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Heidi Rambo Centrella

I moved to Southwest Florida from Oklahoma City in December 2019, three months before the world locked down due to COVID-19. As many local businesses have reeled from the pandemic’s effects, and its resulting losses—nearly three years later—those businesses and the community as a whole are now also forced to recover and rebuild from Hurricane Ian.

No industry could escape the Category 4 storm’s devastating wind and waters. No industry will escape the ramifications of what’s to come. The aftermath is gargantuan. But even with so many lives and livelihoods lost, there is a resiliency that has shone through as the community works together to rebuild.

There are so many people to thank: the first responders, including the Coast Guard and National Guard, who struggled through the winds and waters to find and assist survivors; the medical personnel who continued working to save lives even as their facilities flooded around them; the ordinary citizens who reached out to help their neighbors as Ian left more than two million Floridians and almost all of Southwest Florida’s counties without power; the technicians from Florida Power and Light and the Lee County Electric Cooperative who leapt in to restore that power; volunteers from out of state and within the community who started working immediately to rebuild … in tragedy, we are surrounded by inspirations.

This issue of Gulfshore Business is “Business Gives Back,” and it’s difficult to believe how timely an issue theme planned a year ago would become. Businesses and residents continue to give back to their communities, come what may. We also feature “A Week in the Wake of Hurricane Ian,” wherein the Gulfshore Business staff share stories from our Southwest Florida communities that are all working toward a common goal: recovery. 

This month, as we celebrate Thanksgiving and move into the holiday season, I am thankful for family, friends and the people I’ve come to know and love in Southwest Florida. There will be much more to inspire gratitude in the months and issues ahead; the aftereffects of a storm of this magnitude will be felt for years if not decades, but we believe in this community, and we know Southwest Florida’s post-Ian stories will be about recovery and rejuvenation. We’re looking forward to telling them. 

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