Oil Spill Update
An update, one year later
One Year Later: Perspectives on the Spill
Maria's Seafood, Pensacola
At Maria's Seafood shop, general manager Ray Boyer recalls the summer of 2010: "Confidence in seafood was at a low, tourism was at a major low and people in the rest of the country, due to CNN and other media reports, thought we all had oil dripping from our nose. We count on summer and expect a surplus, so we lost that last year — which was supposed to be our rebound year after the hurricanes. We were on our feet, we were ready and then the oil spill came along.'' This year? "I wouldn't say we're completely back, but we're working on it. The fish are healthy, restaurants are real busy and beaches are thriving.''
Multiple businesses, Seaside and Panama City Beach
Laurie Olshefski, who has 19 years in retailing, won a 2011 retailer of the year award from the Florida Retail Federation. She owns four coastal retail stores catering to tourists, two at Pier Park at Panama City Beach and two at Seaside; two are jewelry stores and two focus on healthy lifestyles. "It was a very tough year last year; people weren't buying. Our business was down an average of 30% for those summer months, the months that usually carried you through the year.'' She canceled orders from suppliers, hired fewer seasonal employees, and filed a claim with the BP claims office, which offered a partial settlement earlier this summer. "I don't have another year to fight claims,'' she says.
Chief marketing officer for Visit Florida
"Northwest Florida bore the brunt of the environmental impact, but all of Florida shared the economic impact. I'm concerned about misperception.''
Ecco Motors, Miramar Beach
Scott Lightsey owns Ecco Motors, a recreational vehicle rental and sales business. Just before the spill, he and a partner had invested more than a half-million dollars in 70 units of low-speed electrical street vehicles. By June 1 last year, a lack of business prompted them to liquidate a large portion of that inventory, wiping out an anticipated $800,000 in rental income, Lightsey says. Poor cash flow also forced a reduction in golf cart inventory from 45 to 10. "Now I have people here to buy and I don't have the resources to sell,'' says Lightsey. "If BP doesn't come through, it will have set me back five years in business.'' At midsummer this year, he'd still had no response to the claim he filed.
Charter boat captain, Panama City
Bob Zales, a charter boat captain and president of the Panama City Boatmen Association, says the impact for their businesses was disastrous. "All customers who had reservations for boat trips canceled. Sometimes they might come back, sometimes not.''
Today, "fishing is as good as it's ever been,'' he says. "The question mark is the future. Fish repopulate every year; we're not going to know how the 2010 class will be for three to five years.'' So has Florida recovered? "Ask me again in five years,'' says Zales. "There's still a lot of oil that's unaccounted for.''
Escambia County commissioner
"We're not fully recovered. There are legitimate claims that aren't going to be paid. BP payments don't make up for a lost year. There were job losses and businesses lost.'' His own business fell casualty too: After 34 years of independence, he merged Grover Robinson & Associates Realty with Coldwell Banker.