The Buzz

By Hannah Wallace March 31, 2007

Leading Question

Could Southwest Florida be a resort destination for the Chinese?

Welcome to Nanxi Florida! In January, Sarasota hosted the Florida Huddle, the prime destination gathering for Florida tourism players. At the show, state tourism officials confirmed a major drop in British tourism in 2006. This comes on top of a slight drop for Canadian visits and a continued long-term slide for German tourists.

There's a silver lining on the horizon, though. Based on some positive noise coming out of China, Visit Florida, the state's public-private booster agency, hopes the United States will soon get the coveted Approved Destination Status from the Chinese government (just how soon is in the hands of Chinese government officials). The designation would allow millions of Chinese nouveau riche to travel here freely as tourists. As of now, the Chinese government lets its citizens travel here only on business. As the first step in an extended marketing effort, Visit Florida had a stand at a large tourism fair in Beijing last year, pitching the Sunshine State to millions of Chinese.

Still, tourism officials may need to take a course in cultural differences. A Visit Florida official commented to reporters at the Sarasota event that the Chinese are "exasperatingly slow." This type of comment comes just months into the effort-not a good sign for the stamina and commitment of Florida's marketing people.

Bringing Chinese tourists here is not going to be a slam-bam, thanks-ma'am type of deal. For one, the entire world's beach destinations are courting China as the most growth-promising outbound market. Second, there is neither history nor infrastructure for Chinese outbound travel. Third, the state is the main actor in China's nascent outbound tourism industry. Fourth, Homeland Security has already angered millions of foreign visitors, and it's not likely Chinese visitors will get the royal treatment. And lastly, there's not a single nonstop air link connecting China with Florida.

All these are obstacles that can be overcome, but it will require stamina and a generational effort of all players in Florida.

Nanxi, by the way, means "Southwest" in Mandarin. -Johannes Werner

Five Questions


Dr. Sunita Lodwig, USF professor of information technology, assesses Sarasota's IT job market.

Before accepting her current position at USF Sarasota-Manatee, Dr. Sunita Lodwig worked for AT&T, Motorola and Verizon for years, commuting to Chicago from Sarasota every week for business. Now she teaches courses on information technology with a focus on educating tech workers.

Why are tech workers so important?

Each and every aspect of our lives deals with computers. If you go to an ATM to deposit money and there's a problem with a machine, then you have a problem, too. If you go to a shopping mall and there's a power glitch, your transactions aren't processed through the register. Tech workers maintain these networks 24/7.

What sort of education is required for jobs in information technology?

A bachelor's degree in information technology is a good starting point, and local entry-level salaries range from $35,000 to about $50,000 with the opportunity to move up fairly quickly, although the salaries are lower here than in the Midwest or Northeast. Beyond that, people can go on to master's programs and get certifications in various areas. And you don't have to start out with an IT degree to get certified: At USF, for example, we offer certificates for people in management positions who want to get more familiar with tech jargon or who simply wish they had more background in IT.

What sorts of tech workers are in high demand?

Although the job market is generally good, with all of the viruses and hackers and bugs out there today there is a shortage in information security. Only a handful of schools focus on information security education, and many mid-size businesses don't hire security specialists because they think they're not at risk since they haven't been hacked. We're implementing a new information security program at USF, however, and we've had no problem getting enrollment.

Is this region a good job market for IT workers?

I would say that there are certainly tech jobs here-people can find them as Web designers, systems administrators, systems analysts or in information security. And people are finding work in companies that run the gamut from large organizations-such as Verizon, ADT and Sarasota and Manatee county governments-to small businesses. Some of my students have even gone on to own their own companies.

Do we have the youth culture and financial resources to attract-and keep-tech workers?

Sarasota is part of what I call the "sunshine premium." People want to move here because of the quality of life, even though the salaries are lower. It's a tradeoff. There are certainly hot IT jobs in the area-do a quick Internet search and you'll see that. And I think that Sarasota has the culture to retain employees; organizations like 82 Degrees Tech are enabling that even more. Downtown is wireless and USF has a brand-new campus, which is all part of the revival. Education institutions generate feeder populations of students who want jobs locally, and those students attract big companies-it's a self-sustaining chain. We're on our way. -Interviewed by Megan McDonald

Crunching Numbers

International Investors in Florida Real Estate

Percentage of Florida homebuyers who are foreign: 15

Percentage of international buyers from Europe: 58

Percentage of international buyers from Latin America: 29

The No. 1 country of origin for international buyers in Florida: U.K.

Top country for international buyers In Sarasota/Fort Myers/Naples: U.K.

Average median price paid an international buyer paid for a home in Florida between May 2004 and May 2005: $299,000

Average median price for all existing single-family home buyers in Florida between May 2004 and May 2005: $196,200

Percentage of international home buyers who paid cash: 36

Percentage of domestic home buyers who paid cash: 8

Percent of U.S. homes purchased by international buyers that are condos: 39

Percent of all sales in the U.S. that are condos: 10 to 15

Percentage of all Florida foreign buyers who buy in Miami-Fort Lauderdale: 30

Percentage of all Florida foreign buyers who buy in Sarasota: 10 percent

SOURCE: National Association of Realtors, Profile of International Home Buyers in Florida, statistics based on sales figures between May 2004-2005.


Hip, Historic Philly

Spring's a season of rebirth, and the perfect time to celebrate our nation's birthplace with a jaunt to Philadelphia. Stodgy no more, Philly offers a hot new art and music scene, buzz-worthy clubs and chic restaurants. As you experience a just-right mix of history and hip, you won't have to ask for whom the Liberty Bell tolls. It tolls for thee, with a jazzy lilt (

SEE: The city's revitalized Old City District has all the art galleries and chic restaurants you'd want, along the cobblestone streets our Founding Fathers trod. Elfreth's Alley ( is America's oldest residential street, continuously occupied since 1713; make sure to visit nearby Christ Church-or "the Patriot's Church"-where you'll marvel at the wineglass pulpit with the shades of Betsy Ross and George Washington. Feast your eyes on Maxfield Parrish's seminal 1916 Tiffany glass mosaic, Dream Garden, in the Curtis Center lobby, which launched Philadelphia's art preservation movement more than a decade ago, when a mogul tried to buy it for Las Vegas.

DINE: At the Society Hill Hotel Bar (, quaff local microbrews and try an upscale take on the ubiquitous Philly cheese steak (this one's made with shiitake mushrooms and Gruyere cheese). For haute Asian in a lively scene, try Buddakan (, or sample sophisticated tapas at Amada (

STAY: Location, location, location is what Loews Philadelphia Hotel ( boasts. Sleekly housed in a renovated bank building that's a National Historic Landmark, it's within walking distance to most historic sites. For a gracious splurge, the fabled Rittenhouse Hotel ( boasts historic views as well as Lacroix at the Rittenhouse, one of the city's finest French restaurants.

SHOP: Get in the art swing with a visit to Snyderman-Works Galleries (, with art and sculpture by more than 200 artists on offer. Browse the upscale boutiques of North Third Street, particularly Viv Pickle (, where the staff will create any handbag you design and send it to you within six weeks. Nearby, the Gourmet of Olde City, Papery and Bonejour cater to, respectively, the home chef, stationery lover and pampered pup.

INSIDER TIP: There's no better place to experience the city's vibrant performing scene than World Café Live (, a showcase for local, regional and international jazz and New Music talent. -Mary Alice Kellogg


Mind Your Manners

Business etiquette advice from hospitality consultant Judi Gallagher.

My last business lunch was a disaster since I took a client to a nice restaurant where two young kids at the next table were disruptive. Is there ever a way to handle this situation diplomatically?

Planning is essential. Pick an environment that is conducive to a business lunch, such as Michael's on East or The Ritz-Carlton, where there is an extremely low chance of children lunching, and request a quiet table when you make the reservation. If all else fails, apologize for the interruption and ask to have your table moved or continue the discussion over coffee and dessert at a quieter restaurant.



DWT: Driving While Texting. It's become such a concern that the Arizona State Legislature is considering a bill to make it illegal.

Adminispam: Useless e-mail sent from upper-echelon bureaucrats that's not applicable to your area, about people you'll never work with or issues you'll never face.

DIYD2 or (DIYD)2: Damned if you do. Damned if you don't.



My First Job

Always On Pointe

Fifth Third Bank's Wendy Bowen was a professional ballerina before she pirouetted into her current job.

As a young dancer in New York City, Wendy Bowen took daily dance classes with the best in the ballet world. Then Bowen made the jete from barre to business, becoming a vice president and private banker at Fifth Third Bank.

"I started dancing when I was four years old, and when I was 15 I went to a summer program at the Nutmeg Conservatory in Torrington, Conn. From there, the famous North Carolina Dance Theatre recruited me, so I relocated to Charlotte, N.C., to dance under Patricia McBride and Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux. I lived there for about a year and a half.

"After Charlotte, I moved to New York City. I had just turned 18 and had never been to New York before, so it was a little overwhelming. Instead of going to traditional auditions for shows, I became a freelance artist. I would take ballet class every morning with either Wilhelm Burnam or Nancy Bielski, and people who were looking for dancers came to watch because those classes were the toughest in town. I danced in New York for about two years, but knew I was drawn to a career in business.

"I took college courses and worked as an independent representative for a mortgage company. When I had a lot of work in ballet, I didn't take on mortgages, and vice versa. After I stopped dancing, I went into investment banking. I had a few clients who lived in Sarasota, so I started traveling here to assist them. It was the year of a huge blizzard and, needless to say, I liked it here. After traveling back and forth for nine months, I accepted a job offer from another company and moved to Sarasota in January 2005.

"In September 2006, I took my current job with Fifth Third Bank, where I'm a vice president and private banker. I've had a very unique career path, and through it all I've learned that you always have to be passionate about what -you do." -Interviewed by Megan McDonald


April Planner

4: Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce "Good Morning, Greater Sarasota!" 7:30 a.m. at Insignia Bank, 333 N. Orange Ave. Free for members; $5 for nonmembers. To RSVP, call 955-2508 ext. 517.

12: Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce Business Connections, 5 to 7 p.m. at National City Mortgage, 6901 Professional Parkway E., #103. $5 for members, $15 for nonmembers.

18: Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce "Chamber U," "Building Customer Loyalty in a Competitive Market," 8 a.m. at a location TBD. $30 for members in advance, $35 at the door; $35 for nonmembers in advance, $40 at the door. To RSVP, call 955-2508 ext. 517.

19: Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce annual Hob Nob, 5 to 9 p.m. at Phillippi Estate Park, 5500 S. Tamiami Trail. Live music, food and networking. $40 for members, $50 for nonmembers. To RSVP, call 955-2508 ext. 517.

24: Manatee Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours, 5 p.m. at Meals on Wheels' new center, 1816 9th St. W., Bradenton. Free, no RSVP required.

25: 82 Degrees Tech "Strictly Social" Happy Hour, 5 to 7 p.m. at Mattison's City Grille. $10 for members and $15 for nonmembers with reservations; $15 for members and $20 for nonmembers at the door. To RSVP, visit

25: Longboat Key, Lido Key, St. Armands Key Chamber of Commerce, "Good Morning Longboat Key" breakfast, 8 a.m. at the chamber office, 6960 Gulf of Mexico Drive. Free. To RSVP, call 383-2466.

27: Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County Author Event, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Michael's On East. $65 per person, half table for $375, or a full table of 10 for $750. To RSVP, visit, call 309-1200 ext 203 or e-mail [email protected]

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