Effects won’t be lasting, Florida Chamber Foundation chief economist tells Gulf Power Economic Symposium crowd.

SANDESTIN — Coronavirus will have adverse economic effects on Florida, but they’re likely to be limited and short-lived, according to the Florida Chamber Foundation’s chief economist.


“I don’t think it’s going to be a big, huge major effect on the economy,” Jerry Parrish told hundreds of area business people, local officials and economic development professionals attending Friday’s session of the annual Gulf Power Economic Symposium.


Noting that fears surrounding the spread of the virus from its origin in China fueled a recent drop in the stock market, Parrish told his Friday audience to expect the coronavirus to affect international flights into Florida, cruise ship operations on the state’s coast, and supply chain interruptions for businesses around the state.


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According to Parrish, one Tallahassee business, which he did not name, already has announced plans for temporary closure due to virus-related supply chain issues.


“My personal opinion here is that they’ll figure this thing out pretty quickly,” Parrish said, “but you also have to think about international business, a big part of the Florida economy.”


Interestingly, Parrish also speculated that fears related to overseas travel in light of the coronavirus could produce a bit of an economic boon for Florida, as people decide against foreign vacations in favor of spending their vacation time in Florida.


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Focusing on issues closer to home, Parrish had harsh words for a proposed Florida constitutional amendment to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.


The state’s current minimum wage, $8.46 per hour, is already 18% higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, Parrish noted.


“Jobs are going to be lost, absolutely,” if the state minimum wage is increased to $15 per hour, Parrish said, calling the move “the biggest long-term threat to the state of Florida.”


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According to Parrish, as many as 500,000 jobs could be lost as the state moves toward a $15 minimum wage. Part of the reason, he said, is setting that wage for people with limited skills.


“How are you going to get people with low skills or no skills into the job market for $15?” he asked.


On another front, Parrish used his appearance at the symposium to make the case for funding initiatives such as child care and education to get people into, or keep them in, the job market.


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“This is not charity, this is good business,” Parrish said.


By way of example, Parrish asked the audience to consider the case of helping a nursing assistant move into a career as a registered nurse.


As a nursing assistant, Parrish said, that person’s salary, tax payments and other economic considerations carry a value of about $100,000. On the other hand, he said, if that same person can, with help, become a registered nurse, that value rises to nearly $400,000 in economic benefits in the state.


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“If you’re telling me we can’t get somebody out of poverty for less than $100,000 or $400,000 (in expenditures addressing issues that contribute to poverty), I’m going to tell you that you’re missing the boat,” Parrish said, making the point that providing help to workers isn’t expensive, when compared to the economic benefits of providing that help.


“We penalize people who are trying to get out of poverty,” Parrish continued.


To illustrate his point, Parrish, who teaches at Florida State University, had some graduate students look a few years ago into the issue of child care for working people.They found that child care can be more expensive than attending one of the state’s public institutions of higher education, Parrish said.


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Also offering some perspectives on the state’s economy to symposium attendees Friday was Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez. She said she is hugely optimistic about the future of the aerospace industry in Florida, particularly in light of the recent creation of the U.S. Space Force, the sixth branch of the U.S. military.


The Space Force currently has plans to launch 49 rockets from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on the state’s east coast, but Nunez sees possibilities far beyond that.


“I believe there is more than just launch capabilities in Florida,” she said.


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Nunez also addressed the ongoing efforts across northern Florida to recover from 2018’s Hurricane Michael, which laid waste to Panama City and a wide swath of the area, including Tyndall Air Force Base.


“We understand that recovery is still ahead of us, and we still have opportunities to help this region,” said the lieutenant governor.


Nunez also took a moment to thank the symposium crowd for their work in sustaining the state’s economy.


“You all are the ones that are going to help us on our economic progress,” she said.