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Miami Herald: Destination resorts ‘a great fit for Florida’

Monday, November 21, 2011

Destination resorts ‘a great fit for Florida’


Last week, the Latin Builders Association (LBA) stood with Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff and Rep. Erik Fresen to show our support of destination resorts legislation.

The decision to support this measure looks beyond the immediate need for jobs in South Florida. It is no surprise to our community that our 750-member local businesses are starved for work. Saying times have been tough does not even begin to describe the hardship the construction industry has undergone these last few years. However, the potential jobs impact of this legislation was not the only point of consideration for LBA leadership when we decided to support this legislation.

For 40 years, the LBA has represented the interests of South Florida’s small businesses and promoted the sustainable growth and development of our economy. As a forum for discussion of the issues impacting Florida’s construction industry, the LBA gathered as an organization to weigh the pros and cons and listen to leaders on both sides of the current debate.

We met with stakeholders across the board from the Archdiocese of Miami and sponsoring lawmakers to economic experts and business organizations. In the end, we came to believe the adoption of the proposed Destination Resorts Act is a smart decision and one that is in the best interests of the state and the South Florida region.

If passed, the act requires each destination resort to invest at least $2 billion each into the construction and development of their complexes. This would produce an infusion of more than $6 billion into Florida’s economy, rapidly creating tens of thousands of jobs, expanding our tax base, helping our leadership to avoid more budget cuts in areas like education and healthcare and provide a strategic direction for the out-of-control gaming industry in our state.

While in the past we have consistently opposed gambling legislation, in this case we feel our leaders in Tallahassee would be committing legislative malpractice should they fail to enact the Destination Resorts Act. After all, the creation of 100,000 private sector jobs coupled with strict regulation of the gaming industry are both laudable goals, and voters in Miami-Dade and Broward have expressed overwhelming support for expanded gaming in the past .

Florida currently is the fourth-largest gaming state in the nation, but the type of gaming we currently have is the wrong type. This is Florida’s chance to reform gaming — to stop the local predatory operations and the recycled revenue streams that are not helping our state by any means.

Opponents have made false claims that destination resorts will “damage the Florida brand.” We feel they will augment Florida’s brand and elevate it to a higher level of attraction. The destination resort industry is one such as our state has never seen before, serving as a magnet for international tourism and bringing millions of new visitors to our state. Destination resorts also bring with them unmatched job numbers and new revenue generation that will undoubtedly help our state and its people get back to a healthy economic state.

In addition to providing much-needed regulation and a strategic direction for Florida’s gaming industry, this legislation puts Florida businesses in the position to lead the state out of the economic recession that has engulfed us for more than four years. This is a true game-changer.

The Latin Builders Association is proud to support the efforts of these two Florida leaders who recognize that destination resorts are a great fit for Florida. If this legislation is passed, members of the LBA and many other state organizations will have a chance to put paychecks in the hands of thousands of hard-working Floridians. We are confident destination resorts will enhance Florida’s offerings as an international tourist destination and a mecca for jobs benefitting all businesses in the state. Now it is time for our senators and representatives to lead the way and create a better future for Florida by supporting the Destination Resorts Act.

Bernie Navarro is the president of the Latin Builders Association.

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