What's good for Daytona International Speedway is good for Volusia County

Jimmie Johnson wins the 2013 Daytona 500 / Headline SurferJimmie Johnson takes the checkered flag for the 2013 Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

DAYTONA BEACH -- I went to Tallahassee last week to testify before a State Senate committee on behalf of Bill 1394 which would provide certain tax advantages and abatements to the Daytona International Speedway after the Speedway invests $250 million of its own money in expansions and improvements.

Next week I plan to do the same before a committee of the State Legislature.

Several of my more conservative friends have asked why I would support what they see as “corporate welfare” for a colossally successful privately-owned company worth over a billion dollars.

Let me make my reasoning clear: completion of this complex of proposed projects will mean far more in economic impact, jobs, spin-off businesses and tax revenues than it ever will in profits for the Speedway. Those of you who can, think back to Daytona before the Speedway.

I was born in Daytona in 1942, and remember very well the sleepy little beach town that was Daytona in those days. There was occasional racing on the beach, low tide permitting, but national popular awareness of Daytona as the Capital of Speed was embryonic. There was no organization, no focus, and no development plan for the future. And then Bill France had his great vision and proved that he had the guts and determination to make it a reality.

In the years since 1959 when the Speedway opened, Daytona has been branded into the American psyche as the home of the Great American Race. The Daytona 500, the Coke Zero 400, 24 Hours of Daytona, the motorcycle races associated with Bike Week and Biketoberfest, are familiar events which have brought mounds of tourist money into the local economy as well as the economies of other cities in the county and in cities farther away which are on the main approach routes to Daytona.

Sixty percent of our racing visitors are tourists from other states who would not come to Daytona Beach were it not for the speedway. They stay an average of five nights in our hotels, eat at our restaurants, patronize our nightclubs, souvenir shops, filling stations, grocery stores, etc. In short, they are a major support of our economy. The speedway holds some 185,000 people, tens of thousands more than the largest super bowl and it is filled several times a year.

Sixty percent of our racing visitors are tourists from other states who would not come to Daytona Beach were it not for the speedway. They stay an average of five nights in our hotels, eat at our restaurants, patronize our nightclubs, souvenir shops, filling stations, grocery stores, etc. In short, they are a major support of our economy. The speedway holds some 185,000 people, tens of thousands more than the largest super bowl and it is filled several times a year.

More than that, the speedway is in use over 200 days out of the year. Much of that use is preparation for huge racing events but much of it is devoted to automotive research and crash survival, the results of which have saved countless lives on the track over the decades.

Let’s look at what statistics show what Daytona International Speedway contributes right now on an annual basis:

# Its total economic impact to the State of Florida is $1.6 billion per year;

# It has created and sustains 18,500 permanent jobs throughout Florida;

# It generates $645 million in annual labor income:

# It provides $241 million in annual tax revenue to the city, county and state.

In operation for 54 years, Daytona International Speedway is in need of dramatic modernization and expansion, which is exactly what is planned for it. In addition, this proposed complex of projects includes a massive mixed-use motorsports entertainment and research facility. This is a natural extension of Bill France’s original vision and, like that vision, it will have a major beneficial and transformative effect.

For openers, the speedway will invest $250 million of its own money. Most of the huge professional stadiums in Florida have demanded millions in construction funds upfront and other guaranteed benefits, often including new or higher taxes dedicated to paying their construction or operating costs.

The France family is not asking for any of these things. They are putting their money where their mouth is, just as they did with the original speedway. And they already have a magnificent track record to point to:

# This expansion will create 4,253 construction jobs;

# It will also create some 4200 permanent new jobs;

# It will generate $200 million in annual labor income;

# It will provide an additional $58 million every year in tax revenue.

Cars on track for Daytona 500 / Headline SurferHeadline Surfer photos / Race cars come off turn 2 during the 2013 Daytona 500 as shown from the infield.

Please realize that the Speedway will invest every penny of the $250 million before a single incentive is approved. Only then would they receive a rebate on the sales taxes paid for construction materials. And they would they hope to receive the same post-construction tax break as other major Florida sports venues have been getting for many years.

In other words, the speedway is shouldering all of the risk and the tax abatements that they request would come into effect only after they have kept their word and spent their money.

This is almost unprecedented in investments of this size and it demonstrates as clearly as anything could the faith which the France family has in Daytona and in the racing empire which they and we together have built. Moreover, they are prepared to make this enormous investment in the midst of the worst economic conditions our country has endured since the Great Depression. How many investors anywhere in the state are you aware of who are prepared to take that kind of risk at this time? Now has the speedway made the France family very rich? Yes it has! And will the proposed expansion make them richer? I certainly hope so.

This is almost unprecedented in investments of this size and it demonstrates as clearly as anything could the faith which the France family has in Daytona and in the racing empire which they and we together have built. Moreover, they are prepared to make this enormous investment in the midst of the worst economic conditions our country has endured since the Great Depression. How many investors anywhere in the state are you aware of who are prepared to take that kind of risk at this time? Now has the speedway made the France family very rich? Yes it has! And will the proposed expansion make them richer? I certainly hope so.

As Daytonans, as Volusians, as Floridians, we ought to want this project to go forward and to succeed beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

As conservatives, who praise the entrepreneurial spirit and loathe those who stand silently with their hands out waiting for government handouts to survive we should laud the Speedway as emblematic of everything we stand for. They are not requesting a handout, they are proposing a wise partnership with the state of Florida - a partnership which will benefit all concerned, will bring more and better jobs, more and ever more exciting entertainment, opportunities for new related business startups and more life-saving research.

In closing, I should make it plain that I am not employed by the Daytona International Speedway or any of its affiliates.

I will not make a penny if this project goes forward or not. But I am convinced that the speedway expansion proposal will be a very very good thing for our city, county and state and when I see something that good, I tend to speak up in support.

Stan Escudero Picture

Short Bio

The Guidepost By Stanley Escudero
Stanley Escudero is a retired career diplomat, businessman & native Floridian, who lives in Daytona Beach Shores, Florida, with his wife, Jaye. He served as chairman of the Volusia County Republican Executive Committee in 2011-2012. Escudero was appointed to the Daytona State College Board of Trustees in 2015, By Gov. Rick Scott. Escudero, writer of the 'The Guidepost' politcal column since 2010, is a member of the inaugural Class of 2017 Headline Surfer Hall of Fame. All news content copyright-protected intellectual property of NSB News LLC, which may not be duplicated or re-published in whole or in part without advance approval of the publisher. Headline Surfer® is published by award-winning journalist Henry Frederick.