2017 40 Under 40
Saluting Southwest Florida's young achievers.
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As Southwest Florida continues to grow and prosper, keeping the momentum alive will be dependent on future generations of talented professionals who will not only provide the vision, but also meet challenges and solve problems as they arise.
Since 2003, Gulfshore Business has recognized young leaders who have distinguished themselves in their professions and in their communities. And many of these individuals have made significant contributions to the region’s economic, charitable and civic well-being.
Once again, we are pleased to acknowledge 40 rising stars, under 40 years old, from a variety of occupations, including law, education, medical, finance, public service and the arts, as well as entrepreneurs.
Chosen from dozens of nominations, this year’s winners represent the leadership our region needs to move forward. The judges considered professional accomplishments, volunteer work and other plaudits from their nominators. With all of the talent represented, there were some tough decisions, but we finally selected our final 40.
Please read on learn more about the 2017 40-under-40 honorees. (Photography by Craig Hildebrand)
Joel Andersen (30)
Vice president of operations, M Room Company USA; project manager, Local Greens Co. and Ilme Advertising
Some might say Joel Andersen was born to build. Whether it’s in the form of teams, companies, or outreach programs, Andersen constantly sets his sights on how to develop his community even further. Professionally, he’s helping expand the U.S. presence of three Finnish firms: M Room USA, Local Greens LLC and Ilme Advertising, in various leadership roles. And when he’s off the clock, he’s serving as a Volunteer Boy Scouts of America youth leader and Cub Scout den leader, and as Southwest Florida Enterprise Center Advisory Board member, to help entrepreneurs reach their full potential. He’s also had a hand in developing Naples Accelerator and been recognized by the likes of Naples SCORE, David Lawrence Center, and Greater Naples YMCA.
In his downtime, Andersen enjoys sports, cycling, and cinematography. He’s married with an infant daughter. —Melanie Pagan
Marin Asher (38)
Director of marketing and business relations, Larue Pest Management
To Marin Asher, family is everything. The wife and mother of one currently serves as board vice president of Our Mother’s Home of Southwest Florida, spreading awareness about the mentored-living program for young mothers in the foster care system and helping its girls and their children stay together and achieve self-sufficiency. She joined Our Mother’s Home board of directors 10 years after purchasing the home of the program’s late founder, Helen Coppage. In addition to her roles with Our Mother’s Home and Larue Pest Management, Asher serves on the Cape Coral Technical College Digital Design Department Advisory Board and Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce Golf Tournament and Women in Business committees.
Asher comes from a long line of artists, including her mother, an accomplished watercolor painter, and also enjoys the hobby. When she’s not creating, she’s out on the water with her husband and 5-year-old daughter. —Melanie Pagan
Kristi Bartlett (39)
Vice president, economic development, Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce
There is a strong working force behind much of the economic success and growth of Collier County, and that would largely be due to the efforts of vice president of Economic Development for Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, Kristi Bartlett. In addition to leading the chamber’s public-policy program, Bartlett is also responsible for planning and implementing the yearly program for Opportunity Naples. She was a main force behind the local expansions of Arthrex and ACI Worldwide.
When difficulties arise in her efforts for workforce development, Bartlett relies on the term “falling up” as inspiration to push through. “I try to take my frustrations or disappointments and turn them into a positive. It is very motivating,” she says.
Bartlett stays motivated in her personal life as well, serving as a co-caption of the local chapter of the Women's March on Washington, and being a devoted mother to her daughter, Logan. —Tess Raines
Jason H. Becker (37)
Co-Founder of Golf Life Navigators; PGA of America Golf Professional
Becker has always been determined to be successful and make a difference in the community. After moving from a small town in Michigan, Becker ended up in Naples and became involved with Florida Gulf Coast University. He developed a student organization from scratch for the Professional Golf Management Program, and in 2011 accepted the position of program director for the First Tee.
The First Tee is a non-profit organization that helps children learn valuable life skills through golf. Becker passes on the key to his success to every young fellow entrepreneur he works alongside: “Surround yourself with people who won’t let you give up…the reward is too special to turn away from.”
When he isn’t busy helping others, Becker enjoys heading to the soccer fields or playing golf with his kids, Brendan and Ava. —Tess Raines
Ryan Benson (36)
Principal/owner, A. Vernon Allen Builder
You’ve likely seen some of Ryan Benson’s work driving through the area, and you may have even commented on its artistry. As the principal of A. Vernon Allen Builders and a 15-year veteran of the construction industry, Benson knows exactly what a custom home or building should entail. His professionalism is reflected in his approach to business, in which he states, “Treat people well, be honest, and give people the opportunity to do what they are best at.”
He is a graduate of Stetson University and FIU, a LEED Green Associate accredited building contractor, and a heavily involved volunteer with The Boys and Girls Club of Collier County.
Benson enjoys boating with his friends and family and making beer. —Tess Raines
Matt Bernhardt (37)
Chief executive officer of Stickboy Creative and Vectra Digital
When it comes to the most valuable lesson he has learned in his career, Matthew Bernhardt would attribute it to “how crucial it is to focus on what your strengths are and focus on growing those.” It is likely his concentration on his own strengths that made him the successful CEO of Stickboy Creative & Vectra Digital. In addition to this role, Bernhardt is an entrepreneur that manages three technology companies and is also currently attending Harvard University’s Business Executive Education Program.
He won the 2014 Technology Innovation Award by Southwest Florida Regional Technology Partnership and multiple Sand Dollar Awards for his work in business technology.
Bernhardt has traveled to more than 30 countries (and counting!), with his wife, and enjoys reading. —Tess Raines
Joseph Bidwell (37)
CEO, Home Instead Senior Care
In 2016, Joseph Bidwell and his staff at Home Instead Senior Care helped deliver more than 12,000 gifts to seniors who were housebound or in nursing facilities all across Southwest Florida as part of the franchise’s Be a Santa to a Senior program. That’s just a fraction of good Bidwell is involved in. As CEO of Home Instead, Bidwell facilitates home senior care for those in Collier, Lee and Charlotte counties.
Prior to leading the company, Bidwell served as an aerospace engineer at the National Air & Space Intelligence Center in Dayton, Ohio, and at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach, California. In this career, Bidwell led business development efforts on a space-designed ballistic missile defense system. He also completed a master’s degree in aerospace engineering and architecture from USC and traveled often to brief high-level military leaders. Bidwell has been recognized by Northrop Grumman, a global security company, with its Program Management Award and Future Leaders: Lead1NG Award.
When he’s not working, Bidwell enjoys spending time with his wife and three young children, Eliza, Fitz and Lochlan, and volunteers in his daughter’s kindergarten classroom. An avid rock climber, Bidwell hopes to one day open a rock-climbing facility in the area. —Melanie Pagan
Andrew Blitch (32)
President, “A” Locksmith
In 2014 at the age of 29, Andrew Blitch left behind a career as a police officer in Houston and, in an entrepreneurial leap of faith, returned to his hometown of Naples to purchase “A” Locksmith with his wife, Angelique. The company had been around since 1973, and Blitch took over as the youngest of 10 employees. Under his leadership, sales have nearly doubled and staff and service quality has grown. Angie’s List even recognized the business with a Super Service Award in 2016.
As a police officer, Blitch obtained nine Letters of Commendation, highlighting his integrity, heroism and efforts to save multiple lives. The Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) alumnus is a member of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce and 2017 Growing Associates in Naples (GAIN) class. He graduated cum laude with a major in criminal justice and minor in mathematics and hopes to further benefit Naples with his specialized knowledge of law enforcement, home and business security, and crime prevention.
Blitch and his wife have two children, Genevieve, 5, and Lucas, 1. —Melanie Pagan
Tabatha Butcher (39)
Chief of EMS, Collier County Emergency Medical Services
Tabatha Butcher has aided the people of Collier County for the last two decades. An employee of Collier County Emergency Medical Services for 20 years, Butcher has served in roles such as flight paramedic, captain, battalion chief and assistant chief, before being promoted to chief of EMS in May 2016. The Naples native has accomplished many things in her latest position, including placing power lift stretchers on ambulances to assist in patient safety, purchasing laptops for all ambulances to facilitate better dispatch communication, creating a program to help train existing employees to replace retiring supervisors, and promoting department officers who had not had pay raises in eight years.
Butcher is also a 2016 graduate of Leadership Collier and active with with David Lawrence Center, Collier County Emergency Medical Authority, Drug Free Collier, Safe and Healthy Children's Coalition of Collier County and more. She recently became a member of the EMS steering committee and she’s a two-time nominee of the Naples Daily News Distinguished Public Servant Award.
Butcher has two children—Dylan, 13, and Ashlyn, 9—with her husband, Michael. —Melanie Pagan
John Thomas Cardillo (39)
Attorney, Cardillo, Keith, & Bonaquist Attorneys at Law
John Thomas Cardillo is a well-known figure in the Collier County justice system. The attorney has served as president of the Collier County Bar Association and its Young Lawyers division, chair of the Collier County Public Schools Mock Trial Program, on the Florida Bar 20th judicial circuit grievance committee, Collier County Legal Aid program advisory board, and more.
In his career, Cardillo has helped families successfully come to estate and legacy agreements, saying, “our clients’ interests and objectives are paramount.” He’s earned several awards for his efforts, such as Florida Trend's Legal Elite Up & Comer and Florida Super Lawyers Rising Star, and has been named Collier County Legal Aid Attorney of the Month.
Cardillo is married with two daughters and enjoys fishing, golf, gardening and cooking. —Melanie Pagan