Many Floridians had it rough during the Great Recession of 2008; either losing jobs, facing cutbacks or otherwise struggling to stay above water financially.
Manatee County homebuilder Carlos Beruff was not one of them.
Beruff, now a candidate for U.S. Senate, boasted at a recent event that his company “actually profited” from the “huge” recession that devastated Florida’s middle class.
Speaking to the Republican Federated Women of The Villages in March, Beruff talked about how he weathered the storm, one where several of his employees lost jobs.
“Built another company and then uh, then I was able to learn those lessons of how not to get in trouble, had lots of liquidity,” he said in a video captured at the event. “This huge recession that hit us, we actually profited from the recession.
“It’s not a pretty thing to say, but we had the liquidity to ride through, and now we have a pretty sizable company and it runs really well, and we have 75 full-time employees.”
In the lead up to the recession, Beruff’s Medallion Homes fired nearly two-thirds of its workforce – 34 employees and two salespeople.
“It’s quite a contrast to the lean years of 2006-2008 and most of 2009. Like many other homebuilders, the [Medallion Home]’s employee base collapsed during that period,” Mark Gordon of the Florida Business Journal wrote in 2011. “It dropped from 48 employees and eight salespeople paid on commission in 2005 to 14 employees and six salespeople in 2008.”
While Beruff was making profits in a sagging housing market, middle-class Floridians had already borne much of the brunt of an economy that had been ravaging the rest of the nation.
According to a 2015 Washington Post report, 200,000 fewer Florida families owned homes than just ten years earlier. From 2007-2011, the median income in Florida was down by $5,700, more than a 10 percent drop and double that of the nation as a whole. At the same time, the net worth of the typical Florida family fell by 60 percent, and the state’s general economy shrank by an average of 2.4 percent.
Although he never initially intended to run for Senate, Beruff told the Villages audience he was convinced by friends who said, “we need business people in Washington who’ve had successful careers, who know how to run a business and aren’t there for the promotion.”
Few can deny Beruff enjoyed good fortune in business. However, others might question how he got there – especially when that success came at a time when so many others in Florida’s middle class suffered, including many of Beruff’s own employees.
It’s not a pretty thing, indeed.