The Good and the Bad in Florida

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As we approach the concurrent opening of two shows in Miami this week — the Progressive Miami International Boat Show on Virginia Key and the Miami Yacht Show downtown — notable good news and bad news comes out of Florida.

First, the good news. Workforce and technical training programs in the Sunshine State got a big boost from Gov. Ron DeSantis issuing an executive order that calls for an audit of the state’s current offerings in career and technical training, which would include marine technical training, as well as annual recommendations to be aligned with market demands.

“We have a lot of demand in the economy for jobs in education, health care, trade and transportation,” DeSantis said, “and we want to be nimble and responsive to how the economy changes.”

Specifically, the governor indicated he wants the legislature to provide $10 million for workforce apprenticeships, plus another $26 million for vocational programs to be housed in the state colleges. Career and technical education programs are skills-based classes offered in middle schools, high schools and colleges, designed for students to earn industry certifications for jobs that don’t require college degrees.

Since workforce development continues to be a marine industry priority, the Florida leader’s emphasis and expected legislative approval of the total $36 million additional funding is good news and a great example. It also dovetails with Career Day slated for Friday morning at the NMMA’s Miami show, which I will emcee with a panel of industry leaders for more than 70 students and teachers scheduled to attend.

Fighting for the Marina

On the bad news front, the Southwest Florida Marine Industries Association is planning a full-court press to help a member business, again highlighting the important role these associations play and the benefit of membership for dealers and marina operators.

SWFMIA has issued a call to action for all members in support of Port Sanibel Marina and the planned drystack building that has gone through an extensive design and permitting process. Indeed, the marina has made many revisions to accommodate the concerns of local residents. Moreover, it has full support of the Community Development Department staff and a hearing examiner. So what’s the problem?

A few affluent residents continue to oppose the drystack for no other reason than they don’t want more boat traffic passing by their Connie Mack Island waterfront houses. It’s a stark example of a marina that was in existence long before any development was even considered now being negatively impacted by a few who would shelve the best interests of the public for their personal whims.

This particular case calls attention to the fact that future public access to the water, or lack thereof, is as much a threat to our industry’s long-term future as workforce development or over-regulation.

“In Lee County, where Port Sanibel Marina is located, there is a comprehensive plan policy that water-dependent land uses will have a priority over water-related uses,” says John Good, executive director of SWFMIA. “While water-dependent land provides essential water access to the public, water-related land use is defined as proximity to the water but for which water is not essential.

“This is one of those times,” Good continues, “when you simply cannot say, ‘I don’t have time.’ We must rally together with every threat of loss of water access for the general public. Also, there’s nothing intimidating about being at this hearing — you simply state you are present in support of the Port Sanibel Marina plan because it’s clearly a water-dependent use that serves the overall community.”

The hearing is at the Board of County Commissioners on Wednesday, Feb. 19 beginning at 9:30 a.m. (Please be there a few minutes early to fill out a speaker form.) The address is 2120 Main St. in Fort Myers.

Contact John (john@swfmia.com) or Kyle (kyle @swfmia.com) with questions and to let us know you will attend.

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