With the 2021 Legislative Session behind us, believe it or not it is time to start looking at 2022. Each year our Member Advocacy Committee (MAC) and the Board work on position statements and legislative priorities for the upcoming session. This year we focused on Water Quality and Visit Florida. Water Quality funding is strong this year but our hope to remove the sunset clause for Visit Florida did not pass. This will be part of our 2022 goals.  

The SWFL Alliance of Chambers will also be working on their 2022 legislative priorities so I am asking for your input. I know how you feel about surveys as I have sent quite a few in the past year. Instead, I ask you to simply send me an email to share what you would like the Chamber to consider as we put these priorities together. I especially want to hear any local concerns. I tend to focus on the regional or state level ideas so want to hear from you, the entrepreneurs, business owners and the community on what might impact you and your business. 
The Tourist Development Council (TDC) meeting was held on May 13. The Visitor Tracking, Occupancy and Economic Impact report from January to March notes of interest: 

  • Tourism is recovering but lagging behind pre-COVID numbers 

  • Compared to the same period in 2020 (Jan-Mar), visitation is down 16.3%, room nights down 2.8%, direct expenditures down 7% and total economic impact down 8.8%.  

  • If you ever thought about the economic impact of tourism, the spend for the first 3 months of the year (2020, 2021) is over 1 billion dollars. Yes. Billion.

  • If we go back to 2019, the total economic impact is over 2 billion dollars and direct expenditures was $1.2 Billion.  

  • Top 4 reasons for visiting: Vacation, Beach, to Relax & Unwind or to visit Friends & Relatives 

  • Our visitors love our area as 95% of visitors will recommend our area and 91% will return.  

Click here for to review the full report, which includes more data on where our visitors come from, the demographics, how they travel here and more. 

A simpler read is the recap.

The TDC also approved over $10 million dollars in Beach & Shoreline Funding recommendations. From here, the Board of County Commissioners will review and vote on the allocations. Here is the link to view more details on the requests.
Department of Economic Opportunity Director Dane Eagle announced Wednesday that Florida will not extend its work search waiver for the unemployed. 

The waiver, implemented during the pandemic’s peak, allowed Floridians to collect unemployment benefits without proving they were searching for a job. The State will now encourage the unemployed to find work through a new Return to Work program that aims to connect Floridians to jobs and accelerate Florida’s economic rebound. Eagle said more than 400,000 jobs are available in the Sunshine State. And with ample vaccine supply, he asserted, it’s time to get back to work. 

On May 6, we coordinated a ribbon cutting for U.S. Renal Care on Winkler Road. I wasn’t familiar with their work but they shared a brief explanation after the ceremony and I have to admit the concept amazed me. So many people with kidney issues have to spend hours out of their home for help but they offer an in-home option. What was very clear was the care they have for their clients. Actually, they use the word family, saying that when they work with someone, they become their family. 
I received an email from one of our favorite members recently. He operates a nationally recognized restaurant brand and felt that our #shoplocal initiative implied that our community should only spend money in locally-owned retail and restaurants. It was eye-opening and I am so glad he shared his feelings on this. 

It has been a trying year for businesses, and the #shoplocal initiative was launched to encourage our members and the community to shop locally vs. ordering online from businesses outside of the area. Our intent was to remind people to keep their spending local and support our neighbors and members. 

We may have been too focused on the retail industry here and never meant that our community shouldn’t support national brand restaurants or stores. We understand how the initiative could be perceived other ways, and we will no longer use #shoplocal in our materials. However, we will ask you to: “Be A Local Spender with a Chamber Member!” 

Thank you again to the Chamber member that reached out to me to share their feedback.
Next week’s email will come from Kansas City as we move Elizabeth into her new apartment. We even found some ECHL hockey to attend next weekend (coached by former Everblades Asst. Coach, Tad O’Had). The NHL playoffs start on Saturday and as I am all things Pens, don’t be surprised if you see me wearing a jersey here and there.  

Have a great weekend!