At the May 20 Destin City Council Meeting, the chamber spoke in support of the Crosstown Connector. Our position, as always, is this road is good for the business community. As discussion about the connector continued, the council took the information and voted to stop all activity as it relates to the connector. While that isn’t the vote we wanted, that’s not the most concerning thing about that meeting.
During the discussion, several words and phrases were used to describe the chamber and the business community. Words such as nefarious, greedy, criminal, and sketchy were either used or inferred through statements made by the general public and from the dais. The people making the comments were pitting the chamber and business community against quality of life.
That put my mind spinning about the attempt to contrast those two components of our Destin community. I shared these thoughts and concerns with our board of directors, and we began a discussion about how these two actually work together.
The Destin Chamber represents the business community. These businesses are owned by and employ tens of thousands of people in Destin. These business owners pay taxes to the city and county. Because of the jobs created, these same people have money to spend, creating an economy and money flowing through the community. They pay property taxes and sales taxes and gas taxes and, well, you see the picture. Because of this, the citizens of Destin enjoy the great quality of life that we have. So, in essence, it’s the efforts of the chamber in promoting the business community, ensuring jobs exist so people have money to spend, resulting in the quality of life the people of our community enjoy. It’s evident that quality of life is positively affected by the chamber and the business community.
That thought process led me to consider some other positive effects the chamber has had on Destin. Our leadership program, Destin Forward, is required each year to create, develop, and execute a project to have a lasting impact on the community. What are some of those projects? There is a plaque along the Destin Harbor Boardwalk close to Dewey Destin’s on the Harbor honoring Leonard Destin, the founder of our city.
At the Destin History and Fishing Museum, the Primrose boat, the old post office, and the pilot house from an old fishing boat are all on display. Past classes of Destin Forward put labor into those and assisted in refurbishing those pieces of Destin’s history for all to enjoy.
Another class assisted the city of Destin in refurbishing a building that was going to become a strip club. They partnered with the Destin Rotary Club to turn that building into a food bank that provides food to thousands of needy children in our community.
Buck Destin Park on Legion Drive was recently renovated. Yet another Destin Forward class helped with that, painting playground equipment, planting new plants, and purchasing a new piece of equipment for that park.
Not only did past classes participate in the work it took to accomplish these, those same classes raised $2,500 for two of those projects and at least $4,000 on the others to fund what was needed to complete those projects. That’s $17,000 that was raised and invested into community projects for all to enjoy! That’s $17,000 of taxpayer money that was saved because of the Destin Chamber’s Destin Forward Class, money the city did not have to use for those enhancements.
The business community is also heavily involved in both Destin Middle School and Destin Elementary School. Tens of thousands of dollars are donated by the business community each year to these schools for supplies, sponsorships, ads, and fundraising for sports and cheerleading and band and chorus and many other activities. And business leaders volunteer thousands of hours each year in these schools.
Have you driven by the little league fields lately? If so, you’ve seen all the sponsorship signs hanging on the fences. Who are these sponsors? Leaders from the Destin business community. And who’s coaching these teams and sponsoring their uniforms? That’s right, owners and employees of the businesses in this town.
Again, while people at the council meeting attempted with all of their might to make the chamber and business community look bad, evil and anti-quality of life, nothing could be further from the truth. The chamber’s mission statement is “advocating for business, strengthening our community.” If you look at the small sample of examples above, you’ll see that’s exactly what we’re doing. The business community is much stronger and positive than some would have you think. We aren’t that bad after all!
With wishes for continued success,
Shane A. Moody, CCE, FCCP
President & CEO