step, acknowledging the serious impact on our small business community, we are providing an update to our Small Business. Big Impact. report from 2018. We are already hearing reports about businesses shutting down permanently, others laying off workers or placing them on furloughs.

The PMC’s research and policy guidance will be increasingly relevant in coming weeks and months, as decisionmakers in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors cope with the virus impact. This event’s social and economic costs will be high. Regrettably, I suspect the economic scar tissue of the Great Recession: stagnant wages, limited savings, and diminished public services (particularly public health) will come to the fore. In South Florida, we are likely to reap the harvest of low-wage job creation and over-reliance on the tourist sector as an economic pillar, notwithstanding long-term efforts at diversifying the economic base. The PMC’s holistic approach to economic development is particularly salient in this environment.

Many will recall that “We Will Rebuild” was the slogan adopted for Miami’s post-Andrew recovery effort. Nearly three decades later, COVID-19 and its impact will obligate community leaders to ask if the rebuild left a more economically resilient and socially inclusive South Florida. The PMC hopes to provide decision-makers actionable policy guidance to assure that history won’t repeat itself.

Sincerely,

Dr. Howard A. Frank

Professor and Chair of Public Policy and Administration

Director, Jorge M. Perez Metropolitan Center

Florida International University