The Treasure Coast Remains Open For Business

By: Joe Catrambone, Stuart-Martin Chamber of Commerce

While our estuary and waterways are under attack from the billions of gallons of releases from Lake Okeechobee, we continue to be concerned about the conditions it’s created for us on the Treasure Coast of Florida. Our naturally beautiful and pristine landscape has, at times, been turned into an ugly mass of blue-green growth, restricting most water-related activities for our citizens. Certainly it has affected many of us that enjoy fishing, paddle boarding, diving and even bathing in the waters surrounding our community. We have been inundated with negative publicity from coast to coast, receiving calls from many newspapers asking “are your beaches really closed?” or “do your residents have to wear respirators/masks to avoid toxic fumes,” “have all of your winter residents cancelled their reservations for the winter months?”

In spite of hardships, the treasure coast is still strong, beautiful and prosperous. Our hotels have experienced a bit of a setback, however reservations for our November – April season remain strong as do our seasonal condo rentals- our realtors tell us we are booked for the season.

Our community is diversified and offers many non-water related activities. Business in general remains robust, nothing more than a normal drop-off during our summer months. We are a golfer’s paradise, home of more than 35 golf courses. Palm City and western Martin County house an enormous equestrian experience with pristine trails to enjoy. Downtown Stuart is a mecca for fine dining and one of a kind shopping all in walking distance of each other. We have museums, art galleries and theaters for enjoyment of all ages.

When blue-green algae impacts our waterways, yes, we feel it. However, we have not shut and locked the doors, we remain open for business!

By building a community that is diverse and rich in all that Florida has to offer, Stuart-Martin County is proving that Florida really is the best place to visit, live, work and play.

Joe Catrambone is the President and CEO of the Stuart-Martin Chamber of Commerce.

Securing Florida’s Water Future, Together

July 8, 2016

WATCH: President and CEO Mark Wilson meets with local business leaders to talk algae solutions.

 

One hundred years ago, the biggest threat facing Florida’s economy was a parasite – the cattle tick. Times were dire – the entire state was under federal quarantine and the very safety and security of Florida’s economic core were in danger of collapse.

Much has changed in the last century. With 20 million-plus residents, Florida is now the third most populous state in the country, and our economy is thriving. In fact, if Florida was a country, we’d be the 16th largest economy in the world.

Much of Florida’s economic success is attributed to our state’s unique quality of life. From the Panhandle’s white sandy beaches to the distinctive natural resources of the Keys, ensuring Florida remains the best place to live, work, learn and play has been a top priority for the Florida Chamber for the last 100 years. We’ve long championed long-term, sustainable water policy—science-based water policy – to protect Florida’s natural and economic resources for the future.

In fact, it’s why – for more than 30 years – the Florida Chamber Foundation has hosted a continuing education summer school to focus specifically on Florida’s fragile environment. We believe, providing resources like the Florida Chamber’s Environmental Permitting Summer School highlights science-based research and best management practices to help ensure communities across Florida grow smarter.  Environmental experts from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Nature Conservancy, local and state environmental leaders and more make a point of attending annually.

Recently, I walked along the edges of the Indian River Lagoon and witnessed first-hand the blue green algae that is impacting families and job creators in Florida’s Treasure Coast. Shortly after that tour, I sat down with business leaders from the Stuart are in Martin County to learn more about the algae and its impact on their businesses. It’s a message I also shared with CNBC and WPBF 25.

While there was indeed an algae problem, the tourists the national media claimed were all gone where walking on the beaches and filling up the hotels, and enjoying the natural surroundings. And, while business leaders in the community shared their frustration of some lost business, they also shared their sense of urgency to spread the word the region is open for business.

At the Florida Chamber, we share in the frustration blue green algae has created, and we continue our long-standing commitment to seek real solutions to help provide relief.

In fact, as part of our ongoing efforts to help secure Florida’s water future, the Florida Chamber has been working with one of the world’s foremost experts on water science. Dr. Brian Lapointe, Research Professor at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute has presented at the Florida Chamber’s Annual Meeting, appeared on our television program Bottom Line, and is helping us educate businesses and employees on the real causes – and solutions – to Florida’s water challenges.

With six million more residents expected to call Florida home by 2030, and our state’s water demand expected to increase by 20 percent by 2030, strong, science-based water quality standards will continue to play a vital role in Florida’s economy and quality of life.

While we should look at several possible solutions, one of the most promising and effective is septic tank conversions. Dr. Lapointe has extensive experience in water quality research in South Florida and the Caribbean region. His latest scientific research shows that septic tank sewage nitrogen is one of the threats to Florida’s waterways, including the Indian River Lagoon.

Over the years, Dr. Lapointe’s research has led to greater nutrient removal from sewage effluents in Monroe County, his long-term water quality monitoring at Looe Key reef in the Florida Keys represents the longest low-level nutrient record for a coral reef anywhere in the world.

While it may have been the cattle tick that brought Florida’s business community together 100 years ago and created the Florida Chamber of Commerce to protect the economic wellbeing of our state, protecting Florida’s water bodies and unique quality of life are vital to Florida’s future economy.

We’re proud to stand up for Florida families and job creators to do everything we can to ensure our economy is not only vibrant, but that it’s sustainable.