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SRQ DAILY Apr 18, 2022

Monday Business Edition

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Monday Business Edition

"All kids want is to be seen, valued and heard."

- Sebrena Pawley, Founder/CEO, I Was 16 Yesterday Wellness Center.

[Economic Development]  Sarasota County Reevaluates Incentives, Ends Grants Program
Jacob Ogles, jacob.ogles@srqme.com

The age of economic incentive grants may have drawn to a close in Sarasota County.

Following political controversy around an offer to video-sharing platform Rumble, Sarasota County Commissioners voted to end its economic development incentive fund grants program altogether. The move comes almost 12 years after the authorization of the program at the height of the Great Recession. But throughout its history, the awarding of dollars in return for the generation of new jobs above the average wage has met criticism.

“My concern has always been we are picking winners and losers,” said County Commissioner Christian Ziegler. “I don’t really like that at all.”

The matter most recently drew attacks over a decision to award up to $825,000 to Rumble to relocate to Longboat Key. Marketed as an alternative to YouTube that promises not to censor content as freely, Rumble in recent weeks came under fire for allowing a platform to RT, a Russian state-run outlet frequently spreading propaganda to the English-speaking world. That comes as many U.S. Corporations refuse to do business with the nation following the invasion of Ukraine.

The grant program won’t end any continuing incentives contracts, but County Commissioner Nancy Detert noted that won’t matter with Rumble.

“While this is effective immediately and we said any existing contracts will stay in place, we have no contract with Rumble,” said County Commissioner Nancy Detert. “They never received a dime.”

Notably, the program for years attracted criticism, often from fiscal hawks angry at what they characterized as corporate welfare but also from business competitors who sometimes questioned the assistance provided to companies seeking grants while others operated without assistance.

Lisa Krouse, executive director of the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County, acknowledged now may be a time to examine what incentives programs serve the greatest need in the marketplace. While the grant program came about at a time of high unemployment, the country has seen record low unemployment more recently, with Florida boasting even lower joblessness rates. Last week, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity announced statewide unemployment dropped to 3.2%.

“When we look at businesses today, they are having serious challenges finding talent,” she said. “They are having challenges with supply chains, inflation, and as you know in numerous cases, having a desire to expand and not having the land to do so.”

The different climate appears to be prompting a shift in needs served by economic development officials.

Notably, Sarasota County will continue offering other forms of incentives not tied to the grant program. That includes a film industry rebate program, an ad valorem tax exemption program authorized by voters countywide, and land-use assistance done in conjection with county planners.


[SRQ Event]  SMARTgirl Celebrates Girls and Mentors
Barbie Heit. Barbie@srqme.com

After a two-year hiatus, SRQ MEDIA proudly hosted the fourth annual SMARTgirl Mentorship Summit and Leadership Luncheon at The Hyatt Regency Sarasota on April 15th. SMARTgirl is an event for select elementary and middle school girls from Sarasota, Manatee and Lee Counties. The goal of the program is to connect young girls to examples of excellence within our region and provide encouragement, advice and feedback on how to make it happen.

This year’s summit was filled with excitement and inspiration as the girls took part in several activities prior to the luncheon, including a 'Build Your Strengths' Workshop where a leader-mentor was present at each table to connect with the girls and give them the opportunity to ask questions about their desired career path. Together, the girls practiced building their very first resumés.

A lineup of inspiring women leaders and organizations supported the program. Lisl Liang, CEO and President of SRQ MEDIA opened the panel discussions with a heartfelt welcome, letting everyone know how wonderful it was to be back together in person. Sponsor welcoming remarks followed from Kirsten Russell, Vice President of Community Impact with Community Foundation of Sarasota who encouraged the girls to lean on each other always because “girls are powerful!” and Dr. Queen Meccasia Zabriskie, Interim Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at New College of Florida who shared her own mother’s inspiring quote: “Don't let the limited beliefs of others shape our beliefs in ourselves and what we hope to achieve.”

This year’s opening keynote speaker was Sebrena Pawley, a woman who entered the foster care system directly from the hospital where she was born. Growing up, she alternated between foster care and homelessness. As an adult, Sebrena is a champion and tireless advocate for teens and young adults as the Area Manager for Young Workforce Development at Eckerd Connects in New York City, and is the founder of the scholarship program “I Was 16 Yesterday”. While her opening remarks sparked a giggle, “Be yourself because everyone else is taken,” her discussion was powerful and a reminder to all on how important it is for caregivers to be mentors and listen to our children: “All kids want is to be seen, valued and heard,” she said.

Interactive keynote Speaker Blair Bloomston, CEO of Game On Nation wrapped up the afternoon by bringing the room to life with group games, such as “Rock, Paper, Scissors” and “Expert Speaker” meant to improve team building, leadership and culture. “What’s the takeaway?” Bloomston asked, “it’s to show what success can look like when you’re surrounded by people who have your back.” By the end of her presentation, the girls were cheering each other on and celebrating the fact that they are girls and “girls can do anything!”


Pictured: From left to right: Dr. Queen Zabriske, Lisl Liang, Serena Pawley, Blair Bloomston and Kirsten Russell. Photo taken by Wes Roberts.

To learn more, visit

[Tours]  Murder Mystery Trolley: Who Killed The Circus Queen?

Motive. Means. Opportunity.

Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, for the new murder mystery musical where you are a part of the show! Hop on board the trolley to help solve the murder of Dahlia the Circus Queen in this entertaining, fun-filled musical murder adventure. Join our colorful cast and take on a role (if you wish) — as Lion Tamer, Fire Eater, High-Wire Star and other circus folk — to play out scenes that will help solve the murder. Everyone on board is a potential suspect…

Circus-themed costumes encouraged, so come dressed to kill!

Murder Mystery Trolley: “Who Killed the Circus Queen?” runs Saturday nights and includes complimentary beer or wine at the Trolley Cottage Tiki Bar before boarding. Ages 12+; young people ages 12-20 may attend if accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

Tour ticket includes FREE Parking!

Discover Sarasota Tours is a local tour company offering entertaining and informative sightseeing tours of Sarasota’s most interesting people, places, neighborhoods, and communities as well as two interactive theatrical shows. 

In addition to our full tour schedule, we also offer a charming Trolley Cottage Gift Shop filled with whimsical gifts, delightful souvenirs, and books about Sarasota, and The ChillMobile, our 1979 vintage ice cream truck. 

941-260-9818 The Trolley Cottage • 1826 Fourth Street, Downtown Sarasota with FREE PARKING!

To book your tickets or to find more information about our tours go to our website and BOOK ONLINE.

SRQ Media Group

SRQ DAILY is produced by SRQ | The Magazine. Note: The views and opinions expressed in the Saturday Perspectives Edition and in the Letters department of SRQ DAILY are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by SRQ Media. Senior Editor Jacob Ogles edits the Saturday Perspective Edition, Letters and Guest Contributor columns.In the CocoTele department, SRQ DAILY is providing excerpts from news releases as a public service. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by SRQ DAILY. The views expressed by individuals are their own and their appearance in this section does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. For rates on SRQ DAILY banner advertising and sponsored content opportunities, please contact Ashley Ryan Cannon at 941-365-7702 x211 or via email

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