EDITOR’S NOTE: Contributing Columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insights on various topics in Steve’s Marketplace column.
__STEVE’S MARKETPLACE __
Rocked by hurricane-force throes of the severe economic recession, Amelia Island is struggling to its feet — readying for another dash of prosperity.
Glimpses of encouragement abound here.
New retail and commercial businesses are opening. Summer tourism has broached record levels. The lucrative medical industry continues to broaden its scope. Property values appear to have bottomed, with serious buyers re-entering the market.
Certainly, all is not completely rosy. Unemployment here remains high, some long-time retail shops and restaurants have closed while others hang on by a straw, and premier resorts and developments tinker with bankruptcy and foreclosure.
There is a general, reigning consensus that things are improving, however. At this point, like many resort destinations in Florida, we have taken our medicine — to combat a wicked hangover — and will embrace any signs of a return to health.
For instance, both the Ritz-Carlton and Amelia Island Plantation have experienced near-record occupancies over the past couple of months. Individual hotels, as well as restaurants, here have reportedly been busy.
In addition, a problematic bankruptcy proceeding for the management company at AIP is apparently close to being resolved. Several suitors have expressed interest in acquiring all or parts of the Amelia Island Plantation Company – a positive development for everyone living or visiting here.
In recent months, Amelia Island has been showcased in several prominent magazines, and it was featured as a vacation destination on the long-running television show “Wheel of Fortune.” (This is according to Gil Langley of the Convention and Visitors Bureau.)
Langley, in conjunction with the Amelia Island-Fernandina Beach-Yulee Chamber of Commerce, has established websites and fostered special events to promote the area. For instance, in the next three months, there is a Great Southern Tailgate Cook-off, a professional tennis event, and the Amelia Island Jazz Festival in the fall — headlined by legendary performer Ramsey Lewis.
The new websites touting our area include AmeliaIsland.com and MeetOnAmelia.com. In addition, there are reliable, informative general-interest websites such as AmeliaIslandLiving.com, engineered by Wendy Lawson.
Tourism is a lifeblood here. According to Langley, the tourism industry employs one-fifth of the workers, and generates about a third of tax revenues for Nassau County.
There are not many cleaner, more fruitful industries than tourism. It generates tax dollars to fund the municipal operations of an area, as well as create amenities such as fine restaurants and shops and hotels.
After two years of stagnation, new restaurants and businesses are opening here again. Several others are upgrading or expanding, such as the former Bank of America building on Centre Street or the trendy Cafe Karibo/Karibrew.
Something says that prosperity is within reach.
(Steve Nicklas is a financial advisor who lives on Amelia Island. He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or at [email protected].)