I was recently asked to do a presentation to a local organization in Destin about 2021 and what it holds for us. They were looking for what might happen in the business world and the economy. After receiving this request, I reached out to eight or 10 of my contacts and sources, people who are way smarter than I, and asked them to share their thoughts. The consensus answer did not surprise. They all said ‘I don’t know. There are too many variables.’
I reached out to contacts at the national, state and local levels. They did share some good information with me. And rather than predictions, they shared some things to watch and to watch for that will dictate how the economy performs. Nationally, the major point was obvious. How fast will the new administration move on tax increases and roll out of President Trump’s corporate and individual tax cuts? Watch this closely, because increased taxes on businesses and individuals means less money in everyone’s pockets, which means less money to spend. Will they stick to their campaign of only increasing taxes on individuals making more than $400,000, or will they creep that down to lower tax brackets? The proposed top tax rates, at the time of this writing, are 28% corporate, 39.6% individual, and 39.6% long-term capital gains.
There were several interesting thoughts from my friends at the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Their chief economist shared several thoughts with me, things that will play out over the next several months. He suggested we watch the vaccination numbers, as the more vaccinations that are administered, the safer people will feel traveling and heading back to work. More people will commute from longer distances since they may not have to be in the office as much. This could really boost our economy, much like it did in late-spring of 2020. More people will move to rural areas from the big cities, again, something that could be beneficial to our region.
Locally, the chamber loves what Jennifer Adams is doing with the Tourist Development Council. The research and marketing plans are coming together. There will be more of a focus on Dallas, Nashville and St. Louis with a major marketing push there. There will be more emphasis on encouraging visitors to go out and spend more money when they’re here, especially the Atlanta market. And there will be a push to locals to go out and enjoy this great community.
Other considerations include the Presidential Executive Order prohibiting oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. This has been a long, multi-year fight, and it paid off. It protects tourism and the military, the two major cogs of our economy. Let’s hope that Sen. Marco Rubio can push through his bill to strengthen this anti-drilling stance.
Your chamber is also working hard in partnership with the Florida Chamber to have legislation passed to protect you and your business from frivolous lawsuits related to COVID-19. We hope our state legislature will push this through quickly once session opens. We’re working hard to protect you!
The $15 minimum wage amendment is something you need to prepare for now. By 2026, Florida’s minimum wage will reach $15 per hour. But after that, and something that most people haven’t realized, is that it doesn’t stop there. After that, the minimum wage will increase each year at the same rate of inflation. Unless there is legislation passed or an amendment to repeal this, Florida’s minimum wage will increase every year from here on out. We campaigned hard and partnered with the Florida Chamber and nearly 50 chambers across the state to defeat this. We almost won – almost. Begin preparing now for this.
Thank you all for sticking with this chamber and supporting this community through all that has happened the past 12 months. I’ve said many times during the past 17 years that this is one of the greatest business communities I’ve ever been a part of. I have friends in chambers across this state and this country, and they marvel at the things we are able to accomplish here. As our mission statement says, advocating for business and strengthening our community is what we do every day. After all, that’s how we’ll continue to build this world-class community one business at a time.
Shane A. Moody, CCE, FCCP
President & CEO