It was Frank Flautt’s vision that helped pioneer the Emerald Coast as a premier resort area. In 1982, he acquired beachside property in the Sandestin Resort that had limited development, which grew into the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort and Spa. The hotel was originally developed as a 400-unit condominium structure. It was only In 1998, after 200 rooms and additional amenities were added, that it became a hotel in its current form.
Frank was pleased when plans were announced for construction of Ascension Florida Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast. The Hilton Sandestin was continuing to attract countless tourists to the area year-round, and having medical care close by made the hospital a valuable asset from a business standpoint. He also knew it would contribute significantly to the community’s development and economy.
He is a generous philanthropic contributor to the ministry, saying “I can’t think of too many things more worthwhile than supporting the hospital.” Its chapel was funded by the Hilton in honor of his employees. Yet he believes the rewards far outweigh the donations he’s been responsible for, knowing that his staff, their families and he himself have received outstanding care there. Over time, he has watched Sacred Heart’s Emerald Coast hospital grow to meet expanding community needs, which he credits to wise management.
Today the Hilton Sandestin employs 500 people year-round, which grows to 750 during the peak season; it has few vacancies from June to August. It weathered the 2010 oil spill that prompted grant-money advertising to help bring back the area, which ultimately helped the resort by opening up markets unfamiliar with the Emerald Coast. Frank says, “God blessed all the efforts we made here, because it’s been one of Hilton’s most successful properties.”
When his company conducted a survey of people who have bought local homes, one of its questions asked what their first exposure to Sandestin was. A little over 70 percent answered that they came for a meeting or vacation at the Hilton – and decided to stay. “I was sitting on the beach one day, “ he shares, “and I asked, ‘What are all these people doing here?’ My wife turned to me and said, ‘Well you brought them here, so don’t complain.’ “
At age 78, he continues to serve as president of his company, hoping to be remembered as a “kind and generous” employer. His goal was “never about making money. It was about product. If I could, I would come to work and do it for nothing because I just love it.”
This is an excerpt from Stories from the Heart. Click to read more.
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