Business is Business

Ya gotta love private citizens Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and his wife Penny to donate $10 million to the Lightning Foundation toward good works in the community. If more wealthy citizens offered such a hand up, fewer citizens would be asking for a hand out.

But business is business.

Hillsborough County has already promised $35 million for upgrades to the SP Times Forum. The Lightning “expects to draw that money down for ROUTINE MAINTENANCE (emphasis mine), and it is not included in the $35 million renovation plan Vinik unveiled this week.”

Graciously, Mr. Vinik says that he will make the investment regardless of any reimbursement from The County, but hopes to approach The County when the economy turns around.

But business is business.

Commissioner Mr. Hagan however is already falling all over himself lining up support to get the additional hotel tax dollars reallocated for the Forum. These are taxes collected primarily from guests staying at local hotels.

The money is used to fund the marketing of various tourist attractions which in turn generate overnight stays. Sort of a self-funding program that benefits everyone by bringing in out-of-town-over-night spenders to local businesses. This is pretty much the mission of the Hillsborough County’s Tourist Development Council (TDC).

But business is business.

Annually, the TDC awards over $12 million from tourist tax proceeds from local hotel room revenue to organizations that promote conventions, international and national visitation and related sporting events, cultural and other special venues and attractions in Hillsborough County.

As the available taxes go down, so too does the amount awarded various recipients. Some venues and attractions have had funding completely cut due to a shrinking budget. The TDC would like to give every organization the money requested.

But business is business.

The TDC rightly spends many hours in public discussions to determine the best allocation of limited promotional monies. Pretty much, the most important measure of success is the number of hotel nights generated as a result of those promotion expenditures.

Some participating organizations generate more “heads in beds” than others, so receive more TDC money. The TDC is very thorough in making this important connection between hotel taxes generated from any venue or attraction and how much TDC money they should receive.

But business is business.

This delicate balance of allocating precious TDC funding should not and cannot be influenced by the political wrangling or personal peccadilloes of anyone outside the purview of the full TDC;
in the sunshine of public scrutiny.

In the case of The Lightning, if the proportional over-night numbers are there, the TDC allocation should be there.

If not, not.

<IMHO> Fred Jacobsen


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