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Scott looking to boost tourist spending

Friday, January 10th, 2014 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott said Friday he is recommending spending $100 million to advance tourism in the state next year, boosting the budget of Visit Florida to a record level.

The agency is drawing $63 million in the state’s current $74.1 billion spending plan. But Scott said the state’s rising tourism numbers shows pouring even more money into Visit Florida is a good investment.

“We are on track for another record year, and we hope to build on this incredible momentum and make the Sunshine State the number one travel destination in the world,” Scott said in a statement released after he announced his plan at a Friday event at Orlando International Airport.

He added that, “every 85 visitors to our state supports one Florida job, a growing tourism industry equates to more jobs for Florida families and a stronger economy.”

State records show that through the first eight months of last year, 72.6 million visitors came to Florida, a 3.4 percent increase over the same period in 2012. These tourists spent $51.8 billion in the state, an almost 6 percent boost over the previous year. Tourist-related jobs also rose 2.8 percent — adding 29,700 jobs to the state’s economy, Scott said.

State tourism officials are still adding up the full year’s totals. But Will Seccombe, president and CEO of Visit Florida, called Scott’s approach “visionary” and positions the state to become the world’s leading travel destination.

Scott’s expected to unveil his full budget proposal later this month. But spending has been made easier by what is shaping up to be a $1.1 billion surplus of tax collections.

Scott has already called for cutting taxes and fees by $500 million, is likely to push for another $1 billion boost in school spending, and wants $100 million in state agency budget reductions to allow for the election-year largesse.

Scott likes government, if it pays off

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott, repeating his pledge to be the “jobs governor,” gave a pep talk Tuesday to tourism officials gathered in Tallahassee, offering some numbers behind the industry’s role in helping Florida’s economic recovery.

Scott said the state hosted 82 million visitors last year.  And he’d like to see that number climb to 90 million this year.

“I’m told that every 85 visitors brings another job to Florida,” Scott said.

But Scott apparently doesn’t believe everything he hears.

When Rick Gonzalez, president of West Palm Beach’s REG Architects, asked the Republican governor about his commitment to steering state cash toward supporting historic preservation as a jobs driver, Scott paused. Gonzalez said a University of Florida study showed historic preservation created 111,509 jobs in Florida during 2007-08, while also adding $3.8 billion in gross state product.

“I’ve never seen that study,” Scott said. “If there’s a return on historic preservation, I’ll look at it. But I’ve not seen that study.”

Scott said his approach to government pivots on supporting programs that will provide a financial return on the state’s investment. He didn’t draw distinctions between health and human services programs, which are generally money-losers.

But Scott said, “I want everything we spend money on to have a return. I’ve been in business all my life, and it’s easy to get capital if you can get a return.”

Mr. Sunshine casts more clouds on rail

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott made an early morning stop Wednesday at Fox & Friends’ New York studios and — again– said he’s not interested in $2.4 billion in federal cash for high-speed rail.

“The federal government gives you all this money, and you have to pay for it down the road,” Scott said, adding that he disputed ridership and job-creation statistics touted by rail promoters.

South Florida’s Tri-Rail doesn’t help convince him. Scott said Tri-Rail costs about $65 million annually to operate, but pulls in only about $10 million from fares.

A high-speed train linking Tampa to Orlando, “just doesn’t make sense for the taxpayers,” he concluded.


Scott turns into Mr. Sunshine

Monday, February 28th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott will lead a two-day tour of  ‘Sunshine Ambassadors,’ barnstorming across five cities in two days this week to prod tourists toward visiting Florida.

Scott, a relatively recent transplant to Florida, himself, regularly punctuates his speeches with praise for the state’s weather. But beginning in Orlando on Tuesday, Scott will lead an entourage of Visit Florida officials touting Florida’s vacation potential during planned stops in Washington, D.C., New York, Philadelphia and Chicago.

“We know that every 85 visitors create one Florida job, so I urge all Floridians to join with me in supporting this effort to increase jobs and grow the state’s economy,” Scott said Monday.

During the two-day tour, the Floridians will be giving away prizes and vacation packages to the state during promotional events. The trip’s last stop will be at Chicago’s Midway Airport, where Scott will board a charter flight with 120 prize winners en route to a four-day stay in Orlando.

Scott may seem an unlikely sunshine ambassador these days in his home state.

 His $65.9 billion budget proposal cuts $4.6 billion in state spending and 8,681 jobs. Scott’s rejection of $2.4 billion in federal money for high-speed rail also prompted Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich of Weston to claim that instead of being on path to create 700,000 new jobs, the new Republican governor was imposing more damage on Florida’s economy in his first weeks in office.

Scott, Golden Bear talk economic development…and tweets

Thursday, January 20th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Golf legend Jack Nicklaus met with Gov. Rick Scott to discuss how the Golden Bear can help the new governor turn the state’s economy around.

Nicklaus, the golfer-turned-businessman and philanthropist who lives in North Palm Beach, and Scott stepped outside the governor’s office to answer a few questions from The Palm Beach Post but remained tight-lipped about any potential economic development plan, other than it would involve…golf.

The links superstar is the head of an exclusive golf course design company that’s launched more than 350 courses throughout the U.S. and in nearly three dozen other countries.

Scott and Nicklaus, whose flight arrival was delayed more than an hour because of fog, met for about 30 minutes before stepping into the governor’s waiting room to answer a few questions from a reporter.

“I invited Mr. Nicklaus , the greatest golfer ever, to come and give me his ideas on economic development in the state. He’s lived here since 1962 and clearly cares about the state,” Scott told The Palm Beach Post.

Nicklaus said they had “basically a general conversation about how we can help and how golf can be involved.”

Scott said the talks were preliminary.

“We’re the number one golf state, the number one tourist destination in the world. So we started the conversation to see if there’s any ideas,” he said.

“It’s obvious golf can help the economic growth of the state,” Nicklaus added. He said he and Scott discussed how “somebody with my age and experience…with all the years of playing golf, how that can apply to what’s going on here.”

Scott’s staffers, clearly impressed by Nicklaus, took turns posing for photos with “The Golden Bear” inside the governor’s office before Nicklaus and his entourage left the Capitol.

Scott said he plays golf but “not well,” prompting Nicklaus to downplay his current prowess on the greens.

“Everybody’s wanted to play golf like I did. Now they can,” he joked, pausing before helping out a reporter clearly baffled by his meaning. “I’m 71 years old. I don’t play like I did when I was 45.”


Feds send economic development teams to Florida to help oil spill recovery

Monday, August 16th, 2010 by Dara Kam

President Barack Obama’s administration has dispatched two teams to Florida to help the state recovery from the economic downturn caused by BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke today announced he is spending $600,000 on 21 economic development teams to the Gulf Coast states, including Florida, impacted by the spill.

The teams, made up of business leaders, government officials and economists, will “conduct in-depth analyses of critical issues” faced by communities like those in the Pensacola region that have seen tourism drop by up to 40 percent in the aftermath of the spill.

The teams will offer recommendations for how to help revive the economy, according to a press release issued by the White House.

Information about where the Florida teams will be located was not available.

One University of Central Florida economist estimated that the oil spill may cost Florida up to $22 billion in lost tourism revenues.

At an economic roundtable in Metairie, La., Locke announced $31.3 million total in coastal restoration and economic development grants for Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.

“These grants are another sign of this administration’s commitment to help the Gulf Coast’s economy and environment recover in the wake of the BP oil spill,” Locke said.

Locke also announced a $30.7 million restoration grant to the Louisiana Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration by the Department of Commerce’s NOAA to fund the restoration of a critical barrier headland near Port Fourchon, La.

Crist: ‘God bless’ Obama for vacationing in Florida

Saturday, August 14th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Gov. Charlie Crist praised President Barack Obama for bringing the First Family to Florida’s Gulf Coast for a brief vacation.

“It’s the biggest single commercial you could imagine. God bless him,” Crist said before meeting with Obama, his wife Michelle and a handful of Panama City business owners at a waterfront Coast Guard station.

Republicans have blasted Obama for what they called a “27-hour guilt trip” to the region where the economy suffered as tourism plummeted during BP’s massive oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Crist brushed off the criticism.

“On behalf of Florida and as Florida’s sitting governor, I couldn’t be more grateful that the president and the First Lady of the United States are taking the time to come to our Gulf Coast and highlight Florida and promote tourism and jobs for our people. There’s no other way to look at this,” he said.

Crist broke with the Republican Party earlier this year to run as an independent in the U.S. Senate race after polling showed he was trailing in a potential primary against former House Speaker Marco Rubio.

Crist, who gained notoriety for the now infamous hug with Obama, sidestepped questions about whether Saturday’s visit with Obama would help Crist’s effort to draw support from Democrats to his campaign.

“I don’t know. I have no idea. But I think what’s important is that I’ll stand with anybody who’s going to help promote Florida tourism and our economy. It would be ridiculous not to,” Crist said. “I’m very, very grateful that the President and the First Lady…put such a spotlight on Florida tourism.”

Take a $250 shopping spree courtesy of BP

Monday, August 2nd, 2010 by Dara Kam

Tourists who book three nights or more in a Walton County beach hotel between now and Sept. 30 will get a $250 voucher for Southwest Airlines or $250 gift card for the Silver Sands outlet mall in Sandestin, all on BP’s dime.

The promotion will be paid out of the $7 million BP gave Panhandle tourism boards to help lure visitors back to the region where tourism has taken a nosedive in the aftermath of the massive Deepwater Horizon oil leak.

Tar blotches and oil stains impacted all but 1.5 miles of the 26-mile stretch of sugar white beaches in Walton Count and resulted in a 7 percent drop in bed tax collections in June and a 3 percent reduction in May, according to Dawn Moliterno, head of the region’s tourism development council, Beaches of South Walton.

The $7 million will be divided between the seven Florida tourism councils most directly impacted by the oil spill. Escambia and Santa Rosa counties will receive $700,000; the seven councils will split 14 percent of the $7 million and the rest will be distributed based on the amount of bed tax each of the councils collects. The tourism officials have to spend the money by Sept. 30, when all promotional programs must end, Moliterno said.

Moliterno’s council paid the most of the bunch last year – nearly $1.7 million and so will get a bigger slice of the BP marketing money.

The TDCs are excited about the new fund because they have control over how the money will be spent, unlike the $25 million for marketing BP gave the state earlier in the summer.

Moliterno thinks the vouchers will be great for the local economy because visitors will spread the cash around to businesses other than hotels.

“We know if we can get people here we know we can get them to support the community,” Moliterno said.

She gave BP credit for “putting the money into motion.”

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