The Ole Seagull


Branson has no risk if airport fails or does it?

Posted in Branson,Opinion by The Ole Seagull on the May 31st, 2009

When the announcement was made that AirTran Airline would be ceasing its direct Milwaukee Branson flight less than three weeks after its initiation the reaction within the community was mixed. Some had the “I told you so attitude,” some the “I don’t care attitude” and still others the “We’re getting another flight attitude.”

Some were concerned that if this was the harbinger of what is to come for the airport, that the city of Branson or Taney County could be liable for all or a portion of the airports $150 million in private debt financing. For what it matters, based on the public information that is available, the Ole Seagull believes there is no reasonable way that either the City of Branson or Taney County has any legal obligation to repay any of the private $150 million in debt used to build the airport.

The private investors who invested the $150 million are the ones who stand to lose their investment if the airport operation doesn’t go as planned. A July 2007 Bloomberg.Com report said, “The Branson Regional Airport Transportation Development District (BRATDD) plans to sell $117 million of high-risk, high-yield bonds to finance a new privately developed airport near a tourist area known for its country music and live entertainment.” It continued, “The Branson airport deal comprises unrated securities maturing from 2013 through 2037 that are expected to have a top yield of about 6.5 percent, according to the bond offering documents. Citigroup will underwrite the deal.”

According to the May 14 and 16, 2007 records of the Taney County Commission, Taney County is leasing the land the airport is on to the BRATDD and the BRATDD was going to issue up to $150 million in revenue bonds to build the airport. The Notice of the Public Hearing said, “The bonds will be revenue obligations of the District [BRATDD], payable solely from revenues derived by the District from lease payments made under the operating lease to the Company for the Airport.”

There is a misconception that the city of Branson is responsible for paying $2 million per year to the airport. The reality is that under an agreement penned with the airport developers by the city administration in power prior to the 2007 elections, the city is obligated to pay the airport $8.24 per passenger that disembarks at the Branson Airport that did not originally board in Branson. There is a $2 million dollar per year cap on the payments. Although not limited to first time visitors to Branson, the payment is limited to passengers arriving at the airport. The lower the number of qualified passengers arriving at the airport the less the city pays. Zero passengers equal zero payment.

In the opinion of an Ole Seagull, although the citizens of the City of Branson and Taney County should be pretty well insulated from any direct legal liability should the airport fail that might not be the case for those who purchased the reported high-risk, high-yield, and unrated bonds. They should hope that passenger research and estimates used to forecast revenues are more accurate for other areas than they were for the Milwaukee Market.

On the other hand, our community and citizens do have a vested interest. If the airport fails what does that do to the reputation of the Branson Area in terms of economic development etc? Can any reasonable person really believe that the new lower air fare rates out of Springfield either would have happened in the first place or will be maintained without a viable Branson Airport? “Ah Seagull, what if things went south for the airport, is there a possibility of a “bailout?” Now how could an Ole Seagull know the answer to that one?

Memorial Day – Remember the “risk” that preserves our Nation

Posted in General,Opinion by The Ole Seagull on the May 24th, 2009

The purpose of the original Memorial Day was to honor those who died in the Civil War. Its purpose today has evolved into remembering and honoring all who have died in the service of our country. What better way is there to honor and remember them than to honor and remember their living comrades, those men and women who have and are currently honorably serving in America’s Armed Forces.

Someone a lot wiser than an Ole Seagull said, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” Since the earliest days of our history, America’s Armed Forces and their families have assumed the risk paid the price for the freedoms and privileges that we, as a Nation, all enjoy and sometimes take for granted. Memorial Day gives us a unique opportunity to not only honor the dead but to pause, honor and say “Thank You,” to those who have and are currently serving and their comrades who are Missing In Action.

The very act of going into the Armed Forces puts one’s life at risk. Immediately upon being “sworn in,” members of the Armed Forces have given control of their lives to their military and governmental leaders. It is a control that is absolute and, from an honor point of view, irrevocable.

It could be exercised through an order “to take that hill,” in the face of withering machine gun or mortar fire, to patrol a neighborhood in Baghdad, or the assaulting of a terrorist stronghold in Afghanistan. Or, it could be an order to serve in a supply depot, training facility, or hospital thousands of miles away from the battle. Regardless of where or how one serves, the risk to their life is an inherent part of serving and is omnipresent.

History records that it is the politicians, and those in power, who start wars and that it is the men and women of their Armed Forces and their families who pay the price of those wars. It is a price paid in separation, stress, blood, suffering, anguish, and, sometimes, death.

Theirs is not the job of judging whether or not the politicians and those in power are risking their lives in a noble or just cause. Their job is to do their duty. Some have served in conflicts that were “popular” such as World Wars I and II and Dessert Storm. Others served in conflicts that were not as “popular,” such as Korea and Vietnam. Through it all however, the men and women of America’s Armed Forces and their families have done their duty, sacrificed, and given unstintingly of themselves.

The eloquent words of William James remind us that “No matter what a man’s frailties otherwise may be, if he be willing to risk death, in the service he has chosen, that fact consecrates him forever.” Since the beginning of our Republic the members of our country’s Armed Forces and their families have assumed that risk, done their duty, and ensured that a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

For that we owe those who have and are currently, serving in the Armed Forces our undying gratitude, honor, respect, and support, not only on Memorial Day but, every day we as a Nation enjoy the fruits of their efforts, sacrifices, and service.

A Baker’s Dozen on low cost air fares to Branson

Posted in Branson,Opinion by The Ole Seagull on the May 17th, 2009

The age of low air fares to Branson have arrived and it is thanks to the “Branson Airport (BKG) which is located approximately 10 miles south of Branson. That thanks is based on two aspects, the low cost air fares of the carriers actually serving BKG and the fact that low priced service has influenced and lowered the air fares fares currently available through the air carriers serving the “Springfield-Branson National Airport (SGF),” located about 45 miles northwest of Branson.

That said, the Ole Seagull has some questions that he’s wondering if he can get answers to. “Yes,” he knows he could probably pick up the phone and call people, but then some will return the calls others won’t and besides, whether they are good questions or not, at least they are on the public record and can serve as the start of a public discourse on the availability of low fares to Branson and how to let Branson’s prospective guests know about them.

1. Does the average theatre, attraction, or hotel care whether or not the person purchasing their tickets or renting their rooms flew in through BKG, SGF, STL or East Kishnif?

2. In fact, forget about flying, as long as they are alive, breathing and have paid for a ticket or room does the average theatre, attraction, or hotel care how the person purchasing those tickets or renting their rooms got there? Does it really make any difference whether they came by car, bus, motorcycle, moped, boat, train, canoe, etc. or any combination thereof?

3. Would the answers to 1 and 2 above be any different for restaurants, retail shops, convention centers, etc.?

4. How much has the Branson Lakes/Lakes Area CVB (CVB) and the Branson Lakes Area Tourism Community Enhancement District (TCED) spent in the last year promoting low cost air fares to Branson?

5. Was one of the primary action items of those ads the intent to get the person reading the ad to go to the city of Branson owned web site, currently under lease to the TCED, “Explorebranson.com” and, from its front page, take an action that would allegedly give them information on the low fares available to Branson?

6. Is the primary source of information on that site talking about low air fares located at http://www.explorebranson.com/static/index.cfm?contentID=256, Click here to see page.

7. Does that page read basically the same the morning of May 16 as it has for the last few weeks?

8. In view of the impact that the new airport was anticipated to have and is having on low cost air fares and the current economic environment, what research has either the CVB or TCED done on the availability of low cost airfares to Branson?

9. As of the morning of May 16, when a potential Branson guests who has viewed the CVB/TCED ads about low fares to Branson takes the action prescribed in the ads will they get information on all the low cost air fares available to Branson?

10. If the answer to 9 above is anything less than a definite “Yes,” especially since taxpayer money is currently being used to promote “low cost air fares to Branson,” shouldn’t it be done in a manner that potential Branson guests get enough information so that they can make an informed choice?

11. Was any of that money spent in the Indianapolis, IN market?

12.  If so why?

13.  As of the morning of May 16, for a trip between Indianapolis, IN and either SGF or BKG, departing on July 11 and returning on July 18, what airline actually has the lowest air fare?

America’s “nobleness” and hope – Her Teachers!

Posted in General,Opinion by The Ole Seagull on the May 10th, 2009

Dedication: As another school years end this opinion is republished and respectfully dedicated to our areas Teachers as a thank you, an encouragement, and a goal. May it remind us all of how valuable our Teachers are to our children, community and the future of our nation.

In terms of a “profession,” America’s future does not lie in the hands of Presidents, politicians, lawyers, doctors, accountants, and other leaders. Her future lies in the hands of the professionals who will be teaching those who will become the future Presidents, politicians, lawyers, doctors, accountants and other leaders, America’s Teachers.

A “Teacher” is “one who teaches,” a professional who has accepted the awesome challenge and responsibility of helping to prepare our children and grandchildren to fully realize their individual potential, create the desire to fulfill it, and equip them with the skills necessary to achieve it. It can truly be said that America’s destiny and future depends upon the realization and fulfillment of that potential.

Oh sure, there are those, professing to be teachers, who do the minimum and simply go through the motions. They could be characterized as those who perform the mechanical function of providing instruction from prepared lesson plans without a personal commitment to their students or accepting the responsibility and accountability for their results. They are teachers in title only.

The true “Teacher” has a personal commitment to their students. A commitment to not only teaching the necessary information and skills their students will need, but to make learning an experience they will want to continue for the rest of their lives. They fully realize and appreciate that “how” they do what they do is as important as “what” they do and dedicate their professional lives to equipping, helping, and motivating their students to recognize and reach their full potential.

To a large extent true “Teaching” is an art form. It requires the same type of dedication, commitment, and skill that a painter would use on a great canvas, a music composer on an opus, a lawyer on a jury, or an entertainer on an audience. What makes the successful musician, singer, comedian, painter, or author? Is it the mere application of “the mechanics” of what they are doing or their ability to communicate and relate what they are doing to their audience?

Even as the success of an artist is directly linked to their ability to relate what they are doing to their audience so too is the success of a Teacher, only more so. Although the professional entertainer wants and desires to reach every member of their audience, they can still be very successful if they reach a substantial majority of their audience.

A Teacher however, does not have that luxury. For them, success and failure is measured in the eyes, minds, and hearts of each individual student. The Master Teacher said it best. “If any man has a hundred sheep and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying?” He was not willing to lose even one.

The Teacher’s heart and spirit transcends mere “mechanics and basics” and goes to the concern and commitment of dedicating themselves to their students and their individual ability to effectively apply what is being taught. It is a task that, in a lot of cases, is made more difficult by influences outside of the Teacher’s direct control such as the physical or mental challenges of individual students, school funding issues, child abuse, and dysfunctional families to mention a few. Fortunately, for America and Her children, in spite of these additional challenges, there are those who feel a calling to become, in the truest sense of the word, “Teachers.”

Where then is the nobleness of Teaching? It is obvious that it is not based on factors such wealth, title, or power and yet, it is nobleness in the truest sense of the word. Nobleness based on the character, honor, generosity, dedication and commitment of those who are true Teachers and the quest they have chosen, preparing our children for the rest of their tomorrows. There’s not much that is more noble or important than that, not much at all.


Chrysler drives into the deal of lifetime

Posted in General,Opinion by The Ole Seagull on the May 6th, 2009

Wouldn’t every business person love a deal like this one! A CNNmoney.com story entitled, “Chrysler won’t repay bailout money” reports that “An administration official confirms that a $4 billion bridge loan and $3.2 billion in bankruptcy financing won’t be paid back by Chrysler following bankruptcy.”

Chrysler doesn’t pay the $4 Billion loan or the $300 million in fees on that loan, all made with taxpayer money prior to their recently declared bankruptcy. They declare bankruptcy and get another $3.5 Billion to fund their operations during bankruptcy. What does the tax payer get? An 8 percent equity in a company that would have been out of business without taxpayer assistance. What a deal.

For what it’s worth,an Ole Seagull believes it is ludicrous that bankruptcy plan does not include a payback of at least the $3.5 billion being used to fund its operations during bankruptcy.

Excerpts from article:

This revelation was buried within Chrysler’s bankruptcy filings last week and confirmed by the Obama administration Tuesday. The filings included a list of business assumptions from one of the company’s key financial advisors in the bankruptcy case.

Some of the main assumptions listed by Robert Manzo of Capstone Advisory Group were that the Treasury would forgive a $4 billion bridge loan given to Chrysler in the closing days of the Bush administration, a $300 million fee on that loan, and the $3.2 billion in financing approved last week by the Obama administration to fund Chrysler’s operations during bankruptcy.

Click here for entire article.

10 or 10 million Branson visitors, what’s the difference if they don’t do business with you?

Posted in Branson,Opinion by The Ole Seagull on the May 3rd, 2009

Most can remember the old Fram Oil Filter ads that said, “You can pay me now or pay me later.” The gist of the ad was that, in terms of a motor vehicle’s efficient operation, one could pay for an oil filter now and eliminate the problems a dirty filter would cause later or not purchase the oil filter now and pay later for the problems caused by a dirty oil filter.

Marketing works for destination and individual businesses basically the same way. Just like the oil filter it costs money that can either be spent now to generate business or can be ignored to be paid for later by the business that is lost because of the lack of effective marketing.

An an Ole Seagull’s opinion the destination marketing of Branson is where it all begins. It is what creates the “Tourist Pie” of tourists coming to experience Branson. It is the size of that pie that directly affects the chances for the economic success of each tourist business in Branson, the bigger the pie the better the chances for success.

If an Ole Seagull were to guess he’d say that the majority of destination marketing is done using taxpayer funds, controlled either by the city of Branson or the Branson Lakes Area Tourism Community Enhancement District, via a contract with the Branson Lakes/Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. He would further hazard a guess that the majority of the rest of the funds spent on destination marketing come from the time share industry and various other businesses that sell tickets, lodging etc.

The vast majority of businesses, shows, attractions etc., do not spend their individual marketing dollars on the destination marketing of Branson. They spend it in the hope of getting people already sold on the destination of Branson to do business with them. At the end of the day, to a particular business, it makes no difference if 10 million people come to Branson if it doesn’t get enough of those 10 million people to spend enough money in that business to provide for its financial success.

It is commonly called “intercept marketing” and is a concept that has been used in Branson for decades. The means of intercept marketing are virtually endless including but not limited to discount coupons, bill boards, ads in free tourist publications, TV, and radio, and giving different organizations a commission for marketing, selling and servicing your tourist related product. The purpose of most intercept marketing is to intercept the Branson visitor before they spend their time and money with someone else.

The bad news is that your business is competing with every other tourist business for each tourist’s money and time. Perhaps more important is the answer to the question, “Are the standard methods that have been used for intercept marketing in the past the best methods for the present?” An Ole Seagull would suggest, except for the better known shows and attractions, that if the method depends on the visitor being in Branson before being intercepted the answer, increasingly, just might be “No.”