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Key West To The World: Come On Down

Nancy Klingener
Gov. Rick Scott returned to Key West Wednesday with a high-powered state contingent including the lieutenant governor and the CEOs of Visit Florida and the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

In some parts of the Keys, people are still salvaging what they can of their belongings, or figuring out where they will live.

In Key West, local and state leaders gathered Wednesday to send one message: they are open for business.

"Restaurants are open. Hotels are open. Every tourist in the country, in the world, needs to come back to Key West and the Florida Keys," said Gov. Rick Scott.

He spoke at an oceanfront hotel flanked by Key West officials and tourism promoters who were carrying conch shells and waving Conch Republic flags.

Credit Nancy Klingener / WLRN
Clinton Curry, a seventh-generation Conch (or island native) leads a chorus of conch shells to welcome Gov. Rick Scott Wednesday in Key West.

The conch is the symbol of the island chain and people who were born there are called Conchs.

"We are Conch strong," said Clinton Curry, a seventh-generation Conch who runs a museum that showcases the history of shipwreck salvaging. "Just as the shell can endure being battered and beaten in storms, so can we."

Scott brought a high-powered state contingent to the Southernmost city, including Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and the CEOs of Visit Florida and the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

Scott acknowledged that the biggest immediate challenges facing the Keys, especially those in the hardest-hit areas, are housing and debris removal.

But he said re-energizing the state's largest industry, tourism, was a top priority.

"Our job is to make sure that everybody comes back in droves. Our jobs are tied to it. Our livelihood is tied to it," he said. "It's most important thing we can do for all of our families."

Nancy Klingener covers the Florida Keys for WLRN. Since moving to South Florida in 1989, she has worked for the Miami Herald, Solares Hill newspaper and the Monroe County Public Library.