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Remarks by Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross at the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce Roundtable


Introduced by Laurel Baker, CEO and Secretary, Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce  

Thank you, Laurel, for that kind introduction, and for your two decades of dedicated service helming the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce. My thanks also to Dennis Grady, for your 30 years of service as CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches.

For the last several weeks, I have been in meetings like this with businesses and community leaders around the country. My Florida stops have included Tampa, Tallahassee, Hollywood, and Fort Lauderdale. But I have also been to Cleveland, Erie, Wilkes Barre, Charlotte, and Charleston to name a few. In each location, there has been at least one company that is booming.

Two days ago, I was at City Furniture, a $450 million retailer that is investing $100 million to open two more 100,000 square-foot show rooms. Yesterday, I spoke at a roundtable that was hosted at NeoGenomics, a disease testing laboratory headquartered in Fort Meyers.

And in Erie, Pennsylvania, one entrepreneur who had been making street signs, correctly forecasted the need for clear plastic dividers for shops, restaurants, and conference rooms. The first week he offered them on the internet, he booked $1.5 million in sales, all from new customers.

My point is that American business ingenuity and risk-taking are still around. Coronavirus cannot kill our entrepreneurial spirit.

Everyone seems to agree that President Trump’s Payroll Protection Program was highly successful in getting more than $300 billion to the companies who needed it the most.

There is further consensus that the President’s CARES Act was a success. This legislation injected $32.3 billion into 432,000 Florida companies with fewer than 500 employees.

I am encouraged that our business community continues to make progress through economic recovery as a result of the President’s swift action.

We’ve also seen reassuring changes in the financial markets, in real GDP, and in retail sales. These are important indicators that we are holding to a standard and steady pattern of economic recovery.

Real GDP rose by a record 33.1 percent in the third quarter. Moreover U.S. retail and food services sales rebounded in September to $549.3 billion, up 1.9 percent over August and beating market expectations.

Here in Palm Beach we have seen a few businesses close their doors, while exciting new restaurants like La Goulue and Harrold’s are opening, along with retailers like Sothebys, Asprey and Assouline. And of course, residential real estate is soaring.

So, my question to you is what will the post-recovery economics of Palm Beach look like, and what can the U.S. government do to help?

We believe that the overall economy will continue to rebound.

Consumers are leading the way. They spent $2 trillion more in August than they did in April, yet they accumulated $22 trillion in savings between March and September.

Residential housing construction has also been strong, partly because of low interest rates. Both housing starts and new permits are up.

These factors, plus the fact that the jobs lost at the worst of the pandemic have now been restored, will mitigate the expiration of the $600 per week federal supplements to basic universal benefits.

Another factor is that industrial demand for durable goods continues to grow month over moth. This portends well for fourth quarter capital expenditures.

Nonetheless, COVID-19 must be taken seriously But we are hopeful vaccines become available in the near future.

Until then, the Trump Administration desires, and the American people need, a booster shot to the economy to get over this next phase

There are lots of arguments over how much it should be, but the real debate is where it should go. We want it in the hands of small businesses and consumers directly, while Democrat leaders want to bail out  poorly managed cities and states.

And they’ve also proposed funding for some policy issues they have been unable to pass as standalone measures. This has been a sticky issue. But we should remain optimistic that something can be achieved during the remainder of the 116th Congress. American families and businesses deserve better.

Rest assured that President Trump will continue delivering on his promises to you as our economy rebounds and our Nation continues to reopen.

I am eager to hear your views on this topic and any other thoughts or questions you might have.