I try not to be a difficult person and sometimes I succeed. A lot of times I don’t. Getting older does have one advantage: You can speak your mind more often without worrying what the consequences are going to be. Maybe angering your boss, your wife’s family, that kind of thing. There have been dealings in Volusia County in the business and arts communities over the years that I have just shut my mouth about and kept my opinions to myself because as a businessman, I did not want to piss anyone off.
I don’t really care about that now so I am going to have an opinion. We spoke last time about the summer debacle with the college and the American Music Festival that cost Dr. Kent Sharples his job as president of Daytona State College.
Who would have “thunk” six months ago that Sharples would be out of a job because he allowed the college to become involved financially with the Festival. Sharples was culpable but there were variables. Sharples believed in the importance the arts has to a college and recognized what prominence Mike Curb would bring to the community.
Unfortunately, Daytona Beach citizens had no idea who Mike Curb is or what he could bring to the table by having his name plastered all over a Performing Arts building on International Speedway Boulevard. Curb pledged $1 million to that effort.
With Curb's help and reputation, the college would have enlarged the News-Journal Center on Beach Street in Daytona Beach to accommodate up to 800 new students in a professional music recording curriculum. Do you have any idea what the success of a venture like that could have brought to the re-development of downtown Daytona Beach?
Sharples assumed that Manuel Bornia, CEO of the American Music Festival, was not talking through his butt with hype about the potential success of the concerts. Keep this in mind: Bornia had the City Commission in his pocket with its pledge of support. Sharples felt comfortable and made the mistake in extending the required money needed for deposits of the acts that were coming to the festival.
Another mistake: Shaples didn’t cover his butt by asking permission from his Board of Directors. Imagine the best salesman you have every known in your life. Imagine the best “presenter” you have ever known. Imagine the best bull(expletive) you have every known in your life. Double it and you have Manuel Bornia.
I personally am a very good presenter and salesman and if you give me enough time I will sell you something. But next to Bornia, I am an amateur.
Just a few weeks ago we had Manny Bornia in bed with County commissioner Josh Wagner and partners to take over the Daytona Beach Pier and turn it into an entertainment venue. The city finally got smart, learning its lesson from the American Music Festival mess and asked for a lot of money up front in deposits to prove responsibility. Wagner didn’t come up with the money so the city said no thanks. It only took $1.5 million or so for our city leaders to learn that lesson.
The city is really trying to bring new business to the community and I am in complete agreement with the plans. I had the pleasure of going to International Speedway for some of the Rolex 24 race. It doesn’t take a Ph.d in business to observe that our area is “Speed” and every possible related industry to it. Speed has been apart of the Volusia profile for decades.
It would seem logical to build a business base around every industry, retail, manufacture, inventor, engineering, fabricator or whatever on that one concept. Billions of dollars are in that industry and Daytona Beach and outlining communities could be a major player in the game.
We have the reputation so why not take advantage of it. The city does not need to be re-branded, just effectively marketed and advertised.
However, not by the array of silver tongued devils that we have had pass through our communities over the years but by companies with reputation, credentials and proven track record of successes. Volusia County is beginning to dig itself out of the muck. We have fine universities and colleges - excellent health-care providers – entertainment and arts series that will compare to any community of our size – print and Internet media communication that is equivalent to anything in the state of Florida.
We just need to keep those that speak for us in check and make sure that they speak to the will of the people and not for their own pleasure and self promotion. What we have been is now history. What we can be is the future.