Mission Accomplished: An Interview with Coastal Vision 3,000’s Buddy Runnels

Over the course of the last 2 months following Coastal Vision 3000’s announcement of its disbanding, numerous articles have been written, many speculative, as to what caused the doors to close. Even more were curious as to the declaration of, “Mission Accomplished,” and what goals of Coastal Vision 3,000 were actually achieved. To answer our questions, we went directly to the source, Mr. Davage “Buddy” Runnels, who served as the chairman of CV3’s board. In his view, the mission was accomplished, but not yet completed.

Coastal Vision 3,000 wanted to do two things above all else; bring a low cost carrier into the area and to brand the region as a whole. One of those goals, blasted on news station everywhere, was clearly accomplished.

“Coastal Vision did play a role in getting (Southwest Airlines) to come here sooner rather than later.” Mr. Runnels said. “I went to a meeting with Southwest September the 7th 2007 with representatives from both Pensacola airport and Panama City airport, and Southwest said that their model was to come to the region in 2017. Unless there is a regional effort, a oneness of purpose and heart to market the region, they would not come until 2017. It was our goal then to market the region, to forget county lines and anything else except the region. That was the ultimate vision of Coastal Vision. From the standpoint of saying mission accomplished we were successful and one of our significant goals is being a part of getting a low cost carrier to locate here. I think we played a key role in that.”

In that regard, the goal of Coastal Vision was accomplished. The vision behind the initiative, however, is still very much in the making. One of CV3’s most convincing arguments in getting that low cost carrier was the promise of branding our region as a whole; bridging the highly competitive gaps between over 30 Chambers of Commerce and 7 TDCs all vying for current and new tourist markets.

“We didn’t try to convince them (Southwest) where to go. We wanted them to come to the region independent of which airport.” Mr. Runnels went on to say, “There is a perception that we took one area over another and that’s just not the truth. It was the nature of the decision more than anything. It became territorial. Once the decision was made (on which airport) it brought pressure to the initiative. We wanted them to come to the region; they decided to come to the new International airport because by their model it was ultimately what was best for them. “ “But the bottom line is that we need to work together as a region; to market the region as a whole.”

The marketing of the region as a whole is where the vision of the initiative can be seen working still, even behind the scenes. It became clear the moment Mr. Runnels spoke about the Southwest effect. CV3 wanted to bring in a low cost carrier in order to bring into fruition its main initiative: branding the region.

“The Southwest effect will open the area to new markets that don’t drive here. To expand the markets, the connection to the low cost carrier provides an additional explosion of growth not only from a tourist standpoint, but from an economic development and a military standpoint as well.

“The Southwest effect will open up to new markets at a price point where people will travel more. Even to other airports that Southwest does not come into, we will see lower ticket prices. I’ve received two email blasts already from Delta that say $59 round trip. Even though I know there is disappointment the Pensacola Airport or the Fort Walton Airport was not selected, and I would be disappointed too, they are going to receive a tremendous benefit. It is going to be much more competitive which does help the convention facility traffic, rooms, economic development and military travel in those areas by competitively lowering prices.”

The vision of CV3 was a promise to brand the region. From Mr. Runnels’ view, that vision is still very much in sight. Southwest’s greatest effect on an area is growth and development, creating expansion in every area in which it settles. The region in which we live, notorious for its competitive spirit and disembodied sense of exclusivity, will have no choice but to expand into each other. By bringing Southwest to our area, its greatest effect will be a organic unification of the region, the very initiative Coastal Vision set out to accomplish.

“The initiative is to accomplish the regional effort with integrity and oneness of purpose and heart to help market the region and help us all succeed rather than fail. Forget county lines, individual cities, chambers and TDCs and anything else but the region. That is the ultimate vision of Coastal Vision.”

With Southwest now in place, it seems as if the goal of marketing the region, a region that Mr. Runnels believes when put together can rival places like Costa Rica with our history, beaches, eco travel, fishing, and accommodations, will happen one way or another. Coastal Vision’s mission was accomplished because it has helped put into place the opportunity for our small parts to become a very attractive whole. But they are not done yet.

“When we said we are disbanding, we were putting it on hold until we had a greater impact on the region. Until the region is further established, we will not keep spending money. I believe at the right time the initiative will be taken off the shelf and reengaged to help the regional effort. I hope the rebirth of Coastal will be such to complete that.

4 thoughts on “Mission Accomplished: An Interview with Coastal Vision 3,000’s Buddy Runnels

  1. A major goal is not yet accomplished and until it is our area will not reach its full potential. Please consider that it is Florida’s Panhandle, not just one small area of it, that is designated as one of Frommer’s Top 12 Destinations of 2010. There are certain truisms in tourism that apply regardless of the location. We must find a way to work together for the benefit of all. The following was posted earlier, but worth repeating here.

    It is well known that there is rivalry among the Counties, Cities, TDCs, Chambers, Developers and others. A certain amount is expected, but not to an unhealthy level. Another tourist area that has 10-12,000,000 visitors annually was experiencing unhealthy rivalry and hired a tourism expert, Roger Brooks with Destination Development, to come to their area and study their area and to give a formal presentation of the study results. I am borrowing from his comments because they often match the situation we face. Just change the city names in the article to our counties’ names.

    At his presentation he said, “if I have a single message of importance to leave the community, it is this: Work together, not separately, and forget about boundaries. It’s a shame that Sevierville, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge don’t work more closely together in the area of tourism. In terms of promotion and marketing, they tend to go their separate ways. As a result, Brooks showed that we are hurting ourselves by sending visitors mixed and confusing messages about who we are, what we have to offer…”

    “We do so many things well. What we don’t do so well, however, is communicate and work together. It’s time to knock down the political, governmental and ego barriers that exist among the three cities that keep the county from having an even greater tourism industry, one that keeps people here longer and attracts those with more money to spend. All three cities need to come together and develop a marketing plan that makes it easier for visitors to find things and enjoy our community. Tourists don’t care where the city limits are.

    “If a rising tide lifts all boats, then everybody will benefit from a better marketing plan…” “Enough with the boundaries. Enough with turf wars. Enough with a mishmash and hodgepodge of information that doesn’t meet the needs of the intended audience.” “Change this dramatic can happen only if leaders, both in and out of government, insist it happen.”
    Roger Brooks has 25 Immutable Rules of Successful Tourism: One of these is: The rule of partnering –
    • Visitors don’t stay within boundaries. Always market the broader package.
    • The more you have to offer, collectively, the further people will travel to visit you.
    • Your branding effort should be developed to include the bigger picture.

    There are truisms in the tourism game that can fit anyplace anywhere. A way to have the Counties, Cities, TDCs, Chambers, and others working together must be found if our area is to reach its full potential. The current highly splintered marketing efforts for our area certainly will not! As an Atlanta resident I know that marketing of NW Florida in no way approaches the quality or level of marketing that we see from competing tourist destinations.

    A way to have the Counties, Cities, TDCs, Chambers, and others working together must be found if our area is to reach its full potential. I welcome suggestions!


  2. Ask about his bankrupt and insolvent LLC’s all over Panama City Beach. There’s a new story. We already heard him blow his horn.


  3. We all know the brand and the name of the airport and Frommer’s has helped reinforce it—NW Florida Panhandle Beaches! That is what we sell of our second home region here in Michigan–not Walton County or Bay County or Fort Walton Beaches or Panama City Beach. What is the mission of the entity with the little orange square “the beach” icon? Who are they? Can they help facilitate a broader marketing effort? Of course, marketing always comes down to funding. Our award winning “Pure Michigan” campaign is facing major cutbacks.


  4. Many of us when we joined CV3000 saw them as the organization that would bring the many splintered organizations together for a truly effective marketing campaign. Even in Atlanta, which is a major tourist market for our area, the only marketing we see for our area is small ads in magazines with low readership. Compare this to the very effective marketing we see from other areas of Florida, Myrtle Beach, the Caribbean, Branson, MO, and other tourist destination. A small ad in a magazine does not compare to repeated TV commercials for these other destinations. The TV commercials create a desire to visit an area that cannot be achieved with small magazine ads.

    If small ads in magazines is all we see in Atlanta how will our area be marketed in the outlying areas we are attempting to reach. It is great that Southwest will be coming to our area, but if we want them to bring new people to our area there must be a way to motivate them to come. To make them aware of all our area has to offer. Our current splintered marketing effort will not do this. Our area has been referred to as a well kept secret. Is this what we want?

    CV3000 gave us hope that finally our whole area would begin working together. Now without CV3000 how will this be done? Any suggestions?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s