What are Our Challenges? For some who have been in business in the Sarasota community for a lifetime, many are experiencing one of the worst economic downturns ever. Hardest hit with greatest impact are construction and real estate related fields. Yet despite the difficult times the Sarasota business community is determined to stay energized to capitalize on the inherent opportunity available to citizens blessed with both natural and man-made attractions. Our weather, beaches, museums, and arts provide us with a foundation that will allow us to come out of this current malaise in stronger condition than many neighboring communities. If we keep in focus that there are brighter tomorrows and take advantage of the opportunities that are presenting themselves, shaping our economic futures will be exciting for all of Sarasota’s citizens. What are our challenges? Continued support of the tourist industry is the underpinning of so much that makes Sarasota vibrant. Sarasota, today more than ever, is dependent upon the in migration of residents in order to sustain our economy. Most residents have been introduced to our wonderful quality of life as tourists, enjoying what Sarasota has to offer as vacationers. A key element to that is the Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport where, despite the economic downturn, it is enjoying an increase in flights and passengers. Now thanks to the lengthened runway and U.S. Customs facilities, we need to all work together in order to attract direct air service from continental Europe. The dollar’s collapse against European currencies makes vacationing in Sarasota a bargain for those with Euros and British pounds. Pie in the sky you say, not so when you realize that Sanford, Florida has over 14 flights per week landing direct from Europe, and Ft. Myers has had service from Germany for many years. Those in Northern Europe are seeking warm weather especially in the month of August when we are the slowest. It is time that all business organizations in both Sarasota and Manatee counties, together with the Convention and Visitors Bureaus put together a concerted effort to make this happen. Most recently we saw efforts work when we attracted discount carries Air Tran and Jet Blue to SRQ. There is no reason to believe that together we cannot do the same for attracting flights from Europe. Another challenge that awaits our efforts is to attract a major market baseball franchise to replace the Cincinnati Reds. At time of this writing and in discussion with Argus member and owner Bob Castellini, it looks like the Reds will be offered too sweet of a deal in Goodyear, Arizona, despite last minute efforts, to keep them here. Make no mistake about it, Cincinnati wanted to stay here, but voter and political apathy forced them to look elsewhere. Currently, financing is in place to upgrade our baseball facilities, but the state of Florida’s share will not last long if we do not aggressively, and positively, pursue another team if the Reds do leave for Arizona. As was done many years ago it will be the responsibility of not just our elected officials, but the entire community to show interest in attracting baseball back to Sarasota. All of major league baseball watched our “on” and “off” dance with Cincinnati and if we are going to be successful in keeping Sarasota “playing ball” we can not sit passively watching. Cincinnati has given us the taste of what an engaged corporate-baseball citizen can be. Not only have they offered attractive entertainment, but they have been supportive of our community. We hate to see them go, but let’s learn from our mistakes, and accept the challenge that their departure gives us. Tough times? Yes. Let’s face the challenges before us, and work to fill our glass!