Next year is quickly approaching and I know I am not the only one looking forward to this year being over. The year 2020 has challenged us in several ways and it has required us to change the way we interact with everyone, including our families. It’s forced us to adapt at work, at home and in our communities. What do the next few months and the next year look like? The Valley Industry and Commerce Association’s Annual Business Forecast Conference recently sought to answer these questions with this year’s theme: “Surviving in a Post-Pandemic Era.”While we could not gather in person for our biggest event of the year, the Home Edition of our conference proved to be just as insightful and exciting for everyone who joined us. We put together 10 panels on critical topics, including housing, health care, tourism and travel, as well as what the future of our workforce looks like.
Every industry has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, so what are some predictions for what the future looks like?The tourism and hospitality industry have been hit hard by the economic and public health crisis. The stricter protocols and public health regulations compared to places such as Las Vegas and Florida have presented the City of Angels with significant obstacles and challenges. However, despite these challenges, Los Angeles is in a great position to recover from the economic impacts. With the theme parks, conventions, venues, and championship teams Los Angeles has to offer, tourists no doubt are waiting to come back to visit. When they do, we will be ready to host them at one of our wonderful hotels and have them enjoy our attractions, of course, with new safety and sanitary practices in place.
What about our housing crisis? For years, we have not been able to keep up with the demand of housing and the effects of this have been amplified during COVID-19. Even once the impacts of COVID-19 subside, our city and state will continue to be in the midst of a housing crisis. The increased regulations and cost to build housing have created a lot of uncertainty for developers and investors. Our panel of housing experts, including Director of the City Planning Department Vince Bertoni, provided some of the necessary changes that will be needed to attract developers and investors in order to get housing built. We need to provide more California Environmental Quality Act exemptions for less impactful projects as well streamlining procedures and approvals for certain projects that meet specific requirements. Public hearings and communication with the Planning Department should maintain some sort of online component in order to enhance accessibility and help the department get projects through the approval process more quickly.
We will need to hire workers to build housing, but the fact is that there is actually a shortage of workers right now. We need to help people reenter the workforce more quickly, especially in the industries that continue to thrive during COVID-19. Some ways of getting this done would be through credentialing and micro-credentialing for folks, especially those who have been displaced from their job. There are skills workers have that can be transferred to other industries and this is something we need to be looking at when retraining and reskilling our workforce.
For those who have been working from home, you know that you’ve relied heavily on having access to power and the internet in order to be able to conduct your job. During the hot summer months, especially in the San Fernando Valley, I turn my air conditioner on to stay cool. This year, I used my air conditioner, and all utilities for that matter, more than I ever have in years past. We need reliable energy and 100 percent electric is not the right approach. Working from home may be something that becomes more permanent as employers decide if they should give up their offices and have their employees continue to work remotely. We will need balanced energy policies to ensure we have the capacity to meet the energy demand of our region.
Our health care workers have done a phenomenal job this year. We appreciate all they have done and all they continue to do. However, many patients have chosen to stay away from hospitals and clinics out of fear of contracting COVID-19. Hospitals have modified their operations and used technology to see patients virtually while also using this technology for wait times and bringing patients in directly to the emergency rooms without spending too much time inside of hospitals. Of course, telehealth has become more prominent and will likely be the way doctors interact with patients for smaller cases and will provide faster access and communication between doctors and patients beyond the age of COVID-19.
I cannot wait for 2021, but it is important to take lessons learned from COVID-19 into the new year. These lessons learned will help us survive in a post-pandemic era.Stuart Waldman is president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA), a business advocacy organization based in Van Nuys that represents employers in the San Fernando Valley at the local, state and federal levels of government.