Finding Opportunity in Challenging Times


Author: Economic Development Team

By Randall Lewis, executive vice president, Lewis Group of Companies, a leading developer in the Western United States with a portfolio that includes multiple apartment communities and quality retail centers throughout the Inland Empire.

We're going to come back to a really changed world. How do we make sure that it's a better world? We're nervous about where we are now, but we're excited about where we're going because I think we're going to be able to do things differently.

For me personally, for our business, it's exciting to say, "What does this mean? What are the lasting changes, as we design shopping centers, homes, apartments, and as we design communities?" We're working with architects, who are asking, "What does this mean for the apartment of the future? What does it mean about the clubhouse or the gym of the future?" That's fun to think about, because we love serving customers, and trying to think ahead. We've always looked at our communities as more than shelter. This is a new way to give that purpose more meaning.

People want to be part of something big. They want to work somewhere where there's meaning. Now for all companies, it's an opportunity to put even more meaning in the work they do for their customers. This is going to be an opportunity for organizations to reinvent themselves, to do it in a way that will make the employees feel they're part of something special. It could be a restaurant, store, or health provider. I think there's a way to make it even more enriching for the employees.

Looking ahead we have an opportunity to foster more public-private partnerships. Public agencies are all going to face financial issues. The private sector can work with local cities to determine assets that can help them in times of need. I think you're going to see some common solutions that we haven't considered before. I also believe that we can't succeed as a company if our county and cities aren't thriving.

And I think that's true for every business in San Bernardino County. Now is the time to say "What are the special talents of a company, and how can they be utilized to try to give back, and make sure the community's thriving?"

We're talking to a lot of city managers, asking how we can help. For us, it could be finding new opportunities to work together. We're just trying to look for win-win opportunities with cities or with other organizations. We're here to say, “Let's find some new ways to collaborate that we never thought about.”

There is no doubt this is going to be a big challenge. But we have people relying on us. So we want to do all we can to make sure that we're carrying out our duties, to do the best job possible for people in our properties.