Remote Work will be a ‘Huge Driver’ of Growth for Orange County

Remote Work will be a ‘Huge Driver’ of Growth for Orange County
Alan Guarino, vice chairman, Korn Ferry

In spite of rising coronavirus cases in the county and throughout New York State, Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus and keynote speaker and well-known executive recruiting executive Alan Guarino are bullish on the county’s prospects in 2021 now that vaccines will be arriving later this month.

County Executive Neuhaus and Guarino, who is vice chairman of New York City-based Korn Ferry, were among the speakers at the Orange County Partnership’s Annual Event held for the first time virtually on Dec. 2. The program was entitled “Resilience: Powering Through the Pause.”

Guarino, who is a graduate of West Point and who initially launched an executive recruiting firm in Newburgh, said that prior to the onset of the pandemic in March of this year, there was a prevailing trend the previous five years where some city workers were relocating to suburban locations or working from home, while Millennials workers were drawn to urban centers for lifestyle reasons.

“COVID just accelerated the change on steroids,” he said.

Guarino said that Orange County and surrounding suburban markets will benefit from former urban center workers “who will never return to Manhattan.” He added that the county should also benefit from Manhattan workers who will choose to live (and work from home) in suburbs such as Orange County.

In a recent conversation with some New York City-based executives who said they couldn’t wait to bring their workers back to their Manhattan offices, Guarino responded, “You’re going to have to wait a long time because they are not coming back.” When an executive said he was committed to bringing all of his workers back to his firm’s New York City office, Guarino told him, “No, you’re not. You are going to bring those (employees) back to Manhattan that are willing to vote to go back to work for you in Manhattan. If not, they are going to vote with their feet and work for somebody else, so you better get your head out of the clouds and get your head down to the reality that your workers are going to demand where they need to be working.”

These trends portend an emerging hybrid work environment that will feature both on-site and work-at-home employees. Guarino estimated that many workers will spend 30% at their urban location and 70% of the time working from home. He noted that recent studies suggest 75% of workers displaced by COVID prefer working at home with only 25% wanting to return to their offices.

“At the end of the day this is a perfect storm leading to urban workers moving to suburban markets in greater numbers than previously,” he predicted.

This hybrid work model should drive talent to Orange County, bolster the new home construction market and be a “huge driver” for the overall economy.

Guarino is Vice Chairman of Korn Ferry’s CEO and Board Services practice. He currently leads major consulting initiatives across industries, and has deep expertise in the global financial markets. Guarino launched the firm’s Execution Accelerator initiative; helping business leaders better execute their strategies. He also leads senior executive search and C-suite succession assignments for large Fortune 500 companies, as well as cutting edge Fintech companies within capital markets, asset and wealth management and digital assets.

The program also featured comments from Orange County Partnership Chairman Michael Gilfeather, Orange County President and CEO Maureen Halahan and Orange County Executive Neuhaus.

Gilfeather, who is president and CEO of Orange Bank & Trust Co., said that in spite of the pandemic, the bank’s loan pipeline has never been larger. Neuhaus discussed the recently passed county budget and county government’s response to COVID-19. He said that while cases are rising, with the vaccines nearing distribution, the county is poised to get through the pandemic. He said that once the pandemic subsides in the spring and summer of 2021, the county and the Port Authority will begin talks to lure back JetBlue and American Airlines to New York Stewart International Airport. He noted that despite a steep drop in passenger air traffic, air cargo business at the airport is very strong. Neuhaus also said that tourism is a growing sector of the county’s economy and cited a number of film projects at various locations in the county.

Halahan related that thus far in 2020, the Orange County Partnership helped create 1,489 new jobs, involving 3.1 million square feet of new development and $231 million in investment.

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