Saving Visit Florida
The vibe in the Florida Capitol in the waning days of session feels both exciting and daunting. Pictures from horror movies counting down “Seven Days” to session’s end showed up in elevators. The time showed both the near distance until the chaotic budget fights and policy debates draw to a close. But it also marks the frightening limit on time for lawmakers to complete their only constitutional obligation, passing a budget.
As the legislative session winds down this year, one of the great unanswered questions remains what will come of Visit Florida. For most of the 60-day session, House Speaker Jose Oliva has refused to consider authorizing the state’s de facto tourism agency to continue operations after October.
State Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, chairs the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee and stressed the agency was “critically important” for Florida.
“We still have a tourism driven economy,” Gruters said. Because of that, he’s still pushing for full funding.
The senate has budgeted about $50 million for Visit Florida. That’s less than Gov. Ron DeSantis included in his first budget since his election. He wanted $76 million.
But at least it’s something. The House has held to a position that the agency should get $19 million to operate through the end of the fiscal year, but then sunset entirely.
That comes after close to three years of battles about alleged wasteful spending. Oliva told reporters Friday he still has strong feelings the organization needs to disappear sooner than later.
However, Oliva offered a significant olive branch on Friday. Speaking to a gaggle of reporters on the House floor, he acknowledged Gov. DeSantis had asked for the agency to continue. Oliva said he doesn’t want to fight the governor on this, and he will authorize Visit Florida to continue for one more year.
After that, the governor can “make an assessment of his own on how unnecessary it is.”
Well, that’s not exactly the ringing endorsement Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota, wanted. But it’s something/
“Definitely, the focus was on fact it wasn’t being reauthorized,” said Haley. Now, Oliva seems ready to implement legislation as soon as this weekend that will keep the doors of the agency open until 2020.
But the Speaker’s comments were not “super encouraging,” to Haley, a board member for Visit Florida.
Oliva made clear he doesn’t want to deliver the agency its full funding, so that $50 million from the Senate may be as good as it gets. And that means getting lean.
“It’s going to mean some very tough choices,” said Haley. The board discusses marketing strategies in a few weeks, and the dollars must stretch as far as possible.
So Haley said the board will have to ask itself hard questions. “How is it that Visit Florida can bring the absolute best value to partners in the industry?” “What is it Visit Florida can do that nobody else can do?”
But where there’s an appropriation there’s a way. The one-year stay of execution means an opportunity to shine. Visit Florida has an opportunity to prove itself.
Of course, it’s mid-sized cities like Sarasota and Bradenton where partnerships with the state can prove especially valuable.
Maybe mega-corporations already sell the heck out of places like Miami, Oliva’s hometown. But it’s cooperation with the state that helps Sarasota get word out about world-class hospitality assets here.
Keep up traffic to markets like this and the numbers will continue to improve statewide.
So long as Visit Florida does a good job of keeping tourism thriving throughout the state, not just in the major tourist traps, it should be easy to make a case for reauthorization next year.
Visit Florida promotional photo of Siesta Key Beach.
Tomorrow’s challenges demand new thinking.
Over the last six months, I have, through this six-part series, endeavored to change the way the world thinks about the impact and importance of what Ringling College of Art and Design does. Ringling College is an institution of art and design, yes, but, we are also more. We are a center, a hub, of creative thinking. And that creative thinking will be critical in the coming Creative Age, because tomorrow’s challenges demand new thinking.
That is reason No. 5 why Ringling College matters.
When people think of art and design education, I sense that many think first of the technical: Skills of drawing, painting, sculpting, fabrication, taking a picture, or animating. To be sure, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) or a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree from Ringling College requires mastery of these technical areas; but, it also requires much, much more.
It requires creative thinking. Successful creatives are able to think holistically, see different perspectives, imagine new possibilities, and think differently to devise innovative solutions to very complex problems. They have a robust understanding of the tools that can be leveraged to overcome a challenge. Perhaps most importantly, they have the patience, persistence and drive to try countless approaches until finding the one that works the best. They think in ways that are new to those of us who have not yet fully developed our own creative skills.
And this new way of thinking is what the Creative Age will require. As I have noted before, Artificial Intelligence is coming—fast—and will change many aspects of the way we work and live. To be successful in this new era, we will need creative leaders who are able to use imagination, to identify novel applications of existing technology, to envision new possibilities, to see different perspectives, and to have the persistence and drive to explore many different solutions to find THE BEST one to address the problem at-hand.
At Ringling College, our students are immersed in this new way of thinking. Across our 13 majors, we instill in our graduates the technical skills needed to bring a creative vision to life. We also steep our curricula in the liberal arts to build the conceptual and critical thinking skills needed for creative problem-solving. Through this combination, our students take on challenges that seem impossible; then, using their creativity, they develop a range of solutions and, using their technical knowledge, execute the best of the possibilities.
Creative leaders bring never-before-imagined proposals to the boardroom while also understanding the tactical requirements for an organization to implement them. That is why I advocate for any corporation, non-profit, or other organization to have an artist or designer in the boardroom. They, more than any other persons, will have the holistic and creative way of thinking required for meeting tomorrow’s challenges.
Their experiences in cycling through many different possibilities before landing on the right solution make them resilient in the face of setbacks and able to find novel approaches to execute an idea. They will be able to both set the vision for their companies and drive the creative teams that work behind the scenes to achieve that vision.
We are preparing our students to become these leaders of tomorrow. We are teaching them the skills, the new way of thinking, that will enable them not only to collaborate with the big-idea strategists, but also to work with and lead the creative minds who can bring those ideas to life.
Creatives are already leading some of today’s most exciting companies. The co-founder of Pinterest, Evan Sharp, has a BA in Architecture. Emily Weiss, Glossier’s CEO, studied Studio Art. Brian Chesky, CEO of AirBnb, met his co-founder in college while studying Industrial Design. And it will only grow.
It is clear to me that the Creative Age and its new economy will be led by those with a well-developed foundation in creativity combined with technical mastery. Creatives, like our students, have this unique skill set and will be best positioned to lead this new era. It is easy to see why they will become so very important to all of our future success. In fact, it is easy to see why, quite soon, you will no longer need me to tell you why Ringing College matters.
Let me be amongst the first to congratulate SRQ Daily readers on your astute choice of where to live, work, invest and do business.
What you already knew is now officially out of the bag! In case you haven’t heard, the venerable US News & World Report, the 85-year-old “news to use” organization that rates America’s Colleges and Hospitals, now rates cities. And last week, US News & World Report ranked Sarasota as the 18th Best Place to Live in America.
Think about that for a second. Of the 30,000 local jurisdictions in the entire United States, our city and region are ranked right at the top. Of course, quality of life is a subjective matter and different people are looking for different things, so these ratings are done by comparing general data points and through surveys.
But overall, when the data and interviews are rated for Desirability, Value, Job Market, Quality of Life and Net Migration to the area, we are the No. 1 place to live in Florida. And although we are by far the smallest city in America’s top 20 cities, we are ranked right up there with Austin, Denver, San Francisco, Minneapolis and Des Moines.
Apparently, the combo of our thriving arts and cultural scene, our gorgeous beaches, our increasingly walkable and charming business districts and a “booming restaurant scene” have caught the attention of those who are defining and rating great places to live. Good schools, clean parks and lots of things to do including fishing, golfing, tennis along with lifelong learning and volunteering opportunities pull us to the top.
Of course, the downside of such recognition is that even more people might hear about us. So, let’s just this keep this between ourselves. But just in case somebody leaks the story, the City of Sarasota is working on diversifying our transportation system to help keep the people already here moving about, and to prepare for more people trying to visit or join us. In fact, just last week the Sarasota City Commission directed city staff to prepare a plan to better utilize our water ways to provide fun, interesting and alternative ways to get around. Perhaps there will be a water taxi opportunity in your future.
My only concern is with moves like this, and the passion for community building so many residents have, we might go from the top 20 best places to live to the top 10!
Rankings and bad jokes aside, thanks to the many people and organizations who are engaged in working to make our community a little better tomorrow, than it was yesterday. Our collective, long standing, keep improving mantra, is why so many enjoy each and every day, here and now, in this delightful place we call home.
Tom Barwin is Sarasota City Manager. Email him at Thomas.firstname.lastname@example.org
Thunder By The Bay Success
Thunder By The Bay’s relocation to the Sarasota Fairgrounds and date change to mid-February, proved to be very successful for the event this year which raised over $180,000 for Suncoast Charities for Children. A report received from Research Data Services indicated that the three-day music and motorcycle festival yielded an economic impact of $7.1 Million and supported 5,900 room nights in area lodgings. Since the Festival first began, over $1.9 Million has been raised for charity. Next year’s Festival is scheduled to take place Feb. 14-16 at the Sarasota Fairgrounds.
Outdoor Pops Concert “Women Rock”
The Sarasota Orchestra presents a family-friendly outdoor Pops concert at Ed Smith Stadium May 10 and 11, in conjunction with the Orioles’ Arts in the Ballpark series. Under the baton of Maestro Andrew Lane, the Orchestra will highlight the music of Carole King, Holly Knight, Tina Turner, Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, Pat Benatar, Minnie Riperton, and Heart. Vocalists include Grammy-Nominated Cassidy Catanzaro, The Voice contestant Katrina Rose, and Broadway and jazz vocalist Shayna Steele. “Women Rock” honors the female singers and songwriters who broke barriers in the Pop and Rock & Roll genres.
Bazaar Birthday Bash
Celebrate The Bazaar’s one year birthday on May 1 from 5-8pm. Enjoy live music by Kaleidogroove, as well as free beer from JDub’s, smoothies from Cha Cha Coconuts & cupcakes from Bad Girls Baking Co-Op. Come check out art demos, great shopping, food-truck and surprises.
Say Hello to Slate and Obsidian
The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature’s animal care team celebrated the successful move of two new manatees to The Parker Manatee Rehabilitation Habitat, where the animals will finish their recovery before their return to the wild. The manatees, nicknamed Slate and Obsidian, were both orphaned male calves suffering from cold stress when they were rescued. They are to be cared for in The Bishop’s Stage 2 rehabilitation habitat, the place where manatees come after their critical care needs have been met, where they can grow to an appropriate size for release and, if previously injured, continue the healing process.
Annual Celebrate! Awards Ceremony
Sarasota County Schools recently honored its outstanding, individual volunteers, businesses and community partners at the school district’s 2019 Celebrate! awards ceremony. Held annually during National Volunteer Recognition Month, Celebrate! recognizes those who have gone above and beyond to support the school district’s students, teachers, staff and school communities throughout the year. Sarasota County Schools’ Office of Community Involvement noted over 12,000 active volunteers during the 2018-19 school year (so far), with the combined thousands of volunteer hours equaling $4,832,000 in in-kind hours.
Brunch at The Gardens
Honor your mother with a decadent buffet brunch and sweeping views of Sarasota Bay this Mother’s day at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. Michael’s On East will serve up a scrumptious buffet with offerings of Wild Mushroom Ravioli with Brown Butter, Sage & Cheese and Sweet Potato-and-Cauliflower Salad with Pomegranate and Sherry Vinaigrette. Brunch includes a carving station, pancake station, omelets made to order and a dessert bar. Seatings available at 10:30 AM, 12:00 and 1:30 PM. For any questions, contact Specialevents@selby.org or call (941) 248-3585.
Fast-Track Training Coming to Newtown
CareerEdge Funders Collaborative is working with Cool Today to develop an HVAC Maintenance Fast-Track Training at the Roy McBean Boys & Girls Club to launch in May. Employers are looking for a way to first recruit and rapidly train people in the maintenance process, and then to further develop these employees over time through mentorships and apprenticeship programs. The tuition-free class will include CareerEdge’s Bridges to Careers soft-skills training and Cool Today employees will volunteer to teach, enhancing the hands-on, real-world nature of the program. Individuals must register by Friday, May 3.