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Business Observer Friday, Nov. 16, 2018 3 weeks ago

Economic forecast: Judah Longgrear, founder and CEO, The Nickel Ride

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The mobile marketing innovator saw some difficulties this year but looks ahead to much better times in 2019.
by: Brian Hartz Tampa Bay Editor

Company: The Nickel Ride operates a fleet of electric vehicles in tourism-heavy areas, from St. Petersburg to Fort Myers. It offers free rides thanks to marketing arrangements with local businesses that pay to have signs displayed on the vehicles and set up pick-up and drop-off locations right outside their doors. Longgrear says he’s optimistic about 2019, but admits that The Nickel Ride has had to “get creative” when it comes to working with Gulf Coast businesses impacted by a red tide-induced tourism slump. The Nickel Ride generates about $30,000 per month in revenue. Longgrear sees that rising substantially in 2019, projecting monthly revenue will double with every two cities to which the company expands. Dunedin and Naples are likely targets for expansion.

Industry: One part marketing firm for bars, restaurants and hotels, one part free shuttle service in urban hotspots like downtown St. Petersburg, The Nickel Ride, while barely a year old, is a company that has its finger firmly on the pulse of what’s happening in tourism and hospitality. Of the red tide outbreak and another active hurricane season, “in past years it would have been absolutely devastating” to tourism, Longgrear says. “But I think pretty soon it’s going to be business as usual because there’s not as much offseason as there used to be.” He doesn’t foresee much, if any, of a hurricane-red tide hangover effect in 2019. “It’s just part of the economics that happens when you’re in a potential tornado or hurricane zone.”

Threats: Heading into 2019, having too many weather-affected businesses as clients could be problematic for The Nickel Ride. Longgrear says one of his goals is to be more strategic about the mix of advertisers he relies on for revenue — for example, adding attorneys and car dealerships. “That might require us to take a different approach to how to sell,” he says. Although marketing and advertising often suffer when a company makes budget cuts, Longgrear doesn’t see that happening to a large extent in 2019, citing the region's robust, competitive business environment. “Is your competitor cutting back on advertising? Everyone knows they need to advertise to stay competitive and remain a leader within your industry,” he says.

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