If you invite them, they just may come.

The Greater Marathon Chamber of Commerce has rolled out the red carpet to new and existing small businesses around the globe, and their efforts to date have proven worthwhile.

Chamber CEO Daniel Samess reported on behalf of the Red Carpet Tour committee to the Marathon City Council during their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday night that because of the committee’s relationship with Enterprise Florida as well as their marketing efforts, nine national and international businesses are currently considering Marathon as their new home.

“If we can get a couple of these to commit to relocating or opening in Marathon, then our work will be worthwhile,” Samess told the council.

Enterprise Florida, Inc. is the state’s primary organization for promoting economic development. They focus on a wide range of industry sectors including: clean energy, life sciences, IT, aviation/aerospace, homeland security/defense, financial/professional services and manufacturing. EFI works in collaboration with a network to business development organizations to improve the state’s business climate and improve global competitiveness.
Samess said his committee has been in contact with a solar-photovolactic systems company from Austria that’s also interested in launching an academy to certify installers; a Brazilian medical equipment supplier; a German-based manufacturer and retailer of inflatable boats; a Maryland family looking to establish fishing charter business and small manufacturing firm; a financial firm specializing in wealth management; an Italian-based spice company; and an Ireland-based IT firm that provides operating systems for wireless data and telecommunications industries.

The creation of new businesses will have an extremely powerful economic impact on our community by creating jobs, increasing tax revenues and creating additional services, market and industries, Samess encouraged.

He added that two web addresses, www.marathonredcarpet.com and www.relocatetothefloridakeys.com had been secured, developed and were fully functional. Nearly 2,500 page views this year have proved interest from across the country, Canada, Brazil, Australia, India, Thailand and Germany.

The committee requested that a link to their website be placed on the city’s home page, and City Manager Roger Hernstadt assured that would be no problem.

In other business:
• City attorney John Herin reported back to the council on their request to clarify who is responsible for enforcing the city’s charter. Herin explained that the difference between criminal and non-criminal violations of the city’s charter is that with violations deemed non-criminal, the city is responsible for enforcing their own charter.

Councilman Pete Worthington questioned exactly what ordinances or city laws the state attorney is responsible for enforcing.

Herin said if, for example, the city decided to criminalize drinking in public places, the city would be required to have a budget for enforcement as well as prosecution.

“You’d have to pay for the alleged violator’s defense attorney,” he continued. “A charter violation is not the same as an ordinance violation under Florida law. Florida Case Law says a charter is not an ordinance. You couldn’t enter into an agreement with the state attorney’s office to enforce an ordinance violation and then also use it for the charter, unless you were to adopt some type of mechanism to say a charter violation constitutes an ordinance violation.”

“We don’t have any ordinances in the city that have criminal penalties,” Councilman Mike Cinque continued. “It’s all civil. If we were to pass an open container law like some city’s have, then it would become a criminal act, and that would be something the state attorney would have to punish. Thank God we haven’t had to penalize that.”

• The council approved changes to the Florida Keys Animal Encounters facility proposed for the property at 117th Street and Vaca Cut. Changes to the conditional use permit included elimination of workforce housing and a tiki hut styled facility instead of the “bricks and mortar” type structure previously proposed.

Planning Director George Garrett said some of the changes were signs of the economic times, but that all were in compliance and his staff recommended the council approve the changes.

“I’m personally thrilled about this,” said Mayor Ginger Snead. “This will really help bring a different group of tourists to Marathon and help promote ecotourism.”

• In a public hearing, attorney Ed Scales presented evidence and called witnesses to clarify any confusion of the Planning Commission’s initial approval of a 2APS license that would allow a proposed new Walgreen’s slated for the site of the former Gary’s Pub to sell beer and wine.

Following testimony from Brian Schmitt of First Florida Keys Properties, Inc. as well as Barbara Mitchell of The Craig Company, only one opponent – Dave Addison – spoke against approving the proposed beer and wine license. Ten proponents, among them former councilwoman Marilyn Tempest, local business owners and real estate agents and an employee of Walgreen’s, supported granting the appeal for a beer and wine license that would allow First Florida Keys Properties, Inc. to move forward with their proposed plan.

With Worthington abstaining from the vote, the council unanimously approved granting the appeal that would allow approximately 150 square feet of the entire 15,000 square feet of space to be used for beer and wine sales.

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