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One week after Irma, Rick Scott says ‘we’ve got to get tourists back’

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

With so much of Florida’s economy tied to tourism, Rick Scott believes it is essential the state get back to normal as soon as possible following Hurricane Irma, making the state inviting for visitors to return.

“One out of every six jobs in the state are tied to tourism. So we gotta make sure that we’re always marketing our state,” said the governor — who is always focused on jobs and the economy — after thanking first responders in a brief appearance Tuesday at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Dept. on East Falkenberg Road.

“When the national news is about a hurricane, people rightfully are going to say, ‘wait a minute. Is that a place where I should go?’ So we gotta get our message out.”

Before that can happen though, the governor acknowledges there’s still extensive cleanup that needs to happen. That’s why he’s asked for a plan from all sixty-seven counties in the state about how they will remove the extensive debris that litters many parts of the state following the storm’s ascent up the entire state nine days ago.

“We’ve got to get our tourists back because so many jobs are tied to tourism,” Scott repeated, adding that so many of those in the service economy in Florida are paid by the hour and make their living off tips.

“It’s very important that we get tourists back as quickly as we can all across the state,” he said.

Irma most devastated Florida’s lower Keys. Yet Scott imposed an aspirational October 1 deadline to open the region to visitors.

“We’ve had issues with the sewage system, but the real issue [in both short- and long-term] is housing,the governor said. 

Scott was also asked on three different occasions during his brief media scrum with reporters about the performance of the public utilities in the state. In Seminole County on Tuesday, state lawmakers questioned a Duke Energy official about the company’s response to Hurricane Irma.

Chris Flack, the Vice President of Government Affairs for Duke Energy, started the session with an apology to their customers, saying that the company had let them down.

Scott gave deference to the utility companies for their performance in the storm, but finally admitted that when a company sets a deadline and fails to meet it, people are going to be disappointed. That was the case in Pinellas County, where Duke Energy officials promised most people would have power back by midnight Friday.

“We all expect people to live up to what they tell us, that’s just how we all work in our own lives, right?” he said. “So the expectation is that if you put a deadline out, you meet your deadline.”

Scott said he often speaks with heads of some Florida public utilities; linemen and linewomen have had to contend with a lot of foliage due to downed trees throughout the state, he explained.

“They also told me that if you’re more rural, there’s more downed trees out there,” he said. “I expect everybody to live by what they tell people. We all want our power back as soon as possible. They’ve had seven days. We’d like to get out power back.”

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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