Seven Panhandle organizations received a total of nearly $2 million in grants from the Gulf Tourism and Seafood Promotional Fund at a ceremony in Panama City Beach.
The money was provided by BP as part of its settlement of the Deepwater Horizon incident. The fund totals $57 million and programs that support the tourism and seafood industries in the five affected states are eligible for grants.
"I'm confident that the ones we've selected are going to do things that are good for this region," said Patrick Juneau, Claims Administrator.
The Panama City Beach Chamber of Commerce received $485,000 to promote its new seafood festival. "It's very significant," said Paul Wohlford, the chamber's interim president. "In the past, we haven't had the promotion we should have to bring our visitors in the spring and summer back in the fall."
Panama City's Downtown Improvement Board plans to enhance special events with its $125,000 award. "Our events have been steadily increasing and the attendance has gone up and we've been winning a lot of awards for it, but what better way than to come across this money and be able to really bring attention to downtown," said Dutch Sanger, Executive Director.
Other award recipients:
Juneau said the grants provide an opportunity that Gulf states may never see again. "Anything we can do to foster tourism on a long term basis, foster seafood production on a long term basis... those are good things and I am just fortunate to have the opportunity to make these grants to institutions that we think can do that," he said.
According to Juneau, a total of $43 million in grants has been awarded through the Gulf Tourism and Seafood Promotional Fund.