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Heidi Rambo Centrella

As a child and well into my adolescence, I dreamed of studying oceanography or becoming a marine biologist. I felt at one with the water. I still do. Alas, sea studies were not in the cards for me: Living in a landlocked state didn’t provide the opportunities required to pursue such a field. But now, living here in Southwest Florida for going on two years, I certainly feel more at home than ever—the vast waters, the stable weather, life under the sea. All of it feels truly natural to me, although I’ve never before lived in a coastal community.

But the alarms are sounding as we’re learning more about rising sea levels and climate change. With current projections estimating that seas are rising up to 3.5 inches per year—and rapidly accelerating—nothing and no one is immune. Our ecosystem is threatened, our sea life is threatened, our businesses are threatened. According to models developed by Florida-based scientists, all of Southwest Florida could be submerged in less than 100 years. However, our communities are taking important steps in preparing for sea level rise and climate change through the Southwest Florida Regional Resiliency Compact and other local efforts. Beginning on page 32, learn more about the ways in which Floridians are banding together to make needed changes.

We have a lot of activity above us, as well. Taking to the skies, we’re seeing more air travel into Southwest Florida, leading to eight of our regional airports expanding and receiving upgrades with no slowdown in sight. According to 2020 U.S. Census Bureau data, Lee County is the fifth-fastest growing county in the nation, while Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties together gained more than 220,000 residents between 2010 and2020. The Lee County Board of Port Commissioners recently approved a $331 million Terminal Expansion Project at RSW. The airport set monthly records for passengers in May, June, July and August, surpassing pre-pandemic numbers. It also added several new flights, three of which are to West Coast cities (pg. 44).

As November begins the holidays with an overarching theme of gratitude, we at gulf shore Businessare sincerely thankful for the opportunity to continue to bring you Southwest Florida’s best view of business. We hope you’ll be inspired by our Companies That Care feature (pg.54) to find ways you can give back to our vibrant community during this time of giving thanks. We seek to close 2021 on a high note, and make a smooth transition into what we hope will be a brighter and more successful new year. Thank you.

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