My vacation just became a working vacation. I must share with you how BP is responding to the oil spill in one coastal community in Northwest Florida. I might add that the first tar ball has not washed ashore - Yet!
I'm here enjoying my mother's beachfront home. For over 30 years I have come here to enjoy the sugar white beaches, the pristine teal blue water, the sunsets over my beloved Gulf of Mexico and the warm evening breezes shared with good friends and family. If there is paradise on earth, it is surely here.
Like so many others, I have waited anxiously since April wondering when my beloved paradise will become paradise spoiled.
Like everywhere else, unemployment in Bay County, Florida dances just under 10%. High season is coming to an end (the time of year that the local economy rakes it in from tourism and lives off the proceeds during the rest of the year).
BP has been actively monitoring the beaches here for weeks (as they should). However, they've been doing it with workers from outside this area.
Since arriving a few days ago, I can tell you that the oversized golf carts from United Rental filled with four out- of- town workers making $18 a hour are as common a sight as the sand pipers now. Local news outlets report that more than a thousand workers from South Florida and as far away as Texas have been brought in to monitor the beach for the tar balls yet to arrive.
Let me say that again - that's a thousand jobs paying $18 a hour (a big salary in Bay County, Florida) being filled elsewhere. In the meantime, the fear of spoiled beaches has scared away, by conservative estimates, at least 20% of the usual numbers of tourists during this critical time for the local economy.
To add insult upon injury, earlier in the summer, the sheriff's department raided BP's staging area finding that numerous BP workers were reportedly illegal immigrants without proper work permits.
To add more insult upon injury, a BP worker brought in from Largo, Florida (about 350 miles from here - hardly a local hire) was arrested for armed robbery. He allegedly held up and robbed two kids at gunpoint. He also had a criminal record. Thanks, BP! Good vetting in your hiring process.
1. When the local heat went up, they fired about 75% of their workers re-opening the jobs to locals. Or so they said...
2. Then the fired workers, in droves, applied for local ID's and got their jobs back immediately. So the real locals continue to be left out in the cold (or heat, as it were).
And that leaves us here on August 1oth, with golf carts loaded down with out-of-towners cruising our local paradise for $18 bucks/hour (their supervisors make $27/hour by the way).
Meanwhile, the locals will be returning their children to school this week. They will return to their Quickbooks and bank statements trying to figure out how to survive until next year.
I realize that I have strayed from my usual topics of technology today. But, this is for an audience of small businesses and entrepreneurs. You embody a spirit that is being broken here in Panama City Beach, Florida and elsewhere along this beautiful coastline. It's a story that needs to be told and passed on.
As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter @oricchio