I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: In business and in life, you’re either growing or you’re dying. I’ve seen the validity of that statement proven over and over again. When a business stops investing in innovation, or allows bureaucratic red tape to bind its growth and level its trajectory, it is doomed to the kind of mediocrity that leads to failure.
Ensuring that Sarasota avoids the mire of mediocrity has become my driving passion. As a concerned citizen of Sarasota and an Enterprise Florida board member, I have spent a huge amount of time pitching Florida, and Sarasota specifically, to businesses around the world. I’m doing my best to argue that this is fertile ground for economic growth.
So I’m disappointed when an innovative company like Uber begins operations in Sarasota and it has been met by a regulatory battle with the city government.
Sarasota city commissioners have spoken about being open to the future of job creation and the high-tech industry, and here is their opportunity to back up those claims — by passing modern ride-sharing regulation, rather than defaulting to the kind of costly “regulate and control” policies that crush progress.
It is worth noting that companies like Uber represent an entirely new industry that didn’t exist five years ago. Government isn’t known for moving at the same speed as the private sector, so it’s understandable that there’s lag time between innovation and policy.
However, sensible regulations for the ride-sharing industry have now been passed in over 20 states across the country. It’s clear that time is no longer an acceptable excuse for outdated policy.
In the 21st century, a city official should not need to inspect a vehicle — the quality of a vehicle can be easily be crowd-sourced by any person who has been in the car. Additionally, in today’s sharing economy, the lines are blurred between personal and commercial. Insurance providers are already innovating to adapt to this new reality. Uber’s own insurance policy covers riders and drivers whenever commercial activity is taking place.
Our city’s regulations should also be adapting to allow for these innovations, rather than rejecting them for archaic regulations that were built for a different era of transportation.
Like many innovative companies, Uber has a model that brings the promise of job creation and significant local economic impact. Uber is bringing economic empowerment to our local entrepreneurs, providing them with extra income for providing a valuable service at times that work around their schedule.
Now is the time for Sarasota officials to prevent our city from falling behind. Modern regulation for ride-sharing is being passed across the country. There will not be a better opportunity for our city’s commissioners to show they are serious about innovation in practice , not just on the campaign trail.
Seeing our elected officials embrace modern regulations will signal the sort of forward thinking that can transform our city for the better. As I continue to advocate on behalf of Sarasota to the business community, arguing that this is fertile ground for innovation, I can only hope that Sarasota’s officials will help me in this cause.
If you want to see Sarasota cement its reputation as being open to innovation, please contact the city commissioners and ask them, when they vote next Tuesday, not to pass regulations that would prevent companies like Uber from operating in Sarasota.
Please come support Uber and innovation in Sarasota by wearing a black T-shirt to the City Commission meeting at 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 8 at City Hall.