Gov. Scott: Florida Hits All-Time Record High for Tourism
~Over 54.1 million visitors came to Florida in first half of 2015~
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott announced Florida set another record in tourism by welcoming the highest amount of visitors of any six months in the state’s history with 54.1 million visitors, according to VISIT FLORIDA. This record amount of visitors represents a 5.8 increase over the year. In the second quarter of 2015 (April -June), 25.8 million visitors came to the state, an increase of 5.5 percent over the year. The average number of direct travel-related jobs in quarter two of 2015 was also a record high, with 1,213,500 Floridians employed in the tourism industry – up 4.9 percent over the year.
Governor Scott said, “I am proud to announce the Sunshine State continued our record breaking success and welcomed the most visitors in Florida’s history over the first half of the year. Our growing tourism industry employs over 1.2 million Floridians and is helping us meet our goal of becoming the best place in the world for jobs. We are excited to mark the first half of 2015 with our biggest second quarter ever, and we look forward to exceeding our goal of 100 million visitors to Florida this year.”
VISIT FLORIDA estimates that 2.7 million overseas visitors and 1.2 million Canadians came to Florida in quarter two of 2015. Estimates also show that 21.9 million domestic visitors traveled to Florida in the second quarter of 2015, reflecting a 6.8 percent increase over the year. Preliminary figures for the first half of 2015 show 45.7 million domestic visitors, 5.5 million overseas visitors and 2.9 million Canadians have come to the Sunshine State, representing increases of 6.7 percent, 1.7 percent and 1.1 percent respectively.
“The continued growth of tourism for the second quarter, including a record number of tourism related jobs, puts Florida on pace for a fifth consecutive record breaking year,” said John Tomlin, Chair of the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors. “These records also emphasize the power of tourism as an economic leader and job creator for the state. Results like these are the direct result of the vision and support of the Governor and Legislature, as well as world-class strategies and execution by the VISIT FLORIDA staff.”
Tourism and recreation taxable sales for Florida increased year-over-year for January through May 2015 (last reported month), representing a 9.0 percent increase over the same period in 2014. For quarter two of 2015, the average daily room rate (ADR) rose 4.7 percent, the occupancy rate for Florida hotels increased 2.9 percent and the demand in rooms sold grew 4.4 percent compared to quarter two of 2014.
“With all indicators continuing to climb, Florida tourism has strong momentum,” said Will Seccombe, President and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA. “This continued growth does not happen by accident. We know tourism marketing works and we have Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature to thank for their unparalleled support that has put us well on our way to making Florida the No. 1 travel destination in the world.”
Bill Talbert, Vice Chair of the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors and President & CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau said, “Another record shattering quarter for Florida tourism is not really a surprise. It’s actually the byproduct of tremendous efforts each and every day by those who serve their guests with a passion and deliver GREAT experiences. We are fortunate to have a Governor and Legislature that support our industry and VISIT FLORIDA so that we can continue to share the beautiful stories of our state with the world.”
Andrew Hertz, Immediate Past Chair of the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors and President & General Manager of Miami Seaquarium said, “Achieving record visitation for the second quarter of 2015 provides strong momentum towards our goal of bringing 100 million visitors to Florida this year. Florida is fortunate to have the strong support of Governor Scott and the Legislature, as well as funding matched by dollars from great industry partners. This support allows VISIT FLORIDA to reach even more markets and potential visitors with compelling reasons to visit Florida and create memories that last a lifetime.”
Carol Dover, Chair of the VISIT FLORIDA Public Affairs Committee and President & CEO of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association said, “Florida is continuing to break the mold by setting record breaking trends that prove our state leads the way in hospitality and tourism. These numbers prove that Governor Scott’s leadership, along with support from Florida’s Legislature, ensures a business friendly environment that allows hoteliers, restaurateurs, suppliers and attractions to thrive. We were proud to help provide incredible guest experiences in the first half of the year and can’t wait to welcome even more visitors to the Sunshine State throughout the rest of the year.”
Bill Lupfer, Member of the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors and President & CEO of the Florida Attractions Association said, “Florida’s outstanding attractions and iconic destinations have a lot to be proud of, and this record second quarter means we are on track for what is sure to be another stellar year. As we continue to shatter industry records and make the Sunshine State the gold standard for tourism across the country and around the world, we are grateful for the hard work of our industry partners and the support of Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature.
To view additional Florida visitor data, please go to the research page on VISIT FLORIDA’s media website
*Preliminary estimates are issued 45 days after the end of each calendar quarter. Final estimates are released when final data are received for all estimates in the report.
News Cast for August 19th:
Two murder defendants could go on trial the week of September 28th. 26 year old Travis Spencer and 23 year old Terrance Spivey were in court last week on motions to compel testimony and depositions. The judge ruled all DNA evidence and depositions should be done by the end of the month.
The pair is charged in the home invasion robbery and murder of 39 year old William Curry during a shower of gunfire at 580 North East 13th Avenue last summer.
Deputies say various drugs like cocaine, crack, molly, marijuana and suspected drug cash were taken.
Glades County Commissioners approved a 1point 2 million dollar grant agreement with the state that will help install the infrastructure needed for the proposed Loves Travel Center on route 78 and US 27. A 3 hundred thousand dollar grant has also been received for the project from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. 33 jobs could be created in the project. The bids have not yet been finalized but the county might have to make some cuts to sidewalks and the road width to come in under budget. County Commissioner John Ahern asked that some private dollars be required for the project too. Jerry Peavy was appointed as the citizen member of the Value Adjustment Board.
The county also chose the route they prefer for the Florida Greenways and Trail System. They supported a trail following the Harney Pond Canal down to Lakeport where it could connect to the Lake Okeechobee scenic trail in Lakeport. Commissioner Paul Beck said this could bring tourists to Lakeport and promote business growth.
The alligator hunting season begins Saturday. Last year the number of alligators taken from Lake Okeechobee declined from 810 in 2013 to 597 last year. On the Kissimmee River, 375 gators were harvested in 2013 and 247 in 2014. On Lake Hicpochee, 26 gators were taken in 2013, and 24 in 2014. Kenansville Lake had 89 harvest in 2013, and 93 in 2014. Glades County had 14 harvested in 2013 and 11 in 2014. Eight gators were harvested in Okeechobee County in 2013, and three in 2014.
Sports Cast for August 19th:
Bubba Fludd is healthy and ready to lead the Brahmans as the starting QB this season. He said he doesn’t like to think of the injuries that cost him as a freshman and sophomore.
Fludd figures to be a dual threat again for the Brahmans, and will be moved around the offense at times. He also figures to start at corner back again.
Fludd had a busy summer competing in the Heartland 7 on 7 Summer league.
Fludd said the time he spent with his wide receivers and running backs was invaluable. Okeechobee lost about a week of practice this month due to afternoon thunderstorms.
Video is on our Facebook page.
They open the season this Friday at LaBelle.
FWC announces details of 2016 Python Challenge™ with partners
Building on the success of its 2013 Python Challenge™, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida Inc.(Foundation) this week announced additional details of the 2016 Python Challenge™, a conservation effort that includes public outreach on invasive species and a month-long competition to remove Burmese pythons from public lands in Florida.
The Challenge will take place in a larger geographic area than the 2013 Python Challenge. The FWC is working in coordination with several state and federal land management agencies, including Everglades National Park, to provide access to additional public land areas during the competition.
According to Everglades National Park Superintendent Pedro Ramos, “We look forward to expanding access into the Park and to providing more opportunities for members of the public to become approved authorized python agents. I hope that our increased participation this year will engage the public and highlight the scientific work that is being done to care for our public lands.”
The dates of the python removal competition in south Florida are set for Jan. 16- Feb. 14, 2016. Participants will be able to sign up as an individual competitor or as part of a team of up to five people.
“We’re launching the 2016 Python Challenge™ because Burmese pythons continue to be a significant issue in the Everglades,” said FWC Commissioner Ron Bergeron. “We hope these efforts will increase sightings and removal of pythons over the long-term in this valuable ecosystem.”
The aim of the 2016 Python Challenge™ is to promote Everglades conservation through invasive species removal, and the FWC and the Foundation are also increasing opportunities for the public to receive training so they can help. Training events will teach participants how to identify, report and then safely and humanely capture Burmese pythons.
“The Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida is proud to partner with the FWC and Everglades National Park on this exciting conservation program,” said Foundation Chairman Rodney Barreto. “If you are interested in learning more or want to help promote or sponsor the 2016 Python Challenge™, we encourage you to visit the Python Challenge website.”
Details about upcoming training events, competition rules, registration, prizes and events will be posted at PythonChallenge.org as they are finalized.
To report nonnative fish and wildlife, call the FWC’s Invasive Species Hotline at 888-IVE-GOT1 (888-483-4681), report your sighting online at IveGot1.org or download the IveGot1 smartphone app.
For more information on Burmese pythons and other nonnative species in Florida, go to MyFWC.com/nonnatives.
News Cast for August 18th:
A trailer was heavily damaged by a fire on South East 21st Street in Buckhead Ridge early Monday. Volunteer firemen and Okeechobee County Fire Rescue put out the blaze at 2 in the morning. No injuries were reported.
Among arrests, 58 year old Angel Cuevas was charged with battery on a Martin County deputy for allegedly pulling a knife on the man while picking palmetto berries illegally off route 609 last week.
34 year old Thomas McGill was charged with resisting arrest and methamphetamine charges after an alleged foot chase with city police that ended with McGill, being tased and hospitalized last week.
22 years old Jack Congdon was charged with child neglect when a three year old left a home on the south west side and made his way to the Center State Bank parking lot. Eye witnesses say the child was walking unsupervised near South Parrott Avenue and in danger of being struck by a car.
53 year old Thomas Overby, a county jail inmate, was charged with introduction of contraband and drug possession for allegedly having hydrocodone in the jail.
47 year old Tracie Guevara of Oregon and 57 year old Vickie Johnson were charged with burglary and resisting arrest after being caught by deputies inside a Fort Drum restaurant early Sunday morning.
77 year old Onnie Osceola was charged with child neglect for allegedly leaving a small child in a parked car at Publix last April 24th.
The Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office received a donation of $1000 from the Cypress Hut Eagles #4509. The donation was designated to be used for the Animal Control office. Undersheriff Noel Stephen stated, “We always appreciate receiving support from our Community. This group of folks goes above and beyond by supporting all the Sheriff’s Office efforts even monetarily. For that we are forever grateful! These dollars will be put to good use as your Sheriff’s Office strives to assist the County in an efficient and effective Animal Control Department.”
The city of Okeechobee is working on a redevelopment area for the downtown business district. Main Street President Maureen Burroughs says businesses were hit hard in the last year by highway construction with many avoiding the downtown area and businesses. Some have gotten out of the habit of driving downtown. She said businesses have yet to recover. Ideas like painting improvements, more signs, improved benches with artists paint, more shade, and round bouts are being considered.
Sports Cast for August 18th:
Okeechobee softball ace pitcher Jordan Lawlis was the winner of the Will to Win Award for the softball team this past season.
She said she was very grateful to get the award. She has been busy this summer playing travel ball for the Martin County Cruisers Elite team.
She said it has been a worthwhile endeavor. She continues to hone her pitching skills. She says works every day and feels she is improving for her final season of high school ball.
News Cast for August 17th:
Okeechobee schools reopened for the new school year today. All students will receive a free breakfast throughout the year.
The district started free breakfast at one school in 2010 and expanded it to three schools last year. This year every school is involved. The goal is to increase the number of breakfasts by at least 33 percent. New Food Services Director Lisa Bell is glad to be in Okeechobee. She previously worked for a similar size district in rural Mississippi.
The school board opted not to raise prices for lunch this year which will remain at 1.75 cents per meal. Bell said she wants to improve the taste, appearance and nutritional values of meals at Okeechobee Schools. Research shows that students perform better in school if they eat a nutritious breakfast.
Criminal charges were dropped against 59 year old Timothy O’Brien. Glades deputies arrested him on May 26th for allegedly shooting at 34 year old Christopher Knowles during a domestic dispute in Buckhead Ridge. O’Brien said he shot to warn Knowles who had been drinking and acting aggressive.
Sentencing for Andrew Wheeler was delayed Friday until August 31st. He faces up to 30 years in prison for a videotaped attack of a 16 year old boy. He was convicted at trial in June of aggravated child abuse.
A Lake Placid man was found not guilty of robbery and attempted murder of a Lorida man last week. Arthur Dennis had allegedly fought with John Thrift at the man’s home off US 98 on June 29th of 2014. He allegedly struck Thrift with the ceramic lid of a toilet tank. Dennis claimed he was the victim. The men were allegedly under the influence of crack cocaine and alcohol.
Sports Cast for August 17th:
Adolpho Ponce DeLeon was named Defensive Player of the Year for Yearling soccer last year. He enters the 8th grade this year and hopes to continue the Yearling tradition of perfect seasons.
He said playing defense was difficult but he appreciated the award. His older brother Jose was a standout on the varsity team in the past few years.
Ponce DeLeon said Yearling should be good again because their coach Erick Rios always makes them work hard. Soccer practices at area middle schools begin this week with games in early September.
The Okeechobee youth football league lost to the Rattlers of Haines City Saturday in the flag game 35-0, and the mighty mite game, 29-0.
News Cast for August 14th:
The community’s churches have been welcoming the new teachers into the system. About 60 new teachers had been hired as of this week from around the nation. Peace Lutheran Church has held a welcome lunch for 20 years. The Pastor John Hirst, Mayor Jim Kirk and School Board chairman Joe Arnold were there to welcome them.
Head Elder John Simms told the teachers about an educator who impacted his life and encouraged him to go to college while he attended Edgewater High School in Orlando. He went on to become a war hero in Vietnam. He encouraged the new educators to make a difference.
About 75 hundred dollars in damage was done and three cats and a dog rescued from a trailer home filled with smoke at 4940 US 441 south east Wednesday evening. Fire Chief Ralph Franklin says firemen encountered some smoke and flames when they arrived. He noted the response time of 3 minutes helped to save the single wide trailer. Smoking a cigarette in bed might have caused the blaze.
All charges were dropped against 49 year old Robert Lynch in Glades County. He had faced 27 counts mostly unemployment compensation fraud allegedly collecting benefits he was not entitled to between 2009 and 10.
Sports Cast for August 14th:
Jarrod Morgan won the Gold Glove Award for the OHS baseball team this past season.
He worked hard to improve his agility and strength and was a solid contributor at second base.
Morgan said he felt good about the award. Morgan also had a productive off season playing travel ball at an elite program in Atlanta Georgia.
He also worked with a new shortstop, Mason Adams, a freshman last year, which reminded him of what he had to do in the lower grades.
Morgan will be a senior this season.
- 2011 A wind gust collapses the stage, lighting and sound equipment at the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis as Sugarland prepares to go on. Seven people eventually die and another 45 are treated for injuries
- 1994 John Michael Montgomery nabs a #1 country single in Billboard magazine with “Be My Baby Tonight”
- 1988 Keith Whitley collects his first #1 country single in Billboard magazine with “Don’t Close Your Eyes”
- 1978 Drummer Mike Melancon is born in Ecurces, Quebec. He provides a foundation for the Alberta-based band Emerson Drive, which uses power harmonies to net hits with “I Should Be Sleeping,” “Moments” and “Fall Into Me”
Commissioner Adam Putnam’s Statement Regarding Everglades Water Improvement
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.–The South Florida Water Management District today announced that during the Water Year 2015 monitoring period, implementation of Best Management Practices on agricultural land resulted in a 79-percent phosphorous reduction in the Everglades Agricultural Area, which far exceeds the 25-percent reduction requirement. This achievement marks a 20-year milestone.
“Farmers and ranchers throughout our state are looking toward science and data in order to protect Florida’s waterways and manage farms more efficiently, and today’s announcement shows that Best Management Practices are working,” stated Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam. “I thank the farmers and ranchers in the EAA for their continued commitment to being good stewards of the land.”
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services develops and adopts BMPs for different types of agricultural operations. BMPs are designed to benefit water quality and water conservation while maintaining or enhancing agricultural production.
For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and Best Management Practices, visit FreshFromFlorida.com.
News Cast for August 13th:
Bal Harbour’s Mayor wants state and federal investigations into the Tri County Task Force and for those who misappropriated money to be prosecuted. Martin Packer responded to a Miami Herald series, License to launder, which reported the task force, that included Bal Habour and Glades County, laundered 71 million in money from drug dealers and money laundering and couldn’t account for where the money went.
The Herald said some of the money went out of the country to countries listed as troubled by the US State Department, and a violation of drug and money seizure laws.
This is Miami Herald reporter John Sallah. Glades County was ordered to repay over 7 hundred thousand dollars to the justice department. The paper also has reported Sun Trust bank in South Florida helped with the large cash deals and deposits and one of its top executives, has resigned. Glades County used the money to purchase 40 bullet proof vests, 3 dozen, 40 caliber revolver, video cameras, and other equipment they wouldn’t have been able to afford.
Chief Deputy Duane Potorff explains the money came in handy.
Bal Harbor was the fiscal agent and the Sheriff’s offices say they couldn’t get a lot of the financial records.
Among arrests, a 15 year old Okeechobee boy charged with grand theft of a golf cart after being spotted by city police operating the cart in the 21 hundred block of South Parrott Avenue at 2 in the morning Tuesday.
41 year old Michael Johnson was charged with aggravated assault after he allegedly threatened a neighbor with a knife in a dispute over 45 dollars.
Glades County deputies picked up Donnie Miller on a local warrant charging him with sexual assault on a child under 12. He was held without bond.
Sports Cast for August 13th:
Brahman boys’ soccer coach Lonnie Sears hopes to rebuild the program up after the first losing season in his coaching career last year.
The Brahmans only won four matches last year. Defense wasn’t the problem but the team struggled to score goals.
They also lost two studs to travel ball that would have really helped. Sears is optimistic because his younger players gained a lot of experience and the team has another strong crop of players entering high school this year.
He said the team can be district contenders again.
Although the team lost 10 seniors to graduation, not many of them played key roles last year.
News Cast for August 12th:
Among arrests, 30 year old Craig Rush was charged with grand theft, burglary and felony criminal mischief. Its alleged he stole a safe containing 20 thousand dollars and prescription pills from a Douglas Park home on August 1st.
Two home invasion robbery suspects are sought for a robbery on July 23rd in Okeechobee. 22 year old Albert Hester and 22 year old Remberto Brown allegedly robbed jewels and cash from two females at gunpoint and fled on foot.
Moore Haven’s new principal filed a lawsuit against the Dothan City school district in Alabama after he was fired for claims of sexual harassment by a female district employee. Tim Wilder says his rights were violated because the allegations are untrue and he was not given a fair hearing by the school board. The victim claimed she received in appropriate text messages from Wilder.
Glades County school superintendent Scott Bass defended Wilder. He said he was very well qualified and that he will be closely monitored and that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. School Board member Jeri Wilson voted not to hire Wilder but stated she supported the job his predecessor did, George Coates, and didn’t like the way he was not reappointed.
The Okeechobee school board last night honored Martha Clay for 34 years of service. She retired as custodian at the freshman campus. Appointed Bryan Van Camp as the new Assistant Principal at the Freshman Camus. They replaced his position with a Dean position at the freshman campus that will save the district salary. Vicki Goggans was named Assistant Principal at Yearling Middle School.
Superintendent Ken Kenworthy said the cost of tuition will increase for students in dual enrollment courses at Indian River State College. The first negotiation session with the teachers union has been scheduled for August 25th.
Sports Cast for August 12th:
Jonathan Martinez won an All-Conference Award for Yearling boys’ soccer last year.
Yearling went 10-0 last year and have had several unbeaten seasons in recent years.
He said it just doesn’t happen and each year the team is challenged. Martinez said Coach Erick Rios is the main reason the team has perfect seasons because he demands all of his players work hard.
Martinez moves onto the ninth grade this year and hopes to make an impact for the high school soccer teams.