Special Reports

Chamber seminar on spill’s impact

Similar to preparing for the possible devastation of an offshore hurricane, Manatee business owners will be offered ways to get help if the Gulf oil spill impacts local beaches and their businesses.

The Manatee Chamber of Commerce is offering a free seminar Wednesday on how the business community can prepare for the impact. Experts from the county’s tourism office, natural resources, emergency management and from Mote Marine Laboratory will take part in the two-hour seminar at chamber offices.

“The focus of the seminar is to provide the resources currently available to them if there was a loss of revenue” from the spill, said Jahna Leinhauser with the chamber. Businesses have been given flyers about the seminar.

Most of the information which will be provided has already been made public, but it is an opportunity to give business owners the information and answer questions at the same time, said Charlie Hunsicker, director with the Manatee County’s Natural Resources Department.

“We’ll be talking about what procedures they should follow to be assured of receiving rightful compensation for their losses connected to this oil spill,” he said, cautioning that the spill has not yet had any impact on the county. Business owners will be directed to websites that can provide details. “There are processes, forms and reimbursements that will follow through a central contact point that will be established,” he said.

The problem for seminar presenters may be not being able to provide a lot of specifics.

Jessica Grace, director of marketing for the Bradenton Convention and Visitors Bureau, said there are few details right now on how the $25 million being given for tourism and marketing statewide will be spent.

“It is all speculative right now, how money is going to be distributed,” she said. “I haven’t heard from Visit Florida or anyone else at the state level.”

Business attendees will learn what has been done so far by the tourism industry to address perception issues, Grace said.

One business that does plan to send representatives to the seminar is Anna Maria Oyster Bar.

“I’m very interested in being educated on this,” said Fred Hurley, director of operations for the restaurants. “I plan to send at least two members of our staff.”

The restaurant has seen a slight increase so far in the price of oysters from suppliers in Louisiana and the Apalachicola area of Florida.

“I think (the seminar) will be tremendously helpful,” Hurley said.

The seminar will be held from 9-11 a.m. at the Manatee Chamber’s downtown Bradenton Office, 222 10th St. W.

For more information or to register for the seminar, call (941) 748-4842, ext. 172, or e-mail JahnaL@ManateeChamber.com.