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Heard On Sundial: Governments Pay For COVID Advice, Fantasy Fest Is Canceled, And The New Workspace

Participants partake in the 2017 Fantasy Fest parade as they make their way down Duval Street in Key West on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017.

On this Monday, July 20, episode of Sundial:

McKinsey’s Government Consulting Work

State and local governments have spent millions of dollars on their Coronavirus response plans — many have turned to private consultants for extra support and advice. 

The McKinsey Consulting Firm has received more than $100 million in contracts since the start of the pandemic to do just that, according to a ProPublica investigation. 

Miami-Dade County contracted the company for more than $500,000 in February. Broward County Superintendent Robert Runcie told WLRN last week that they’ve hired McKinsey to assist in the school district’s reopening plans. 

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“Given the hollowed-out state of many governments, there are pros [to hiring McKinsey]. It can be understandable for one-off projects like reorganizing an agency or something like that,” said reporter Ian MacDougall, who worked on the investigation for ProPublica. “But there are big downsides. The incentives of a private-sector company are to make as much money as possible.”

We spoke with MacDougall about McKinsey’s government consulting work during the pandemic. We received a statement from Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s office about their contracted work with McKinsey, we included the full statement at the bottom of this post. 

Fantasy Fest And Keys Tourism

Fantasy Fest, one of the biggest and most iconic events of the year in the Florida Keys, has been cancelled for the first time in the event's 41-year history. Tens of thousands of tourists and crowds come for the festival every year.

It’s estimated the festival generates $30 million in economic activity for the region. About half of the workforce in the Keys have tourism-related jobs and businesses, and are bracing for slow summer and fall seasons. 

“We’re seeing a lot of businesses close here in town, and it’s devastating,” said Nadene Grossman Orr, the director of Fantasy Fest. 

“I’ve been here myself in Key West since ‘91 and Fantasy Fest has been a huge part of my time in town. I was a past Queen [of Fantasy Fest] in 2003, so I am very well in tune with how much this festival generates, not just for the frontline workers in the community, but for the nonprofits. It’s a huge impact across so many levels of our community, and it’s heartbreaking.”

We spoke with Grossman Orr about the decision to cancel Fantasy Fest and the impact other event cancellations are having on the Keys’ tourism industry.

Re-Imagining The American Workplace

More than 40 percent of the American workforce is currently working from home, according to the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. However, some companies have started to bring employees back into the office, with more expected to return to a physical work environment in the coming months. 

The pandemic will undoubtedly have a profound impact on how the American office space is structured, with wider corridors and more touchless features becoming the norm. 

“If there are more people working from home and there is less space needed for an office to maintain its operations, you could find certain solutions such as shared workplaces,” said Mario Cartaya, the president of the Fort Lauderdale architecture firm Cartaya and Associates Architects.

We spoke with Cartaya about the future of remote work as well as how the design and functionality of office space will be re-imagined as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Statement to WLRN from Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s office on hiring private consultants for COVID-19 advice: 

"Mayor Gimenez heard about the McKinsey consultants from Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber and also from the governor’s office, which was hiring the international consulting company with expertise on managing Covid-19. At the time, Miami-Dade County needed people with experience managing a pandemic, and McKinsey was already working for several federal agencies, as well as with New York, New Jersey and Florida state governments. Had this been a hurricane, Miami-Dade County would not have needed a consultant because we have vast experience on that front. For a pandemic of this kind not seen in a century, Mayor Gimenez has said it before: We are being forced to write the COVID-19 response book as we go.  McKinsey brought expertise to help the County create the New Normal rules and set up the Daily Dashboard with the most important information needed to track the virus and pivot quickly with new rules as conditions warrant.  No other management consultants from the County’s pool had that expertise and none reached out. Overall, McKinsey had the global experience we needed at the time with COVID-19 and did a solid job in helping Miami-Dade County when it was most critical to formulate a plan to move forward."

Leslie Ovalle produces the morning newscasts that air during Morning Edition. As a multimedia producer, she also works on visual and digital storytelling. Her interests include immigration, technology and the environment.