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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Visit Florida's rude reception



Two senators voiced outrage Tuesday upon learning that the state's tax-assisted tourism promotion firm, Visit Florida, hired a call center in Kansas City to promote Florida as a tourist destination. Visit Florida officials said they'd decided to fire the low-bidding firm, USA 800, before they were roasted by a Senate committee, but that was little consolation to lawmakers who said those jobs would have come in handy in Florida.

"Oh, boy. Oh, boy," said Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, chairman of the Senate budget committee that oversees tourism spending. "You have a call center in Kansas City using our tax dollars." Miami Republican Alex Diaz de la Portilla chimed in, firing a volley of questions at Visit Florida's chief executive, Bud Nocera.

Nocera said hiring a midwestern company made sense because it distributes a massive amount of mail to would-be Florida vacationers all over the country. The Visit Florida team's reception was only slight more hospitable before a House committee on Tuesday afternoon. Said Rep. Greg Evers: "Even though we love Kansas City vendors for taking our money, we need the jobs in Florida. If somebody has to be on the other end of the phone, I would rather it be somebody from Florida."   

[Last modified: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 3:20pm]


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