Does natural allure of tourism to Sunshine State make Floridians lazy, less innovative?
Recently I wrote about a backlash among Tampa Bay tourism executives who felt their industry was getting a bad rap from the drumbeat of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and other economic development groups that urged Florida to get off its duff and pursue higher-wage jobs and more sophisticated "21st century" industries like biotech, IT and alternative energy... the kind of jobs that demands better education in this state.
The tourism folks did not contest the merit of such pursuits but were annoyed that tourism -- whose taxes pay for a lot of Florida services -- was not portrayed as a viable industry that could grow right along these other sought-after businesses. Here is that column.
Now comes a rather novel argument from Peter Kageyama (in photo), a Tampa Bay progressive, blogger and marketer of creative industries, who runs Creative Cities Productions. He's also a fan of regional economist turned urban creative guru Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class. In fact it is on Richard Florida's Web site that Kageyama recently penned that Florida tourism is a "doubled edged sword" because it serves the Sunshine State well in good times but hurts the state in tough times when state revenues sink dramatically.
Here's the Kageyama kicker: Florida's natural allure to tourists has made us too soft. It's all too easy:
"But to me the largest impact of tourism is that it has made us lazy (I say this with love, Florida!). Tourism is easy money and we have coasted on that for too long. When the tourists just arrive with bags of money, why innovate? Why invest in our schools or our infrastructure? Why make the hard tax choices when we can raise the bed tax on hotel rooms or local tax on car rentals? We need to rethink tourism and make it a higher value experience, one that leverages the service economy and makes it more creative and innovative."
I'm delighted there is a growing debate about the traditional structure of Florida's economy. I'm proud of the tourism industry standing up and arguing they're not the bad guy. And I like Kageyama's pitch that Florida's historical tendency to coast along with its manana economy will not serve us well as the world starts to get a lot tougher. Here's Kageyama's posting in full.
Keep the debate going!
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist