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Huge economic losses reported from red tide crisis

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) - This year-long red tide crisis has been relentless for local business owners and we’re not out of the woods yet.

Many businesses took out federal loans for help, while others have chosen to tough it out. These longtime businesses are determined to win this battle.

During the peak of the red tide crisis, the Swordfish Grill in the Cortez fishing village was deserted. General Manager Bob Slicker had never been so afraid in his entire career.

"We were down 60 to 70 percent. Every single business on the island and in this area was down 60 to 70 percent,” said Slicker.

It has taken some time, but business is starting to pick back up.

"The most frustrating thing of it is the perception of the red tide and how bad it is,” said Slicker.

Red tide left quite a hit on the economy. Pinellas County reported more than $1.5 million in economic losses. Sarasota County saw more than $3 million in damages, and Manatee County businesses lost more than $4 million in revenue.

Joe Rogers from the Star Fish Company in the Cortez Fishing Village has had enough.

"We're glad October is here and hopefully the red tide won't be showing its ugly face anymore,” said Rogers.

The latest FWC forecasts show increased red tide concentrations in the region.

Winds could possibly push the algae back to shore.

But local business owners don't care. They've weathered this summer's storm, they can handle it again.

"It's the worst we've seen around here and I know it can't get that bad so anything better than that, we're good with,” said Rogers.

“We try to deal with things that we can affect. We can’t affect that, so in the meantime, we’re going to make hay when the sun shines and we’re going to have as many musicians here and as many parties as we can,” said Slicker.

Restaurants throughout Manatee County are offering special deals to get more customers through the door.

And locals are looking out for their own. Many business owners have banded together to create a fund to help their employees through this crisis.

They created a non-profit organization called SIRF, or Service Industry Relief Festivities.

“We wanted to do something for the everyday employee that had a hard time making their rent, paying their car payment,” explained Slicker.

The group is planning to hold festivities to raise money to support their employees. The money will also create a fund to prepare for the next red tide outbreak.

But despite all their hardships, they don’t forget about helping the less fortunate.

Slicker just came back from a trip to the Panhandle where he took money and donated goods to help Hurricane Michael survivors in Port St. Joe.

“We have places to live. We have businesses, albeit we’ve been a little slow. We’re increasing sales. We have electricity. We have a lot of things we take for granted that they don’t have right now,” explained Slicker. “It was very humbling, very sad. The devastation is unfathomable.”

Slicker and his fellow business owners know it could always be worse. They’re determine to make it through this red tide crisis.

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