Friday, August 28, 2009

Natured based economic development

This past Wednesday, Aug 26, I attended an all-day workshop facilitated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) held at the Veterans Memorial Civic Center in Bristol, Florida. The topic of discussion was community and economic development through nature and wildlife tourism.

A consortium of partners funded the workshop, consisting of the FWC, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Riverway South, East Jackson County Economic Development Council and the Jackson County Tourist Development Council.

At the workshop, the FWC called for a dialogue between the six Florida riparian counties that boarder the Apalachicola River System, focusing on the potential that this specific region has as a destination point for natured-based tourism.

The Apalachicola estuary is a natural attraction that has an abundance of wildlife, different species of plants and other natured-based opportunities to sustain the economies of each of the six riparian counties that boarders the system.

Marketed right, this natural and cultural wonder could provide each community and businesses within those communities with an opportunity to fuel their economies without relying upon invasive development as a sole source for economic growth.

In fact, recent surveys have pointed out that each year scores of tourist travel to Florida just to fish, hunt, and hike, to watch birds, and to participate in other outdoor associated recreation. In 2006, 134.4 million Americans traveled to participate in such activities and spent $8.1 billion dollar in the State of Florida alone doing so. In addition, the travel and tourism industry is responsible for providing over 230 million jobs and over 10% of the gross domestic product worldwide.

The workshop well attended by elected officials, members of chamber boards, tourist, and economic development councils from each of the riparian counties departed eager and energized about the concept of a regional approach to economic development using a mutual asset.

At the end workshop participates submitted action plans that addressed the needs of each community and the targeted region collectively.

The goal now is to have other segments of the community buy into the concept of putting our greatest shared resource to work growing and sustaining our economies.

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