Tax Free Weekend is This Weekend

This is a great weekend to shop for school supplies with the state-mandated tax free weekend.

School related items can be purchased tax free this weekend, August 12 – 14.

Some of the items that are eligible for purchase tax free this weekend include:

  • Clothes
  • Backpacks
  • School supplies
  • Shoes

Single items $75 or more are not eligible for tax free purchase.

A more complete list of items that are eligible for tax free purchase this weekend can be found here.

That’s it!  Get out and shop this weekend!

2011 Visitor Interest in Panama City Beach Grows over 2010

Whatever complexities involved in the comprehensive marketing plan the TDC has in effect, it’s working.

Visitor inquiry, visitation and general interest is up this year over last, and the activity in Panama City Beach reflects it.

Following this article, we’ll discuss the bed tax revenue, and take a good look at the actual numbers behind this year’s growth, but for now, we’re going to take a look at some stats on interest as it related to visitation, inquiries and Likes.

Total Website visitation

The Panama City Beach Convention and Visitor’s Bureau made the tough decision a couple short years ago to abandon their previous web host and seek a new one, along with a fresh new look.  They rebuilt the website with the help of Jennifer Barbie Inc, and enacted a whole new marketing plan that was charged with revitalizing PCB’s image. Two years later, traffic to the website has grown tremendously and the area’s branding has burned the image of our sugar white sands and emerald green waters into the minds of millions, literally.

Traffic to the website in 2011

  • July – 184,148 (15% increase)
  • June – 174,726 (22% decrease)
  • May – 142,845 (17% increase)
  • April – 123,976 (26% increase)
  • March – 179,553 (53% increase)

Traffic to the website in 2010

  • July – 159,567
  • June – 225,557 (oil spill spike)
  • May – 122,440
  • April – 98,342
  • March – 117,039
Website visitation top states

July

  1. Florida
  2. Georgia
  3. Alabama
  4. Tennessee
  5. Texas
  6. Kentucky

June

  1. Georgia
  2. Florida
  3. Alabama
  4. Tennessee
  5. Texas
  6. Kentucky

May

  1. Georgia
  2. Florida
  3. Alabama
  4. Tennessee
  5. Texas
  6. Kentucky

April

  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Alabama
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Illinois

March

  1. Florida
  2. Georgia
  3. Alabama
  4. Tennessee
  5. Texas
  6. Illinois
Facebook page keeps growing, and growing, and growing

One of the things that’s been really unique in the Panama City Beach marketing plan has been the growth of the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau’s Facebook Page, VisitPanamaCityBeach.  Every since the beginning, it’s been growing leaps and bounds, like a snowball, and has never ceased.

They have set records, garnered the attention of Facebook corporate and have been an example of what to do in a successful campaign over and over again.  Currently they are at 219,753 Likes.

Here is a breakdown of their growth over the last year. The number shown indicated the total number of Likes at that point in time.

2011

  • July – 218,159 (136% increase)
  • June – 211,355 (157% increase)
  • May – 203,721 (181% increase)
  • April – 195,380 (187% increase)
  • March – 188,066 (202% increase)

2010

  • July – 92,336
  • June – 82,213
  • May – 72,582
  • April – 67,968
  • March – 62,250
Visitors Services Inquiries

Each day, the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitor’s Bureau fields inquiries via phone, email, walk-ins, physical letters and faxes.  Inquires consist of info for making vacation plans, information on group travel, general tourist information, etc.

Here is a breakdown of the inquiries over the last 5 months in the top six states. Numbers are approximate based on the report we received.

July

  • Georgia – 800
  • Alabama – 600
  • Tennessee – 550
  • Florida – 450
  • Texas – 425
  • Kentucky – 350

June

  • Georgia – 1300
  • Tennessee – 950
  • Alabama – 750
  • Texas – 650
  • Kentucky – 550
  • Indiana – 425

May

  • Michigan – 3400
  • Illinois – 2500
  • Wisconsin – 1800
  • Indiana – 1700
  • Ohio – 1600
  • Georgia – 1500

April

  • Tennessee – 2900
  • Georgia – 1100
  • Alabama – 700
  • Texas – 600
  • Florida – 600
  • Illinois – 500

March

  • Georgia – 1100
  • Tennessee – 900
  • Alabama – 650
  • Florida – 625
  • Texas – 600
  • Kentucky – 550

 

International Real Estate Summit Coming to Panama City Beach

Organizers Lewis (Bud) and Hope Abbott have been hard at work putting together a large real estate summit in Panama City Beach that will draw attendees from all over the world.

Vision

From the website

“The vision of the “World Summit” is not to recreate your typical atmosphere of the International Real Estate trade shows, but to promote true unity and collaboration in and around the globe to create business.  The message will be clear, that there is a new and better way of doing business on a global scale.  You will be taught international business strategies by industry specialists that are working smarter and are proven leaders in their respected countries around the world.”

Date of the event and schedule

The event is from October 20 – 22, 2011 and will be held at the Boardwalk Beach Resort’s Conference facilities.

Pre-registration is on the afternoon of the 19th with the summit beginning at 9 am the following morning. Sessions will go through 5 pm.

For a full list of the schedule, visit their website.

Speakers

The International Real Estate World Summit is drawing speakers from Germany, Canada, Dubai, England, Asia, and of course, the USA.

Some of the topics that will be presented on are:

  • International Real Estate Trends
  • Mexico, the Growing Retirement Market
  • Immigration-Based Investment
  • How to Breakthrough with the Asia Investors
  • Marketing to Canada

For more information on the summit, visit their website.

 

Thunder Beach Asks TDC for $100k, Walk out with $40k

Amongst other things, this morning’s TDC meeting included some spirited discussion on the viability of a Fall Motorcycle Rally.  The spring rally, according to organizers, gets better every year.  But the growth of the Fall rally has been stunted because of the date of the event.

Last year, Thunder Beach organizers were vying for the Columbus Day weekend to hold their fall event.  This is a weekend, that historically, included family-related events such as the Panama City Beach Seafood Wine and Music Festival.  The TDC did not support the date change, thus it didn’t happen.

This is the argument for Columbus Day Weekend

Here are the dates of the large Fall motorcycle rallys:

Joe Biggs, the Thunder Beach organizer argues that currently, where Thunder Beach falls in the schedule, it heavily competes with other events for vendors.  This is, in my opinion a very valid point as there is a clear gap, that if the Panama City Beach event could be moved back just one week, vendors could travel from Reno, to Las Vegas, to Panama City Beach, to Daytona.  They are coming down here anyway.

Biggs said that if the fall event can’t be moved, it’s still not going away, but if it could be moved to Columbus Day weekend, it could be as big, if not larger, than the spring rally.

The argument against Columbus Day weekend

“Columbus Day weekend has always been that last shot for families to come down to the beach, and we all know that families and bikers don’t mix,” said board member Gary Walsingham.

“We’ve all tried to get families down here in the fall and we’ve never been able to get it to work,” retorted past board chair Marty McDaniel and owner of Oaseas Resorts, “but we have an obligation to grow business in the fall and this is the best way to do it.”

Oaseas Resorts is the onsite property management company for Shores of Panama, a large venue sponsor for Thunder Beach.

Came for $100k, left with $40k

McDaniel made a motion to grant $100k to Thunder Beach to help promote the fall event, an amount never before given to an event as sponsorship dollars.  The motion was seconded by member Ken Nelson, but was voted no by everyone except McDaniel, Patronis, and Nelson.

Board member Andy Phillips followed that failing vote with a motion to grant Thunder Beach $40,000 to be used towards marketing.  This vote went through with all voting in agreement with the exception of Mayor Oberst.

My opinion, take it for what it’s worth

I have had a rocky history with Thunder Beach.  But, I’ve always recognized it for bringing people to our beach and generating tourist dollars during the shoulder season.  I’ve always recognized it as very successful, while still maintaining a constant level of annoyance with the traffic, noise and sometimes rude behavior.

With that said, I think a move to Columbus Day weekend would be great for the event AND the area.  Even with the Panama City Beach Seafood Wine and Music Festival, I still don’t think that weekend has ever been a large draw for out of town visitors.

I could be wrong.  Please prove me wrong if I am as I’m going off of personal experience and not a stack of reports.

But, if we have a chance to elevate this event to bring in more people, which I strongly feel that we do in this case, I say we do it.  Although Biggs has made no comment to this effect, if he was to move the fall event elsewhere, or the whole event elsewhere, businesses would definitely miss Thunder Beach.  Putting ourselves in a situation where we could lose a fantastic event that draws thousands (even if no one can agree to the real number) of out of towners is a mistake.

What are your thoughts?  I know historically, our readers have had a love/hate relationship with Thunder Beach.  What do you think, should it be moved?

Airport Passes 1 Millionth Passenger, Names new Chairman

The old mantra, “If you build it, they will come,” certainly seems true with the new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport.  Despite opposition, the new location seems to be meeting expectations.  With a new parking facility under construction and monthly passenger traffic up almost three times what is was in the old airport, it’s safe to say the new facility is getting it’s use.

The Airport Authority recently named Andy McKenzie the new chairman of the board, in replacement of Gerry Clemons.  Clemons retired his position due to term limits.

A lifelong resident of Panama City, Mr. McKenzie has been a member of the Airport Authority since 2005. Mr. McKenzie is CEO and founder of McKenzie Insurance Associates, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, and previously served as chief investigator for the Bay County Sheriff’s Department.

“I am honored to serve as chairman of the Airport Authority and look forward to continuing the success that the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport has experienced in its first year of operation,” said McKenzie.

One of these successes was the Airport’s milestone of serving one million passengers, which it reached in July.

“Serving one million passengers is a tremendous achievement,” said McKenzie. “I know the Airport’s outstanding leadership and staff will drive this momentum even further as they continue to provide the highest quality service to passengers.”

The Airport Authority also voted John E. Pilcher, III as its vice-chair. Inducted to the Airport Authority in 2010, Mr. Pilcher owns Pilcher Storage and has served on the Panama City Commission.

Powell Adams Walmart is Official

In a meeting this morning with Mel Leonard, the Planning Director for Panama City Beach, it was confirmed that a new Walmart coming is official.  The location will be at the corner of Powell Adams Road and Panama City Beach Parkway (Back Beach Road) and the store size will be 156,000 square feet, roughly 70% the size of the existing Panama City Beach Walmart Supercenter.

At this point, the type of store this will be is just speculation.  Although it has been said that this will be a higher-end store that would better compete with Target than the current Super Center.

Recently a new Walmart store was opened on the west end of South Walton County.  I personally suspect the new Panama City Beach store would be similar to this one.

Improvements to Powell Adams Road

In order to get approval for construction of a new place of business this size, an extensive traffic study had to be completed.  As a result of the traffic study, Walmart is required to pay for the infrastructure improvements that are needed in order for this area to handle the increased load that will come.

Improvements include:

  • Powell Adams Road widened to 4 lanes with center turn lane (5 lanes total)
  • Widening to be taken 1700 feet down Powell Adams from PCB Pkwy
  • PCB Pkwy and Powell Adams Road intersection to be signalized
  • Three PCB Pkwy entrance points into plaza
CRA-grade improvements to Powell Adams

The part where Panama City Beach (and us as residents) come out on top is that Walmart has agreed to “over-improve” Powell Adams Road to the same standard as R Jackson Blvd and Churchwell Road.

Improvements  that come with this “over-improvement” include:

  • Sidewalks
  • Curbs
  • Underground utilities (a huge added bonus)
  • Landscaping
  • Street lights

The requirement for construction doesn’t include many of these aesthetic improvements, but the city has agreed to reimburse Walmart up to $790k for adding those improvements in their infrastructure construction.

The CRA would have done this eventually, and will finish off Powell Adams Road on down the road, but for now, we’ll get an upgraded roadway for a fraction of the cost it would normally be.

Development timeline

At this point, a concrete start date on construction has not been set, but officials are optimistic (and on target for) a construction start date of spring of 2012 with a projected open date of spring 2013.

Keep the comments coming, they’re read

Past articles on this subject have resulted in a very lively discussion.  I can assure you that our local officials read PCBDaily and read the comments. Keep ’em coming.

 

Dick’s Last Resort Replaces Guy Harvey’s in Pier Park

There has been quite a bit of commotion at Pier Park this week.  Monday, Guy Harvey’s Island Grill closed down and it was announced that Dick’s Last Resort was coming in this off-season.  Guy Harvey’s has been a tenant almost since the beginning, located at the corner of S Pier Park Drive and Front Beach Road next to Reggae J’s.  Their menu consisted of fresh gulf seafood short of a few select species that Harvey deemed depleted.  The entrance was a gift shop that hosted shirts, art, belts, and many other varieties of schwag.

I’m not even going to get into speculation as to what happened.

Dick’s Last Resort

Dick’s last resort is known for its “outrageous, surly and energetic wait staff and tasty comfort food.”  They have locations in Nashville, Gatlinburg, Myrtle Beach, Dallas, Baltimore, San Antonio, San Diego, Chicago, Boston and Vegas.  And looking at that location lineup, that puts Panama City Beach up there with the big dogs.

“At Dick’s Last Resort, we’re known for having a good time, but we’re very selective about where we do business,” said CEO Ted Moats. “Pier Park and Panama City Beach are a natural fit for the fun, energetic atmosphere we offer, and we are very excited to open our doors and meet the local community and visitors.”

“Dick’s Last Resort is a perfect fit for the Panama City Beach market,” said Felicia Cook, Pier Park’s Director of Marketing & Business Development. “With so many of their locations open in top tier tourist destinations, we’re thrilled that they’ve decided to open in Pier Park.”

Dick’s should open sometime this winter.

 

Walmart to Pay for Expanded Powell Adams Road

Although final plans or a formal commitment for a new Walmart has not been made, an agreement between the Panama City Beach CRA and Walmart has been made for them to pay for road improvements.

The Panama City Beach CRA, or Community Redevelopment Area is a mechanism by which our local roads and infrastructure are being improved over time to look better, be more beautiful and to better handle increased load and demand. Past CRA projects include the Churchwell road improvements, R Jackson Blvd improvements and the currently ongoing South Thomas Drive improvements.

The Powell Adams improvements include all the treatments you’d find in a normal CRA project, including underground utilities, sidewalks, street lights and landscaping.  In addition, of course, the road way will be widened to four lanes.  The improvements are projected to be around $2 million.

The CRA had existing plans to treat Powell Adams road, but it was several projects away – the CRA is working it’s way west from it’s current development location.  This agreement with Walmart stipulates that they will pay for the improvements and the CRA will reimburse them at a later date.  By doing the improvements this way, the City is expected to save almost $500k.

There is no expected start date just yet, but you can expect more information on this in the coming weeks from us.

This topic has created a very lively discussion on our other post, how do you feel about this improvement now?

 

City Moving Forward with Aaron Bessant Park Improvements [Amphitheater]

Looks like the improvements we were discussing for Aaron Bessant Park are, indeed, coming.  Last week in a city council meeting, an “inter-local” agreement with Bay County was agreed upon to allow the City of Panama City Beach to take the lead on planning and development of this project.  Although two of the council members were adamantly opposed to the improvements, there was still an affirmative majority vote – 3 to 2.

All the improvements could include:

  • 60′x40′ amphitheater with permanent roof and walls suitable for theatrical productions, orchestral performances and musical events
  • Expanded amphitheater lawn area (see diagram below
  • Vegetative buffers around the parameter to prevent the need for temporary fencing
  • The Festival Lawn (the sandy area that’s used as overflow and vedor parking behind the park) will be improved to the quality of Frank Brown Park’s festival area
  • This area will support parking, play fields, and will have sod and irrigation
  • Additional bathroom facilities

At this point, the exact plans have not been decided upon.  The structure in a previous post is just a proposed idea.  The agreement that came to pass in the city council meeting just grants the City the ability to spearhead the planning of the new project.

The next step will bring plans and workshops before the final proposal and approval process.