Spotlight On: Frank Dame, EVP & COO , Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Spotlight On: Frank Dame, EVP & COO , Clearwater Marine Aquarium

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read November 2019 — The city of Clearwater has a lot of enticing offerings within its borders, ranging from the No. 1 beach in the United States to a multitude of arts and cultural options. One of the most widely recognizable features of the city is the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. As a staple of marine conservation and education as well as the filming location for both Dolphin Tale feature length films, the aquarium has adapted its business model to remain strong after all these years. Invest: spoke with Executive Vice President and COO for the aquarium Frank Dame, about adapting its business practices to stay competitive, the renovations being made to the aquarium, the challenges from last year’s red tide and maintaining Clearwater’s No. 1 beach status. 

 

 How have you adapted your business to stay competitive?

Before the movie Dolphin Tale came out, we implemented a new philosophy and strategy. Although we are a nonprofit, we decided we would run the aquarium like a for-profit company and develop a business model that could fund the operations of Clearwater Marine Aquarium with minimal donations. We would then use donations to expand the business and for our various initiatives. We set this business model in place, and then expanded the gift shop, improved the guest experience and enhanced our food service. This started to drive revenue, and between 2006 and 2010, we grew attendance from 75,000 a year to about 220,000 just before the movie was released. The year after the movie was released in 2012, our attendance went from 220,000 to over 740,000. 

What can be expected for Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s new facilities? 

We are under construction. This is an $80-million project that is being supported by the city, county and the state. We were awarded $26 million from Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater, while the city of Clearwater gave us $5 million, plus the land where we are located. The state of Florida also donated another $3 million in a grant, and we have an ongoing capital campaign to raise another $15 million. Overall, we have had a tremendous amount of support from the community. When we open the doors to our new facility, sometime next year, we are going to have almost four times the guest space we have now. We are also building five new dolphin pools. Currently, between all our facilities we have about 985,000 gallons of water, and these five new dolphin pools will add another million and a half gallons. We are really ramping up our ability to rescue more animals and provide a better living environment for our dolphins, as well as drastically improve the guest experience.

How much of an adverse effect did last year’s red tide have on the region? 

A year or so ago when the red tide came through the region, it had an extremely adverse effect on the local economy. We should commend Pinellas County because they tried to get in front of this issue by hiring boats to collect the dead fish and debris offshore before it ever hit the beaches. Our city was out there at 4:30 in the morning raking the beaches to make sure that tourism was not too badly impacted by it. While we were impacted somewhat, it could have been a lot worse. That red tide probably resulted from the runoff from storm water and other waste that goes into our waterways. This is damaging not only to the water environment itself, but to the tourism sector and the local economy, so human impact should always be something that we are conscious of. 

How can Clearwater Beach maintain its title as No. 1 beach in the nation? 

We need to focus on maintaining our recognition as the No. 1 beach in the nation, and we can’t accomplish this by just promoting ourselves as No. 1. The mission now is to make us the No. 1 beach because we are ocean friendly. We can do this by eliminating trash and doing things like stopping the use of single-use plastics. At the aquarium, we have gotten rid of all plastic bottles. Our water bottles now are all biodegradable and our spoons are all made of bamboo as opposed to plastic. We are trying to be an example of an environmentally responsible organization, and teaching people the right way to live in a model of environmental sustainability. 

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

https://www.seewinter.com/

 

Spotlight On: Lisa Scott-Founds, President & CEO, Winterfest Inc

Spotlight On: Lisa Scott-Founds, President & CEO, Winterfest Inc

By Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read October 2019 — The Broward County community is spoiled for choice when it comes to events in the area, as there is seemingly something happening every week, even in winter. The seventh-largest spectator event in Florida is the Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade, to be held this year on Dec. 12. Invest: spoke with President and CEO of Winterfest Inc Lisa Scott-Founds about the importance of innovation to the event, how they ensure safety and the role the Boat Parade plays in the tourism economy of Broward County. 

How important is consistent innovation to the success of the event?

We always want to integrate the newest technology into our event, like the use of holograms, which we hope is a real possibility for this year. As a nonprofit organization, we are always searching for unique additions to our event that are not cost-prohibitive. We are always asking people, “What is something that you’ve never seen us do before?” We take their suggestion, develop a budget to execute the idea and bring it to our board and possible sponsors to help with underwriting the “new wow-factor idea.” It’s amazing what can happen when you bring together creative minds and supporters in the business community. The entertainment value is the most important element for our success to ensure we continue to be the “Greatest Show on H2O” and the seventh-largest spectator event in the state of Florida.

How do you ensure safety at an event like Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade?

We work with all our law enforcement officials the United States Coast Guard, Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Fort Lauderdale Marine Patrol, Fort Lauderdale Police Department and the Fire Department. When putting on an event of this caliber, safety is the No. 1 priority. Those who participate in the parade are educated on all our safety procedures. We send them messages on a daily basis to always be conscious of how important it is to keep safety first when you are on the water. As a parade on water, Winterfest needs to have proper procedures in place. Unlike a land parade; you can’t just hit a brake on a boat to stop. Spectators within our Grandstand viewing area see signs directed toward their safety as well.

What role does the Boat Parade play in the tourism market within Broward County?

There is nothing like the Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade in the entire world. The beginning of December is a little slower for tourism, as opposed to other months when tourism in South Florida sees a boom, so we feel a responsibility to bring people into the region and put heads in beds. Our success is due to collaboration with organizations like our Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau and working with area hotels. Tourists should experience a Winterfest weekend, a show at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, eat at our restaurants and immerse themselves in our community. There is just so much to do in Fort Lauderdale, and in Broward County for that matter.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

 

https://winterfestparade.com/

A Show 60 Years in the Making

A Show 60 Years in the Making

By Max Crampton-Thomas

 2 min read October 2019 — Oct. 30 to Nov. 3 are probably the most important couple of days for the city of Fort Lauderdale and for Broward County. Over the course of these five days, the city opens its doors to over 110,000 boating enthusiasts from around the world representing over 50 countries, all here for the purpose of attending the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. While this event is always a highlight for the year, this year has special meaning: it’s the 60th anniversary for the Boat Show.

The success and longevity of the event comes as no surprise as Fort Lauderdale has been dubbed the “Yachting Capital of the World” with its economic roots deeply cemented in the marine industry. This event is not just a chance for visitors to see these boats up close and personal; it serves primarily as a platform for yacht brokers and various other exhibitors to showcase their marine products and services. 

The economic benefits to the region brought on by a boat transaction cannot be understated, and were highlighted by Paul Flannery, executive director for the International Yacht Brokers Association, when he spoke to Invest:. “A boat is an economic engine for the community. When a boat comes to a community, 10% of the value of that boat is injected into the local economy on a yearly basis. When there is a transaction involving a boat, an additional 13% of the value of that boat is injected into the local economy in the first year after the sale,” Flannery explained. He continued: “When a person wants to sell their boat, then we need to make sure they know that there is no better place to do business than South Florida, the yachting capital of the world. The impact of that boat sale happening in South Florida benefits the local economy through the yacht broker and marina owner, as well as all the people engaged in that transaction.”

The show this year will not only feature the debut of the show’s largest megayacht, Madsummer, it will also include the 2nd Annual Sunset Soiree and Yacht Chef Competition, a superyacht village and a mansion yacht. Perhaps most unique about this year’s event is the FLIBS 4 Bahamas initiative that will be in support of the Bahamas relief efforts in the Abacos and Grand Bahama, two of the islands devastated by Hurricane Dorian. The proceeds from both the raffle of a Pioneer Sportfish 180 and the Yacht Chef Competition will be going directly to charities working on hurricane relief for the islands.

With more than $4 billion worth of product on display at the Boat Show, the event has not only become a staple for the South Florida community, but the global marine community as well. The event is owned by the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, whose CEO and President Phil Purcell perfectly summarized to Invest: just how important the Boat Show is to the region. “We are the refit and repair capital of the world, the yachting capital of the world. When you think of Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show’s impact on the state of Florida, it generates an $857 million economic impact, with 110,000 visitors from 52 countries around the globe. Keep in mind that $100 million a day changes hands in sales during the five days of the show. The marine industry has an economic value to Broward County of $8.9 billion.”

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

https://www.flibs.com/en/home.html

https://www.miasf.org/

https://iyba.yachts/