YOUR OPINION: Tourism Council Public Funds Should Not Compete Against Private Enterprise

By  //  October 29, 2016

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DAVID LANE: “As a small business owner serving the biking needs of Cocoa Beach residents and tourists alike, I believe it is necessary to share my astonishment and great disappointment that our Tourism Development Council (TDC) leaders and Brevard County public transit advocate, Transit 1, feel there is an urgent demand for a bike-share program in the Cocoa Beach area, and additionally, that this proposal warrants financial support in excess of $100,000 of public funds granted via the TDC, to launch and promote it.”

As a small business owner serving the biking needs of Cocoa Beach residents and tourists alike, I believe it is necessary to share my astonishment and great disappointment that our Tourism Development Council (TDC) leaders and Brevard County public transit advocate, Transit 1, feel there is an urgent demand for a bike-share program in the Cocoa Beach area, and additionally, that this proposal warrants financial support in excess of $100,000 of public funds granted via the TDC, to launch and promote it.

Key stakeholder constituents like my business, who should be beneficiaries of the TDC mission, have not been informed of this development by anyone, and this is very disturbing.

As perhaps the single most impacted business should this proposal move forward, and with a bike rental model most closely aligned with the bike share proposal, I have not been contacted for comment, or asked to contribute in any way.  This should be alarming to all who expect citizen board committees and elected representatives in Brevard County to be representing the interest of the community they serve.

While building my business from scratch the last 7 years I have made proposal after proposal to area resort owners and managers, some of whom serve on the current TDC board, on developing a bike program at the very resorts they own and manage, serving their guests, as well as the greater community.

My business provides bike racks, literature, bike accessories, insurance, everything necessary to implement and operate a fee-based bike program, at no cost to them, or requiring public funds.

How many small businesses in our county have been awarded grant money from the TDC to test a free market idea with no risk?  I sure haven’t, nor have I asked.  But it appears many of the deepest pockets in our tourism community may be doing just that for themselves and their close buddies, allocating public funds to programs where no market demand exists, and could destroy existing small, family-owned businesses in the process.

Each current member of the TDC that has purview over such decisions at their resorts has either ignored or denied my proposals, but here they are today endorsing a competing program by an outside entity, with allocation of public funds of over $100,000 to develop a fee-based bike program?  And I am not even reached for comment, much less asked to submit a proposal myself?

Where is the decency of the TDC board to do something so elementary as to notify a fellow tourism-based business that they may be hugely disrupted by a new TDC initiative that is supported with public funding in excess of $100,000?  Is it a requisite to serve on the board to have representation? Or perhaps, must I be a hotel to benefit from the tourist tax?

If this bike share concept is such a great idea for all, then why wouldn’t a local small business like mine be asked for an endorsement?  Any why does such a great idea require seed money from the public trust to get kick-started?

How many small businesses in our county have been awarded grant money from the TDC to test a free market idea with no risk?  I sure haven’t, nor have I asked.  But it appears many of the deepest pockets in our tourism community may be doing just that for themselves and their close buddies, allocating public funds to programs where no market demand exists, and could destroy existing small, family-owned businesses in the process.

Something tells me this would not happen to the business of a sitting board member on the TDC or Transit authority. My small business, with a little store front on A1A, serves over 10,000 tourists annually.

Not only have I survived, but I’ve done it without assistance of the TDC and area resort owners who claim, albeit wrongly, to have domain rights over the appropriation of TDC funds.

My business contributes to the tourism demand here with our rental and outfitting services, and my customers stay in their hotels.  It’s time the TDC and tourism leaders here lend some support to the local small businesses that don’t have the luxury of committee representation on the TDC board. We’re in this together and we should be benefactors of the TDC mission just as you are.

– David Lane, Owner, A1A Beach Rentals & Outdoor Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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David Lane with his wife, Kelli, and son Max.

David Lane grew up on Merritt Island and attended Michigan State University where he earned a B.S. degree in Ecology, Fisheries and Wildlife. While at MSU, he met his future wife, Kelli, who now teaches kindergarten at Tropical Elementary on Merritt Island. The Lanes have a son Max, 9, who attends Tropical.

Lane worked at NSF International in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he worked on clean water standards in collaboration with the EPA, and other state and federal agencies.

Lane founded A1A Beach Rentals & Outdoor Center in 2009 and employs up to 12 seasonal staffers. He also volunteer at beach clean-ups, participates in lagoon restoration efforts and is very active in the community, with environmental and education as a priority.


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