Mix of fear, hope for Gulf Coast business owners

Mr. Weinberg, one of the Gulfport business owners who met with Mr. Obama on Monday at Ken Combs Pier restaurant, shared a lunch of fried shrimp, crab cakes and miniature shrimp-salad sandwiches, along with stories of the spill’s hardships. After lunch, Mr. Obama and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour got lemon-lime treats from Cindy’s Sno De-Lites.

Mr. Weinberg said he was particularly happy that the president urged Americans to visit and spend money. He said that could help combat sensationalized press coverage, which has led potential visitors to think the entire region is soaked in oil and not worth visiting. He said one person called the first week in May to cancel a catering order six weeks out for a family reunion.

“They thought the oil had hit our shores, and that just wasn’t the case,” Mr. Weinberg said.

He added that he was pleased to see Mr. Obama push oil companies to come up with better technology to handle spills, and said he doesn’t blame the president for the pace of the response.

“I’m going to hold my judgment on how he handles it until I see how he handles it from here on out,” Mr. Weinberg said.

Mr. Struchen, the sailing school owner in Pensacola, said he’s not angry either and that he feels like he’s one of the luckier business owners.

While waiting for checks from BP, he said, his sailing academy can rely on a modest amount of cash from club members who have paid dues in exchange for regular use of the boats. If he can’t get someone to move the booms regularly, he said, he will move his sailboats to another harbor.

He hopes that he and his wife can sell the school as originally planned if Mr. Obama’s prediction that the Gulf will bounce back is realized in a few years.

Meanwhile, one of their biggest fears is being left with weakened business and no investment capital to rebuild it. “Eventually they’re going to quit writing checks,” he said of BP. “I’ve spent a fifth of my life building this business. I’m not anxious to go back to the work force or start over again.”

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About the Author
Kara Rowland

Kara Rowland

Kara Rowland, White House reporter for The Washington Times, is a D.C.-area native. She graduated from the University of Virginia, where she studied American government and spent nearly all her waking hours working as managing editor of the Cavalier Daily, UVa.’s student newspaper.

Her interest in political reporting was piqued by an internship at Roll Call the summer before her ...

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