My editor Jim Healy forgot that this is my vacation "week", i.e., I normally don't write a column this week. When he called me on Thursday to firm up what we were doing, I just laughed, because I really didn't have anything to offer.
Given the circumstances, he agreed to let me write from afar, so I am writing to you from the beautiful white sands of Boca Grande, Florida where we are visiting with some friends. For those of you who may not be familiar with the geography, Boca Grande is on Gasparilla Island which is halfway between Naples and Sarasota on Florida's west coast. The beaches are incredibly beautiful as is the water and like everyone else along the gulf, they are nervous about their way of life and their investment.
We are staying with friends whose parents have had a home there for 35 years. Their parents are in their retirement years, and they have decided it's time to sell the property. Between hurricanes and oil spills, it's time to pack it in.
"My parents don't see the market coming back for another ten to 15 years," my friend said. "This is a major asset for them, and now with the oil spill it could be gone. Nobody wants to even look at a property on this coast until they know where the oil is going."
The major news networks have covered the oil spill with admirable diligence, but their coverage remains in those areas where the oil is omnipresent. The rest of the shore of the gulf coast in also in a sense of paralysis, and in essence, for the purposes of real estate transactions is now shut down.
The irony of it all, and not in a bad way I must stress, is that as I sit and enjoy this truly beautiful part of our country that is struggling, our neighbors at Tybee are thriving relative to the last couple of years. Rentals are through the roof, and businesses on the island are doing great.
There is a term that is used in sociology which is diaspora. It means the displacement of a people/culture from their homeland usually as the result of a tragedy (i.e. war/famine/flood, etc.). As I sit on the west coast of Florida, I really feel it is happening.
I now realize that we are truly beginning to benefit from the horrible, non predictable events that have happened to our gulf coast neighbors over the last five years. The shift is our way, and I can't even begin to imagine the impact. BP may have capped its ruptured oil well, but it seems to me that the economic leak is just beginning.
So, until next Tuesday, I bid you au revoir.
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