Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President and CEO shares thoughts with about 100 Tennesseans

The President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta recalled four points he made in a speech several months ago to the Atlanta Rotary Club and said those thoughts were still relevant in today’s coronavirus-impacted economy.

Raphael Bostic engaged with about 100 people from across East and Middle Tennessee in a Zoom-delivered event yesterday that was organized by the Tennessee Business Roundtable in collaboration with Chambers of Commerce in Chattanooga, Knoxville and Nashville.

The points that he made in the May speech centered around following the advice of public health officials, reopening with caution, monitoring all segments of the economy and being prepared to act, and increasing activities such as testing to bolster public confidence.

“These are still the four points,” Bostic said, amplifying on the last item by saying, “People are getting worried again.” He added that recent data suggest the upward trajectory in the economy as businesses reopened is levelling-off and might even settle below pre-crisis levels.

Bostic emphasized that his comments were his own opinions as he reviewed the Fed’s actions in a “crisis (that) is not like anyone I’ve ever lived through.” He also said that one of his top priorities now is to better understand the thinking of business leaders as they think about their enterprises over the next three weeks, three months and beyond.

During a robust Q&A session, Knoxville’s Jordan Mollenhour asked about the impact on real estate asset classes, specifically office and retail. Bostic noted that retail has “been in a long-term decline . . . (and I) see no reason to think that trend is going to change.” He added that the real question is whether it will accelerate or show a temporary slowdown as people might look to malls as a place to engage socially.

“The question of offices is extremely interesting,” Bostic explained, citing two opposite forces. One is technologies like those for virtual meetings that mean companies don’t need as much space. The other, which the Atlanta Fed is currently evaluating, is adequate space for social distancing that could be what Bostic called an upward force.

“It’s a balancing act,” he added. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Tomorrow’s feature article in will focus on Baskin Strategies, a Nashville-based firm that consults with businesses and others about space needs.)

To a question from Van Tucker, Launch Tennessee’s Interim CEO, Bostic said that “innovation is essential for the continued success of the U.S. economy.”

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