Saturday, February 24, 2007

Invasion of the Giant Squids

On Feb. 14, 2007, National Geographic News released video of a giant squid off southeastern Japan in the North Pacific Ocean. It's the first time a giant squid has been filmed in the wild.

More than a week later on Feb. 22, 2007, the same agency reported probably the largest known colossal squid (not to be confused with a giant squid) was caught in the Antarctic's Ross Sea. This beast weighed in at 990 pounds (450 kilograms)! Unfortunately, like the giant squid which was caught in December 2006, the beast has been killed and preserved for research.

When visiting the National Geographic News site, you can see the images of the colossal squid and a diagram showing how big a colossal squid can get. It's compared against a 40 foot (12 meters) school bus and it can grow to 43 feet (13 meters) while a giant squid can grow to 33 feet (10 meters).

Now that's a lot of calamari!

Cool Site of the Week: Space Love

Meet Loretta and George Whitesides. Their love story is like so many others: they meet; almost three years later Loretta asks George on a date; three years later George proposes (Loretta says "yes") and they marry in 2006. SpaceLove.org is launched this year to share their journey to a weightless honeymoon aboard Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Spaceline (www.virgingalactic.com).

The couple are Virgin Galactic Founders, meaning they will be the first 100 passengers to fly into space and will be the first couple to honeymoon in space. The flight will take place sometime beyond 2008 and will include several minutes of weightlessness, a dip into the darkness of space and see the curvature of Earth.

Check out their site and keep up with their journey.

Best U.S. Cities for Jobs: I Was Surprised

Forbes.com recently released "The 25 Best U.S. Cities for Jobs." Raleigh-Cary, NC topped the list and usual suspects such as Salt Lake City was included (it really is a great city). I was surprised to see the Sarasota-Bradenton-Venice, Fla. region at number 11. What???

Things must have changed in the year-and-a-half since I've left. Tourism growth was stated as the reason. I also think Sarasota's Economic Development has been successful in growing businesses who need qualified employees to fill those spots. But, I can see that affordable housing is still an issue. If a company wants to recruit and maintain excellent staff, the salary needs to be compatible with the cost of living.

Has Sarasota finally addressed the affordable housing issue? When I was down last weekend, I noticed TONS of "for sale" signs on houses, some with "foreclosure." I knew the bubble would burst, I just couldn't sit around long enough to see it happen.

Speaking of tourism, I understand there's discussion within our great state's House of Representatives to increase sales tax by up to 2.5%, from 6% to 8.% (then add county and local tax on top of that) in order to reduce property tax. This would make Florida's sales tax the highest in the country.

I believe it was a State Rep who said along with resident spending, tourist spending would make up the difference from lost revenue of property tax. In essence, the residents will pay less in property taxes as long as tourists are spending money in the state.

This is a good theory, somewhat. We're lucky here in the Sunshine State not having state income tax because over 84 million visitors (84.6 visitors in 2006 to be exact, according to VISIT FLORIDA) come play and spend with us. But, with a state tourism budget smaller than that of the city of Las Vegas, how can Florida continue to compete and attract visitors?

If money isn't spent to bring visitors, then who's going to be spending money and generating revenue from sales tax? And, is it reasonable to expect out-of-towners to pay for our infrastructure? I realize while they visit they do use our services, but where do you draw the line?

Like any business, making more money requires an investment. While we think tourism is fun and games, it's serious business. Florida's tourism generates substantial revenue and economic stability for its residents. I hope the Republican-run House has the common sense to thoroughly think this through.