Representatives from area chambers of commerce and visitors bureaus gathered at the Sarasota Tiger Bay Club May 7 to discuss how to stimulate the local economy.
Fielding questions were Steve Queior, president of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce; Virginia Haley, president of the Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau; John Ryan, president of the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce; and Beth Mayberry, member of the North Port Area Chamber of Commerce.
Guest moderator C.J. Fishman, of Fishman and Associates, asked the panel how to diversify the county’s economy.
Queior said one of the best ways would be to create more meeting space, such as a conference center.
“(Conference center) guests spend $176 a day,” he said. “But the business travelers come back and stay longer and spend more money.”
Haley and Mayberry both said more higher-education choices would help.
“The university system is a tremendous driver of the economy and tourism,” said Haley.
Ryan agreed that young people are the key.
“If we can’t keep youth here, we have no future,” he said.