PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) – The Destination Panama City Welcome Center was destroyed in Hurricane Michael and did not meet the guidelines to get funding assistance from FEMA.
Officials say they learned their lesson and made some changes this time around, so they will meet those standards.
“We added a small meeting space so that the public and local citizens or visitors can have access to the building by rent or reservation,” Jennifer Vigil, president and CEO of Destination Panama City, said. “So preparing the community for the future, this helps ensure we’re supported on all sides.”
Vigil hopes the welcome center will be a destination place that enhances the natural amenities in the community.
“Really vibrant coastal cities have an active waterfront, so we’re really trying to embrace St. Andrew’s Bay,” Vigil said. “Right now we’re working with Fish Haven Services to bring in inshore artificial reefs so that we can teach people about the ecology and the history of our area at the same time.”
Main Street Antiques Owner Liane Harding says her store thrives off of Panama City tourism.
“I would say the majority of my business is tourists that are coming to town, they’ll spend a couple of days on the beach and then get tired of that scene and they come downtown to get the historic feel of the area,” Harding said.
Harding believes a new welcome center will be an important addition to the community.
“A lot of people come downtown and they don’t know what it has to offer, and I think if there’s a tourist center that’s easily accessible, people will go in to get brochures or whatever else they’re handing out to help people know what’s in the area,” Harding said.
Vigil says the small businesses in the city are the backbone of the community and their efforts have propelled them into what the future of Panama City will hold.
Officials hope the new building will be finished by spring 2021.
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