A financial expert at Cal State Long Beach Tuesday talked about what it will take for the Southland’s economy to rebuild and what it could look like following the worldwide pandemic and civil unrest triggered by George Floyd’s in-custody death in Minneapolis.

Associate professor Laura Gonzalez, who teaches finance in the College of Business at Cal State Long Beach, told City News Service there will be a lasting impact from the coronavirus stay-at-home protection orders, especially when combined with recent business lootings and vandalism.

“This is not a temporary change brought about by this virus,” the educator said. “What we know from history is that when there is a pandemic there is always a strong recovery and period of growth after, but we also see that we do not go back to the old way of doing things.”

A difficult recovery is ahead, but Gonzalez said that when it does, there’s a silver lining: she believes a light has been shined on issues that — if addressed — could have a permanent and positive impact on the local and world economy.

“The circumstances are opening the dialogue for profound changes,” she said. “What we can do is to reflect on all the factors that drive economic growth, and social justice drives economic growth.”

She pointed out that the worldwide pandemic may result in more people prioritizing access to health care for themselves and others; that school closures have highlighted the need for teachers to take new approaches that are more inclusive to all students; and that institutionalizing protocols and leveraging and improving technology across the board will help close disparity gaps.

“Everything we do in life, we will have to re-educate ourselves and follow protocols — instead of just good intentions, we need protocols,” she said. “This is an opportunity for that … and, in the long run of course we are going to save money because we are going to be better and not lose human capital.”

Industries across the board, she said, need to be nimble and invest in training and development to effectively adapt to changing needs, looking at these difficult times as an opportunity to rethink and re-imagine how things can be done better.

“It’s very important to be very realistic about different scenarios. Whenever we make financial projections, even when there is no pandemic, we have to consider different scenarios — that’s especially important in times of great uncertainty, like we are in now.”

Businesses that have been able to adapt quickly, for instance clothing makers who transitioned to selling face masks, or offices that found ways for employees to work from home, are more likely to survive and keep adapting to changing needs, she said.

Other businesses, especially those that were already struggling before the pandemic or have been looted and vandalized, may never recover or may relocate, Gonzalez said.

“Many will think about whether or not they should reopen,” she said. “Insurance contracts do not cover all circumstances, and businesses were already suffering. Even where restrictions were eased, some customers haven’t felt comfortable going out and were continuing to shop online. There were malls and shops already closing before coronavirus.”

Overall, Gonzalez emphasized that now is a time of opportunity for business owners to rethink how they can serve the needs of their clients moving forward.

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