Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty is back to jet-setting in the name of economic development, this time trying to sell Orlando to clean energy companies and investment groups in Spain.
Crotty, along with Chief of Staff George Rodon and Carmenza Gonzalez, vice president of international business development for the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission, were scheduled to leave Saturday on the five-night trip.
The trio will visit Madrid and Barcelona to call on companies such as solar and wind providers Fersa Energias Renovables and Iberdrola Renewables as well as real-estate-exhibition group Barcelona Meeting Point and airline Air Europa.
The itinerary also includes two companies that the EDC is keeping confidential.
Crotty is likely to bring up Willard & Kelsey Solar Group, an Ohio-based company considering Orlando as the location for its solar-panel manufacturing operation, as an example of how the county is attempting to develop a hub for solar technology.
The cost of the trip will total about $13,000, including $9,000 for three business-class airline tickets and about $4,000 for lodging, according to the EDC.
In February, Crotty led a group of business people on an EDC trip to Dubai, just as the United Arab Emirate state's economy was crashing in the midst of a real-estate bust.
Donegan wants Holy Land answersOrange County Property Appraiser Bill Donegan also wants to know when Holy Land Experience offers its required one day of free admission each year.
I wrote a few weeks ago about how the religion-centered theme park was less than forthcoming about when it drops its $35 ticket price.
The requirement was written into a 3-year-old law designed to guarantee the park a property tax exemption that saves it about $300,000 each year.
Eventually the general counsel told me the park was open for free on Feb. 5, 2008, a Tuesday. But he could not tell me when the free day would be this year. And he did not respond to questions about previous years.
Donegan, who fought the park in court over its claim to an exemption until the law was passed, decided he would try to find out as well. He sent the park's executives a letter on June 5 asking for documentation of the free day dating back to 2006.
The law was written without an enforcement mechanism, so they may very well tell Donegan it's none of his business.
He asked the park to respond by July 1. I'll keep you posted on what, if any, response he gets.
From the mailbagI heard from quite a few readers about the future of the soon-to-be abandoned Amway Arena. In Friday's column I looked at what is in store for the Am once the Orlando Magic move into the new arena next year.
Some of you asked, "Why not convert the empty Amway into the new performing arts center?"
The idea was briefly considered, said Kathy Ramsberger, president of the Dr. P. Phillips Orlando Performing Arts Center. But, in addition to the technical challenges (such as perfecting the acoustics) of retrofitting the old arena, she said, its location and architectural style don't fit the larger vision.
"We have a chance to really grow this community and create great places," she said. "It's a bigger question than just having the theaters." Construction on the $425 million arts center at its site across from City Hall is slated to begin next year.
The bottom line: The arena will go dark and begin its wait for the wrecking ball once the new events center opens in the fall of 2010. It will be too expensive to maintain the building and utilities to continue to hold events there, said city spokeswoman Heather Allebaugh.
Beth Kassab can be reached at email@example.com or 407-420-5448. Read her blog at orlandosentinel.com/thebottomline.