By DANA SCHROEDER
CEO, SCC Chamber
Last week, a group of us drove over to the new movie theater with the relaxed, weekend-is-starting expectation of having a nice dinner at the Features Gastropub and watching a movie. We were looking forward to chilling out and starting some time off. After a fantastically busy season taking care of Snowbirds, we have earned a little down time as the summer doldrums kick in.
But as we got closer to the Goodrich Riverview 14 GDX, we noticed something was amiss. The parking lot was overflowing with cars. It looked like the infield at Daytona International Speedway.
All the tables were full. Thank goodness there was room at the bar. I checked my watch – it was 6, the movie started at 6:50 p.m. I looked at the calendar function on my phone — it was July 15. All season I had waited for the Snowbirds to amble back on up North so I could have the place to myself. But this place was packed and not just with kids off for the summer. It was date night for the young and old alike.
Things are changing here in South County. More folks are moving in south of the Alafia River and they aren’t snowbirds. This new growth isn’t just visible at the new movie theaters either.
There are long lines at the Walmart checkout and constant traffic on S.R. 674. The post office still has its winding wait and the pool is full of sunbathers on Sunday afternoon.
This is the time of year when most businesses go into their off-season mode. Some cut staff hours, others stock less inventory. They try to reduce their overhead as much as possible until fall, when the customer count begins to climb back up to a profitable level. That dynamic will be changing very quickly now.
In the past two weeks, I have interviewed Katharine Eagan, CEO of the Hillsborough Area Rapid Transit and Ed McKinney from Florida Department of Transportation for my radio show. You can hear those shows this Thursday and next at 11 a.m. on Sun Radio 96.3 FM. We discussed transportation issues facing us in this area and what we can expect over the next three years. It’s eye-opening to say the least.
Friends and fellow businesspersons in the area who usually come by the chamber or are eager to meet for a drink after work are now too busy to return a phone call. I’m not complaining, mind you. This is a wonderful indicator the economy here is getting stronger and our year-round residents are patronizing local businesses.
When a Realtor is too busy with a closing to make a networking function, that’s good news. When the roofing company had to postpone starting work on the chamber’s roof replacement for a month, that’s good news, too. (Not for the chamber, but that’s another story.)
So next week I’ll venture out a little earlier, prepare mentally to sit at the bar for a while before getting a table and think positively about all the commerce that is going on in what is usually the slowest time of the year.