By John Haughey | The Center Square
Even as Florida braces for a projected COVID-19 daily death peak now forecast to occur about May 6, a newly formed group that includes some of the state’s most prominent business leaders is focusing on how to revive the economy “when the time is right.”
The Restore Economic Strength through Employment & Tourism (RESET) task force will “devise policy recommendations and initiatives to aid in the economic rebound,” the group announced Tuesday.
At least 31 associations, trade groups, nonprofit and government organizations, ranging from the Florida Bankers Association to the Asphalt Contractors Association of Florida to the International Council of Shopping Centers have signed onto RESET and will participate in planning the state’s recovery.
Also participating are groups representing government officials, including the Florida Association of Counties, Florida League of Cities, Independent Colleges & Universities of Florida and Florida Ports Council.
Associated Industries of Florida Senior Vice President of State & Federal Affairs Brewster Bevis, Florida Retail Federation President and CEO Scott Shalley, National Federation of Independent Business Executive Director Bill Herrle and Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association President & CEO Carol Dover will spearhead RESET.
“When the time is right, Florida will return to business, and we will happily witness restaurants full of patrons and our tourist attractions bustling with visitors,” Bevis said in a statement.
RESET’s mission won’t be to debate when the economy should be reopened, but to have a plan in place when public health officials deem it safe to do so, he said.
“While we all wait for the right time to return, we wanted to bring together association interests from all sectors of business to discuss ways we can collectively help Florida’s economy safely restart and also serve as a resource to lawmakers and the state on initiatives and important policy changes that are needed to spur recovery post-pandemic,” Bevis said.
RESET members encompass a comprehensive range of commercial, financial, industrial, health care, consumer and government representatives, he said.
“From health care to retail, manufacturing, hospitality, transportation, agriculture, builders, general commerce and our most treasured tourist attractions – the forward thinkers and dedicated Floridians that will make up this task force are ready to help,” Bevis added.
“We have seen the good that can come from Floridians, and all Americans really, rolling up their sleeves and working together for a cause,” Shalley said. “This task force will now bring together the brightest minds in business, retail, tourism, and trade to help offer ideas and solutions for what will continue to be new territory for the Sunshine State.”
RESET also will study and formulate recommendations to “boost resiliency for the next pandemic or another event similarly disastrous to the economy."
COVID-19 “left us in the eye of the storm for months so far, and we are all learning along the way,” The Florida Council of 100 President and CEO Bob Ward said. “That’s why this work is critical, so we can put our collective wisdom and experiences together on lessons learned.”
The group did not post a meeting schedule or say when, or if, it would present its plans to Gov. Ron DeSantis and other officials.
DeSantis has expressed a reserved optimism about reopening the state’s economy to varied extents sometime after his emergency safer-at-home order expires May 4, although most believe the shutdown is likely to last at least several weeks longer.