Excerpts from the SB2 State of the Economy Symposium. 

“We’re going to be dealing with a hangover effect for some time. Tourism touches many lives here. One out of every five individuals in the workforce in our community is directly or indirectly in tourism. It’s like the perfect storm. You have more supply and maybe flat to less demand—you can do the math and you can know that it’s going to be a struggle. Even though water is coming back to that blue that we’re used to, the fact is there’s still that negative perception and image out there. In today’s world of social media, there were 10 billion negative press impressions of red tide in our community. It’s been very challenging moving forward. And that’s why I believe it’s imperative that our convention and visitors bureaus in both counties, Manatee and Sarasota, provide the financial resources to overcome the damage that has been done.” JEFFREY MAYERS, THE RESORT AT LONGBOAT KEY CLUB

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“What we really saw and are continuing to see is a ripple effect outside of just hospitality, real estate and lodging. And that is the impact to particular small businesses, those that are vendors or service or product providers to the workforce within our hospitality and tourism industry. It absolutely had a ripple effect beyond just what you would immediately think of from the impacts of red tide. Our focus was on bringing assistance and awareness to the need for local people to live like a tourist, but beyond that is the message that got out from a national perspective. We had calls every day.” JACKI DEZELSKI, MANATEE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

“The longer term challenge we’re going to deal with is not so much even the thing itself, but the doubt. That doubt is a real factor and it doesn’t go away even with just one news cycle. Whatever the causes are, it’s been going on for a long time, it’s cyclical and we can’t pretend it’s not going to come back. I hope we have a much broader conversation as a community. How do we plan ahead? I believe that across party lines you will see a unified effort within the state of Florida to address water quality.” DRAYTON SAUNDERS, MICHAEL SAUNDERS & COMPANY 

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“If anybody proposes to put an oil rig off of one of our beaches, we have no trouble all getting up in arms and saying that’s never going to happen. And yet this problem of fresh water runoff is something that each of us plays a part in. And this has to play a role in these recurring a toxic blooms. International investors have many options, and if you say “toxic tide” and “recurring” in the same sentence, you’re done. We’re behind the eight ball and we need to get out in front of it.” PHIL RICH, SEASIDE BANK

“I wish that the State of Florida would allocate more dollars to market this state as a business destination. There is a whole lot of money. Just give us a piece of that, so we can compete. What do people think of when they think of Florida? Disney World, retirement and Miami. If you’re a business owner thinking of moving your business, it doesn’t necessarily say there’s going to be a wonderful workforce. So we have to work that much harder to communicate the message that this is an excellent business destination.” SHARON HILLSTROM,  BRADENTON AREA ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION

“I’ve never met any business who’s afraid of competition. The competition’s a good thing. Iron sharpens iron and it’s a lot of reasons why you see districts pop up, where you see a lot of automobile dealerships near each other, you see a lot of entertainment businesses near each other, you see a lot of restaurants. Because competition begets better business and we know that. In recruiting companies here, the main question that local businesses have, is are you subsidizing bringing competition in to compete with me? Are you giving my tax dollars to outside companies to come here and compete with me?” KEVIN COOPER, FORMERLY OF THE GREATER SARASOTA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE  

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2019 Localpreneur of the Year Leadership Circle

The SRQ Magazine Localpreneur of the Year program recognizes entrepreneurs who are running locally-owned businesses with purpose and passion, and who have earned the respect of their peers in the following areas: corporate acumen, innovation, philanthropy, leadership and community impact. Judges were selected based on their expertise and leadership in their fields, experience as entrepreneurs and connectivity to the Sarasota | Bradenton region. We would like to thank the readers of SRQ magazine for nominating this year's honorees, our judges for setting aside the time to engage with this year's 100+ pages of applications and all of our locally owned businesses that cultivate and engineer the success of our local economy and community each and every day. We look forward to engaging this year's Leadership Circle in future entrepreneur programming.






BRETT WALLIN, Walt's Fish Market and Restaurant