SARASOTA, Fla. — This week, Manatee County Commissioners voted to support Mote's operations, programs and outreach activities that promote tourism. They committed $5 million over five years beginning in 2021.

“What Mote is going to do is they're going to use this money to kind of put a new slant on tourism,” Commissioner Misty Servia said. “Bring people here to do sustainable tourism, kayak tours, scientific analysis, things that people are really interested in from kind of an educational standpoint.”

Servia said the money is coming from tourism dollars, not local taxpayers.

“Tourists pay four pennies on the dollar when they come to visit this area and that money is used, we caught the bed tax, that money is used to provide security for tourist-related activities, outreach and marketing,” Servia said.

But, there’s a catch with the agreement.

“The law is very specific and because this money was generated from tourism dollars it can only be used for certain things,” Servia said.

Servia said it can only be used to bring more tourists to Manatee County and improve water quality.

“They are going to be working to solve our red tide and our blue-green algae problems that are really plaguing the whole state,” Servia said.

Mote has also been getting some project spending money.

“We are not the small towns, Sarasota and Bradenton that I grew up with,” Servia said. “We are now a regional community and we are growing larger every day.”

And with growth comes new development. In January, Sarasota County committed $20 million in the fiscal year 2021 to the construction of Mote’s new aquarium at Nathan Benderson Park.

They're also expecting $35 million for the project from donors, but that’s just part of the $130 million they need.

They plan to break ground by the end of the year, but that can't happen until they prove the project is fully funded.

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