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Remarks by Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross at the Tour and Roundtable with the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance and City Furniture in Tamarac, Florida


Introduced by Andrew Koenig, President, City Furniture.

Thank you, Andrew, for the kind introduction, for the wonderful tour, and for hosting us in your beautiful showroom. My thanks also to Bob Swindell for your leadership of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance and for organizing today’s discussion. Your work on behalf of GFLA’s member companies ensures your communities and businesses remain vibrant and prosperous.

This morning about five miles to the west of here, I welcomed 40 new Americans to our country during their citizenship ceremony. Immigrants from 23 different countries took the Oath of Allegiance to the nation that will offer them boundless possibilities and successes. We are indeed the land of opportunity for all who choose to call the United States home. So I am pleased to be here now at a second-generation family-owned business that demonstrates the longevity and success made possible by the American Dream.

As our economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, your company’s commitment to your community and to your 2,400 workers—soon to grow by hundreds more-- gives me great hope. I am told you are hiring 500 additional workers in the coming months, are planning a $150 million expansion into Tampa and Orlando, and are making arrangements to double the size of your upholstery factory in New Albany, Mississippi to meet increasing demand. It’s nice to know your upholstered goods are made right here in the USA. Congratulations on this success in spite of the year’s adversity.

In terms of Florida overall, it is very encouraging to me as a Palm Beach resident, a Floridian, that 1 million Floridians returned to work between April and August-- 122,000 of them right here in the Fort Lauderdale area. And there are other indicators that we are heading to an economic recovery. New unemployment claims dropped by 55,000 nationwide last week down to 787,000, the lowest since the pandemic struck. And still, too many Americans unemployed.

Now, Americans did save more than $21 trillion between March and August. And you think, “How on earth did that happen between unemployment and the pandemic?” Well, it really happened for a couple of reasons.One was the $1,200 one-time check. Second was the $600-a-week supplement to the unemployment payment. Unemployment nationwide has basic payments around $300. So that $600 supplement was a really huge thing. And Americans quite wisely know that a lot of it was temporary and saved an awful lot of it. With personal savings rate peaked at a rate of 33 percent in April. To put that into perspective, in the beginning of the last recession, it got down as low as 3 percent. So it was 11 times as high and kind of a record for the U.S.

Even now it’s in the double digits. So that means that people still have dry powder, they still have the wherewithal to spend at your business and others like it. U.S. retail and food services sales rebounded in September to $549.3 billion. That’s up 1.9 percent over August and beating market expectations. Consumer spending’s steady growth month over month is also a promising trend, with its increase from $11 trillion during April to $12.8 trillion during August. A $1.8 trillion increase in just those few months.

Americans are spending more in our economy now than they did when President Trump first arrived in office. This is all reassuring news for your businesses and your workers. The recovery is clearly continuing. And it can’t be understated that our economic recovery is due in no small part to the President’s swift action signing the CARES Act. The $2.2 trillion CARES Act contained provisions for workers, families, large and small businesses, and communities.

The Administration continues to struggle with Congress on quick passage of another stimulus bill, so I am hopeful that we will see additional relief soon, but it probably won’t be until after the election. In the meantime, my Department is putting its resources behind rebuilding the U.S. economy and strengthening our global commercial ties here in Florida and across the country.

For example, your state—our state-- has much to gain from the newly signed U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement. Florida ranked an impressive 7th out of our 50 states for exports last year – with more than 40,000 Florida companies exporting $56 billion worth of goods. Those are big numbers. Notably Canada and Mexico were Florida’s number 2 and number 3 destinations for exports, totaling $7.7 billion. So when President Trump successfully negotiated the USMCA, it immediately leveled the playing field for your companies doing business with both countries. The agreement will generate even more economic growth while the pandemic subsides.

Specifically, the new rules of origin will help re-shore production and re-establish domestic supply chains in many industrial sectors. Since USMCA went into effect in July, the U.S. Government has been busy implementing this ground-breaking trade deal. We have:

  • Issued new tariff schedules and duty rates;
  • Released guidelines to administer the high-wage component of the labor-content requirements;
  • And put in place labor enforcement provisions that were written into the agreement.

We will continue to engage closely with Mexico and Canada as we fortify the world’s largest trading block under this agreement.

But the real reason I’m here is to hear your ideas on how we can continue working together to revitalize our industries, revitalize our communities, generate thousands more good jobs, and create an economy that is resilient, and can withstand any future shock.

Thank you, and I look forward to our discussion.