Florida Chamber Series on Free Enterprise: Featuring Kurt Kamperman, USTA


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In the latest edition of the Florida Chamber’s Series on Free Enterprise, Kurt Kamperman, Chief Executive of the United States Tennis Association (USTA) discusses the role tourism plays in helping to shape the Lake Nona area, as well as the important innovations USTA is taking to attract even more visitors to Florida.

“We would absolutely pick Florida again,” said Kamperman. “The collaborative business climate here in Orlando, the proximity to the airport, the weather, without a question Florida was the right choice and Orlando was the right choice.”

Click Below to Listen to Kurt Kamperman


Tourism is Key to Florida’s Competitiveness

In 2017, 116.5 million visitors came to Florida, an increase of 3.6 percent of visitors in 2016. If you believe Florida’s tourism industry can continue to lead the way in the nation, sign the petition today.



Septic Tank Pollution Threatening Indian River Lagoon

It’s not the most pleasant subject, but human waste from inappropriately located septic tanks is being blamed for polluting many of Florida’s waterways, including the Indian River Lagoon – the most biologically diverse lagoon ecosystem in the Northern Hemisphere.

Scientists at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute have found that nitrogen-laden sewage from septic tanks draining into the lagoon is responsible for algae blooms that kill seagrass and marine life.

Recent news stories in Florida Today and the TC Palm’s Treasure Coast Progress & Innovation magazine have raised the issue of problems caused by the estimated 300,000 septic tanks along the lagoon.

Here Are Some of the Key Takeaways:

  • An analysis by Florida Today found septic tanks contribute an estimated 2 million pounds of nitrogen in the lagoon per year.
  • Nitrogen promotes the growth of algae, which suffocates seagrass needed to sustain lagoon life.
    Thousands of the septic tanks near the lagoon are located at homes built before 1983, the cutoff when state law increased septic tank setbacks from the water and the distance between drain fields and the water table.
  • Many of the septic tanks are old and malfunctioning. State health officials estimate up to 10 percent of Florida’s 2.6 million septic tanks are failing.
  • Harbor Branch marine biologist Dr. Brian Lapointe describes sewage nitrogen as “the smoking gun’’ threatening the lagoon.

Risks from septic tanks aren’t unique to the Indian River Lagoon.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce supports a Proposed Committee Bill by the House State Affairs Committee, as well as SB 552 by Senator Charles Dean (R-Inverness), which require water quality restoration programs to address septic tanks contributing to springs pollution and will benefit all state water ways by focusing resources on cost-effective water quality improvement projects.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Northwest Florida Water Management District recently set aside $11.6 million in state money to fund several projects to remove septic tanks from waterways in the Panhandle.

North of Orlando, the DEP has launched a study of about the impact of septic tanks on the Wekiva River. The state has declared the river and nearby springs polluted with nitrogen and phosphorous.

ICYMI: Below are links to recent articles highlighting septic tank pollution.


Florida Chamber Member Sodexo Discusses Workplace Wellness

“The overall goal of the program is to design a workplace wellness solution that would yield strong
returns on investment for our clients and to improve the overall health and well-being of the community.”

Nebeyou Abebe, subject-matter expert on population health for Sodexo.


Nearly 40 percent of all employee healthcare costs are being spent on preventable chronic diseases such as diabetes and related conditions. In fact, spending on preventable chronic illnesses nationally accounts for 18 percent of the GDP and is projected to rise sharply by 2040. One way businesses are taking the lead on this issues is by creating workplace wellness programs that engage employees at work and at home, increasing the likelihood of success. Healthy employees means healthier communities and a healthier state.

Sodexo has a long standing commitment to making Florida healthier and continues to create programs that help in this arena.

We’ve created a number of initiatives that improve the quality of life of our own employees, our clients and their customers and employees. Since we are a global player in food services and the Sodexo Foundation, which was founded in 1999, has made more than $17 million in grants to end childhood hunger in America… Most recently, we’ve partnered with the YMCA of Central Florida for our latest pilot program called Communities for Health, which will focus on the idea that when employees make good choices at work, those choices translate into their lives outside of work.

Communities for Health, a three-year pilot program launched in Orlando, will help address cost factors involved with business healthcare costs and will work to engage employees in all aspects of their lives.

With the rising prevalence of chronic disease which drive the majority of a company’s health care expenditures, many companies are looking at workplace wellness programs as a solution to not only drive down the cost of care but to improve the overall health and wellbeing of their employees. Unfortunately, many workplace wellness programs really haven’t been that successful in terms of achieving those two objectives… so what Communities for Health is trying to do is really enhance traditional employee wellness programs by taking a more systems-based approach to engaging employees, starting off at work and then continuing that engagement as they go home and go out into the community. And that’s where the partnerships with the YMCA comes in- we are able to not only introduce some of our quality of life programs but the ones that the YMCA offers as well and we are able to utilize their centers in the community to help with the engagement. The overall goal of the program is to design a workplace wellness solution that would yield strong returns on investment for our clients and to improve the overall health and wellbeing of the community.

The Florida Chamber believes that working to improve employee health and wellbeing is just good business. It allows companies to lower their healthcare costs and improves company efficiency.

Sodexo is the 18th largest employer in the world and provides quality of life services, which means providing services that positively impact individual, organizational and community performances, whether it’s through sustainable practices or by promoting health and wellness- not just for their employees, but around the world.

Get Involved:

Chamber Shout Out Section: Why Tourism Matters to Florida

By: José A. Fajardo, Orlando Inc.

Did you know that more people visited Florida in 2013 than live in 33 states combined? In fact, our state welcomed more than 94 million people from all 50 states and more than 180 different countries in 2013- a record number for Florida.

Florida has a lot to offer visitors. From endless miles of beaches to the diverse attractions found around the state, it’s no wonder our state is set to surpass New York as the third largest state in the nation.

And in Orlando, we are no strangers to welcoming visitors. In 2013, Orlando alone welcomed 59 million visitors, beating out New York as the most visited city. According to International Business Times:

“In the battle for U.S. tourism supremacy, there are really only two competitors: New York [City] and Orlando. The rivals have vied for the title of most-visited U.S. destination for years, but the winner has never been more definitive than in 2013, when Orlando welcomed a staggering 59 million visitors and set an all-time record for a U.S. destination.”

The recent economic recession hit Florida hard, and every single part of Central Florida felt it. But a funny thing happened on the way to downtown Orlando during that time. Our city and the private sector invested in projects that would not only draw visitors, but would create jobs. Projects like SeaWorld’s biggest and (literally) coolest expansion, Antarctica, Disney’s work on Fantasyland and Universal’s expansion of the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

It’s no surprise Florida’s recovery has been heralded as the model for economic success.

To Florida, and especially Orlando, more visitors means more than having greater options for entertainment. In our state, every 85 visitors equals to one new Florida job created. Florida’s tourism industry employs more than 1 million people, 30 percent of which is contained in two counties- Miami-Dade and, you guessed it, Orange.

Tourism is one of the three main sectors of Florida’s economy and it’s a fact that we are proud of. So far, the first half of 2014 has welcomed more than 50 million visitors – shattering all previous six-month figures. And in Orlando, we begin another fall with Harry, Mickey and Shamu and we continue to welcome visitors with a smile.

Brazilians Making Their Mark on Fla. Tourism

By Katherine Ferrara Johnson

Brazilian tourists have been flocking to Florida in record numbers and quickly have become the largest group of overseas visitors to the Sunshine State, creating changes that are rippling across the state’s travel industry.

Brazil set a visitor record in the Sunshine State in 2013, according to figures by the U.S. Commerce Department. Almost 1.2 million Brazilians flocked to Florida, up from 971,000 in 2012.

Metro Orlando ranked as the most popular destination statewide, drawing 768,000 Brazilian visitors, according to figures from Visit Orlando. Miami was the No. 2 spot.

The influx of visitors from Brazil has Florida’s tourism industry speaking their language.

All of Orlando’s major theme parks feature Portuguese translations on their websites and print park guides and maps in the language. SeaWorld Orlando has also created an early-entry program for Brazilian groups.

“They’ve changed the language by bringing Portuguese to Florida, and now [tourism and travel professionals] have to learn how to communicate. That communication and language means trust for Brazilians,” said Robertico Croes, chair of the Department of Tourism, Events and Attractions at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida.

The influx of Brazilian tourists has dictated changes in many tourism-related businesses. For example, Croes notes that a number restaurants are changing their hours to accommodate the later dinners, as Brazilians often prefer to have their evening dinners around 9 p.m. They are also introducing more South American-inspired menus and Brazilian-themed restaurants around Florida. Brazil’s largest chain restaurant, Giraffas, opened its first outlet in North Miami in 2011.

While Visit Orlando has been marketing in Brazil for several years, Greater Fort Lauderdale opened a marketing office there last April.

Officials say they expect to see increased tourism, thanks to a recent addition by one of the city’s sports team and the possibility of increased airlift.

Orlando City Soccer, the MLS soccer franchise expansion team that is co-owned by a Brazilian businessman, recently recruited Brazilian superstar Kaka to play on the team.

“We expect that the arrival of Kaka will boost the foreign interest and we anticipate the opportunity to leverage his presence in the country,” said Visit Orlando CEO George Aguel.

Harb said he is hopeful that expanded flight service by Azul Brazilian Airlines to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando will finally take off later this year. The airline is currently waiting for regulatory approval from Brazil and U.S. authorities.

Brazilian Tourists Leapfrog Britons Visiting Florida


ORLANDO Fla. (Reuters) – Forget those stay-at-home, World Cup soccer-obsessed Brazilians.

Feeling flush in a growing economy, Brazilian tourists have dethroned the British as Florida’s largest group of overseas visitors by country of origin.

Orlando was by far the most popular destination, attracting 768,000 Brazilians in 2013, compared to 759,000 from the United Kingdom, according to figures released last week by the U.S. Commerce Department.

The British had also been the largest group of overseas visitors to Orlando, the most visited U.S. city, for at least the past 15 years.

The overseas figures do not include Canada, which continues to contribute the largest number of foreign visitors to the state – 3.5 million in 2012, according to Statistics Canada, a national agency.The theme park capital of the world and long flavored with tea rooms and British pubs, Orlando has become noticeably spiced with rodizio all-you-can-eat service at Brazilian steak houses and bilingual retail staff speaking Portuguese.

The upturn in Brazilian travelers to Orlando, which jumped 20 percent from 2012, coincides with a slight decline since 2006 in visitors from the UK, which continues to struggle with the effects of the recession, said Mark Jaronski, a spokesman for the Orlando Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Brazil sent almost 1.2 million people to Florida in 2013, compared to fewer than 1.1 million from Britain. In 2012 there were only 971,000 from Brazil and almost 1.1 million from Britain.

The number of Brazilians coming to the United States overall has jumped 292 percent since 2006, reaching a total of 2,060,000 visitors in 2013, according to the commerce report.

Virtually all the Brazilians come to shop and sightsee, and half want to visit theme parks, which is third on their list of activities, according to traveler surveys.

To keep South American soccer fans happy during the World Cup, the Florida Mall, which is the largest in central Florida and an international traveler destination, set up a soccer viewing station broadcasting every game live on giant screens.

At Perfumeland on Orlando’s touristy International Drive, where many of the 200 sales associates speak Portuguese, Brazilian tourists buy extra suitcases to fill with electronics, sunglasses, watches and perfumes, said Alejandro Pezzini, chief operating officer of the company.

“It’s the equivalent to 40 consecutive days of Black Friday,” said Pezzini, describing the busy months of June and July, winter break for Brazilian visitors.