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St.Marys Welcomes First Songwriter Festival This Saturday

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Rick Scott, a former drummer with the country super group Alabama, has signed on to serve as the creative director of the newly created Seanic Group based out of St. Marys, Ga.  This past week I was privileged to play keyboards as well as sing backup for his new solo CD. The producer and engineer for the project is Nick Petta, former producer for SUN Records. Working with these two has been a real honor.

Scott, who has more than 30 million units in sales as a songwriter, has numerous works to his credit including the massive number one song “Why Lady Why” which was included on Alabama’s first album release “My Home’s In Alabama” in 1980. That album is a Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) Certified Multi-Platinum project and Alabama went on to be named the RIAA Country Group of the 20th Century.

Besides working with Alabama, Scott has worked with numerous country artist such as, David Allan Coe and Earl Thomas Conley. For a couple of years Scott was also a writer for House of Cash, owned by the legendary Johnny Cash.

“I remember this particular day Johnny called me, “says Scott, “and asked me to come down to the office.  After a short visit Johnny asked to hear a few tunes. That day he cut two of my songs. Funny thing though, it was 25 years later before they were released to the public. One is on the latest CD, “Out Among The Stars.”

Scott, originally from Covington, Ky., said he started playing drums when he was very young. “I started playing drums at around four or five years of age. I knew early on it was strictly music for me. But it was mainly just my listening and learning all the time.”

This weekend Scott is involved in a local Songwriter’s Festival in St. Mary’s, Georgia.  The Songwriter’s Festival will take place from 10am – 6pm on Saturday, September 20th at the St. Mary’s Waterfront Park. This will be a great time to come out and see live music at a superior outdoor venue. Several genres of music will be covered during the event, so that everyone can enjoy the day.

Music festival admission is free with shopping opportunities from vendor booths from 10am – 6pm. With the purchase of a $3 alcohol event wristband, beer and wine will be available to attendees through 5pm for consumption inside the St. Mary’s Waterfront Park.

For festival information contact Jerry’s Lees Music Emporium at 912-576-4401. For area information call the St. Mary’s Welcome Center at 912-882-4000 or VisitStMarys.com.

After the festival the music continues with “Back from the Brink” Starry Nights Music in the Park from 6pm – 8pm. Bring lawn chairs and blankets for use throughout the day.

Why Tourism and Travel Matters to Florida

thThe Travel industry is beyond any question the lifeline and blood in Florida’s economy. From Miami and the Keys to Orlando and the Gulf Coast, to the Panhandle us up here on the First Coast, without the tens of millions of visitors every year, this state would still be a quilt of swamp land, dry savannas and sinkholes and residents would be taxed with state income tax.

In a previous article, I introduced the effect that certain industries have on our economy, not just from a domestic standpoint but from a global perspective as well. As we discovered, coffee production, as large as it is, still pales in comparison to the travel business. With billions of travel dollars generated every day, I want to share with you  some of the impact this industry has on the U.S. as well as our home state of Florida.

Here are a few facts:

TRAVEL AND TOURISM IS ONE OF AMERICA’S LARGEST INDUSTRIES
♣    In 2013, tour and travel generated $2.1 trillion in economic output.
♣    Wages shared by American workers directly employed by travel was $209.5 billion.
♣    Generated tax revenue for local, state and federal governments was $133.9 billion. (Without this income, it is estimated that each U.S. household would pay more than $1000 in extra taxes and we’d definitely paying personal income tax here in Florida)
♣    Travel makes up 2.7% of the U.S. GDP – Gross Domestic Product
♣    Travel ranks No.1 among all U.S. industry exports
♣    1 out of 9 U.S. jobs depends on travel and tourism
♣    Travel ranks No.6 in terms of employment compared to other major private industry sectors

TRAVEL AND TOURISM IN FLORIDA
♣    Domestic and International travel to the state generated over $75 billion dollars last year.
♣    Generated tax revenue for state and local governments was over $11 billion dollars.
(These dollars help fund jobs and public programs like police, firefighters, teachers, road projects and convention centers)
♣    Employment payroll was nearly $21 billion dollars.
♣    Jobs created in 2012 – over 800,000. This represents 13 percent of the state’s total non-farm employment.
♣    For every $1 million spent by travelers to Florida, 11 jobs are created.

It is also worth mentioning that Travel is among the “Top 10” industries in 49 states and D.C. in terms of employment.

I hope this helps you to understand the enormity of the Travel industry in the U.S economy as well as the stability of Florida’s economic status. It may also help understanding the necessity for a long term travel and tourism plan on local, regional, statewide and national level, much of which is unfortunately still sorely lacking vision.

The Economic Impact of Coffee and Travel

Highest Public Platform in London

Highest Public Platform in London

I overheard a conversation about coffee the other day. The information being shared was impressive but not quite accurate. One individual was sharing with the group the effect the coffee business had on our economy. While he called it massive, fact is that travel has a much bigger impact and can indeed be considered Massive.
Granted, Coffee is one of the world’s most popular beverages. In the United States, the average coffee drinker drinks more than three cups per day and Worldwide, more than 501 billion cups are consumed every year.

And yes coffee is important to the global economy. Some 25 million small producers depend on coffee for their livelihood. By example more than 5 million people are employed cultivating and harvesting more than 3 billion coffee plants in Brazil alone, the world’s third largest coffee producer. Growing and harvesting coffee is less automated than the sugar or cattle industries, and because it requires constant attention, it is much more labor-intensive.
Coffee is also a financial commodity. On the New York Board of Trade, coffee futures contracts are bought and sold. These contracts are financial instruments involving a the future sale or purchase of a unit of coffee at an agreed price, with contract deliveries occurring every year in March, May, July, September, and December. The world’s largest transfer point for coffee is the port of Hamburg, Germany, primarily because Europeans are the biggest consumers of coffee in the world.
Yet the global financial number pegged to coffee for this year hovers around $70 billion, which corresponds with just 3% of the US tourism receipts in 2013 (domestic and cross border).

The US Travel Department just recently released a 2013 report that backs up this claim with numbers that are so impressive that I am dedicating the next few articles to this subject.

Let’s begin with the U.S. Travel industry as a whole. In 2013, the economic output generated by Domestic and International visitors was $2.1 trillion dollars. When compared to coffee, the numbers are staggering. In 2011, according to a Bloomberg article, retail coffee sales were approximately $4.52 billion.* However, direct spending on leisure travel alone was over $500 billion. According to the 2013 U.S. Travel fact sheet, the direct spending by resident and international travelers in the U.S. averaged $2.4 billion a day. That’s half of the retail coffee revenue for an entire year.

So how important is the travel business to the U.S. economy? The answer is obvious when you read the following facts from the U.S. Travel Association:

•    Travel and Tourism generated $133.9 billion in US tax revenue for 2013
(Each household would pay $1,093 more in taxes without this generated revenue)
•    Travel and Tourism is America’s largest services export industry
•    Travel and Tourism is one of America’s largest employers supporting nearly 15 million jobs, including 7.9 million directly in the travel industry and 7 million in other related industries.

As you can see, we would be in a world of hurt if we did not have the travel business in America. In fact, without travel and tourism, the coffee industry would fall short. The truth is we need every small business owner, every entrepreneur, and every traveling coffee junkie to make it all happen.

Join me next time as we analyze the massive impact of travel in the State of Florida.

Ronnie is co-owner of the American Travelers Club, a start-up Amelia Island tour company specializing in small-group European travel. You can reach him by email at americantravelersclub@gmail.com

*Source: Bloomberg

US TRAVEL ASSOCIATION STATS

Is Gold a New Asset Class?

Gold is a safe nest egg if diversified properly

Gold can be a very safe nest egg if diversified properly.

Should gold be considered as a new asset class or as an instrument of financial speculation? Down from its 2011 high of $1,920.30, Gold sits at $1,333 per ounce today, a $60 jump from $1,277.80 an ounce two Friday’s ago. Many investors view gold these days as an essential part of their portfolio. And a trending obsession for this metal has brought new ideas as well as challenges to the financial planning table. While some advisors refuse to enter the conversation, others are beginning to engage their clients.

With so many opinions on the matter, what is a serious investor to do? Steve Forbes, publishing magnate and chief executive officer of Forbes Magazine said, “The fact that gold is now seen as an investment vehicle reflects the poor state of the U.S. global economy.” He added that only jewelers and gold miners should be buying gold. “When [gold] has to be bought as an asset class it tells you that the politicians are making a hash of things, central bankers are making a mess,” he said.

Wondering if this statement is fueled by political aspirations, one should question if Mr. Forbes stands alone in this belief? Turns out that he is not. For the last decade investors have participated in one of the biggest “buy-ups” in recent history. Mostly prompted by fear, this action has driven up prices and handed some a nice return. The question remains, is it sustainable, and if so, for how long? I’m not sure that anyone can reasonably answer that question so I would approach Gold like any other investment, with much consideration.  One consideration is this. Even though heralded as Gold’s all-time high, the September 2011 high was not its true peak. Adjusted for inflation, Jan. 21, 1980, remains gold’s highest level. At one point in trading on the New York Commodity Exchange, gold touched an intraday level of $875 per ounce, which would be the equivalent of $2,438 in 2012 dollars.

When it comes to the markets, there are some principal strategies that have proven favorable for the investor. First, you should talk to your advisor about your goals. Next, examine your time horizon. In other words, how long do you need this money to work for you? Then you should talk about suitability.  Ask him or her, “Does this investment really make sense for me?” Some advisors are even proponents of Asset Allocation. And by all means, diversify. A reasonable percentage of your portfolio in precious metals is a hedge against long term inflation risks.

Whatever your choice of strategy, understand, there are no guarantees. And as a general rule, when everyone is running in one direction, caution would tell you to consider the other direction.

¹ www.Forbes.com July 12, 2013 -“Steve Forbes Talks Gold on Kitco News” by Neils Christensen and Daniela Cambone of Kitco News
By Ronnie Stoots
Ronnie Stoots is the President of Amelia Wealth Management.