Avoid Contracting Diseases While Traveling

travel-health1Local Wallace Pierson Travel professionals not only send clients to all parts of  the world on a daily basis, but  between themselves they travel quite frequently to the outskirts of our planet. For example founder/co-owner Ange Wallace just returned from India and is leaving this week for Churchill, Manitoba and the Polar Bears;  Lynann Mullis just returned from Scotland,  Dawn Dixon just left for Ireland,  co-owner Angela Wallace Pierson leaves shortly for Italy and Tracy Lynch leaves for a cruise aboard Oceania when Angela returns.

With the worldwide Ebola scare, but also just the flu season starting here are some practical tips from Ange Wallace you may want to take to heart when traveling.

Staying tuned to all things regarding Ebola – by Ange Wallace

Much like the SARS situation a few years back, precautions have to be taken.  Each traveler will have to weigh the information available and measure that against their own comfort level and the strength of their desire or necessity to travel.  We believe our role as travel professionals today is first and foremost to educate and advise savvy travelers and this includes the challenges (there will always be some) as well as the joys of traveling.  I will list out some of the websites we have been watching.  While the news is covering this over every inch of information and misinformation available, facts are not always easy to isolate from the emotions that are in play.

Much like the aftermath of 911, it will take us a little time to assimilate this new risk into the list of risks we live with daily.  Ebola is much harder to contract than the flu and we have assimilated that risk pretty well.  We must learn and practice the reasonable precautions necessary to avoid being exposed wherever we are.  We must support the continued effort to find both cures and vaccines to effectively deal with this new health threat.

In our office, which is like family, we have always shared the tricks we learn on the road to stay healthy while traveling.  There is really nothing new but let me share a few:
1)      Before long flights and rigorous trips, we take either Airborne or Emergen-C (or alternate between the two)for a couple of days before and occasionally while traveling and, definitely, immediately if we feel “something coming on” just to strengthen our immune system.  There are other such products available, these are just the ones we tend to use.
2)       During the flight, we have a little bottle of Eucalyptus Oil we carry in a freezer Ziploc with a cotton ball.  We dampen the cotton ball in the bag and sniff several times during the flight, or on the cruise, to kill off virus/bacteria trying to enter the upper respiratory tract.  (The little Listerine wafers are also good for this but mostly just in the throat.)
3)      We use Clorox (or any brand) sanitizing wipes on all the surfaces we are likely to touch on the plane (arm rests, tray tables, seat belt buckles etc) and use hand sanitizer (We prefer the wipes to the gels but either will work.)   Don’t wait for the cruise line or resort to provide hand sanitizer opportunities, though many do.  We have to take responsibility for ourselves!
4)      Wipe down items like the remote control in your hotel room and the phone, door knobs etc.  Wipe down your luggage, pocketbook, etc frequently or spray with Lysol. Seems like overkill, but my daughter traveling with babies and toddlers taught me this and they never get sick traveling!
5)      Learn to refrain from touching, handshaking, hugging, etc new friends or helpful people along your route.  It is better for them too. A great smile and gentle explanation if necessary make good substitutes.
6)      Eyes, ears and nose wide open when entering public restrooms.  If you perceive anyone is having or has had physical problems back out and report it to the nearest airport worker or airline attendant etc.  It is like reporting unattended baggage now.
7)      When at meetings or industry events don’t leave your glass and assume you will find the right one on returning.  Avoid dips, nuts or loose items in bowls even with a spoon-someone else might not use it.
Overall, just be awake and aware, use common sense, and don’t wait for someone else to take care of you.  That is our own very important responsibility, each and every one of us!

These are just some of the things we are thinking and doing.  We would love to hear from you if you have some more great tips to share with fellow travelers because SARS, Ebola, Flu- there will always be something out there to raise our concern and require our attention!!

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your travels or any other travel related issue, we would love to hear from you!

PS We all travel with Travelex trip insurance, at very least getting their “0” band option.  Angela and I also have a membership with Medjet Assist.  Both companies will be available to answer your questions at our Test Drive The World Luxury Travel Show, Sat., Nov 8, from 1:00 to 4:00pm.  RSVP by emailing ange@wallacepierson.com or call 904 261-5914.  There is a $15 per person admission, which in its entirety is a donation to The Boys and Girls Cluster of Nassau County Foundation, a 501c3 organization.

Links 

– Ebola & West Africa: The Facts

– Travel Notices & Additional Info Related to Travel from the CDC

– 
Latest Ebola Report from the CDC

What You Need to Know about Ebola from the CDC

– 
The White House Blog

There is More to Florida than you Know

There is More to Florida than you Know
Want to Talk to the Dead, Ride in a UFO, Meet Monkey Girl? Florida’s the Place

There is more to the state of Florida than beaches, swaying palm trees, and plenty of year around sunshine. Lots more!

Pick up a copy of Lynn Waddell’s book “Fringe Florida” and you’ll discover some oddities you never imagined existed even if you’re a second or third generation native.

For example, did you know there is a small town 145 miles south of here between Orlando and Daytona Beach called Cassadaga that is dedicated to spiritualists who say they converse with the dead, is populated by psychics and mediums, and has consequently been named the “Psychic Capital of the World?” Ask our pal Pajama Dave and his girlfriend Zan Maddox about it as they’ve been there and have some spooky tales to tell about their unnerving overnight visit.

cassadega-spiritual-camp-floridaOr maybe you want to join a group of folks who sit around on the beach waiting to be picked up by a UFO, join a granny motorcycle club, or visit Gibsonton, a town populated by circus and carnival sideshow performers ranging from the Lizard Man and Lobster Boy to the Monkey Girl and the Human Blockhead.

On our way to Sarasota and Fort Myers, before the Sunshine Skyway was constructed, my mother used to stop in Gibsonton, which is on Highway 41 and was about a half hour south of our Tampa home, to visit the Giant’s Fish Camp, a dive bar and grill, where the owner was the retired circus giant and his wife the retired “fat lady.” I was more fascinated by what was out back though, where a swampy dilapidated chicken wire enclosure was populated by what I remember were a whole bunch of alligators of all sizes and I was allowed to toss them food scrapes. The town also had a midget police chief and in my child’s imagination I always thought it would make a cool Rod Serling Twilight Zone TV episode, with the show opening as a drunk speeding through the little town gets arrested and sobers up to be confronted by a gathering of bizarre local inhabitants.

Oh, and the book will also introduce you to some of the oddest swinger clubs in the country, claiming Florida is home to more of these than any other state. If nothing else it’ll give you some interesting suggestions on what to tell friends, relatives and tourists when they ask what other things they should do while visiting the sunshine state. Why bother with Disney or any of the other fantasy parks when you can go see the real thing? Just be careful where you take junior though.

***

Crime-Free, Pollution-Free Paradise? And speaking of unusual Florida locations, according to reports from Bloomberg News, our state boasts the fastest growing metropolitan area in the United States and one that is also crime free, has almost no pollution, no children, and is just a little more than 150 miles southwest of Amelia Island, or about a three hour drive. With a population of some 110,000, The Villages, is the world’s largest retirement community and growing on par with megacities such as Lagos, Nigeria and Dhaka, Bangladesh, experiencing a 5.2 percent surge in growth this past year. It’s about 60 miles northwest of Orlando, and just a few miles southeast of Ocala. Golf-cart accidents have killed more people there than criminals, said Elaine Dreidame, president of the Property Owners’ Association of The Villages, which is about the size of Manhattan and has more golf carts than that New York borough has taxies. The Villages, which has rules governing how long children can visit and follows an age-restricted model used by developer Del Webb’s Sun City in Arizona, sells new homes ranging from $150,000 to $1 million. It also has been reported that the Villages population boasts 10 women to every man, has one of the highest sales of Viagra anywhere, a thriving swingers scene among married couples, as well as an alarming rate of sexually transmitted diseases. So, for a “good time” if you’re 55 or over head south and grab a granny.

(Dave Scott writes a weekly blog www.davescottblog.com that includes musings, opinions, observations, questions, and random thoughts on island life, Fernandina Beach and more.)

Feedburner If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment below or subscribe to the feed to have future articles delivered to your e-mail and get the latest Amelia Island News, business, tourist activities and videos every morning!




SearchAmelia on TwitterYou can also choose to follow SearchAmelia on Twitter to get your daily updates!

Six Degrees of Free Rice

searchamelia.com: 6 degrees of free rice

Play a game and feed the hungry

The United Nations World Food Programme came up with a creative way to fight hunger and A Fun Way to Teach children (and immigrants) vocabulary. Every homeschooling parent in the United States should use the 6th Degrees of Free Rice game between February 6 and 11th to teach their children the meaning of words  while feeding hungry children.

The concept is quite simple. Go to the Free Rice website and think of 6 of your closest friends. The proven theory is that you are connected to 6 people who are connected to 6 people, who in turn are connected to 6 people… up to 6 times and realize that you are connected in this manner to every person on earth.

There are only 6 degrees of separation.

Freerice is an online trivia game where each correct answer earns 10 grains of rice for the world’s hungriest – it’s an addictive online game with a real-world impact. Those grains of rice will go to a hungry child who is only six degrees away from you and me.
Between February 6 and 12 Free Rice wants you to invite 6 people in your circle to play “6 Degrees of Free Rice.”

The idea is simple. When you sign up, you commit to recruiting six people, then your friends will recruit another six, and so on… our online movement to fight hunger could exponentially explode! And many more people will discover Freerice.

The WFP feeds 90 million people every year

searchamelia.com: world hunger map

The World Food Progamme is impressive in its logistics and results. From Africa and Asia to Latin America and the Near East, there are some 925 million people in the world, who do not get enough food to lead a normal, active life. And even after 50 years of being on the frontline of the fight against hunger and thousands of political pledges, the WFP can “only” get to about 90 million or about 10% of them. Yet we are all just 6 people removed from being connected to all of them.

And even though it is truly impressive what is being done every year, the World Food Program needs our help. No..it’s not knocking on your door for money pledges. It’s inviting you to join in a fun and educational game called Six Degrees of Free Rice.

In just about 10 minutes I collected 5,000 grains of rice for a hungry person. We need you to help get your friends, family and community involved too. Are you up to the challenge? If you are, just click here to participate.
I hope you do.

Here is another link you may want to hit to learn how important the WFP’s work is.

Feedburner If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment below or subscribe to the feed to have future articles delivered to your e-mail and get the latest Amelia Island News, business, tourist activities and videos every morning!




SearchAmelia on TwitterYou can also choose to follow SearchAmelia on Twitter to get your daily updates!

The Gold Correction Gives Cold Feet

Gold no longer a safe haven asset?

Gold no longer a safe haven asset?

I’m going to make this short and sweet, even though I get quite a few emails from friends and readers who took my precious metal advice and are now getting cold feet because there are some boom corrections taking place. Me, I’m just surprised to learn how easily people of superb intelligence still get spooked by main stream talking heads without a clue. CNBC actually went as far as to say that gold was no longer a safe haven asset, while news pundits are buying into the story that all at once the economy is looking much better, yet no one seems to question what supposedly brought about the economic turn around, other than it’s Holly, Jolly Christmas in the Land.

Has the dollar strengthened recently or is our currency just looking a bit better than the Euro or the Yen?  So answer the question if the current support for the US dollar is an honest indication of its health? Are the sovereign debt problems in Europe magically solved and are our banks safe from a huge hit on the chin? Have we gotten any clarity on how the US will repay its $15 trillion debt load without some level of currency dilution? Is there likely to be more money printing in the future, or less? Are real interest rates positive yet? And then ask yourself: “Has gold really lost its safe haven status as a result of one, or a couple bad weeks?”

Obviously China doesn’t think so, as they keep on buying and importing gold through Hong Kong; no less than 85.7 tonnes in October, 40 times more than just a year ago. They will love to see gold’s purchasing price go down because of panic on this side of the pond.

And when you’re done contemplating all the above  you should ask yourself: What is the mainstream media’s track record on forecasting precious metals prices or anything economy and finance for that matter?

So my answer is simple: consider the precious metal price drop (correction) a welcome (re-)entrance into the precious metals market and definitely not an exit.

Joey & Jeanie Produce Professional Music Video

searchamelia.com

The Cast for the Music Video "The Gospel Train"

The Island’s first Couple of Cinematography, Nadine Vaughan and Rick Traum were at it again when local contemporary gospel duo Joey Daddario and Jeanie Scheff decided to produce a real professional music video for their latest album’s title track “I Grew Up On Gospel” and retained the award winning talents of Executive Director Dave D’Ardenne, who in turn approached Nadine Vaughan to head up the production team as Producer, Writer, Casting Director and Costumes and Don Flynn as Director Photography.

Nadine’s script “The Gospel Train” called for a 1950s period setting in an active train station setting with a real life locomotive, which is why Fernandina Beach would not qualify for location selection and therefor the crew and cast of some 25 in total took a three hour bus ride south to Tavares Florida where the perfect setting was available.

That’s what professional production is all about; not sacrificing authenticity and creativity if it can be avoided. It happens too often in modern day filmography that scripts are adapted for budget reasons, and loose a lot of the communicative impact in the process. But from what I could see on the pictures taken by set photographer Ann Fontaine, authenticity was entirely intact and she did a marvelous job eternalizing the entire production in more than 300 photographs. Just looking at the pictures already gave me that feelgood aura, that I get every time I hear Joey and Jeanie perform. Their music is just life affirming and looking at the photographs I can see why production consultant Rick Traum emailed that cast and crew had a marvelous fun time.

Director David D’Ardenne retired from a 30 year New York ABC network career as Sound Recordist and miniDV camera operator to Northeast Florida in 2005, where he started Sight and Sound Production Services. And guess what…? Just like Rick Traum has a rich and award winning production experience in TV programming, David D’Ardenne’s portfolio is also stacked with excellence that crosses all networks and cable channels and includes productions for celebrity such as Michael Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, Barbara Walters and many more.

Director of Photography Don Flynn started his video and film production company in NE Florida in 1993  and has since become a cornerstone for quality productions in the area and bringing this group of accomplished professionals together in support of Joey and Jeanie’s growing popularity, will not only score attention for the artists, but also for the area being fully capable to support professional film production, set inside great locale and with plenty of talent and equipment available.

At Searchamelia we have supported Joey and Jeanie’s talent and creativity from early on as you can read here and here and we truly believe that with the right combination of quality marketing and product distribution, they will score high nationwide and beyond.
You can purchase their new album with 16 songs straight from CDBaby.com

searchamelia.com, amelia islandsearchamelia.comsearchamelia.com

The Travel Agency Donates to Boys and Girls Club

The Travel Agency donates to B&GC Nassau County

Boys and Girls Club in Nassau County is recipient of Travel Agency Donation

The ladies at THE TRAVEL AGENCY thank everyone who attended or assisted with their recently concluded “Test Drive the World Luxury Travel show”.  As a result of the great turn out, the Agency, which has a reputation for lots of charity work, was able to present The Boys and Girls Club of Nassau County Foundation with $2,800.00 toward their much needed facility for the Fernandina Club that has started construction recently at the Lime Street location.

The Agency also donated $280.00 to R.A.I.N. to help with their wonderfully successful RAIN Train project that helps find homes for our oversupply of homeless animals to areas that need adoptable animals!  The Shrine Club has always been an inspiration to us.  They have so much fun while raising the funds to support their Burn Center.

The “girls” at the agency had a wonderful time at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island introducing some of their favorite clients and their friends to twenty-six of the agency’s favorite travel suppliers from around the world!  If you were not able to join us this year, they want you to watch for the “save the date” announcement for 2012!  The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island is already watching for an optimum date for next year when the Travel Agency will re-introduce some of the same suppliers with newly developed travel products and new suppliers from different exciting places as well!

For their clients, the agency will once again hold a Travel Photo Contest next year, promising it to be bigger and better than this year’s event!  So here is the advice, think camera on your travels and start setting aside those spectacular shots  and watch for the instructions later in 2012 to submit them for more great prizes!  If you haven’t already, go to http://the-travel-agents.com/winners-in-the-first-annual-photo-contest/ to see all the winners and their prizes!! Scroll to the bottom to see some pictures of the show itself!  Click on the photo contest link to see all of the great entries!

In above picture: The Travel Agency donating $2,800 to Boys & Girls Clubs of Nassau County Foundation (BGCNF), collected from the voluntary admission fees to their recent Discover the World Travel Show at the Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island. Shown left to right: Ange Wallace – The Travel Agency founder, Patrick Sabadie – BGCNCF treasurer, Salli Roberts – BGCNCF co-chair of volunteers, Bill Gower – BGCNF president.

The Failure of America’s Immigration Policies

Petanque America Open Tournament Amelia Island 2011

Will we see another International Petanque Tournament on Amelia Island?

As more and more affluent and freedom loving American Citizens are seeking ways to leave this country, tired as they are of the Washington policies, there are still foreigners that believe in the American Dream and the potential of Capitalism as a valid economic system. Unfortunately these increasingly few encounter so many absurd attitudes, barricades and problems from INS and Homeland Security, that they either decide to go low profile with a risk of deportation at one point, or just give up over time, especially since going the route of compliance with the rules and regulations has become very costly and too arbitrarily risky.

A very close friend, known to many in our little island community, decided to comply with the rules and regulation in fine detail and apply for a business visa extension but was very rudely shot down by just a random government servant in a suit, who decided he didn’t like the economic impact our friend’s company had accomplished during the time span of his initial visa.
Reasoning and criteria were apparently based on our friend not having enough people employed in the company and that is the problem with policy morons who dictate that economic impact is only based on how many people you support with a weekly paycheck.

Our friend buys and sells a complete line of merchandise that is related to an old French past time sport called Pétanque. Since the sport is just taking hold in the US with a slow but promising growth curve, his sales is just enough to support himself and his family and an occasional part time help, BUT… in order to promote the popularity of the sport in the US, he organizes a regional Spring Tournament and a Fall International Open Tournament with players and their families coming from all over the US and the World. In the short time since our friend established himself and his company on Amelia Island, he has organized 3 Global Tournaments and if we calculate hotel rooms sold and food and beverages served in the local economy, because of his initiative, several million dollars would be his direct minimal economic contribution to the city and the region, never mind that since he brought the tournament to Fernandina Beach, Pétanque players from around the country and the globe have become tourism ambassadors for the island, people have bought properties and relocated businesses.

Now I do not expect a knucklehead in an INS uniform behind a glass window in the US Embassy in Paris to understand that economic impact goes far beyond how many people derive their weekly paycheck from a company, but I seriously question a system that gives this same knucklehead the ultimate power to decide at will who can enter the US and who can not. In addition there is something inherently wrong with a policy that cannot establish that there is an obvious difference between those immigrants who can take care of themselves without depending on the US social systems and those who cannot. Every month our friend pays his landlords for his house and office/warehouse, he pays corporate taxes, sales taxes, he frequents local businesses for all his purchases, which establishes him as a solid contributor, beyond any stupid Washington dictated policies. His three children, some of them born US citizens go to the local high school and are intricate parts of this community as well, and are now waiting for the sword of ignorance to come down on them dictating whether they can finish high school or not.

And the more I think about this incredible injustice and randomness, the angrier I get. I just finished reading New York Times columnist and Three Time Pulitzer Prize Winner Tom Friedman’s book “That Used to Be Us”, in which he champions what America needs to do in order to get back on top of the world it created in the early years of the last century. In a great manner he describes the 4 Mistakes that were key to America’s slippage and the 5 Pillars for Success. One major issue is that the country took a bad immigration policy course after 9/11 and we need to get back to Immigration Policies that encourage the world’s best and brightest to come to America…and stay here.
I came here in 1980 because of what America Used to Be, but honestly, it’s a far cry from that now.

Maybe someone should point Friedman’s book out to some INS functionary in the Paris Embassy in the case of our friend (and so many others who deserve much more respect than they are getting). Our friend has brought much happiness, satisfaction, culture and exposure to our community, far beyond the limitations and shortsightedness of a badly defined economic impact criterion.
Petanque America Open Int'l 2011Petanque America Open Int'l Amelia Island 2011Petanque America Open 2011 Amelia IslandOf course I could have taken the cautious road here at SearchAmelia, because after all in the US we are supposed to fear the government and opinions on immigration issues are sadly divided, but this website is anchored in the positive approach to globalization as the only feasible answer to the future of the world.

So I applaud Tom Friedman who in this latest book explains what’s wrong with America and how to get out of the rut. “We have to learn to think like Immigrants”, he says!!! And as to friends who advised me to be cautious with attacking the powers that be, I nod to Albert Einstein who once said: “The World will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”
Let’s get our friend back and change some immigration mistakes in the process. Let’s welcome those that add a bright light to our lives, the way this country used to do.

Florida’s Tourism and its Impact on our Community

SeaWorld's planned Discovery Cove Freshwater Oasis attraction scheduled to open next Spring

Orlando’s Theme Parks are the biggest tourism attraction in the world with 54.3 million visitors last year. Just 40 years ago Orlando’s number of visitors was right about ZERO. Attractions bring visitors and even though Amelia Island’s tourism has been relatively blessed in recent years, all surveys indicate that we need more attractions.
Even in a faltering economy we have been able to attract a slightly lower but still good share of visitors. In 2010 we scored beyond expectation as a result of the Gulf Oil Disaster and the ongoing misery in air travel caused by over protected security, followed by increased fees, ticket prices and capacity adjustments, which has made many more people choose car travel as their transportation option for vacations and family get-a-ways. Naturally within easy driving distance of some major Metropolitan populations, Amelia Island has been able to carve out a nice and steady  presence with a remarkable 3.6 return visits. But the future might demand more that we’re offering right now. History and culture offer great attraction potential, so does anything offering water attraction, both fresh and salt.

During a recent Tourism Development Council presentation at City Hall, elaborating on the numbers scored in the third quarter of 2011, it showed that even though we attracted 7,700 less visitors than in the same period of 2010, the 112,500 visitors that stayed with us last quarter, spent a little more than the ones last year, so that the economic impact only showed a 3.3% drop. And that should be a feather in the hat of the TDC in these tough times.

A more in depth study into the numbers of this Visitor Profile Report, further reveals where our visitors come from. Two out of three visitors originate from the Southeast including Florida, which obviously coincides with he fact that three out of four report to arrive here by car. For policy reasons this is an important indicator for future infrastructural needs. For example a rudimentary calculation reveals that between July 1 and September 30, besides local traffic, our roads were used daily by an estimated 1,500 cars belonging to visitors (the calculation includes % of visitors coming by car -average 3 per car- multiplied by the division of 90 day period divided by 4.6 days average stay). Why is this important? Because if all these 1,500 cars decide to show up in downtown on one particular morning, traffic will be demonic and there won’t be enough parking spaces for miles. It is also important to re-analyze parking meter impacts in a hard reality scenario. Like anyone living here I love the fact that visitors are not nickeled and dimed to death, as long as we are not treated as the ones who need to support the financial picture of the City.
1,500 cars multiplied by a very reasonable $5 a day, multiplied by 365 days, may just be enough to take a loan out to renovate the old Post Office on Centre Street into a multi functional attraction and pay the debt service for some much needed attractions. With the Postmaster General posting a $5 billion debt yesterday and a clear warning for an upcoming bankruptcy, I think we should be pro-active on the future of that magnificent building in downtown as US Postal Services will wash its hands of it.

OMNI Amelia Island Plantation believes in this island and its future as a tourism magnet. Sure at $69 million, they got the Plantation in a bargain deal last year, but to allocate $88 million dollars for renovation and expansion in this still sputtering economy, reveals longterm vision and confidence; vision and confidence that this island needs to match, rather than assuming a small town mentality  and cower in a corner about something as important as Forward Fernandina. I’m not saying that everything in the FF plan meets my or your personal wishes, but how could it ever. You are you and I am I and we have different realities, wish lists, perceptions and backgrounds.

The only thing we really do have in common is a love for the island and the lifestyle it affords us. And when studying numbers that display what our visitors like about our island and/or find lacking or missing, I see two areas that need immediate addressing for the future of tourism here on island.

One: less than one out of ten visitors is impressed by our attractions and
Two: only one in six visitors says they enjoyed our nightlife

Obviously these two issues are surrounded by opposing emotions as has been shown in the past, but that still doesn’t eliminate the need to address these topics adequately for a successful future as a tourism destination.

The Need to Have a Vision for the Future

Amelia Island is in dire need of a number of small/mid-scale, sustainable attractions for the future of its tourism economy. From a strategic AND interactive planetarium to an interactive pirate museum, an interactive car museum, a water park with giant surf waves, an artificial snow ski piste, a boulodrome, and so on are options. The world is full of successful examples. I saw one about 6 years ago when I lived in Kenosha Wisconsin for a short 9 months. The attraction was a 35 minute Toy Train tour through the warehouse of the Jelly Belly Bean Company.  The company has been doing this for decades every day of the week from 9am to 4pm. Imagine how many hundreds of thousands of people have visited this simple attraction.

Fifty years ago, Orlando Florida did not mean anything to anyone in the world and for those who knew about it, it portrayed a mosquito hole in the central Florida swamps. Not until Disney opened in 1971 and SeaWorld 2 years later, would anyone go to Orlando for a vacation. Orlando’s hot tourist market which drew a record 53.4 million visitors this year despite the weak economy is expected to heat up more than ever with a new theme park that will make visitors feel they’re in the ice fields of Antarctica.
I know I’m taking a giant leap here, only for the purpose of explaining why our big attraction to the South called Orlando is today the hottest tourist market in the world. Orlando did not follow the market, it created the market. The companies that operate Orlando’s Theme Parks teach us where travel, tourism and entertainment is going. They are the masters of marketing and not looking at them for some type of guidance towards the future of tourism here, is economic suicide.

Earlier this week Sea World’s Empire of the Penguin was announced to open in 2013 . Backers of the almost 40-year-old Sea World Corporation in an area that has become the world capitol of theme parks, say it is a move to further solidify Orlando’s position as the No. 1 tourist destination in the world.

The unveiling outlined three additions “designed specifically for this park and the market. You can’t see them or experience them anywhere else on the planet,” said Brian Morrow, creative director.
The new park will feature an entire section of shops and restaurants with an interactive ride at its center. Tourism observers compare it to the wildly successful Harry Potter attraction at Universal Orlando, according to AP.
Parts of the experience will also include a radical (but unspecified) temperature change that chief designer Morrow says will create “the coldest attraction ever constructed.”
Dennis Speigel, a Cincinnati-based theme park consultant, told AP that SeaWorld’s expansion is “a big move on their part. It follows suit with what Universal did with Harry Potter and what Disney is doing with some of their properties. A manatee and sea turtle exhibit in a domed 3-D theater, the chance to wade and swim next to Asian otters and marmosets, and a penguin experience that promises to immerse tourists in the middle of Antarctica will be on hand at SeaWorld Orlando over the next two years.
SeaWorld’s “TurtleTrek” exhibit, with tanks of live sea turtles and manatees and a domed theater featuring computer-generated 3-D images, will open next spring. Also launching next spring: a “Freshwater Oasis” at SeaWorld’s adjacent swim-with-the-dolphins boutique park, Discovery Cove. That attraction will put visitors in a clear spring under a rainforest-type canopy of trees to wade and swim next to Asian otters and marmosets.

I think it’s very timely and smart for SeaWorld Orlando to undertake this huge investment in a weak economy. It is typically anti-cyclical, which means that labor is cheaper than in boom times, better material pricing and construction contracts can be negotiated, even borrowing money is cheaper than in a booming economy.

6 Mega Cruise ships drop 25-30,000 people in Philipsburg St.Maarten every day. Most buy a Coke and use the bathrooms while eating and shopping aboard ship. Talking about a night mare.

Amelia Island has few and limited Attractions

The numbers already show that Amelia Island has several solid attractions to further expand its tourism industry on. The beaches, the historic downtown area and a substantial number of crowd attracting Festivals have proven their values. I hope that the island’s population and newly elected city government can look beyond the length of their noses, to see what the island’s future needs in terms of sustainable attractions. Anyone out there who remembers the New York Experience in the McGraw Hill Building on Fifth Ave in New York City? “The New York Experience” was a 55-minute multimedia, shock-and-awe extravaganza that showcased all the things that make Gotham great. From its early history. It ran from the early 1970s to the late 1980s and if McGraw-Hill would have had a little more on its greedy mind than wondering at what point Standard and Poor would become a millstone around their corporate neck, there would have an impeccable interactive, highly entertaining history of the city for millions to enjoy. Something like the New York Experience for this island that had far more importance to the birth of the United States than St.Augustine or Pensacola, would be a perfect marriage for the statuesque Replica of a Castle in Venice Italy on our Centre Street, that was always wasted on being used as a Post Office.

We need decisions now, or else the future of our picturesque Historic Downtown could be defaced by the economic need in the future to allow Cruise Tourism to come on shore. And if you need an impression of that nightmare click Here.

Amelia Islanders Successful in Int’l Pétanque Tournament

Petanque America Amelia Island 2011 Group Photo

The Players at the 2011 Petanque America Tournament on Amelia Island

It was already the third edition of the Pétanque America Open Tournament last weekend on Fernandina Beach’s riverfront and once again the event was graced with glorious weather. And this year’s remarkably strong performance of 3 local teams made the tournament extra sweet. I would have to check back in the archives to find out if we had any local teams in the 2009 tournament, but if so, there could not have been many, since the game of Pétanque was entirely unknown in these regions, unless there was a French heritage involved. Well that has changed a lot in a little over 2 years and 3 tournaments.

Since 2009, the tournament has grown from 88 teams to 136 teams this year and the appetite for this magnificent game on our island has led to the formation of the Amelia Island Boules Club which sent no less than 14 teams to this year’s competition. Three of these teams made it into the prize money; a very pleasant surprise and measuring stick of the progress for the game here on island. All those Wednesday nights and Saturday Mornings practicing at the waterfront, on Café Karibo’s courts or behind the Rec Center in the heat of the summer, are paying off.

Locals Nicolas & Caroline Lacand, Bryan Mason & Jason Deringer and John & Colleen Hodge came out on top in the consolation rounds and if we’re talking 136 teams from all over the country and the globe, that is truly remarkable and promising for the future of the game of Pétanque here on Amelia Island.

On the professional level the tournament was pretty much a done deal for multiple French world champion Marco Foyot who had teamed up for the occasion with country man Bernard Martin who resides in Bradenton Florida. Foyot, who has been a force in the sport since the early 1980s already showed during his clinics prior to the tournament on Friday, that he would be the one to beat. In the end however he showed to be too strong for the rest of the field, even though 3rd time competitor Jean Pierre Subrenat and his young partner Damien Hureau managed to give the winners a serious run for their money in the finals, that pulled the game way past another gorgeous sunset to a finish in artificial light.

Foyot has made it a personal tradition before every final he competes in, to auction of his personal balls (boules) for one of his charities. He had a pretty good catch here on Amelia Island as his balls fetched $750 in the winning bid.

The final results for the concours were:

1. Bernard Martin (Bradenton FL) / Marco Foyot (France)
2. Jean-Pierre Subrenat (New York NY) / Damien Hureau (France)
3. Ben Gauthier (Canada) / Mario Gagné (Canada)
4. Peter Mathis (Sonoma CA) / Geoffrey  Canada)

Why Amelia Island Tournament is so Successful and Attracts Players from around the World

l to r: TJ Seaton, Philippe Boets, Bernard Martin and Marco Foyot

With the way the tournament here on Amelia Island is laid out, every team has a minimum of 7 games to play (5 on Saturday and 2 on Sunday morning) before semi finals and finals in winners and consolation groups take place on Sunday afternoon. This avoids eliminations in the first round, and the result is that everyone’s happy and stays in beautiful Fernandina Beach for the duration of the tournament and beyond. Hotels and Inns are booked, restaurants are full and shops are busy as the Historic District enjoys a Riviera style atmosphere. It does also require however the magical transformation of a normal boat trailer parking lot into no less than 68 competition courts in the days leading up to the tournament, which is done in a most superb public/private cooperation effort as the City’s Public Works Department and tournament volunteers get the special surfaces ready.

The Award Ceremony at Sandy Bottoms was packed until midnight on Sunday night and if Sandy Bottoms had opened its outside deck bar, the party would probably still be going on, because the weather was just magnificent.

Colson Hillier Joins Amelia River Golf Club as Director of Marketing

Colson Hillier

Colson Hillier, new director of marketing at Amelia River Golf Club

Is there anyone on Amelia Island who does not know Colson Hillier? If you do not know Colson that you’re obviously not an involved member of this island community and if you’ve never heard of Colson Hillier and his charming wife Pat…well, then I guess you have been hiding somewhere in the dungeons of Fort Clinch for the past 10 years or so.

Ever since we opened the doors of SearchAmelia about three and a half years ago, Colson and our roads have crossed on many occasions, mostly because he was until recently the face of the Amelia Island-Fernandina Beach-Yulee Chamber of Commerce. Whether it’s the Blues or Jazz Festival, a Chamber event, the Concours d’Elégance or next weekend’s International Pétanque America Tournament (he is a tournament player) in Fernandina Beach, you will find Colson there. If there are volunteers needed for a charity or festival, Colson will be there. He is the epitome of networking for the benefit of all.

It is often said that if you really want something done, you need to find someone who is already busy. And that someone would be Colson. So it came as no surprise to us last week, to learn that  George Sheffield, the new Owner of Amelia River Golf Club recently appointed Colson Hillier as his new Director of Marketing at the Club, responsible for individual and corporate memberships and in charge of working with local businesses and non-profits.

The Amelia River Golf Club, built in 2000, features a Tom Jackson designed golf course and offers a full-service facility with clubhouse, pro shop, practice areas, locker rooms, dining facilities with full bar and is open to the public for lunch.
We are happy to add this exciting venue for golf outings/weddings and meetings to our list of places to frequent, especially now that Colson is a member of the team.

As an introduction special for a limited time only The Amelia River Golf Club has individual & corporate memberships available with no initiation fees.
For more information visit the website or call the pro shop at 904-491-8500. Amelia River Golf Club is located 4477 Buccaneer Trail on Amelia Island.

October Markets Ignore European Debt to Celebrate Christmas Early

Pumpkin Pi says 3.14etc may not be what Greece wants

Greece’s Prime Minister George Papandreou’s surprise curve ball announcement to call for a referendum on Greece’s bailout, has German politicians in an uproar and may well have derailed the effort of 14 summits in 21 months, during which European leaders finally thought to have solved their sovereign debt problem. Judging by the U.S. stock market’s reaction in the past weeks, you might think the answer was yes, although the “solution” appears to be mostly another attempt to kick the can a bit further down the road.

In marathon sessions last week, European leaders agreed on a new, three-point deal to stave off a deeper debt crisis. The deal includes:

1)    A commitment by banks and other private bondholders to accept a voluntary 50% write down on Greek government debt.
2)    A boost in the lending power of the euro-zone bailout fund.
3)    A 106 billion euro ($148 billion) recapitalization of European banks.
Source: MarketWatch

Even though details were still a bit sketchy, investors threw caution to the wind and bid up stock prices. U.S. stock prices rose 3.8 percent last week and 14 percent for the month with just one trading day left, according to Bloomberg. After yesterday’s close, the DJIA ended the month of October up over 12%, which is a nice treat in spite of a tricky Halloween trading day.

With Europe’s debt crisis tempered for the moment, attention now turns to the U.S. On the positive side, the U.S. economy grew at a 2.5 percent clip in the third quarter, which was the fastest pace in a year. In addition, third-quarter earnings are still coming in strong as about 75 percent of the companies reporting so far have beaten expectations, according to Bloomberg.

Looming on the horizon, the congressional supercommittee has about one month left before making its recommendations on how to cut at least $1.2 trillion from the federal budget. If the supercommittee fails, then across the board budget cuts of a like amount would ensue.

As of last week, investors were happy to breathe a sigh of relief that Europe seems to have dodged a disaster (at least for now) and the U.S. economy still has some life.  Wall Street appears more confident that growth in the U.S., China, and other emerging markets is resuming.  As a result, commodity prices (crude oil in particular) have surged, boosting energy-related companies. Also, China’s manufacturing component rose to a six-month high of 51.7, up from 50.3 in September. This confirms China’s claim that its economy has resumed growing.

Wall Street was further encouraged as FedEx forecasted a record holiday shipping season. The delivery company expects to ship 17 million packages on their anticipated busiest day of the year, December 12th. FedEx usually ships about half this volume on a typical day. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, FedEx forecasts it will handle 260 million shipments, fueled heavily by e-commerce.  FedEx also announced plans to hire 20,000 seasonal workers to handle the holiday crush, providing an additional sign of confidence. Last year, they hired 17,000 seasonal employees.

One more factor that excited Wall Street last week was a “merger Monday” that surprised many investors. This resurgence in “merger mania” is being fed by record amounts of cash in company coffers, thanks to record earnings and a healthy corporate bond market where capital is available at extremely attractive interest rates between 2% and 3%.

With Halloween behind us, we are officially entering holiday mode.  Can the markets look forward to an upcoming ‘Santa Claus” rally to end the year on an even higher note?
I guess a little patience to wait for the fall out from the latest Greek Tragedy, would be sound advice before making that prediction.

Cuba Drilling for Oil 60 Miles from Florida Coastline

The Scarabeo 9 oil rig will be anchored off the north coast of Cuba and operated by Respol, a Spanish firm.

During a short performance presentation at City Hall for the island’s Tourism Development Council last week I learned that the Florida Panhandle had a record number of visitors this year; better than ever before. And that was just one year after the miserable oil leak disaster of 2010 that brought tourism to an abrupt halt. However, the visitor explosion may be entirely attributed to  the fact that culprit BP on a major redemptive guilt trip, gave two times $25 million on marketing the Gulfcoast part of the Sunshine State to the world of vacationers, an amount  almost twice as much as the State of Florida spends on marketing the entire state ($29.4 mill in 2010). Besides the usual reservations I carry about statistics and numbers, especially where it gets into the nitty gritty percentages of bird watchers vs visiting fishing aficionados (both ranked at 8% of the visitors?), the reminder of the oil spill, which gave us on Amelia Island a bumper year in 2010, made me remember a frightening little story I read a week or so ago. One that I think you may want to keep an eye on.

Offshore Oil and the Politics of Cuba

It turns out that one of Spain’s largest oil companies, Repsol, is gearing up to spud a deep, offshore well in Cuban waters, just 60 miles from the Florida Keys. A huge rig is en route to the site from Singapore, and as it draws closer to its destination I expect the zealous opposition from Floridian politicians who rely on the Cuban expatriate vote to put the issue right into the square of our attention.

We will hear the argument that the well should not be allowed to proceed because it violates the embargo and on a deeper level, that any oil found would prop up the Cuban regime. The first claim is incorrect – it does not violate the embargo as there are no American companies involved; but the second claim deserves closer inspection. Indeed, oil experts say Cuba may have as much as 20 billion barrels of oil in its as-yet untapped portion of the Gulf of Mexico, even though the estimate from the US Geological Survey is considerably more modest, pegging potential reserves at 5 billion barrels, which of course could well have been politically orchestrated.

And yes, finding and developing oil resources in Cuban waters would provide a major boost to the country’s struggling economy and would help to reduce its total dependence on oil-rich, leftist ally Venezuela. Castro’s close ally Hugo Chavez currently dispatches 120,000 barrels of oil a day to Cuba on very favorable financing terms. However, the arrangement is heavily dependent on the friendship between octogenarian Castro and cancer-stricken Chavez… hardly a recipe for permanence. Cuba’s oil contracts with Repsol and various other international partners probing its waters call for Cuba to get 60% of the oil, so a few good wells would make a marked difference for the Caribbean nation.

But for Florida, a state that pulls $65 billion of its income from tourism, the more pressing issue is proximity. If this well were to blow – like several and not in the least the Macondo, have done – the two American companies that provide blowout-containment services to deepwater drillers in the Gulf of Mexico would not be allowed to come to its aid. Yes, it is possible to obtain exemptions from the embargo, but spill responses are based on a simple premise: Everything has to be on standby, ready to go.

While US officials say there is a longstanding practice of providing licenses (embargo exemptions) to address environmental challenges in Cuban waters, and Americans have previously provided booms, skimmers, dispersants, pumps, and other equipment to respond to a spill, obtaining exemptions from international embargoes does not fit the ready-to-go picture.
The Repsol well will sit just 60 miles from the Marquesas Keys, an uninhabited group of islands near Key West in an area of strong, 4-6 mile-per-hour currents that come from the Gulf, shoot through the Florida Straits, and then churn northward up the Atlantic Coast. It would take only a few days for an oil spill to reach the Keys. In fact, Repsol’s well will be twice as close to US shores as drillers in American waters are allowed to operate.

Very Close for Comfort??

Any angst over the situation should not be directed toward Repsol, as the Spanish company has done nearly everything it can to placate American concerns. The company has offered US agencies an opportunity to inspect the drilling vessel and its equipment before it enters Cuban waters, and Repsol officials have stated publicly that in carrying out its Cuba work it will adhere to US regulations and the highest industry standards. The only thing Repsol has not done is concede to demands from some US Congresspeople to walk away from the project, which the politicians described in a letter to Repsol as a venture that “endangers the environment and enriches the Cuban tyranny.””

However, Repsol is inclined to be accommodating because it is a publicly traded company. It is the only such company operating in non-American Gulf waters – the others operating or considering operating in Cuba’s Gulf waters are primarily national oil companies. The United States’ sphere of influence over these state-owned, national oil companies is far, far less; in many cases, American desires have no bearing on these entities… and any effort to exert influence over them immediately raises questions of sovereign immunity.
So, while Repsol’s case is at the forefront for the moment, it seems that the US government needs to pay more attention to these national companies and attempt to formulate a way to engage in their exploration process. It’s a complicated, sensitive arena, incorporating issues like transboundary compensation for oil pollution damages, the role of international oil pollution liability conventions, and recovering costs when one country provides most of the spill response and clean-up assets.

But there are quite a few national oil companies interested in Cuba. Repsol is working in a consortium with Norway’s Statoil and a unit of India’s ONGC. The partners plan to drill one or two wells; once they are complete, the rig will pass to Malaysia’s state-owned oil company, Petronas, and then on to another ONGC unit, ONBC Videsh, both of which have also leased offshore Cuban blocks. Brazilian state oil company Petrobras is also developing plans to explore its Cuban blocks.

The Cuban Embargo is no longer in our best interest.

The multinational face of exploration in Cuba’s waters is a good representation of the support Cuba has received from the rest of the world. Indeed, every year for the past 19 years, and soon for an almost-guaranteed twentieth time, the United Nations General Assembly has overwhelmingly adopted a resolution condemning the US embargo. Every year, something like 187 of 189 nations appeal to the United States to end the embargo, with (usually) only Israel voting with the US.
Almost no one else supports the embargo, and it is time to assess whether it is still in the US’s best interests.

The embargo on Cuba represents the most comprehensive set of economic sanctions the US imposes on any nation in the world. The goal has always been to make the Cuban people suffer so much that they would tear down a government that was at one point a Cold-War security threat. The US has: imposed sharp limits on Cuba’s access to American food, medicines, and visitors; banned almost all other business activity; used sanctions to stop third countries from trading with Cuba; blocked Cuba’s access to high-technology goods; and even siphoned off some of its most promising thinkers by giving Cubans incentives to emigrate and persuading its highly trained doctors to defect.

None of this has, of course, caused an uprising, let alone broken the back of the Cuban system. It has been a generation since the Cold War ended, since the Soviet Union fell, and since the US intelligence community concluded that Cuba posed no threat to American security. Why does the embargo still stand? Well, for several reasons, two of the clearest being opposing communism in general and maintaining political support from the large Cuban expat community. However, another reason may be a lack of data. There is no formal mechanism within the US government to monitor the impact of the embargo on economic and social rights in Cuba; nor is there a process to assess the impacts of the embargo on the United States.

Without a way to gather this information, there are tough questions that remained unanswered. Do the sanctions backfire and take away from everyday Cubans the prospect for leading more prosperous and independent lives? Is the embargo damaging US standing in Latin America? Do the sanctions cost the US jobs for workers, markets, profits for businesses, or liberties for American travelers?

These questions have lingered for years, but with Fidel Castro having passed the reins over to his slightly more liberal younger brother Raul, changes are afoot in Cuba that make these questions more pressing. Adding all the new interest in Cuba’s deepwater oil potential to the mix only increases the pressure.

Raul Castro took over the presidency in 2008, and his goal is to have 35% of the economy privatized by 2015. In April the Cuban Communist Party approved 311 decrees designed to meet that goal, though to date only a few have passed into law. Those that have been enacted are mild relative to the bigger picture of creating a private sector. Nevertheless, they represent dramatic change for Cubans, who have not been allowed to buy or sell vehicles or real estate for fifty years. Now they can.

For the first time since the early years of Castro’s 1959 revolution, private individuals in retail services, agriculture, and construction are allowed to hire employees, even though there remains an article in the Cuban Constitution that says one’s property and equipment “cannot be used to obtain earnings from the exploitation of the labor of others.”
Over the next five years the regime intends to lay off up to a million public sector workers – no less than 10% of its workforce. The food rationing system, on which many Cubans rely daily, is also set to be phased out. The goals are clear – to reduce the state payroll, boost productivity (especially in the agricultural sector), and nourish the private sector – even if the timeline and plans for dealing with the fallout are far from clear.

Cuban authorities are careful to depict this restructuring as upgrading the revolution, not forsaking it. As one political analyst said, the Cuban government is trying to “let the economic genie out of the bottle while keeping the political genie in.” It’s a tough act. And the fact is that the regime can no longer afford to finance the socialist ideas upon which it was founded. The question is: Which way will it turn?

If reforms are too limited and private enterprise remains too restricted to flourish, nothing much really changes, aside from a few aspects of the current black market becoming legal. At the other end of the spectrum is rapid and rampant capitalism, with all of the debt and accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few that today are such clear downsides of free-market economies.

The Goldilocks answer is somewhere in between, positioning Cuba as a miniature China with a mixed economy, the state holding tight grip over some sectors but loosening control over others. The state will almost certainly retain its grip over mining, oil, sugar, health care, and tourism, cumulatively a large chunk of the country’s economic strength.
Nevertheless, even this partial transition to capitalism offers some good economic opportunities to the US, if it were to open those avenues. The embargo may be aimed at restricting the Cuban regime so harshly that it fails, but it is also preventing the US from even encouraging, let alone participating in, a more modern Cuba. In terms of the Gulf, the embargo not only restricts US opportunities to provide exploration expertise to a developing nation and to share in the spoils of that work, which could be another, much-needed, convenient source of oil, it is also hamstringing the US’s ability to protect its own waters.

If not Washington, then at least Tallahassee should start reaching out to Havana a bit more, even if it is only to have some form of communication in  place when another Oil Well should start leaking.

Seven billion and growing

Ever growing traffic

We won't stop until we breath eachother's Monoxide

Today on October 31, 2011 the world population will cross over the 7 billion line, duplicating the 12 year cycle of the previous milestone from 5 to 6 billion inhabitants  according to the United Nations’ population division. Technically that means growth is slowing down a tad but experts claim that we are probably looking at 9.5 billion by 2050, and that’s up from 2.5 billion in 1950. 7 Billion people growth in one hundred years time? We either start developing means to sustain this explosion of hungry people, find ways to expand humanity into the universe or be prepared to fight the good fight of resource desperation.

Imagine, the world’s population didn’t reach 1 billion until 1804, and it took 123 years to hit the 2 billion mark in 1927. Then the pace accelerated — 3 billion in 1959, 4 billion in 1974, 5 billion in 1987, 6 billion in 1999, 7 billion in 2011 , 8 billion by 2025 and 10 billion long before the current projection of 2083. Children born today will face a world that has not enough developed resources to sustain that number of people.
And the first huge challenge will be water and as water shortages will be fueling regional destabilization, migration to developed regions of the world will put enormous pressure on other resources such as food and energy.
On the other end of the spectrum is the claim that between 2005 and 2055 agricultural productivity will have to increase by two-thirds to keep pace with rising population and changing diets.

I recently read this sad observation from a woman in one of Africa’s fastest growing countries as she regretfully ponders the future for her large family with 9 children. “I regret to have made all those children,” she says. “If I were to start over, I would only make two or three. Children were a good labor force in the past when there was enough space to cultivate,” she said. “Today I can’t even feed my family properly. My kids just spend days doing nothing.”
After her fourth child, she began to worry how her family could be cared for. “But my husband was against birth control and wanted as many children as possible,” she said. “It was delicate because he could marry another wife.
“My friends advised me to go to a nearby clinic, but I was told I must come with my husband. Now I have laid the issue in the hands of God.”

I wish I had that deep faith. As one who was born in 1950, when there were “only” 2.5 billion of us around, I will probably run out of time before the world’s carrying capacity forces the issue into the foreground of the survival of our species. But for all you young ones out there, you may heed the words of hockey great Wayne Gretzky when he said: “I don’t care where the puck is, I’m going where the puck is going to be.” With cities like Mexico City, Djakarta and Mumbai already now reaching massive populations of 30 to 50 million, no one will realize in time that the puck has left the playing field a long time ago.

As massive populations are going to move back to the countryside it seem inevitable that many national borders across the globe will be re-drawn in the next 25-50 years.

Understanding Your Employee Stock Options

Not only employee-owned companies work with stock options

Do you have stock options from your employer? Make sure you know the rules before exercising them, or you may be in for some unpleasant surprises.
Even though the boom days of the 1990s have passed, employee stock option programs continue to be popular with both public and private companies.  As long as they take steps to learn the basic rules, employees stand to profit handsomely from these valuable benefits.
In the dot-com “go-go” days of the 1990s and early 2000s, many companies frequently used employee stock option plans as a way to reward and retain valued staff.  Everyone from top level executives to temporary administrative help participated in some companies. Although the modern Great Recession has produced fewer “company stock millionaires” these days, stock option programs are still popular with public and private companies.

What Is a Stock Option?

If your company benefits package includes stock options, you’ve been given the right to purchase shares of your company’s stock at a specific price and under certain conditions set by company management.
Vested options allow you to purchase a specific number of shares only after you’ve satisfied a time-in-service commitment for your employer.
If your options are performance-based, these will vest once you or your company meet specified goals.
If you have immediate options, you can purchase your allotted shares whenever you like.

The two most common types of employee stock option plans are incentive stock option (ISO) and nonqualified stock option (NSO) plans. Typically, ISOs are reserved for key executives, while staff on lower rungs of the corporate ladder may be issued NSOs. The primary difference between the two option types is how they are treated for tax purposes.

An ISO may be taxed as a long-term capital gain, assuming the employee holds the stock for at least two years from the option grant date and one more year from the exercise date. They are also taxed only when the stock is sold, effectively creating a  tax-deferred investment plan. However, ISOs may trigger alternative minimum tax (AMT) liability. Be sure to discuss this with your tax advisor to see exactly how your taxes may be affected.
NSOs are not quite as attractive, since they are taxed as both income and capital gains.  Income tax is owed once the options are exercised (when you purchase the stock). This is an important consideration to anyone who is thinking of exercising options. If you don’t have enough cash available, you may need to sell some of the shares you’ve just purchased in order to pay the tax bill.

Exercising Options

Stock options often have an exercise period of 10 years.  This means you have 10 years from the time your company grants you the options to actually purchase the stock. You are not obligated to buy any shares, particularly if your company’s stock price is trading below the option exercise price. If you choose not to purchase the stock during the exercise period, your options will expire worthless.

Some companies may offer the flexibility to exchange option grants if the market price of their stock has dropped significantly. For example, if your stock options have an exercise price of $50 a share and your company stock has been trading at only $40 a share for a long time, the company may exchange your $50 strike price options for a new set of options with a lower strike price.

If you are participating in an employee stock option plan, consult with a financial and/or tax professional who can help you decide when to exercise your shares and how to deal with the tax consequences.

Fear is at the Root of Workaholism

workaholism until the lights turn off

Workaholism until the lights turn off

Workaholism is a topic that many people don’t want to talk about. Right up there with overeating, procrastination, money management and fitness…. many entrepreneurs, small, medium or large really don’t want to talk about the topic of workaholism. Especially since most people confuse workaholism with ambition and career goals, while in reality it is most likely one of the biggest addictions that holds people back from accomplishing their goals. Besides that, workaholism has never been conclusively linked to wealth.

The Root Of Workaholism And Why It Is Neither Tied To Wealth, A Happy Life Or A Dream Business
On one hand there are many “wanna be” business owners holding themselves back with the excuse that they don’t want to be a workaholic, yet they are often the same people who spend all day on Facebook, Twitter, Google and other web pages blocking out the fact that they are not doing the things they need to create financial independence. By my definition they already are workaholics, they’re just not making any money. And many of them have a wide variety of excuses at their fingertips.
On the other hand there are the real workaholics, who deny that they are, but use the expression “Busy, busy” in every second sentence they utter, when you ask them how they are.

So please, if you’re thinking of bringing up an excuse, just take a deep breath right now. I’m not going to ask you to join a support group, get a new planner or quit your job. I’m just going to tell you a couple of things I have discovered over 40 years of workaholism versus the true appreciation of financial independence. As with everything in life, it is entirely up to you to learn from it, discard it or don’t even read any further than the period behind this sentence.

But if you suspect yourself to be a workaholic, beyond being driven by career ambition and an absolute love for what you’re doing, there are ways to stop working so many hours and yet increase your paycheck or income. Here are some considerations or strategies to getting there.

The first thing you have to accept is that Workaholism is never attached to wealth because the root of workaholism is fear of loss. I guess it’s related to that pathetic expression I often hear: “I’m afraid that when my ship comes in, I’ll probably be at the airport.” People suffering from workaholism  won’t stop working because they fear they’ll lose the one big break. Beyond that people press forward when they know they should be resting because in their mind that is what successful people do…. and most of all in life they fear not being successful.

Fear is the major reason for being a workaholic.

My corporate career started out working 90+ hours per week. That means, that aside from sleeping occasionally, my mind was on the business more than it was on anything else. It lasted for 7 years and 4 months and it almost killed me, literally. Most of the time I ran on fumes across the globe. While working for the MAN, I developed leisure real estate interests in the Canary Islands and Sardinia, I developed marketing consultancy opportunities across the globe and truly worked 16-18 hours a day. But I was young, energetic and had the world by the balls. I loved racing between meetings, airports cocktail lounges and luxury hotels, but when the breakdown came, I left a marriage and considerable wealth in the dust of those 7 years.

Yes “I LOVED MY JOB” but the fear to miss out on anything “worthwhile” in life, drove me to ignore family and friends and had altered my value perspectives completely.
After a period of contemplation I actually left my native country to pursue a better balanced life across the ocean.
And even though I made a commitment to never again “live to work”, my mindset now operated in the new world AMERICA. Initially my life and my business began to flourish. Instead of numerous hours in offices and meetings, I shifted focus to the social level, made numerous contacts, acquaintances, friends and I didn’t lose out on anything. Actually, in a fraction of the weekly hours I used to work, I built several companies and with far fewer headaches. I learned to outsource the 100’s of hours I used to work in my previous life, making sure the work was still being done, just not by me. I learned to energize others to employ their best efforts and judgements.

But Workaholism Comes in Different Shapes

Fear is the biggest contributor to workaholism, followed by status climbing, servitude and to a much smaller degree people who truly love what they’re doing. This essay is about those who are in fear of missed opportunities.
In the time before computers and the internet, business was done via mail, telephone, telex, meetings and annual conventions and exhibitions. Concluding a transaction was usually a lengthy deal with many details to be worked out. Circumstances like late night dinners and Nightclub visits were often if not always part of the decision making process.

Excessive hours were a natural by product and workaholism was an essential phase on your way to the top. Admittedly, I fell for it as I made and lost large amounts of “my ship’s cargo” on a roller coaster ride through the first half of the 1980s and by the time 1986 came around, salvation of my life’s values was found on a sailboat in the Caribbean waters.
And that’s when I learned that I was a complicated workaholic.

I was a perfection driven workaholic, feeding on a voracious process of learning, absorbing and connecting. Within 2 years I was back building resorts, marketing tourism and crossing the globe.

Arrival of the Internet

And as the efficiency and speed of computers and internet communication arrived, workaholics like me took it as a sign to expand their exposure to even more opportunities. Not only more ships were coming in, with communication speed at our fingertips speculation became a huge part of a workaholics business investment. And that trend has not slowed down, but instead has sped up exponentially with a world going on SmartPhones and on-the-go mobile connection.

And here comes the need for truth for workaholics!
It’s critically important to be aware that there is a problem and then take actionable steps to hold yourself accountable. But beyond just getting another planner, calendar, desk timer, assistant who reminds you to stop working, it’s even more critical that we get past our root issue of fear.
• Do you fear missing out on that big contract?
• Do you worry about letting that one big client go even though you know it’s not a good fit?

Yes, fear of loss and fear of missing the big chance, break or opportunity, are a big component to workaholism. It’s also a key ingredient of living a life without boundaries. Living without boundaries never creates wealth. For example….
If we are willing to take phone calls from very successful people at 11:00 pm at night just because of who they are, we are lowering ourselves so that others can tear down our boundaries. If someone is truly respectful and successful, they won’t ask you to be available at any time that they have open so they can connect with you. I advise you to be flexible when a good client or conversation presents itself but that doesn’t mean shrink back, be manipulated or do whatever someone wants. Boundaryless people need training, so respect yourself enough to give them some. Especially in the business consultancy arena even balanced people are turned into workaholics because of their efforts to please beyond the reasonable.

So if you really want to know if you or your family is struggling with you being a workaholic, just ask them. They really won’t lie. And if you are very serious about finding out if you are ignoring your relationships at home, the best way to do so is to simply ask. If the answers are YES, you may want to start correcting yourself by mapping out your most productive hours.

Don’t accommodate bad habits. People who want to work through the night tend to be more creative but they also need to make sure they are sleeping and resting through the day. My wife tends to have her laptop in bed and I am a morning riser! I usually get up between 5-6:00 am and tend to get some good work done before 8:30 I usually quit these days around 6pm and build in a beach walk with the dog and a regular workout at the Gym. For on-island transportation I use my bicycle and I’m happy to have established boundaries with our lifestyle. If we both didn’t honor certain time frames, we might not be able to work and live under one and the same roof.

How to cure workaholism without losing your income potential
Learning to train your body WHEN it can and will work is a big ticket to overcoming workaholism. Work when your creative flow is best and you tend to be in your best mood!
Most workaholics have a massive amount of tension and anxiety they need to release. This is why a good intense cardio or weight lifting workout can help!
Overcoming workaholism can be very challenging. Some people need a mastermind group or a mentor… others need an intervention.

Here’s a litmus test for you- do you feel panic and shaky when you say no?  Well let me tell you this, I still do. But now I settle into the fact that this is most likely a good sign that I am supposed to say no. I make sure I’m not saying no because of fear or some other form of regret. And I also test the waters to give myself the freedom I need to make great decisions. If someone can’t wait 24 hours for an answer from me on something they are most likely not someone I want to do business with anyways. If someone can’t honor my privacy and keeps calling my phone even though they know I operate a sizable business, they are definitely not someone I want to work with. It’s a walk of faith. Time is the thing that heals the most. But taking those first few steps to be sure that fear doesn’t’ have a noose around your neck is the ticket.
And yes there are times that I have to work some longer hours. This is an issue of balance and budget. Just like learning to balance and budget. If the total sum of the exercise is going to be great for my partners and family, it’s a small sacrifice and no one minds at all. But if it becomes the norm, it’s a sign that you might have a problem.
On January 1 of this year I introduced you to the concept of Critical Production Mode . I have been applying CPM to my life since I learned about it and it has served me very well

Learning to breathe is a big key to wealth.
Learning to say NO when appropriate, is a good start in pursuing the best you can be. If you never get past your own personal issues however, you are unable to give attention to the people who need you. So make a decision that it’s about impacting the lives of others with the gifts you posses. I promise you, your life will be so much better and complete.

1 2 3 4