Make us your home page

Pinellas County seeks share of $25 million from BP

With oil threatening to foul the first Florida beach, Pinellas County has asked for a share of $25 million BP gave the state to help attract summer tourists.

"Pinellas County is the most visited destination on Florida's Gulf Coast," wrote D.T. Minich, the county's tourism director, in a letter to Gov. Charlie Crist late Wednesday. "As such, we have the most to lose economically and environmentally."

The county wants $2.5 million for a marketing and research campaign to tell summer travelers the Gulf of Mexico oil spill hasn't touched Pinellas beaches. That would augment the seasonal $1 million advertising program Pinellas already has going.

So far, the state has focused on promoting the Panhandle, hardest hit by hotel cancellations and a sharp drop in calls from summer tourists.

Visit Florida, the state's public-private tourism agency, has tapped $2.5 million from its ad budget and reserves for a campaign in more than a dozen feeder markets in the Southeast. The first newspaper website ads began in mid May, followed by television spots just before Memorial Day weekend.

A task force working for Crist allocated just over $7 million of the BP money for Visit Florida and $4.4 million for eight Panhandle counties, said Kathy Torian, a spokeswoman for Visit Florida. The money hadn't been transferred from the state yet, she said.

On Thursday, Crist took an aerial tour off the state's northwest coast and spotted a patch of light oil sheen about 4 miles from Pensacola Beach. The bulk of the sheen was 10 miles from the beach.

News of oil touching Panhandle beaches would make problems for Pinellas' tourist industry worse, said Minich. Hotel room cancellations are picking up, he said, and the volume of phone and website inquiries from summer visitors is way down.

Advertising aimed at assuring visitors the oil spill won't ruin a summer stay in the Panhandle haven't helped so far, says Minich. The ads don't reach Northeast and Midwest cities that supply most of the area's domestic summer tourists.

The biggest chunk of Pinellas' request is $1.15 million for television, online and newspaper ads carrying the "clean and open for business" theme.

Minich is scheduled to testify Wednesday before a U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which is looking into increasing or removing a $75 million cap on liability for oil drilling accidents.

He will talk about Florida's $65 billion-a-year tourism industry and how the oil spill could ruin it. In Pinellas alone, a 25 percent drop in tourism would cost 21,000 jobs and shutter 300 restaurants, Minich told a House committee last year.

Steve Huettel can be reached at or (813) 226-3384.

Pinellas County seeks share of $25 million from BP 06/03/10 [Last modified: Thursday, June 3, 2010 10:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Would you let your company implant a chip in you?

    Working Life

    Would you ask an employee to get a chip implanted in her hand? Sounds invasive and intrusive. But come Aug. 1, one company in Wisconsin will be giving it a try.

    Three Square Market - a developer of software used in vending machines - is offering all of its employees the option to get a microchip implanted between the thumb and forefinger. [Photo from video]
  2. Daniel Lipton resigns as artistic director of Opera Tampa


    TAMPA — Daniel Lipton has resigned as artistic director of Opera Tampa, the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts announced.

    Daniel Lipton became the artistic director and conductor of Opera Tampa in 2012. Lipton replaced the opera's only previous director, Anton Coppola, who retired. [Times file (2012)]
  3. Throwback Tampa Bay station 102.9 goes from R&B jams to WFLA-AM's conservative talk


    Talk radio station WFLA-AM (970) began simulcasting on 102.9 FM in the Tampa area this morning. 

    Tampa's 102.9 is going from Throwback Tampa Bay to WFLA-AM's news radio.
  4. Bank of Tampa expanding into Sarasota


    TAMPA — The Bank of Tampa is expanding to Sarasota County. It opened a loan office this month in downtown Sarasota at 1858 Ringling Blvd., which will be converted to a full-service branch within the year, the company said in a release Monday.

    The Bank of Tampa is expanding to Sarasota. Charles Murphy, pictured, will lead the Sarasota branch. | [Courtesy of The Bank of Tampa]
  5. Tampa Bay home prices still climbing, though more slowly

    Real Estate

    Tampa Bay home prices rose again in June, although the once-torrid pace of increases shows signs of slowing.

    This three story home in Port Richey's gated Harborpointe sold for $1.15 million in June, making it the top sale in Pasco County for the month.
[Penny Perry]