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Business Beacon: Inside Scenic Walton

Editor’s note: This month’s Business Beacon is a spotlight on Scenic Walton, a grassroots organization that works to preserve the natural beauty and quality of life in Walton County. Executive director Leigh Moore talks to us about previous projects, how to get involved and the rewards of making a positive impact on your community. Find Scenic Walton on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and the web. Order their specialty license plate at www.scenicwaltontag.com.

Do you have an interesting topic you think we should cover? Leave a comment below!

Leigh Moore, executive director, Scenic Walton

1. How did you get the idea or concept for your business?

LM: In the mid-90s, a group of concerned citizens came together to form a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization called Scenic Corridor Association. That organization advocated for good codes and guidelines in the county’s land development code that promote excellent development design. They saw the growth coming in the south end of the county and wanted to see the area develop out in a way that would create a high-quality look and feel along the primary transportation corridors. That group and their supporters convinced the county to designate U.S. 98 and U.S. 331 south of the bay as a scenic corridor and add scenic corridor guidelines for development along those roadways into the land development code. They also became interested in promoting and pursuing roadway landscaping and litter reduction for the same reason.

2. Let’s discuss numbers: What year did you open? How many locations do you have? How many people do you employ?

LM: In 2008, the board of the Scenic Corridor Association and others formed a separate 501(c)(3) nonprofit called the Scenic Corridor Foundation to pursue projects and programs related to the mission of improving the roadways along the U.S. 98/U.S. 331 South county-designated scenic corridor. Our first project was to obtain grants and private donations that funded the landscaping in the medians along U.S. 98 between 30A West and Mack Bayou Road, which was recently removed due to the FDOT widening project in that area. There will be new landscaping installed after the widening is complete. In 2019. during my tenure as president of the board of directors of that organization, we expanded our geographic reach to all of Walton County and changed our name to Scenic Walton. The board then decided to hire me as the organization’s full-time executive director in 2020. I am currently the only employee. We currently do not have an office as we strive to minimize our operating expenses.

3. What do you sell or what service do you provide? What’s your best seller?

LM: We work with the community and government to preserve the natural beauty and enhance the quality of life in Walton County. We believe that beauty is good for business. We focus our work on promoting actions like landscaping the medians along our primary roadways; championing the undergrounding of overhead utilities; promoting the expansion of pedestrian and cycling facilities; removing litter from public spaces; advocating for context-sensitive development; and, challenging the uncontrolled spread of billboards and signage. These steps will enhance our environmental and economic progress, including tourism while promoting health and quality of life. Enhancing the safety and beauty of our communities are driving factors for our work. While I feel that every element of our mission is extremely important, I believe the pursuit of undergrounding utilities and the resiliency, safety and beautification gains it brings is the most impactful part of what we do.

4. What’s unique about what you do or offer?

LM: We are the only organization bringing people, other nonprofit organizations, businesses, and local, state and federal government together to pursue projects and programs in the realm of scenic beauty. We are also a chapter of Scenic America, a national nonprofit working at the federal level to achieve results that trickle down to local scenic entities and communities making our mission more achievable. So, we are fortunate to have those powerful resources behind us.

5. How would you describe your business to a potential customer?

LM: Walton County is one of the fastest-growing areas in the country, with residential and mixed-use development fueling the growth. Scenic Walton is focused on preserving and enhancing the safety and natural beauty of our county amid this growth. We are undertaking lifesaving projects like the U.S. 98 pedestrian/cyclist underpass in Inlet Beach and a game-changing county-wide utility undergrounding initiative. We have a track record of success and big plans for the future that we would love for you to be a part of by supporting our organization.

6. What do you love most about your line of work?

LM: I love that I get to do work that has a positive impact on our communities in meaningful ways like increasing resiliency and making roadways safer and more aesthetically pleasing. It is incredibly rewarding.

7. What sorts of trends are you seeing in your industry?

LM: Diversification of revenue sources is becoming paramount for nonprofit organizations as the economy goes through both normal cyclical changes and unexpected events like COVID. Also, partnering with other nonprofits, businesses and governmental entities to scale our abilities to get things done is important in my opinion.

8. Tell me in just a sentence or two what you feel sets you apart from your competitors.

LM: We don’t consider anyone our competitor. We are all members of the same team, and we love it when we all come together to make something wonderful happen in our county.

9. Who or what inspires you? This could be a family member or celebrity, a particular quote or even a book/movie/podcast. The sky’s the limit!

LM: Oprah Winfrey

10. What’s the best thing about being a part of the Emerald Coast, personally and/or professionally?

LM: The best thing about the Emerald Coast to me is the incredible natural beauty and natural resources we are continuously surrounded by. It is truly an amazing place to live.

11. Are you/your business involved in the community in any way? Volunteering or giving back? If so, how?

LM: Yes! That is what we do and why we exist.

12. What does a typical day in your business look like? (Pretend it’s Monday (or Friday!) and take me through the highlights of your day.)

LM: I continuously shift between running the organization from an operational perspective, fundraising, building relationships with other people and organizations, marketing and communications activities and project and program work. I typically attend multiple meetings a day both virtually and in person. The best part of my day is watching our projects come to fruition and making a difference, typically after years of work.

13. What’s your best “insider tip?” (This could be a community tip for vacationers or homeowners or even a tip for customers related to your business.)

LM: Be a part of the solution when you see things you want to change in your community or things you would like to happen. Seek out organizations or people that are making things happen and share your ideas and work with them to help get good things done.

14. How do you recharge or relax when the day is done?

LM: I exercise, do transcendental meditation, spend time with loved ones including my dog, Biscuit, and I read a lot.

15. Just the deets, please! Where are you located? Business hours? Social media profiles and/or website links we need to know about? (Please feel free to add social media handles or direct links!)

LM: We work throughout Walton County. Contact us anytime at 850.588.1877 or info@scenicwalton.org. Visit our website at www.scenicwalton.org and follow us on social media at www.facebook.com/ScenicWalton/, www.instagram.com/scenicwalton/, and www.linkedin.com/company/scenic-walton/. Order our specialty license plate at www.scenicwaltontag.com. Sign up for our newsletter at www.scenic.org/walton-signup.

16. One final question: If there was just one thing you wish the public knew about your business, what would it be?

LM: You can support our efforts by donating at www.scenicwalton.org or by purchasing our specialty license plate at www.scenicwaltontag.com. We can’t do what we do without financial support from our community.

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