Last week a group of tourism and economic development executives met with Governor Charlie Crist to discuss the state of business in South Florida. Crist routinely travels the state and meets with business leaders like most politicians. This is the first time I have been included so I was particularly curious as to the form and function of this audience.
After arriving at the Atlantic Hotel, I was ushered into a waiting elevator by none other than Crist himself--"Please join me, Dan" So we headed up the lift together as I babbled about the Chamber. Once we reached our destination I noticed media, the governor's staff and many recognizable faces from the Convention and Visitor's Bureau, Port Everglades, the City of Fort Lauderdale, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Broward Economic Alliance and Broward County.
Each one of us was asked to give the governor our perspective on the state of business. Tourism officials were particularly giddy with money redirected from BP to their coffers for marketing. Most were cautiously optomistic about the current and future state of business. They also asked for more money. The Port unabashedly bragged on its state of affairs and talked about more cruise ships. I was starting to feel a little out of place. Everyone was so happy. I didn't want to be Mr. Gloom and Doom.
"Dan," said the governor. "How about the Chamber?" I could feel my heart start to race. "Governor, the Chamber is doing much better this year, however, there are some important issues about which you need to know," I stammered.
It is my job to deliver the news--good, bad or indifferent:
1. Nearly 100,000 citizens out of work.
2. A banking industry paralyzed from overreaction to the credit crisis.
3. Declining property values putting a stranglehold on local government, forcing some to considered tax increases.
4. Business owners accelerating the doing more with less mentality that is not sustainable.
To Crist's credit, he did ask me the best way to get capital to South Florida (where he will come up with funding he didn't say). On balance, I'm not sure anything will come from our meeting. That said, we will continue to share the story of how businesses continue to grind their way forward to profits. Creating and retaining jobs, easing the flow of money and stabilizing our eviscerated real estate market need to be our collective focus.
Dan Lindblade, CAE