Recovery Plan 101: Why Wait on Washington?

I can assure you of one thing: Whatever Washington does, it will be quite a while before you begin to feel the real results. But there are things you can do in the meantime.

Recovery Plan 101: Why Wait on Washington?By Brian Rowland

As this Spring issue of 850 arrives in your mailbox, the Florida Legislature is in session — and there is no question that the economic turmoil gripping the nation will likely make this one of the most challenging and difficult gatherings of our leaders in the history of the Sunshine State.

Living in Tallahassee for more than 30 years, I have watched the process of making laws and managing the state from the sidelines. And frankly, I never completely understood how this process really does — or does not — work. Now, having the privilege to publish this magazine, I felt it critical to get some much-needed education about the process.

I had the opportunity, within a 24-hour window, to attend a meeting hosted by Dominic Calabro, longtime president of Florida TaxWatch, and then sit down the next morning for a very long cup of coffee with Florida Chamber of Commerce President Mark Wilson. I came away from those two gatherings with a much clearer understanding of how the process works, how difficult it can be at times to make it work and how critical the lobbying industry is in making it work.

So in this issue, we open the door a crack to give the 850 business community a better insight into the Florida Legislature by viewing it through the lens of the lobbying industry. For the uninitiated, it may open your eyes to how influential lobbyists can be in deciding what does and does not become law. Stories in this issue also demonstrate the essential role lobbyists play in the capital region’s business community. And we provide a few tips for those of you who may be giving some thought to hiring a lobbyist for the first time.

As we watch our state lawmakers grapple with the economic realities of today, I would like to take this opportunity to urge all of you to do your part in helping our state and country dig out of the financial dilemma we find ourselves in.

There are very few in the business community who have not felt the changes in the economic environment.

I hear many say, “What can I do as one business? I just have to wait and see if Washington, D.C., will get things back on track.”

I can assure you of one thing: Whatever Washington does, it will be quite a while before you begin to feel the real results. But there are things you can do in the meantime.

In my opinion, every business leader in the 850 region should meet with his or her employees, who I assume are feeling fearful, helpless and very uncertain about the economy and their jobs. Give them information about your status as a company and the assurance that you are working as smart and as hard as you can to navigate the business and their livelihood through these stormy seas. Be truthful, sincere and determined. Let them know that there are things they and their families can do to help their community and our region sustain themselves in 2009 and position us to be the first back on the road to a healthier economy.

Things such as buying local will help your local businesses survive. Suggest your employees keep this in mind: The dollar they spend on a local store today may help their neighbor keep his or her job or business tomorrow.

And as we all prepare for spring break and summer vacation, this too is an opportunity for 850 residents to lend their support to “THE Beach,” the 227 miles of pristine coastline and white-sand beaches that many of us call home. It would greatly benefit our area if you and your employees choose to spend your vacation dollars at home this year. On page 81 you will see a special section and some fabulous offers.

Recovery Plan 101: Spend a little, spend it in the 850 region and head to THE Beach or take a trip to our state capital for your time to rest and have fun.

It’s all about helping the 16 counties of the 850 region get back on the right economic track.

P.S. — As 850 matures, you may notice a few changes. In this issue, we have moved Sound Bytes — the columns that feature promotions, honors and business goings-on in each corridor of the 850 region — into one all-encompassing presentation that begins on page 93. We are also introducing a new feature, Ask the Governor, where Gov. Charlie Crist will be answering questions submitted by our readers. Please remember to send us your business news and announcements of upcoming events.