NY Business Leader on Why Pandemic Recovery is More Complex than 9/11
By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Kathryn S. Wylde has been president of the Partnership for New York City since 2001, thrust into the devastation of 9/11 and the business recovery effort when fear of another terrorist attack clouded whether Manhattan would ever come back.
Wylde hosted strategy sessions with then-Governor George Pataki and Sens. Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton at the Partnership’s Downtown offices in the aftermath. But, she told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank, that the economic issues were more clear 20 years ago compared to the complexity of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were able to be ready for recovery by January,” she said. “We hosted the Davos World Economic Forum at the Waldorf and had thousands of notable leaders of countries and businesses from around the world flying into New York.”
International travel is still not fully open. The city’s offices were not open at 100 percent until June 15, 2021 – 15 months after the coronavirus forced large-scale shutdowns to control the spread of the disease.
Wylde says New York has suffered immeasurable financial losses as a result of the pandemic.
“On 9/11, we had the temporary displacement of 3,000 small businesses and we lost about 130,000 jobs – most of which were recovered completely within a year and a half/two years. Today, we’re down 462,000 jobs and we don’t know how many of those are going to come back,” the business leader said.
She told WCBS 880 that small businesses in retail and hospitality may never be the same. But, there has been record venture capital investments in new professional services companies that are catering to pandemic needs. Their biggest challenge, Wylde said, is competing for workers.
The Partnership for New York City lists 387,000 open job postings. With a tight labor market and a work from home environment, hiring skilled workers remains a major hurdle this fall.
“Today, we’re economically, at a macro level, in better shape, but the implications of this whole remote work situation and what’s happened to our brick-and-mortar economy – the small businesses – which are 9 percent of the economy but they’re 20 percent of the jobs – we don’t know how much of those are coming back – both the businesses or the jobs. We don’t really know the damage caused a year and a half into this,” Wylde said, noting large businesses are better positioned for the post-pandemic economy because they amass greater resources.
She is concerned emerging variants of COVD-19 that are more transmissible and more contagious, and potentially could weaken vaccine efficacy, might require new shutdowns that could wipe out some sectors.
Despite the widescale problems, Wylde remains optimistic about New York’s recovery. When asked how she keeps going, she told Connolly and Carousso she is encouraged that communities have come together, which she said is reminiscent of the 1970s and early 1980s when the city was faced with a fiscal crisis that ignited a seismic shift from mostly industrial work to a service economy.
“The same thing I’ve seen happening while government was focused full bore on the health crisis, communities came together to support each other, and to provide services, and to make sure neighbors had groceries, and that the elderly had visitors, and that the health care workers were applauded with pots and pans as they were going off to save lives,” Wylde explained. “I’ve seen communities come together in a way that demonstrates the strength and resilience of New York.”
Watch Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso’s full conversation with Kathryn Wylde on the Small Business Spotlight video above.