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South "Ready for Takeoff;" Asking Federal Gov. to Help Launch

September 10, 2010

PENSACOLA, Fla. - Multiple hurricanes and the BP oil spill wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast, but now the South is ready for takeoff. That's the message from a new coalition of private businesses and public leaders from Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, and they are calling on the federal government to help them launch.

Ewell Smith, executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, says the four states are pulling together to move forward.

"Once you go north of the four states, perception is still our biggest challenge, including for the tourism industry along the Gulf Coast. The seafood industry feeds the tourism industry, and vice versa - we feed off of each other."

Smith says that Gulf seafood has received a clean bill of health, and the federal government can help revive sales by using its purchasing power.

"They could purchase domestic seafood from the Gulf Coast for the Department of Defense or for the hospital systems. It's a way to help increase the demand for Gulf seafood."

Smith says in addition to asking the government to purchase more Gulf seafood, they're also looking for a larger share of oil revenues for Gulf states, support for construction of a tanker in Alabama, and other initiatives they say will create jobs and strengthen the Gulf Coast economy. The cities of Rosemary Beach and Pensacola and the Escambia County Commission are among the groups and governments that make up the coalition.

More information is available at www.ready4takeoff.org.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - FL