A Tavernier business trying to lure customers to the Florida Keys for its seminar series is having trouble selling its idea to tourism officials.
Grace Gilbert, who handles program development for Florida Keys Seminars at Mile Marker 91.7, applied in July to the Monroe County Tourism Development Council for grant money to help paint the Keys as a seminar destination.
That request was shot down by TDC Director Harold Wheeler, who said he considered the proposal as something that benefited a single business more than it helped tourism.
"She is applying for money to promote her personal business," he said.
Wheeler did forward the request to four of the TDC's five District Advisory Committees for consideration. The one it didn't go to was Islamorada's DAC.
That's because Gilbert was accused of prematurely soliciting that committee, Wheeler said. She sent an email to the Islamorada Chamber of Commerce about her project asking for support. Four members of the DAC IV board, however, are chamber members and received the email, which caused the violation.
In a July 16 email to Wheeler, Assistant County Attorney Cynthia Hall wrote, "Given the blatant violation of this provision, my recommendation is that you withdraw this application from consideration for funding as to DAC IV."
Wheeler took Hall's advice. He also said an appeal from Gilbert was denied.
Despite Wheeler's interpretation of Gilbert's funding request, the individual DAC committees can still suggest funding. Any recommendation would then go to the Tourism Development Council board for a vote, according to Wheeler.
Gilbert said she still planned to present her proposal to the DAC committee in Islamorada during public input at its meeting Tuesday, but and results of her presentation were not immediately available.
In the email to the Islamorada Chamber of Commerce, Gilbert said the Keys are "missing the boat" on a potentially lucrative seminar industry. Her business, which includes Patricia Mull, CPA, and Lu Foley, director of operations, offers seminars on wealth management and a bridal financial boot camp for women.
Geared mainly toward out-of-towners, the programs start at $199. Gilbert said she has been taking reservations and expects business to pick up later this year.
Gilbert, however, said she is not asking the TDC to give money to Florida Keys Seminars, but to use tourism funds to help promote the Keys as a seminar destination.
"It's good for everyone, especially the restaurants and the hotels," she said.
For more information, visit www.floridakeysseminars.com.