Osceola County Commissioners were at odds this afternoon over a tourism development trip that would enter the county into “Sister City” agreements with Taiwan, Shanghai, and Beijing.
The discussion began when District 5 Commissioner Fred Hawkins raised questions over the benefits of spending money on a trip to visit with representatives from those cities.
District 1 Commissioner Michael Harford, who is slated to attend the trip with local tourism and transportation officials, stated it had previously been an opportunity to bring airline flights to the area or open up a potential marketing partnership with those cities. Members of staff were normally used but Harford contended eventually “a public official wants to meet a public official.” and some hotel renovation projects in the area were being financed from parties in those areas of the world.
Hawkins replied “Until we start doing more to support more local small businesses here, I’m not going to support an item like this. I don’t see anything of substance coming from this” who continued encouraging the board to take more actions to support economic development of existing resources in the county “A lot of things coming from this board have been detrimental to them, but we’re going out there.”
The funding for the trip would be coming from the county’s strategic economic development budget, and would cover airfare and hotel accommodations.
District 4 Commissioner Cheryl Grieb noted that while it was important for elected officials from the two areas to eventually meet, more substance and potential for gain was needed “What are we going out there for? What do we hope to bring back?”
District 2 Commissioner Viviana Janer sided with Harford, mentioning previous trips and partnerships were already benefiting the region.
The vote passed 3 to 2, with Hawkins and Grieb in opposition.