Flagler Beach, FL – After a challenging 2020, state and federal legislators are staying even more engaged with their constituents on the local level to gage needs and learn more about specific issues affecting their local communities.
Holding the first quarter Flagler Beach Business Bureau (FB3) meeting at Oceanside Beach Bar & Grill on Wednesday, February 24th, FB3 President John Lulgjuraj welcomed not only representatives from U.S. Senator Rick Scott and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio’s offices but staff from Florida Representative Paul Renner and Florida Senator Travis Hutson’s team to learn more about policy issues critical to the service industry-heavy beach town.
Representatives from state and federal legislators attend the FB3 meeting on Wednesday, February 24, 2021. From left: Gary Holis representing U.S. Senator Rick Scott, Ashley C. representing U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, Amanda Story representing FL Rep. Paul Renner, and Danielle Curbow representing FL Senator Travis Hutson.
Updates from Flagler County attorney Al Hadeed about the $25 million U.S. Army Corps of Engineers beach re-nourishment project signaled a big win for the grassroots GoFundMe campaign led by community leader Carla Cline in conjunction with the ongoing efforts by the county to address the final four property owner holdouts.
“The support of the business community has been huge,” said Hadeed. “We could not be at this point without the business community.”
While tourism was down across the nation in 2020, facts and figures presented by Flagler’s tourism chief Amy Lukasik showed the county’s bed tax collection was off by less than other Florida counties – just 13% in 2020, and with 2021 numbers already looking promising, Scott Fox, co-owner of Tortugas Florida Kitchen & Bar said businesses are ready to roll out the welcome mat for travelers.
Flagler County Tourism Executive Director Amy Lukasik provides an update during the FB3 meeting on February 24, 2021.
“It just further confirms the importance of partnerships and working together because we all are stronger together and we can accomplish so much more. Having Johnny and Scott at the helm of this program is what’s going to help us go to the next level, from a tourism perspective and small business perspective,” said Lukasik.
Advocating for a pro-business agenda Lulgjuraj dove into the heart of the issue for many small business owners not just in Flagler Beach, but across America – building loyalty among staff by adding quality benefits to what small business employers can offer those seeking stable, long-term employment.
“The goal today was to start the conversation, to get the creative juices flowing for the number one problem that businesses have – it’s attracting and keeping loyal employees,” he said, rallying small business owners.
“We need to find a way to be able to offer quality benefits. A lot of the stuff that we have available to us that’s affordable as businesses, is not really attractive. You ask any business owner what we need, and it’s that quality workforce that is going to be loyal to you and stop this transient style labor pool that we’re all used to.”
Tortugas Florida Kitchen & Bar co-owner Scott Fox, Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association representative Nicole Chapman and Oceanside Beach Bar & Grill owner John Lulgjuraj work on policy issues while updating Flagler Beach business owners during the FB3 meeting on February 24, 2021.
Lulgjuraj says that by creating longevity, it’s also creating fulfillment that employees truly need.
“They should feel secure. You can’t just pay them good. You have to offer more. We’re fortunate we have a great staff but moving forward, I want to do more for them and I’m trying to find a way to do it,” he said. “I think all of us business owners feel the same way – we want to take care of our people, now let’s have the conversation on how we can do that.”
Supported by the powerful Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Lulgjuraj is advocating for policy changes, something Nicole Chapman, Director of the Northeast & Florida Inn Chapter is helping facilitate among other issues.
“I joined the group today to talk about the impact of the upcoming minimum wage increase on small businesses so they can be prepared for those,” said Chapman. “And also listen to Johnny’s ideas on healthcare and the different needs in the industry.
“Everyone is equally affected. COVID and unemployment definitely took a toll on our industry so I know all these restaurants are eager to bring their employees back, welcome them back and give them some great jobs. Obviously you’re in hospitality because you love service and what you do.”