The Difference Between Thriving and Withering During a Pandemic? Good Leadership

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(The Center Square) Naples. Jacksonville. Miami. Destin. San Francisco. As the jingle from Sesame Street goes, “one of these things is not like the others.” If you’ve traveled at all during the pandemic, read a newspaper, or if you generally don’t live in a 1,000-foot-deep hole devoid of all technology, you probably know where I’m going with this.

The difference in the quality of leadership throughout the pandemic has been impactful for everyone. This distinction is clear for children who are happy, learning, and thriving at in-person schools – or not learning at all, depressed, and struggling to cope with the reality their government and their parents have thrust upon them under onerous and poorly contrived public health guidance.

Perhaps the most significant disparity is for small businesses and those who risk their savings, their futures, and their mental sanity for the American Dream – to go out on their own, start something real, and create something unique.

While people give up on their dreams in New York, California, and New Jersey, entrepreneurs flock to Florida, a state that operates under the assumption – now considered antiquated in much of the world – that every human has the right to experience the dignity that comes from work. Every job is essential. Every person is equal. But to the Left, to quote Animal Farm, “some… are more equal than others.” During lockdowns, politicians never missed a paycheck. Waiters and waitresses? Not so much.

My family and I spent two wonderful years living near Destin. I recently spoke with my old friend, Captain Si Nelson, who operates a guide company there. He and his wife live the American Dream, with thriving small businesses that have seen exponential growth during the pandemic. Si’s customers flock to Florida from places as far away as California, New York, New Jersey, and even other countries such as Canada and the U.K. Though, during the pandemic, California feels like a different country. His customers feel that, too.

And that’s why the tourists are coming – by the millions. In fact, 59 million people visited Florida in just the first half of 2021.

Maybe that’s why Captain Si just bought his second boat to accommodate even more families who wish to ditch their masks and don their flip-flops. They come from locked-down San Francisco or Los Angeles. Then they spend a week, or two, or four, enjoying Florida’s pristine beaches, clean water and air, and most important of all, freedom.

Leadership matters. It mattered when Florida opened up and allowed people to assess their personal level of risk and live their lives. It mattered when, instead of focusing on more failed lockdown policies, Florida’s State Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis concentrated on reforms that made it easier to start a business in Florida.

Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls urged his colleagues to “develop an entrepreneurship agenda that knocks down the barriers holding back all those untapped job creators.” And together with Sen. Keith Perry and the leadership of Senate President Wilton Simpson, they did just that.

Florida reformed home-based business laws, making it easier for Floridians to start small businesses. Perhaps this will lead to the founding of the next Apple in Miami or the next Google in Tallahassee. The legislature and Gov. DeSantis also fast-tracked building permits, preempted local licensing requirements, and increased performance metrics for workforce programs.

Florida employers hired nearly 1.3 million net new workers after DeSantis announced the end of the unemployment bonus. And entrepreneurs created almost 150,000 new startups. This was critical for lessening the worker shortage.

According to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while Florida enjoys low unemployment and growing small businesses, residents of New York, California, and New Jersey are tortured with unemployment rates over six percent nearly two years after the pandemic hit.

Leadership matters. And for struggling small businesses, leadership matters more than ever.

There is a quiet but incredible dignity in creating something entirely your own and making it grow into a thriving business. Thousands of Floridians will come out of the pandemic feeling that dignity deep in their souls. That’s what good leadership is all about.