GUEST COLUMN: Reopen, recover, reimagine
As we are just beginning the road to reopening the economy, there is no doubt that the Governor allowing Northwest Florida to open short-term rentals has been a boon to this area. The tourists and visitors are here. They are in the stores and restaurants and are enjoying the beaches and attractions our community has to offer. There is no doubt that families were ready to hit the road and do something outside of their own house. We’re certainly glad to see them.
As the economy reopens, it begins to recover. Recovery is still a mystery to us. No one seems to know just how fast that will happen. I haven’t received the same answer from any two people I’ve asked. Some think it will recover quickly, some think slowly, and some think steadily. At the Destin Chamber, we’ve pushed out more information to you, our members and community, than we ever have before. I hope you’ve been able to stay up-to-date on the progress of the region and the state. Thanks to many of you for your compliments and emails thanking us for what we have tried to do to assist you and the community. Those mean a lot to us!
As the recovery takes place, we must prepare ourselves for what it looks like down the road. I wish I could predict the future, but right now, that’s more difficult than ever. Will our economy look the same? What will need to change? Will normal be a familiar normal? That’s where the reimagine comes into play. We encourage you to think about what changes you may need to make. Be ready to make adjustments quicker than ever before. But more than anything else, prepare to succeed. We’ll continue, as the Destin Chamber, to remain in full support of you and your business. We’ll continue to maintain our influence at the local and state levels to ensure we are part of the reopening of the local and state economy. Many of you have continued support of the chamber, sending in your renewals or becoming new members, and asking how you can help. Now is certainly the time to be a member to strengthen the chamber and our efforts to improve and maintain the economy and quality of life we enjoy here.
I want to thank Commissioner Kelly Windes for taking an idea I shared with him to the Board of County Commissioners. In a phone conversation with Commissioner Windes, we discussed a county economic task force to help position Okaloosa County for a quick recovery. He recommended to the commission that they form this task force. The commission agreed. There is now a task force in place that includes an appointment from the four chambers and one appointment from each commissioner. I also want to thank Mitch Mongell, president and CEO of trustee member Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, for being the Destin Chamber appointee. We’ll keep you posted on the task force’s progress.
We have also formed a Destin Chamber Economic Recovery Task Force. We are in discussions about positioning the local community for recovery. A couple of main focuses there are shopping, buying locally and keeping the tourists coming. My compliments and thanks to Jennifer Adams and the Okaloosa TDC chaired by Ken Wampler for their work as well. Our partnership with the TDC and letter writing campaign to the Governor (thank you to the Destin Chamber members who took part in this as well) helped the opening of short-term rentals to move quicker than anywhere else in the state. It truly has been a community effort. Destin’s mayor has played an integral role on our task force as well.
As we move forward, don’t forget that this IS an election year. We have many seats opening for this election. School Superintendent of Okaloosa County, State House Seat 4, County Commission seats including our District 5 seat, and Destin City Council all will be elected this year. The Destin Chamber is planning a series of candidate forums for you so that you can learn about the candidates and make an informed decision at the polls. There are also several constitutional amendments on the ballot. Watch for your chamber to take a position on some of them, including opposing a $15 minimum wage across the state of Florida.
Keep up the hard work. These last 90 days have been unlike anything any of us have ever seen. The work it will take to recover will be just as challenging. The Destin Community has always been a hard-working, get-it-done business community. This is what it is going to take to bounce back. Reopen. Recover. Reimagine. #ChamberStrong. That’s how we’ll build this world-class community together.
Shane A. Moody is the president and CEO of the Destin Chamber