Florida Power and Light

Situation

Florida Power and Light (FPL), the third-largest electric utility in the United States, reached out to The History Factory for assistance in creating a visitor center for its Riviera Beach Next Generation Clean Energy Center. This visitor center would focus not on the company itself, but on the manatees that are drawn to the surrounding waterways in cool weather. Located in West Palm Beach along the shores of Lake Worth Lagoon, the Riviera Beach facility sought a safe, educational science center where the public can see the manatees and other wildlife.

The warm-water outflow from the company’s plant attracts hundreds of manatees every winter, but security restrictions in recent years prevented FPL from accommodating visitors who wished to watch these animals. As part of an environmental and efficiency upgrade to the Riviera Beach facility, FPL promised to create a safe, accessible educational center for the surrounding community and general public.

Solution

The History Factory worked alongside FPL and its partner agencies to develop Manatee Lagoon: An Eco-Discovery Center. Manatee Lagoon is an educational exhibit for middle school and high school students and their families that includes traditional exhibit content as well as digital interactive components and hands-on activities.

In order to identify messaging and key audiences, The History Factory developed and executed a master plan for a science exhibit within FPL’s planned visitor center.

The exhibit’s messaging reinforces the importance of conservation in a way that is interesting, lighthearted and age-appropriate. Interactive elements provide a deeper dive into details: tracking manatees as they migrate; offering video interviews with experts; and allowing visitors to navigate “Mia the Manatee” to safety in a video game.

Content was developed in collaboration with experts from FPL’s partner organizations, ensuring that the information presented represents the best available scholarship. Design was likewise coordinated with FPL’s graphic design and branding team to complement current visuals without being overtly “branded.”

The Manatee Lagoon facility also includes meeting spaces for school groups, a gift shop and a coffee shop. An exterior boardwalk gives visitors an up-close view of the manatees and other fish and wildlife without intruding on their habitat or interfering with the security of the power plant.

Results

FPL’s Manatee Lagoon opened with enthusiastic reviews from government agencies and scientific community, and drew thousands of visitors in its first weekend.

FPL has committed to Manatee Lagoon’s success, assigning a director and full-time staff to run the facility as well as a team of professional docents. Ongoing programs and partnerships with schools and summer camps draw members of the community and provide FPL with a new platform for community engagement. The facility is also emblematic of the relationships FPL has developed with local and state organizations and nonprofits that support manatees and wildlife preservation.

FPL’s strategy for sustaining public interest in Manatee Lagoon includes a coordinated media campaign, a website and a Facebook page dedicated to Mia the Manatee.

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