Breaking Ground: DOT tries different approach for DeSantis toll road
Like the lonely carnival barker trying to get your last bit of change for a ludicrous freak show along a muddy midway, the governor and his staff are offering a sideshow in trying to pitch a toll road few appear to want.
See Mack and Mitch, the two-headed turtle! How about the lion-faced man? Step right up and be amazed!
In its most recent public meeting related to a Southwest Florida expressway, the state Department of Transportation decided to focus on how the massive highway would help expand broadband. In response, nobody was captivated enough by the performance to fling nickels into the metal cups DOT officials were seemingly holding out.
Instead, they once again heard from most participants that the unneeded pavement, possibly following rural State Road 29, would slash through some of the most pristine lands left on the peninsula and prime Florida panther habitat while increasing urban sprawl.
That's similar to previous reaction at multiple online gatherings held to discuss a trio of toll parkways mandated by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Green flagged by the Florida Chamber of Commerce and fueled by the Republican governor, the legislature drove the projects through at the end of its 2019 session. Unlike all or nearly all major transportation endeavors, the idea for these didn't come from planners or engineers.
The southernmost swath would connect the Everglades area and eastern Collier County to metro Orlando. SR 29, for example, borders federal parks like the Big Cypress National Preserve and the Florida Panther Wildlife Refuge.
“This project is bad for our water, wildlife, public health and rural communities," said Lindsay Cross, with Florida Conservation Voters. "Proceeding with the roads-to-ruin project as-is, in a time of unprecedented crisis, is an act of bad government and a waste of taxpayer dollars.”
Backers, like the chamber, say the new system would bring economic growth to local communities.
That concept has drawn mostly criticism from the very same people who live in those affected areas, at least the ones who have spoken so far at these digital gatherings.
Digging out of the Hertz hole
So far, Hertz has been unable to emerge from its bottomless pothole.
And the damage of the company's demise to Southwest Florida's economy could go deep.
Right now, one of its most recent visible strategies is selling off thousands of used rental cars at discount prices to raise money.
That's what it's come to after 102 years in operation for the Estero-based entity, which filed for bankruptcy protection as Hertz Global Holdings Inc. racked up more than $24 billion in debt.
Hobbling Hertz had announced a surprising leadership lane change prior to making its move in court on this bumpy ride that has included the resignation of three CEOs since relocating to Southwest Florida.
New head Paul Stone's path to the organization took him through the aisles of Sam's Club/Walmart, where he started as a store manager and drove up through the ranks, and Cabela's, a leading outdoor and recreational retailer.
Going into 2020, the corporation had about 38,000 employees worldwide, with about 1,100 of them based here in the region.
Under former leader Kathryn Marinello, the enterprise has taken many steps to cut its costs over the past several months, including reducing its capital spending, canceling new fleet orders and shrinking its worker count.
Analysts have said the moves may not be enough to save the business, which has suggested it may not be able to keep its engine running for another year.
Taking a 'pause'
Area experts say that portions of the apartment market in Southwest Florida are on "pause."
The market was extremely hot in the region before the coronavirus crisis, with high-priced sales of complexes and many new projects coming out of the ground, according to reporter Andrew Wigdor.
However, the pandemic has helped bring much of that momentum to a halt, with financing becoming harder and harder to come by.
Storm Smart move
Storm Smart Executive Chairman and Founder Brian Rist recently was awarded $2.6 million in Paycheck Protection Program funds.
However, the founder of a growing Southwest Florida-based business decided that the money could be of more use to businesses that have struggled more throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Storm Smart has actually grown employees and revenue during the outbreak.
More growth and development news
» Collier County leaders move to buy more than 900 acres of ranch land.
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