Yes, it's been an uncomfortable year, what with negative real estate news, negative election campaigning and a deepening insurance crisis. But there were other trends that made me continue to feel lucky to live and work in this region. Here are my 10 top reasons why.
1. A quiet hurricane season. We could keep our disaster plans in the drawer and the plywood in the storage room. And after losing power for more than a week in 2005, we didn't have a dark day at our house this year, so I didn't have to nag my husband about buying a whole house generator.
2. Focus on red tide research. The community held forums on the noxious algal bloom, Mote Marine Laboratory and USF decided to start a coastal monitoring system to better detect red tide, and Mote is establishing a Marine Policy Institute, overdue and welcome steps for a community whose economic health depends on clean water and beaches.
3. The bustling scene at First Street and Central Avenue in downtown Sarasota. Starbucks, Selby Library and Five Points Park join at a corner that overlooks two completed condo projects, new retail stores and Whole Foods. It's our first real glimpse of where our cities might be headed, and the scene is fun, urban and filled with the eclectic mix of people that makes cities desirable.
4. And speaking of people.nearly every day I meet someone with a new business or new ideas, proving that we continue to attract a wide range of talent and energy, which translates into business growth.
5. Mango daiquiris at Mar Vista on the north end of Longboat Key. We all need a break once in a while.
6. A return to a saner real estate market. As economist Hank Fishkind told me (see feature in this issue), transitions are painful, but rarely fatal. I'm relieved the frenzy is over and we can look forward to steadier and more rational growth.
7. Involved business leaders. I marvel at the number of busy CEOs and small business owners who donate their time and energy to sit on committees and chair boards to keep our communities strong, beautiful and caring.
8. Great institutions of higher learning. We have 12 in all, and several, including Ringling School of Art and Design, New College of Florida (recently ranked No. 1 liberal arts college in the nation by U.S. News & World Report) and LECOM (Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine), have earned national recognition. That only comes from a citizenry that supports excellence, like the many local businesses that donated $2.5 million to build the new USF Sarasota-Manatee campus that opened this fall.
9. Direct flights to JFK on JetBlue.
10. All of you. This month marks the completion of our third year of publishing, and each year the magazine continues to growth in strength and range of voices as evidenced by our Florida Magazine Association editorial awards. None of it would have been possible without the feedback we've received from readers, our talented writers and artists, the support of our advertisers, and the ongoing advice of our dedicated advisory board. Thank you all.