Environment and Technology and Media & Marketing

CHRIS KATTERJOHN Commentary: Greetings from Florida-and the Edge

January 30, 2006

NAPLES, Fla.-After 11 days of vacation here in Naples, I'm beginning to gear up to return to work. I'll be back in the office on the 23rd.

Let me tell you what I've read since I've been down here. I started with "Memoirs of a Geisha," an engaging piece of fiction that tells a beautiful love story while revealing the inside world of Japanese geisha.

Second, I tackled "The Grail Bird," a work of non-fiction that tells the story of 2004's rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker in the oldgrowth swamps of Arkansas. The bird was thought to have been extinct since the '40s.

Now I've leapt into the book that's been mentioned to me by no fewer than a dozen business acquaintances in the last four months. I'm a quarter of the way through "The World is Flat," by Thomas L. Friedman, and already I can see what all the fuss is about.

It's essentially a wake-up call to America, illustrating vividly how the business world is changing at the speed of light because of technology and how important it is for us to recognize the challenges and opportunities posed by this new nano-landscape.

Of course I, being nature boy, immediately find some irony in the fact that I'm reading the book in what could be the flattest state in the country. I make this connection in my mind in the middle of Everglades National Park, where I pass a sign that says I'm 3 feet above sea level and I'm still a good 30 miles from the coast.

Of course, I get angry all the time about the rampant development of south Florida that is essentially killing this singular and beautiful environment. And I think to myself, "We need a wake-up call down here." But that's another story.

It's interesting the connections you make when you're away from home.

Many people from Indianapolis vacation and have second homes in the Naples area. One of my business associates at IBJ purchased a condominium here earlier this month, in fact. That's good. It means he'll be working a long time to pay for that baby.

As I'm driving through Homestead, Fla., on my way to the Everglades, I see a road sign with an arrow pointing left directing drivers to the "Motorsport and Stadium Complex." I'm reminded that Tony George built a freaking track on the edge of town for an Indy Racing League event.

I'm wondering, "Why did he do that down here?" in what is a pretty depressed part of Florida, peopled significantly by migrant workers serving agri-business and seemingly forever rebuilding after hurricanes. It makes me wonder: Is he making any money in southern Florida?

I've discovered an especially poignant Indy connection this trip. I read in the Naples Daily News this morning that Indianapolis Colts place kicker Mike Vanderjagt has a home in Marco Island, just 20 minutes south of Naples.

He lives there part-time and owns a restaurant and bar called Vandy's on the Edge. Perfect name, I thought, for a cocky little guy who is an excellent field goal kicker and appears to live on the edge. Turns out Colts Edgerrin James and Reggie Wayne are investors in the place, too.

A haven for Colts fans in this area, Vandy's on the Edge is a family affair. It is run by Mike's brother Lee and his father, John. They hosted a gathering of 250 people for the Colts/Steelers playoff game.

We thought we were heartsick when Mike missed that field goal! Can you imagine how his family and friends felt sitting there in his own bar in front of all those people? It had to have been really tough.

Which brings me to the question: Do the Colts need a wake-up call?

It's clear the team needs something. I just hope nobody does anything drastic. We're so close. Just a tweak here and there is all we need. Maybe next year I can watch them win a playoff game at Vandy's on the Edge.



Katterjohn is publisher of IBJ.To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to ckatterjohn@ibj.com.
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