MANATEE -- Manatee County has no attractions -- at least, that’s what motorists scooting down Interstate 75 are told, courtesy of an empty “attractions” sign posted by the Florida Department of Transportation.
Elliott Falcione, director of the county’s tourism agency, wants to fix that misimpression. He’s launched a collaboration with the county’s public works director to find out what attractions are eligible to be posted on the blue interstate sign, located just north of the State Road 64 exit, and to get them posted as soon as possible.
“That sign’s been there for years, to my understanding,” says Public Works Director Ron Schulhofer, who is still waiting to hear from the state transportation department about who he should talk with to get the sign filled. “I can tell you that nobody’s ever asked me from the FDOT for information to put on the sign.”
In the past, Schulhofer says, he’s tried to list items like Manatee County’s beaches but was told they weren’t eligible to be listed.
“They have very specific rules about what can and cannot be an attraction,” he says.
At least one of Manatee County’s key attractions, the South Florida Museum, is excited about the renewed focus on the empty I-75 sign.
“We’d love to be part of any effort to utilize that sign,” says Brynne Anne Besio, executive director of the museum. “I think it’s a great opportunity for all of us to get more word out. We all need this kind of advertising.”
Bob Bartz, president of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, says he can vouch for the power of road signs. His organization has just finished working with Schulhofer to post signs along State Road 70 and State Road 64 publicizing that the chamber is now a tourist information center.
Already, Bartz says, the chamber’s Lakewood Ranch office has noticed a significant increase in traffic because of the signs.
“Good signage is absolutely imperative if you want to attract visitors,” Bartz says. “If people aren’t aware of what’s here, they can’t take advantage of it.”
Christine Hawes, Herald business writer, can be reached at (941) 745-7081.