Guest Commentary: The economics behind the fireworks decision on Marco Island

Fireworks are launched from the Johnson Bros. barge, borrowed from the Jolley Bridge construction work. Marco Island celebrated Independence Day with beach picnics and fireworks at Residents' Beach on July 4th, with happy throngs enjoying perfect weather. Lance Shearer/Special to the Eagle

Photo by LANCE SHEARER // Buy this photo

Fireworks are launched from the Johnson Bros. barge, borrowed from the Jolley Bridge construction work. Marco Island celebrated Independence Day with beach picnics and fireworks at Residents' Beach on July 4th, with happy throngs enjoying perfect weather. Lance Shearer/Special to the Eagle

In order to make prudent decisions, sometimes you have to look beyond today, sometimes beyond tomorrow, and sometimes, outside of your immediate circle of impact. The last of those is often the hardest to do. On a national level, this seems to be a common hindrance to progress. Let’s not make the same mistake on a local level.

We should all be able to agree on this – the Fourth of July is our most significant reason for national celebration and unity. Without the events that led to the Declaration of Independence, none of the other freedoms that we enjoy – religious, political or social – would even be possible. Let’s not diminish the significance of this magnificent celebration, a long-standing and revered tradition, by boiling it down to “fireworks” – like it’s a bad word. In the end, this discussion is not about our patriotism, it is not about whether we believe this day should be celebrated and it is certainly not about “fireworks.” This discussion is about money – who has it, who should spend it and who benefits from it.

It has been suggested that some of the profit generated by the City’s “Farmer’s Market” be used to fund the Fourth of July celebration. The Planning Board, the Chamber of Commerce and MICA (almost always cited as the voice of the people) all agree that this is a reasonable way to fund the annual Fourth of July celebration. Some dismiss this prospect out of hand, saying the businesses should pay for it all. Some have suggested that the $60,000 of profit go toward the city’s $216,000,000 of debt. At that pace we’ll have the City’s debt paid off in 3,600 years.

It has been said that $40,000 for 20 minutes of fireworks is too much. In reality, it is $42,000 for 28 minutes of fireworks – of which the city (i.e., the citizens) was previously contributing $10,000 – making the additional potential expenditure $32,000. But as with most things, there is a price and there is a cost – if you don’t look carefully, it is easy to only see the price. Here is the cost associated with not having fireworks:

n Local businesses count on the Fourth of July surge to get them through lean summer months. As has been noted by so many, we are already in lean economic times, with no definitive end in sight. The loss of revenue that would be created by eliminating fireworks would only exacerbate this problem on the local level.

n Relative to the week before and the week after, depending on the industry segment, loss of fireworks translates to a loss of 20-50 percent for local tourism, restaurants, grocery stores and hotels. If the Fourth of July is on a weekend (a shorter stay for tourists) the loss increases to 35-65 percent.

n This is not about percentages. These percentages translate to jobs. Jobs at a local level that will be lost. Some of those will be lost at local businesses that have to cut staff and, even more unfortunate, some will be lost because local businesses will close.

n Fewer employed people means less local income, less local spending, less local tax generation and fewer local services provided.

Some would have you believe that businesses on this Island are the enemy – that they are only in it for themselves. The obvious contradiction here is that most of our local business owners are residents of the island. Business owners on this Island give and give and give. You would be hard-pressed to find a single non-profit, not-for-profit, civic or religious organization that does not ask for and receive support from local businesses.

Business owners understand the significance that these organizations play in the local community and in the local economy and, as a result, they give, they give continuously and they give happily. This incessant effort to pit the local businesses against the local residents is, at best, a shameless ploy of people who like to “stir the pot” and at worst, a creation of individuals who have no sense of the extent to which business owners are ingrained into the fabric of this community. To say that the businesses are the only ones that benefit from the fireworks, without realizing how all those big, bad profits funnel back through the local community is a pipe dream of the myopic.

By any established definition, calling the city’s enterprise a “Farmer’s Market” is at best, a stretch. Due to the scope of products being sold and the source of those products, the “Farmer’s Market” acts in competition to many of our local businesses. In essence, the city has become a direct competitor of its own constituents. Considering this fact, the idea of using some of the profits from the City’s “Farmer’s Market” to pay for Fourth of July fireworks is not only reasonable, but equitable as well.

Fireworks on the Fourth of July are a time-honored tradition. Fortunately or unfortunately, this time-honored tradition also has a significant impact on the local economy. Those two reasons provide ample cause for City Council to hear the voices of the two organizations that represent the majority of its constituents and to implement the Planning Board’s unanimous resolution to use some of the “Farmer’s Market” profits to fund the Fourth of July celebration.

If they don’t, the next time we have this discussion it may be in front of your favorite restaurant or store – but it may have a “closed” sign in the window.

© 2011 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Stories

Comments » 5

ajm3s writes:


So in your commentary, you exclaim the benefits of the firework display for businesses on the island. Yet, the Chamber of Commerce is not able to generate enough business and private contributions from its members, which you claim is in their self interest.

So I ask, is the business community not that interested in supporting the fireworks display as evidenced in donation shortfalls...., that it needs Farmers Market proceeds?

In my world the Farmers Market is supported by residents by virtue of sales. And the vendors that pay the city to sell wares at the Farmers Market do so because they wish to make some money and see it as a viable venue. So now you want the city to pay for fireworks? How about the city use this money to improve its streets and infrastructure. Hey maybe actually use it to improve Market Center .... Instead of subsidizing a display for tourism and hotel revenue?

Why is it. when private donations miss the mark the city needs to bail them out. Have we had enough misappropriation of public monies? The city has higher priorities and responsibilities that are neglected. Items in which the city is solely responsible to manage, like sidewalks and parks.

And if I have any sense of city property, the fireworks are not even performed on city property and/or managed by the city!

Confused again.

loscabos writes:

Solution: The major businesses in cities through out this nation sponsor the fireworks. The Marriot, Hilton, Publix, Winn-Dixie, Banks, Pharmacies, etc., etc. on this Island have all received Tax relief from this city. They tke in hugh sums of money yearly. The city tells them to give back and sponsor the fireworks and/or tax them to cover the cost. Place their name up somewhere thanking them for their sponsorship. End of problem and end of this whining discussion. Come on city officials,"gird your loins and just do it."

RayPray writes:

Chamber of Commerce is typical rent-seeking bunch seeking to socialize their soft $ ad expenses onto the external community.

When Residents Beach was open, I could view pyrotechnics, but now not possible in any comfortable fashion.

Remember fireworks brought in lots of riff-raff to the island, downscale types smoking & drinking on the beach, who obviously didn't live here.

Let the hotels pay their own marketing expenses.

Profits from the Farmer Market should go into improving market venue and luring in additional vendors.

Seawaller writes:

The Chamber of Commerce needs to take over the fireworks. This is what a Chamber of Commerce is all about. While many enjoy the fireworks, the Chamber benefits the most. They need to provide/recruit volunteers to sell support buttons to the public - in front of grocery and drug stores, at community events, everywhere. I'm sure there are many bar/restaurants who would be glad to host fundraisers. It needs to be a year long project. If they receive no support, then I guess people aren't all that interested in the fireworks after all. No way should taxpayers fund this, and to raid the farmer's market is at best obscene. While many civic organizations could do this, the Chamber is the one organization who actually has this as a pillar of their reason for existence.

condoseller writes:

Perhaps Mr. Grover can provide some facts to support his position:

How many businesses have closed on Marco in the past year?

How many businesses opened?

How many (opened and closed) are or were Chamber members?

How much operating revenue did the Chamber lose last year?

How much money does the City lose in giveaways for non-profits to support their fundraising efforts instead of supporting the fireworks?

Why is this a Planning Board issue?

Can MICA fund fireworks instead of a beach concert?

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.