The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 11 No. 23 - March 9, 2011


Business focuses on eco-education

From the March 2 issue

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

At right, Karen Fraley conducts a class on flora
and fauna behind Anna Maria Elementary School,
thanks to a grant from a local environmental agency.

Karen Fraley's past 12 years have taken her around the bend many times as she leads residents and tourists into the wilderness on land and in the water, but it might never have been had she not dealt with a spate of free time on her hands as a mother.

"I was looking for something to do while my kids were going to school," he said. "I didn't want to return to school, so I started my business. It was great because I could schedule my job around my other duties as a mother."

Fraley will celebrate the 12th anniversary of Around the Bend on March 5. She said she has introduced 38,453 students and more than 10,000 adults to the Florida story. She said she chose eco-education because of her background.

"I have a degree in horticulture from the University of Florida, and I taught pre-school for seven years," she said. "I was acquainted with the curriculum because I worked as an environmental consultant. I knew the Florida ecosystem, and I wanted to share it."

Fraley said she quickly learned to adapt her tours to what the people wanted.

"When I first started, I thought I would take them on half-day tours," she said. "I quickly found out people don't want to spend that much time on a tour, so I shortened it to about two hours."

Fraley said she faced a lot of competition from other agencies that were conducting free tours, so she carved out a unique niche.

"I decided to market my services to schools, and I was able to obtain grants to pay for my time and services. I got my first grant through the Tampa Bay Estuary Program taking people through Emerson Point."

She said as Around the Bend became more popular, she picked up more grants.

"We now host 90 trips and we have a waiting list of schools," she said. "I work with 40 to 50 schools in Manatee and Sarasota counties."

She also has a list of 10 certified Master Naturalists to lead these tours. At Anna Maria Elementary School, she has held outdoor classes for third-graders for several years. She takes them on a tour of the flora and fauna behind the school and into the bay water with dip nets to capture critters for study before they are released back into the water. She was asked what she likes best about Manatee County's environment.

"I love Florida's scrubs inland because all the scrubland on the water has homes on it," she said. "They are all very interesting.

What would she like to see for the future of Around the Bend?

"I would like to triple my field trips," she said. "We average about 4,000 students per year and I would like to increase that."

Fraley had some agencies to thank. They include the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, Southwest Florida Water Management District, Manatee Sarasota Fish & Game Association, Florida Native Plant Society, Manatee Audubon Society, Manatee Education Foundation, Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency and the League of Environmental Educators of Florida.

For more information on Around the Bend Nature Tours, including a schedule of events and tours, go to its website at or call 794-8773.

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Reverse mortgages now more attractive

Investment Corner

Savings has to be a good thing, right? Moms have told their kids for generations to "get an education, get a good job, save some money, get married and give me some grandchildren." The timeless advice from moms is usually reliable in the big picture of things, but sometimes a little simplistic, so let's go a bit deeper.

First, what is the savings rate? For a nation, or a family for that matter, the savings rate is the money earned minus the amount spent on consumption. The amount left over – the savings, can then be used to invest, pay down debt, or to literally be stashed in a non-productive environment like the mattress.

From the 1950s to the 1980s the U.S. savings rate ran between 8 to 10 percent. Then a long-term decline began, which took the rate down to about zero in the mid-2000s. The financial crisis and real estate bust in 2007-2009 woke us up a bit and the savings rate has climbed back to around the 5 to 6 percent level. Here's a chart illustrating that history

Compared to many developed countries, we have a dismally low savings rate. Part of that is due to the way our calculation is made. We spend a larger percentage on education and research and development than any other country. These expenditures are an investment in the future, but they are not counted as investment in the savings rate calculation. But, even if the rate reported is artificially low, we are still not as good at saving as many of the other nations are.

A high savings rate by itself is not necessarily a positive. Japan has had one of the highest savings rates for several decades and their economy has now spent the better part of 20 years in a stagnant or recessionary economy. The reason is (at least partially) that their savings is effectively "in the mattress." Perhaps not literally, but when savings sets in an account earning zero, it is not building wealth for the owner, not being deployed to create new jobs or innovation, resulting in a very stagnant economic environment.

So, while savings is a hugely important factor for the on-going success of an economic system, the savings need to be deployed in a way that helps nurture future economic activity aand helps enhance the wealth of the owner of the savings. Investment in a system with free and open financial markets allows for companies to borrow or issue stock, develop their businesses, and by extension, create jobs.

As with most things in life, balance is a good thing. An adequate savings rate with that savings deployed efficiently to support economic activity is a great goal. Saving at the maximum rate just for the sake of savings but not deploying the capital effectively is not a goal that will support a nation's future prospects.

Tom Breiter is president of Breiter Capital Management, Inc., an Anna Maria based investment advisor. He can be reached at 778-1900. Some of the investment concepts highlighted in this column may carry the risk of loss of principal, and investors should determine appropriateness for their personal situation before investing. Visit


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