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Florida is the place to be

When Floridians look at the ‘2021 Year in Review,’ while strife was rampant elsewhere, hopefully they will remember and see that Florida was a lone beacon for freedom. We need to keep it that way.

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It’s a long-standing tradition for newspapers to close out each year with their annual “Year in Review” editions — pictorial and written synopses of what we lived through the past 12 months. We do that at the Observers as well.

News typically is slow this time of year, and everyone has the holidays top of mind — including newsrooms that want to spend a day or two with their families.

In one respect, however, these “Year in Review” editions are a helpful catalog of history. Future researchers and historians can retrieve these editions when they want a sense of the most newsworthy stories and trends of that year.

In another respect, these editions are like looking at family photo albums. They bring back memories and emotions — the good, the sad, maybe the bad.

Those memories are important. They are our roots and help us remember who we are and why we are.

Hopefully, we also learn from the “Year in Review.” It’s a good time for our communities to do post-mortems on past performance. Well-run businesses always do post-mortems, examining what went right and why, or what went wrong and why — and how to fix or improve on what they did.

It’s a great exercise — not just for businesses but also for civic and political leaders.

To that end, what did we learn in 2021?

We learned a lot. On a national scale, we learned a lot of what not to do.

Historian and commentator Victor Davis Hanson summarized in the Epoch Times this past week what he believes most Americans learned in the past 11 months about living the Biden-Pelosi-Obama-Soros-AOC progressive, socialist agenda:

They don’t like it.

Wrote Hanson:

“Voters don’t like open borders at all. They disapprove of illegal immigration as much as they support legal immigrants. They worry about crime and drugs. They don’t want the unvetted and unvaccinated flowing across their borders.

“The people want cheaper, not pricier gas. They prefer U.S. energy self-sufficiency. Why, with cup in hand, go begging to Saudi Arabia and Russia to pump more supposedly Satanic oil?

“The people like the police, and they hate crime. …

“Most voters care less about our color but far more about our character. They think a meritocracy, not quotas and tribal chauvinism, explains the exceptional American standard of life.

“They despise inflation as much as recession, and fear they may now get both.

“Freedom-loving individuals don’t like cancel culture, ostracism, iconoclasm, Trotskyization and commissars. They prefer free speech and treasure the Bill of Rights.”

Here in Florida, we learned this most of all: We love Florida. We love a free Florida.

It’s clear Floridians (and thousands and thousands of newcomers to Florida) decisively prefer freedom — the freedom to live our lives in ways that suit our needs, to make our own health choices and to run our businesses as we see fit. Most Floridians reject the authoritarian mandates to wear masks or show vaccine cards.

We learned Floridians (and thousands of newcomers) also prefer law and order and back and respect those who protect us.

And although it’s unrealistic to expect all Floridians to support Gov. Ron DeSantis, we learned the importance of having a leader who has the courage to question orthodoxy and go against the national political tide and the mainstream media.

Floridians prefer a governor and Legislature that stand up for state sovereignty, freedom and the U.S. Constitution. And they reject Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates and the lockdown and mask mandates of California, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan, to name a few.

As the saying goes: People vote with their feet. That’s what the thousands of newcomers to Florida did in 2021. They saw and wanted what we have — the America we’ve known and loved.

As we look back on 2021, we learned for sure: Florida is the place to be.


The economy's transformation has big consequences at the local level

Heading into 2022, we should remember this time — how and why Florida fared in 2020 and 2021 versus the other states.

We should remember because the attacks and challenges are not over. We have at least 12 more months of progressive forces trying to destroy the America that Floridians love and at least 12 more months of inflation and supply-chain shortages. Florida needs to stay the course.

To complicate those challenges, Americans are simultaneously living through a seismic change in the way the U.S. economy functions.

For the past two years, we all have changed the way we buy what we want and need. In 2020, COVID-19 made us cut back in-store shopping in favor of online shopping and deliveries to our doors.

The revolution continued with supply-chain stoppages that created shortages on retail shelves, shifting more consumers to go online and retailers to carry smaller inventories. We’ve all experienced the store associate saying: “Sorry, we’ll have to order it online and have it shipped.”

We’re now the home-delivery economy, and even though we’ve seen shoppers going back to stores in 2021, the pace of this economic transformation is continuing.

Amazon, for instance, in 2020 increased its revenues 38% to a record $386 billion, an increase of more than $100 billion in one year. Net income increased 84%. For the first nine months of 2021, Amazon’s growth has slowed as more consumers returned to in-store shopping. But revenues still are up 16%, and profits are up 35% for the year.

The Amazon trucks (as well as those for UPS and FedEx) are everywhere. And there are going to be more. Louis Llovio, our commercial real estate editor at the Business Observer, reported Amazon is expected to have 41 delivery stations in Florida amid its 12 existing fulfillment centers.

Here’s the point: As younger generations increase the amount of clothing, furniture and food they purchase online for home delivery, what does that mean for all of Florida’s downtown and suburban retail districts, not to mention the already gasping major malls?

What does that mean for the locally owned women’s boutiques? The neighborhood florist? Downtown gift shop? The locally owned furniture store? The grocery stores?

Instead of vibrant malls and downtown shopping districts, commercial growth is coming in the expansion of fulfillment centers, as evidenced by Amazon.

This means a continuation of a rapid shift in employment — fewer locally owned retail stores with associates to help you in store and more jobs working the national chains’ conveyors and lifts inside warehouses. It means bigger national chains whose connections to your city are not as deep as the business owners whose entire net worth is invested in their hometown.

(Let’s not forget the downtown office buildings. There are business stories galore about the workforce not coming back at full force into city-center office buildings.)

If you extrapolate this long-running trend of increasing online shopping, expansion of national-chain fulfillment centers replacing locally owned businesses, what will that mean for the long-term economic and civic health of your city?

What happens to a community when the independent Main Street store and business owners — the people who often are the civic and social backbone of a community — disappear? Has any of us ever met an Amazon, Walmart or Target executive who cares about the economic vibrancy of Bradenton or Sarasota? Have you ever seen an Amazon banner hanging on the fence as a sponsor of a high school football team?

We saw the first wave of retail consolidation with the growth of mega-malls, Walmart, Sam’s Clubs, Costco, Home Depot and Lowe’s. Yes, communities survived and thrived — all part of the creative destruction and reinvention that goes with capitalism. Now, the second wave is underway with the rise of doorstep delivery and national chains’ mega-distribution centers further supplanting brick-and-mortar stores.

But here’s the thing: Life is mostly local. While the politicians in Washington mess things up nationally, at our core, we all want to live in a safe, pleasant, economically vibrant community.

To have all three, the latter — a vibrant local economy — is crucial to the first two. When you buy local, you help support everything local.

But life is also full of constant trade-offs. In today’s online economy, the trade-off is often convenience — Amazon delivery to your door or going to the local retailer, going to a local restaurant that employs the server and to see your neighbors, or ordering to have the DoorDash driver drop off your food.

It’s not wrong for people with busy lives to choose Amazon or DoorDash. But every choice has consequences.

As you head into 2022, of the things you can control, be cognizant of your choices and priorities. We Floridians love our freedom. And we love our communities. It’s in our interest to keep them economically vibrant.

Let’s keep Florida the place to be.



Matt Walsh

Matt Walsh is the CEO and founder of Observer Media Group.

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