U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio visited the Florida Keys on Friday to speak with locals about the region’s struggles with tourism in the face of environmental challenges and hurricane scares.

The Republican praised Keys officials for recovering after 2017’s Hurricane Irma.

“It is inspiring when I come back to see the recovery, the building and the enduring spirit of this treasured corner of Florida,” Rubio said. “This place is very special to me personally.”

Rubio was speaking after a committee hearing held Friday morning in the Keys. He hosted a panel discussion titled “Florida’s Coastal Economy: Opportunities and Challenges in the Florida Keys.”

The U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship held the field hearing at Marathon City Hall in the Middle Keys.

Guest panelists included Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi, Monroe County Tourist Development Council Director of Marketing Stacey Mitchell, and World Angling, Inc CEO Will Benson.

The meeting’s goal was to examine the unique opportunities and challenges facing Florida’s coastal economy and small businesses in the Florida Keys.

This report will be updated.

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