The Unsurprising Connection Between Florida’s Environment and its Economic Success | Opportunity For All Floridians

The Unsurprising Connection Between Florida’s Environment and its Economic Success

The Value of The Environment to Florida’s Economic Success

The name “Florida” is recognizable around the world, largely thanks to its status as a tourist and vacation destination. To put it in concrete terms, the Florida vacation brand is worth a staggering $106,000,000,000, according to VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s official tourism marketing corporation. This puts it in league with major global brands like Marriott, Walmart, and Tesla.

So, what does this mean for Florida residents? Well, tourism stands as one of the state’s most significant economic drivers. In 2021, it supported one out of every seven private sector jobs in Florida, spanning industries from food service to hotel accommodations to retail, transportation, and arts and entertainment. A substantial chunk of this tourism sector revolves around enjoying natural attractions, including the stunning beaches, boat tours, and tropical getaways that attract millions of visitors year after year. In 2021, Florida hosted a whopping 122 million visitors, contributing significantly to the state’s economy with an impressive $96 billion in tourist spending during 2019.

Economic success in Florida is tied to Florida's tourism industry
Vacation in Florida is a worldwide brand — deeply tied to our state's economic success. Credit: Adobe Stock

Here’s the catch: the foundation of this multi-billion dollar economic engine is a healthy environment. The thriving environment, with its rich ecosystems and diverse wildlife, underpins Florida’s breathtaking coastlines, making it an ideal vacation and tourist destination. This is precisely why Opportunity For All Floridians advocates for strong environmental protections with our state leaders. Investing in the preservation of Florida’s natural beauty isn’t just about the environment; it’s an investment in a stronger economy, better-paying jobs, and a more robust economic future for Florida’s families.

Food Tourism

A prime example of the connection between a healthy environment and a prosperous economy can be seen in Florida’s food scene. Florida has experienced substantial growth in food tourism, which is a part of the larger tourism and hospitality industry with fine dining establishments in the state gaining acclaim for their culinary excellence. Notably, renowned chefs such as Emeril Lagasse, Norman Van Aken, and Michelle Bernstein, have been instrumental in enhancing Florida’s gastronomic reputation. They are part of a growing movement of chefs who prioritize using local, natural, and organic ingredients, promoting a sustainable way to cook in Florida.

From Perdido Key to Key West, Florida offers memorable dining experiences – 15 chefs and restaurants were named James Beard semifinalists in 2022. The economic impact of tourist spending in the food and drink sector was more than $22.2 billion in 2019.

The value of agriculture

Florida’s thriving food scene is only possible because of the state’s agricultural riches. More than 47,500 commercial farms in Florida produce a wide variety of ingredients like strawberries, oranges, sweet corn, and bell peppers. In 2020, Florida’s agricultural sales added up to over $7.4 billion. Clean air, water, healthy soil, and plenty of sunshine are essential for this massive industry, which stands as one of the key pillars of Florida’s overall economy. The growing number of chefs and restaurant owners who champion eco-friendly practices contributes to a lively culinary landscape and promotes the preservation of the state’s natural resources.

The value of fishing

One of those natural resources come from the seas off Florida’s 8,436-mile long coast. Florida is known as “the Fishing Capital of the World,” a reputation that comes from both Florida’s recreational and commercial anglers. There are more than 4 million licensed anglers in Florida, and the economic impact of this industry is huge. The combined economic impact of saltwater and freshwater fishing in florida was $13.8 billion in 2020, supporting over 120,000 jobs. There were $197 million in commercial food fish sales in 2020, supporting a huge demand in Florida for wild-caught seafood, plus an even larger sale from commercial fisheries.

Florida’s biggest seafood species are shrimp ($63M), our world-famous crab ($52M), lobster ($42M), grouper ($25M), and red snapper ($24M).

Stone crab claws with lemon butter and mustard in one of Miami Beach's world-famous stone crab restaurants. Stone crab is a huge economic driver and part of Florida's economic success. Credit: Adobe
A shoal of snapper are sheltering under the underside of a shallow coral outcrop in the Florida keys. Their brilliant shiny yellow make them stand out against the background. Credit: Adobe Stock.
Florida’s reef ecosystem hosts hundreds of fish species and other marine life, including shrimp, crabs, sharks, and lobsters. Many reef fish rely upon multiple habitats for shelter and food during their life cycles, including Florida’s coral reef, seagrass beds and mangroves. Popular seafood species like snapper, grouper, hogfish and lobster spend their early life within these near-shore habitats, where they can feed, grow, and then move offshore to the coral reefs. In some parts of Florida, recreational fishing outpaces commercial fishing, underpinning another part of Florida’s tourist and recreational economy. This is why scientists were so alarmed when skyrocketing temperatures on land and at sea showed Florida’s coral reef in peril, leading some scientists to sound the alarm.

What does the environment have to do with this multibillion dollar industry? Everything. Responsible fishing is inherently a sustainable industry, with regulations in place to ensure overfishing doesn’t occur, and that endangered species are protected and able to rebound. And some of the most popular species that Florida’s anglers catch and sell rely on the unique reef ecosystem that nourishes species from a young age. 

Sustainability in energy practices

It’s no secret that climate change is making possible these record-breaking temperatures on land and offshore in Florida’s waters. Environmental advocates have been urging a transition away from atmosphere-warming fossil fuels like coal, and natural gas for decades. We have reached a point where transitioning to clean energy is not just an environmental need but a crucial economic and social one.

In the past, leaders in the fossil fuel industry argued that dirty fuels like coal and natural gas were cheaper and, therefore, the best choice. However, the financial situation has changed. Clean energy sources like solar and wind power have become more affordable than energy produced from fossil fuels. This shift in pricing is significant, especially because Florida relies heavily on natural gas for making electricity (a whopping 75%), while only 4% comes from solar power. About one-third of the cost of electricity in Florida comes from fuel costs, and the prices of these fuels have tripled since 2020.

Over 75% of Florida's electricity comes from natural gas, which has extremely volatile prices. About a third of every electric bill comes from fuel costs, and fuel prices have tripled since 2020. Giving hardworking Floridians the tools to lower their costs through more sustainable energy options will enable us to have better opportunities for economic success.

By adopting cleaner energy options, Florida can not only protect its environment but also make sure that clean and affordable energy is available to everyone. This would ease the financial stress on Floridians who have been hit hard by soaring energy costs. For instance, in just one year, the average customer of TECO saw their yearly electricity expenses go up by $492. Moving toward cleaner, more dependable, and affordable energy sources, like solar power, is a critical step toward a brighter future for all Floridians.

How Can Florida Support our Economy by Protecting our Environment?

The good news is that leaders across the political spectrum in Tallahassee express strong support for safeguarding Florida’s natural environment. Regrettably, this vocal support doesn’t consistently lead to the creation of laws that ensure the protection of Florida’s environment, the well-being of our agricultural and fishing industries, the strength of our tourism sector, or the access to affordable and dependable clean energy for our residents’ daily lives.

Here’s where you can help. 

Get involved by signing up for action alerts. We send these alerts to keep you informed about bills and policies that can affect Florida’s environment. You can receive these alerts through email or text, and they come with simple action steps you can take.

Your phone is a powerful tool — for capturing Florida's beauty — and for advocating to protect Florida's environment and our continued economic success. Credit: Adobe stock

A lot of these alerts focus on opposing preemption bills, which are attempts to limit what local governments can do. Many local governments are leading the way in protecting their natural areas, but these state-level preemptions can harm the environment in favor of saving money for big industries. In reality, it’s the other way around: protecting our environment actually helps our economy grow.

Certain action alerts aim to safeguard consumers and promote the growth of clean energy, allowing everyday Floridians to save on expenses by purchasing more efficient appliances or by harnessing solar power to lower their electricity bills.

Additionally, please take a look at our environmental scorecard. It’s a useful tool that informs you about which legislators are strong advocates for the environment and which ones are not measuring up. We evaluate each legislator based on their voting decisions on bills impacting Florida’s environment.

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