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FLEC steps up to serve as voice for businesses on water quality

By Staff | Mar 26, 2019

While multiple organizations are advocating for clean water to benefit the environment and local ecology, a new Sanibel-based group is doing the same – but to benefit businesses and the economy.

Toward the end of last year, The Florida Economic Council formed with the mission of restoring, preserving and better maintaining Florida’s inland and coastal waterways, as pristine water bodies, in order to support a strong and vibrant tourism-based economy. Discussions on creating the non-profit arose last year after red tide and blue-green algae severely impacted the area and local businesses.

FLEC Executive Director Jessica Pinsky explained that island business owners talked about the economic loss in tourism and revenue from the water problems and decided to do something.

“They formed the non-profit to be the businesses’ voice,” she said.

Pinsky noted that there were many environmental organizations advocating for solutions to the water issues because of the ecological impacts, but no organization talking about the economic loss part.

“Tourism is the number one driver of Florida’s economy,” she said.

The executive committee consists of Chairman Richard Johnson, of Bailey’s General Store and Sanibel Catering Company by Baileys; Vice Chairman Joe Orndorff, of the Island Inn; Secretary Mark Anderson, of Benchmark General Contractors; and Treasurer David Schuldenfrei, of VIP Realty Group.

“We have a diverse group of different types of business owners,” Pinsky said of the board.

“Each one is affected differently, but they all share one common problem,” she added of local water quality. “In order for their business to be successful, the waterways have to be clean and usable.”

To meet its mission, FLEC is providing its members with enhanced representation in Tallahassee, as several items it is advocating for are in Gov. DeSantis’ executive order. It is also supporting other directives that ensure the islands’ ecology and economy receive the attention and funds they require.

“We’ve already been doing a couple of things,” Pinsky said.

FLEC has attended and spoken at the South Florida Water Management District’s meetings.

“We’re also monitoring closely and advocating in Tallahassee for funding for Governor DeSantis’ environmental executive order,” she said, adding that a particular focus is expediting the construction of the EAA reservoir, located south of Lake Okeechobee. “So we can start sending water south.”

Pinsky noted that the stored water will be treated before release, so it will be clean water.

“We are also monitoring some issues that pertain to keeping our local waterways clean and usable because we know that’s what’s important to our economic base in Southwest Florida,” she said.

Currently, FLEC’s membership includes businesses and individuals in the real estate, hotel and hospitality, restaurant and food service, and other industries, plus small business owners.

Charter memberships are free and are available at www.theflec.org.

A membership to FLEC will include special briefing papers, Legislative Session alerts and Call to Action opportunities. After 12 months of free membership, the annual fee for a member is $25.

For more information, visit online or contact info@theFLEC.org or 239-471-3059.