Blueprint for business road back with philanthropy

Business leaders shared advice and lessons learned to revive the economy and keep corporate philanthropy growing at Boca Chamber’s webinars this week.

Office Depot had to quickly change school makeovers to meet new teacher and student technology needs, said Alex Price, national director for Community Investment at Office Depot Global Headquarters in Boca.

With her 32-year business perspective, Kelly Smallridge cited growth plans in the works, especially in the medical, research, aerospace and a new manufacturing sector. “I think we will bounce back,” the president and CEO of the Business Development Board said in her State of the County presentation.

Expedited permitting and lower taxes are added attractions for companies exploring a move here, Smallridge said. “We have 375,000 college students to fuel the pipeline,” she said about the talent pool. Expansion plans like Amazon’s fulfillment center, “won’t be the last because everyone’s buying online,” she said. “Our marketing strategy has been going after CEOs who purchased second homes in wealth markets…”

More than 70 financial services firms have a foothold here, mostly in the Boca/West Palm Beach corridor, she added. “Some moved small groups and may move more operations,” she said. “We have to court new companies.”

Price described how, when learning moved online, Office Depot partnered with the school district’s Education Foundation and FPL for a device drive for kids with no computer. “All our Palm Beach County stores became drop-off locations for gently used devices by the hundreds. Tens of thousands poured in for a fundraising campaign to get families up and running,” he said. “Speed was key. We had to throw out our playbook for the entire year.”

Their March 4 Inspiration Breakfast with the YMCA of South Palm Beach County was probably the last big event before stay-at-home orders and shutdowns, he noted.

“We’ve all had to change our plans, but we’re staying true to your purpose. Our roadmap to get there will look a lot different,” he said. “What could we do? New $20,000 teacher appreciation grants. We had a virtual check presentation. We donated over $30,000 to the Red Cross, food banks, homeowners who lost jobs through our COVID Relief Program.”

On a national level, Office Depot will have 21 beneficiaries in 20 communities, Price said. “All 1,300 stores will have customer philanthropy. Starting in two weeks, every store will raise funds for a shopping spree for Title 1 schools.

“It’s not at all what we thought the last few months would look like…but people have to act like a nimble startup,” Price said.

Both talks are posted on Boca Chamber’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuvy_dSIQCkOG8kckyk5aQw

By Marci Shatzman

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