Flashing back to 1968 as economy, markets navigates COVID-19, other 2020 turmoil

By Mike Sunnucks | Rose Law Group Reporter

For Rick West the turmoil of 2020 is akin to the upheavals of 1968.

West is owner of real estate investment firm Carefree Partners Investments. West is also a veteran of Arizona’s roller coaster real estate cycles.

But it is the social and societal changes of 1968 that most remind him of the year 2020.

West talked about the current challenges of COVID-19 and political and social turmoil during Rose Law Group’s New Economy (Virtual) Power Lunch series on Friday.

He pointed the 1968 was the year Martin Luther King Jr and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. “That was the year of the Tet Offensive and there was a big flu,” West said referring to the Vietnam War.

The 1968 ‘Hong Kong Flu’ killed between 1 million and 4 million people worldwide depending on the estimate. It killed as many as 100,000 people in the U.S.

There are more than 8.5 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide and more than 2.2 million in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 457,000 deaths globally and close to 119,000 in the U.S.

The year 1968 also saw racial unrest and tumultuous presidential election.

Sound familiar?

But West is optimistic about the country and Arizona coming out of the year 2020.

“We survived that,” West said. “We survived 911. We survived World War II. We survived lots of things,” West told the virtual forum hosted by Rose Law Group Partners Jordan Rose and Court Rich.

The Virtual Power Lunch also focused on the Arizona economy and real estate market as they emerge from COVID closures that started in March and ended in mid-May and the current rise of Coronavirus cases.

West, who has real estate investments in the West Valley including Buckeye, is optimistic about future growth there.

Mike Kern, president of real estate development firm Communities Southwest, said the COVID closures delayed and stalled some land deals but those have come back in earnest since the Arizona economy reopened in mid-May.

“During the third week of May the lights came back on,” Kern said during the Rose Law Group Friday forum. “It’s like the lights went off and came back on.”

He said the economy and real estate market were “on fire” in January and February before COVID hit. He stressed the need to not reclose the economy again as COVID cases rise in metro Phoenix and other parts of Arizona.

“Don’t shut the economy down again,” Kern said.

Katie Haydon Perry, executive vice president of general contractor Haydon Building Corp., is seeing more COVID cases among trades workers and subcontractors.

“I think it’s affecting all the trades. I think we are all seeing all seeing an uptick,” she said.

But Perry also said her company and the industry as a whole are working together to share best practices and updates with each other and their workers.

That includes when and whether workers should wear masks when they are outside in the Arizona heat.

“I’ve got guys in the trenches. I’ve got guys in 110-degree weather,” she said.

Perry said her company has also worked with Arizona-based HealthyVerify Certification to develop and implement COVID-19 and other health safety best practices and protocols.

The Arizona company, which include medical physicians and public health experts from Arizona State University, has also worked Goodwill of Central and Northern Arizona and other organizations on health safety programs and employee training as they reopen and navigate COVID-19.