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Irma is long gone but her visit may cost Florida for years to come


Date: October 09, 2017
Source: Tallahassee Democrat
Author:  James Call


Irma will impact the state budget.

Legislative and business leaders are trying to figure just how much after the storm knee-capped agriculture and tourism— two vital legs of Florida's economy.

Six business leaders Monday briefed the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee on Hurricane Irma’s impact on the Florida economy.

Lawmakers are in Tallahassee for the first week of presession committee meetings. Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, chairs Commerce and said lawmakers need to know how much damage Irma did.

“When any event has an impact on the whole state of Florida like Irma did financially,” Montford explained when talking about the panel he assembled. “We have to have a full understanding so that the Legislature can stand with local governments, businesses, and citizens on the road to recovery.”

Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in all 67 counties as Irma approached Florida. She came ashore Sept. 10 in the Keys and followed I-75 into Georgia the next day. While inFlorida, Irmashredded $2.6 billion worth of crops and resorts, homeowners and communities are still calculating other damages – Florida’s congressional delegation is asking Washington for $27 billion in hurricane assistance.

“Hurricanes are always bad news – there will be a dip in revenue for the state,” Mark Wilson of the Florida Chamber told lawmakers. “No matter what the tax receipts are not going to pay for the cleanup of the storm.”

Wilson said weather events can chill an economy. Natural disasters can make people second-guess vacation destinations and business relocation decisions. A storm the size of Irma can also freeze investment and capital venture projects.

In the short term, according to business leaders, Floridaface a shortage of skilled labor, carpenters, plumbers, and so on and capital to rebuild.It is unclear what Irma's economic consequences will be in the long term.

Wilson wants the Legislature to help send a clear message to the world.

“Our theme parks, airports, seaports, and spaceports are all open,” said Wilson. “We executed the largest evacuation in history – even the Weather Channel gave us kudos. And now, All of Florida is open for business. We are good to go.”