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Experts: Environment and local economy are linked

Speakers at the recent Meet the Minds luncheon linked the importance of the environment to the local business economy.

About 150 people attended the luncheon event on Sept. 1 at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. Speakers included Michael P. Crosby, president and CEO of Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, and John McCarthy, executive director of Sarasota County Openly Plans for Excellence (SCOPE).

The luncheon was jointly hosted by The Science and Environment Council and The Argus Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to joining business leaders from diverse industries and leveraging their talents and experience to benefit the community.

According to 2014 statistics from Visit Sarasota County and SCOPE, the estimated economic impact of tourism in Sarasota County is $1.5 billion. Many of those tourist dollars can be directly attributed to a healthy environment, a sentiment repeated by several panelists.

“Our community’s rich heritage of environmental protection has made the Sarasota Bay area nationally recognized as a place of natural beauty,” said Dr. David Shafer, executive director of The Science and Environment Council. “Today, our natural environment is the foundation of our economy and quality of life.”

Ed Chiles, CEO of The Chiles Restaurant Group, advocated sustainable harvesting and aquaculture of local marine resources, such as Gray Striped Mullet and Sunray Venus Clams.

“Ninety percent of the seafood we eat in the United States is imported,” said Chiles. “We want healthy, organic and non-polluted, non-chemical seafood. We have to change the model from a commodity-based to a valuebased standard, protecting our heritage, our environment and our economy.”

— Submitted by Candice McElyea

Joe Hembree, president of The Argus Foundation; John McCarthy, executive director of SCOPE; Ed Chiles, CEO of The Chiles Restaurant Group; Dr. Michael Crosby, president and CEO of Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium; Christine Robinson, executive director of The Argus Foundation; and Dr. David Shafer and Dr. Jennifer Shafer, co-executive directors for The Science and Environment Council. PHOTO PROVIDED BY CANDICE MCELYEA

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