CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. - Although B.P. has stopped the flow of oil into the gulf, Charlotte County leaders say the problems are definitely not gone. Now a big check coming from B.P. will help fuel a huge advertising effort to show potential visitors that the beaches here are oil free, and are expected to stay that way.
The idea that there's oil here continues to hurt local businesses. “We’ve got a big job ahead of us,” County Visitor’s Bureau Director Becky Bovell said.
But the news that B.P. is sending $21,000 of the $50,000 requested, will make that job a little easier. Interim County Administrator Ray Sandrock says that’s marketing money, and more could be on the way. “What they are basically saying is, show us the data, show us you've expended money, and we'll take that into consideration, and they've lived up to their word,” Sandrock said.
The timing couldn't be better. Money budgeted for ads promoting the county has fallen, ith next year's proposed budget being the smallest at $255,850. :The messaging that's gone out there has been very difficult for us to combat with a limited budget, so any amount of money is going to help,” Bovell said.
Big D's Chicago Eatery in Punta Gorda filed a claim with B.P. back in June. Their beef? Bad publicity over the spill has cut their business in half. “When we first opened, our sales were double what they are now, so I can guarantee it's because of B.P.,” owner Ramona Hall said.
While the county has had some success recouping losses, Hall isn’t holding her breath. “If it comes, it comes,” Hall said. “We could use it because we're a brand new business. I don't expect it, but I'm hoping.”
She is also hoping that the more money the county gets, the more customers she gets. Charlotte County is waiting to hear about an additional claim filed with B.P. for $500,000 which would be used for more advertising.