Ron Jon Surf Shop Exec: Don’t Gamble with Florida’s Successful Tourism Marketing Program


Sign Our Tourism Petition


By Debra Harvey | March 25, 2019 | The Daytona Beach News Journal

VISIT FLORIDA has routinely demonstrated the value of tourism marketing.

Recent debate in Tallahassee has left many in the business community scratching our heads. That’s because the Florida House of Representatives is undertaking a dangerous exercise to shutter VISIT FLORIDA and end Florida’s tourism marketing efforts. Gambling with Florida’s number one economic engine is a bad bet that jeopardizes more than 1.4 million jobs as well as Florida’s income tax free status.

Almost every state in the nation and every developed tourism destination in the entire world markets its tourism product. Yet the Florida House believes that the Sunshine State — the number one tourism destination in the world _ should stop. Instead, lawmakers in the House are poised to allow VISIT FLORIDA to disappear on October 1, 2019.

This is an irresponsible move. When it comes to return on investment, VISIT FLORIDA has routinely demonstrated the value of tourism marketing. Just last month, they announced Florida’s eighth consecutive record year for visitation with 126.1 million people traveling to Florida. Strong visitation numbers like these help to ensure hotels remain occupied, restaurants stay full, and most importantly, that our taxes are being paid with money from outside of the state through sales tax.

According to the Florida Chamber of Commerce, visitors to Florida contribute more than $12 billion in state and local tax revenue annually. And, every 76 visitors to Florida creates one new job.

Eliminating VISIT FLORIDA means Florida will lose business, market share and tax dollars to competing destinations. Look no further than Colorado, Texas and Pennsylvania to see how their states were impacted when tourism marketing investments were cut.

More importantly, decreases in visits to Florida will also mean lost jobs. Even a two percent drop in Florida’s visitor spending would cost the state 18,000 jobs, nearly $500 million in payroll associated with those jobs, and over $130 million in state and local tax revenue. In communities impacted by hurricanes, red tide and other natural disasters, it’s absolutely vital that VISIT FLORIDA help ensure the world knows that Florida is open for business.

If you’re among the 1.4 million Floridians whose job is inextricably linked to the tourism industry, you should be concerned. Now is not the time to gamble with Florida’s future.

Please contact your state representative and let them know that we can ensure Florida remains competitive by reauthorizing and fully funding VISIT FLORIDA.

— Harvey is president and chief operating officer of Ron Jon Surf Shop of Florida.

State Regulators Increase Workers’ Comp Rates by 14.5 Percent

Green Lights Plaintiff Trial Lawyers to Increase Their Compensation

Following the encouragement of many in the business community to make Florida’s workers’ compensation rate as actuarially sound as possible, state regulators today announced a 14.5 percent increase – an increase that green lights plaintiff trial lawyers to increase their own compensation on the backs of job creators, the Florida Chamber of Commerce said.

“Putting job creators and injured workers first is the right thing to do to keep Florida’s workers’ compensation system working. Unfortunately, the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling is not about safety or protecting workers. The effect of the Castellanos decision is to raise costs for no other reason than so plaintiff trial lawyers can raise fees,” said MARK WILSON, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation today contingently approved the 14.5 percent workers’ comp rate increase following two Florida Supreme Court decisions that declared portions of Florida’s workers’ comp system unconstitutional. In one case in particular, Castellanos, the plaintiff argued that the plaintiff trial lawyer should receive $38,000 in attorney fees for a case in which the injured worker was awarded only $800. That’s $800 for the injured worker and $38,000 for the trial lawyer. This accounts for nearly two-thirds of the rate increase.
The increase follows a mid-August public hearing in which the Florida Chamber’s Wilson testified saying:

“…this will have a negative impact on Florida’s business climate. It will likely impact Florida’s 61 consecutive months of job growth. And perhaps most disturbing, is that this will be a self-inflicted wound that advantages trial lawyers instead of workers.”

For employers, the nearly 15 percent rate increase – which takes effect December 1, 2016 for new and renewal policies – is particularly troublesome because many small businesses haven’t budgeted for dramatically higher rates. For Debbie Harvey, CEO of Ron Jon Surf Shop and Co-Chair of the Florida Chamber’s Workers’ Comp Task Force, the 14.5 percent workers’ comp increase means the famous surf shop will no longer be able to add a new, mid-level employee to their team next year.

“This isn’t an outlier story. Unfortunately, this is the impact an increase of this magnitude could have on businesses – making them choose between hiring new employees or paying higher workers’ comp premiums,” said MARK WILSON, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber.

A legislative solution for both court cases is needed to help keep rates affordable for job creators.
The Florida Chamber has a long history of helping to keep Florida’s workers’ comp system working. In the last 13 years, the Florida Chamber has led efforts to help lower rates by nearly 60 percent. Since the 2003 workers’ comp reforms were enacted, injured workers returned to work 10 days faster.

Those efforts continue today, as the Florida Chamber’s Workers’ Compensation Task Force has been engaging Florida’s highest elected leaders and working with top legal minds to develop the right solution. In addition to task force meetings, regional meetings have taken place across Florida, and our local chamber federation is actively engaged – assessing the impact it will have on local businesses, and joining efforts toward solutions.

The Florida Chamber’s Workers’ Comp Task Force is co-chaired by Debbie Harvey, CEO of Ron Jon Surf Shop and Steve Knopik, CEO of Bealls Inc. Steve Knopik will be leading a panel discussion at this week’s Future of Florida Forum on workers’ comp with Senator Bill Galvano and other legislative leaders.

ICYMI: Q&A: Business task force leaders argue for a Florida workers’ compensation fix, Tampa Bay Times.

Federal Overtime Rules Cause for Concern in Florida’s Small Business Community

Outlook Uncertain as Businesses Face Unstable Economy

> DOWNLOAD the Florida Small Business Index Survey Quarter 2 Results

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (June 23, 2016) – The most recent Florida Chamber Foundation Small Business Index Survey shows 22 percent of Florida’s small businesses say government regulations are their top concern, up from 10 percent last quarter. Florida small businesses are particularly concerned with recent changes to Federal overtime regulations.

Economic uncertainty was reported as the second highest concern, with 20 percent of respondents listing it as their top obstacle in hiring new employees. The results also indicate that 27 percent of respondents expect the economy to weaken over the next year, up from 13 percent last quarter. Only 38 percent of respondents reported that their business was better off than six months ago, compared to 46 percent last quarter.

“The overall outlook is less positive than it was in the last quarter, with government regulations appearing as the top issue,” said Dr. Jerry Parrish, Chief Economist and Director of Research, Florida Chamber Foundation. “Florida’s small businesses are still concerned about the economy and workforce quality, but the good news is that many small businesses are still planning to hire new employees and plan to make capital investments in the coming year.”

The Florida Chamber’s Small Business Index Survey shows:

  • Top Issues Facing Small Businesses:
    Government regulations (22 percent)

    • Economic Uncertainty (20 percent),
    • Workforce Quality (18 percent),
    • Taxes (8 percent),
    • Access to Capital (7 percent),
    • Growth Management Process (7 percent),
    • 18 percent listing some other issue as their top concern.
  • Sales:
    47 percent of respondents indicated that sales were up over the past three months, down from 53 percent in last quarter’s survey.
  • Respondents:
    • 35 percent of respondents employ less than five employees,
    • 43 percent of respondents employ 5 to 49 employees,
    • 10 percent employ 50-99 employees and
    • 12 percent of respondents employ from 100-499 employees.

“Small businesses continue to face a number of challenges, including increased government regulations,” said Debra Harvey, Chair, Florida Chamber of Commerce Small Business Council and President, Ron Jon Surf Shop. “As we work together on the Florida Chamber Small Business Council, we look forward to identifying solutions that support our business community and grow this important economic engine.”

The Florida Chamber’s Small Business Index Survey was conducted electronically June 1, 2016 through June 17, 2016. Click here to view the full report.

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