Gulfshore Business Daily: April 30

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Video courtesy of WINK News


Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday unveiled his “Safe. Smart. Step-By-Step” plan for reopening the state of Florida. Starting Monday, restaurants and retail stores will be allowed to reopen, but only at 25% capacity – and they will have to maintain social distancing. Restaurants will also be allowed to offer outdoor seating, but again with social distancing plans in place. Phase 1 of the plan will also allow hospitals and surgical centers to restart nonessential, elective procedures throughout the state. Because of social distancing concerns, businesses such as movie theaters, bars, gyms and hair salons will not be allowed to reopen yet. Also, the counties of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach are excluded from the first phase because of their greater number of coronavirus cases. Story reported by WINK News.



At a special Zoom meeting Wednesday, Naples City Council unanimously decided to join Collier County and Marco Island in reopening the city’s beaches and parks today. The Naples Pier, playgrounds and community centers will remain closed, however, and some restrictions will exist for city properties reopening. Social distancing rules will remain in effect, including that no more than 10 people are allowed to congregate, according to city guidelines.

Credit: WINK News


The city of Fort Myers resumed limited operations Wednesday in parks and recreation areas. Park users are advised to observe all CDC guidelines, with social distancing procedures in place where applicable. Park restrooms will also reopen in locations where facilities are available. City baseball fields also reopened for groups of 10 or less who want to practice baseball or softball but dugouts and bleachers remain closed due to the lack of space for social distancing. Tennis and pickleball courts also reopened. The suspension of league play is still in effect until further notice, and pools, playgrounds, multipurpose fields, volleyball courts, basketball courts and indoor recreation centers remain closed. For more information, see the WINK News story.



Business owners are scrambling to get their hands on funding and the state’s bridge loan is one of the wells that’s run dry. More than 38,000 businesses with two to 100 employees applied for the loan, but less than 3% got money. The interest-free loan is typically up to $50,000 or, in special cases, $100,000. It’s meant to help small businesses “bridge” the gap between impact and when they can secure larger loans. Public records show some people who applied got multiple loans from the program valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the program ran out of money. The state says more than 1,000 businesses were awarded more than $49 million. Story reported by WINK News.

Video courtesy of WINK News



Eighty-eight percent of respondents reported a decrease in demand from the coronavirus, according to an economic impact study of the coronavirus pandemic on Southwest Florida businesses, published by the Regional Economic Research Institute (RERI) at Florida Gulf Coast University. Sixty-three percent reported a decrease a decline of more than 50 percent. Eighty-eight percent of respondents reported a decrease in sales revenue. Fifty-nine percent of executives expect the adverse effects of the coronavirus to be temporary. Twenty-four percent expect the adverse effects of the virus to be permanent. Follow-up surveys will be conducted each month to track changes in the economic baseline established in the current report. For the full survey, click here.


The Small Business Administration (SBA) South Florida District Office will host a series of Small Business Recovery webinars to provide the latest information on how the SBA is helping small businesses with their economic recovery from the effects of COVID-19. For a list of events, click here. You may join the conference 10 minutes prior. Limited to the first 500 callers, unless otherwise noted.


Flood insurance policy holders in unincorporated Lee County will continue to keep their 25% discount on standard federal flood insurance policies–a discount collectively valued at $14 million annually. Every three years, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) conducts a field visit to audit unincorporated Lee County’s ongoing floodplain management activities and flood-mapping records. Lee County received notification April 20 that as a result of this audit, the county retained its Class 5 rating to earn the 25% discount in the NFIP’s Community Rating System. For more information, visit The unincorporated areas of Lee County are outside municipal boundaries. Residents who live in cities should contact their respective city halls for information.


The City of Bonita Springs has reopened select parks. The City encourages visitors to continue to follow the CDC guidelines including social distancing. Normal operating hours at all parks will be observed. This move is part of the city’s phased-in approach for residents, while still observing the Governor’s Executive Order. The following City of Bonita Springs parks have reopened as of Wednesday: Riverside Park, including one band shell restroom; Liles Hotel Plaza; Depot Park (playground and restrooms to remain closed); Bonita Springs Dog Park, large and small dog runs only. No personal chairs permitted; Island Park; Bay Park North; Beach Park North; Carpenter Lane Park; Oak Creek Preserve; Leitner Neighborhood Park; Kentucky St. Park; and Windsor Preserve. Bonita Springs Community Park has reopened select amenities. For more information, visit


Airport activity began to show effects of COVID-19 in March 2020, with Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) and Punta Gorda Airport each reporting year-to-year declines of at least 30 percent, according to the Regional Economic Research Institute (RERI) at Florida Gulf Coast University.


Larry Hart


Lee County Tax Collector Larry D. Hart announces his retirement and will not seek reelection this year.  Hart stated he would like to see Chief Deputy Tax Collector, R. Noelle Branning succeed him in office. A Lee County native, Hart has served Lee County for his entire professional career. After serving in the United States Air Force, Hart began a career in law enforcement as an officer with Fort Myers Police Department (FMPD). In 1995, Hart became the first African American Chief of Police for the City of Fort Myers, appointed by then Mayor Wilbur Smith. Hart retired from FMPD in 2001 but continued his public service by becoming assistant tax collector for the Honorable Cathy Curtis. In 2012, Hart was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to the office of Lee County Tax Collector and was elected by the community for the last two terms. During his tenure as Tax Collector, Hart held various leadership and committee chair roles within the Florida Tax Collectors Association, including president in 2016.  


Costco mandates face coverings for all employees and shoppers

To protect its members and employees, all Costco members and guests must wear a mask or face covering that covers the mouth and nose at all times while in the store. This requirement, effective May 4, does not apply to children under the age of 2 or to individuals who are unable to wear a mask or face covering due to a medical condition. “The use of a mask or face covering should not be seen as a substitute for social distancing. Please continue to observe rules regarding appropriate distancing while on Costco premises,” Costco adds on its website.

TGR Financial Q1 net income up

TGR Financial Inc. (TGRF), the holding company for First Florida Integrity Bank, announced first quarter earnings of $4.6 million representing a 17% increase compared to the same period one year ago. The company produced a return on average assets of 1.13%. Earnings represented $0.24 per diluted share for the quarter, an increase of $0.04 over first quarter 2019. The company has extended Paycheck Protection Program Loans to approximately 1,050 borrowers totaling more than $161 million in April, said bank president and chief executive officer Garrett S. Richter. For more details, click here

Hendry, Collier rank among best places to own a home in Florida

Hendry and Collier Counties rank among the best places to own a home in Florida, according to a new study by SmartAsset. The study compares rent and home prices in markets across the U.S. Hendry County ranked No. 5, with an average monthly mortgage payment of $548; average monthly rent payment of $1,226; average home price of $130,901; breakeven year of 2.7; and a Rent vs. Buy Index of 91.21. Collier County ranked No. 10, with an average monthly mortgage payment of $2,253; average monthly rent payment of $1,943; average home price of $538,122; breakeven year of 2.9; and a Rent vs. Buy Index of 89.84. Additional details on the study, including the methodology and interactive map, can be found here.

Hicks Capital Management expands to Naples

Hicks Capital Management has expanded its team in Naples. With a Florida presence, the firm is able to serve clients 12 months out of the year from both its Columbus, Ohio, and Naples locations. Jim Beam serves as a financial advisor of the Naples office, and his wife, Shannon Beam, is the office manager. Jim Beam began his financial services career in 2013, following 20 years in construction management and development. Shannon Beam spent almost 30 years in education, including 10 years in administration at First Baptist Academy Naples, where she served as director of admissions and development. In addition, Hicks Capital Management has introduced a new logo and tagline, as well as a new website and video that articulates the company’s philosophy and commitment to clients. For more details, click here.

New homeowners can take advantage of these incentives from a variety of Pulte Group’s brand of communities, including Pulte Homes, Del Webb, DiVosta and Centex.

PulteGroup launches limited-time savings for homebuyers

PulteGroup has announced a special, limited-time savings for a new home in communities including Fort Myers and Naples. Each community will offer some of the largest incentives ever announced with savings from $15,000 to $90,000; new homeowners can select from a variety of Pulte Group’s brand of communities, including Pulte Homes, Del Webb, DiVosta and Centex. These 10 days of unprecedented savings are only available from May 1 through May 10. One-on-one private, in-person appointments are available, while 3D tours of most home designs, interactive floor plans, and real-time site maps to select a home site or a quick-move-in home makes the virtual home-buying process seamless, a press release states. For more information, call or text (239) 307-2805.

Virtual graduation will be held for all high schools in Collier County

A video/virtual graduation ceremony will be held June 3 for each Collier County high school. The ceremony will include each student’s name being announced, a photo of each graduate in cap and gown, and speeches by student leaders and school district administrators. Students, parents, extended family members and guests will have the opportunity to remotely view the video streaming at their school’s designated graduation time via the district and each high school’s website. For more information and a schedule for each school’s class of 2020 virtual graduation, see the story reported by WINK News.

Video courtesy of WINK News

Collier County makes plans for summer camps to start in early June

Some parents say they need some type of child care this summer while they’re working. Collier County hopes to open summer camps on June 8, saying there are 800 students already registered. County Manager Leo Ochs said the hard part will be finding a way to get hundreds of kids to practice social distancing. To keep campers and staff safe from the coronavirus, they want to develop camper and counselor protocols and establish daily screenings at camps.  Collier County will discuss the issue further next week. The county is still accepting registrations, but the website states that programs and schedules are subject to change. Story reported by WINK News.

Gulfshore Playhouse named director of education

Gulfshore Playhouse welcomes Steven Calakos as the new director of education. An experienced elementary, middle, and high school teacher, actor, and artistic director of a theatre summer camp for kids, Calakos brings more than a decade of experience in theatre education to our region. While teaching school, Calakos also served as founder and artistic director of CHS Theatrical, a New Jersey–based independent theatre company. Calakos obtained his bachelor’s degrees in theater and elementary education from Rowan University. He also served as a theater instructor at Rowan College of South Jersey Cumberland Campus. He has worked throughout the greater Philadelphia area as a professional actor, singer and model, and has developed and facilitated education programs with community partners, such as the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia.

Healthcare workers thank FSW for lending a helping hand.


FSW supports healthcare workers during COVID-19 pandemic

Florida SouthWestern State College (FSW) has worked to support Southwest Florida’s healthcare workers over the last two months with the following efforts. FSW’s Respiratory Care program loaned three ventilators to Lee Health. FSW’s Respiratory Care program loaned two Vapotherm units and donated disposable ventilator equipment and filters to NCH. FSW’s School of Health Professions donated personal protective equipment to hospitals in Lee, Charlotte and Collier Counties. FSW’s School of Health Professions raised more than $2,000 and bought lunch for healthcare workers at NCH North Naples Campus, Lee Health, and Charlotte County hospitals. FSW’s School of Business and Technology donated personal protective equipment to Lee Health. FSW Nursing students raised money to create headbands with buttons to help healthcare workers comfortably secure their masks. FSW Respiratory Care students donated desserts to local healthcare workers. In addition, FSW art and honors program students created the #ShareOurSky project to honor local healthcare workers and all those in the SWFL community affected by COVID-19.

Volunteer Coordinator Esme Michaela Forst leads a participant during a riding lesson.

Naples Therapeutic Riding Center receives $50,000 matching gift challenge

Naples Therapeutic Riding Center (NTRC), a non-profit organization providing therapeutic horseback riding and other equine-facilitated group services to children and adults with physical, social and mental health needs, has received a $50,000 matching gift challenge from The Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation. The Foundation will match every dollar contributed from new donors received prior to Oct. 31. The funds will help support general operations, which have been greatly affected by the loss of revenue and fundraising support brought on by the suspension of programming due to the coronavirus. For more details, visit

Cypress Lake Golf Club members donate $20,000 to Harry Chapin Food Bank

Cypress Lake Golf Club’s four-day Drive Out Hunger Challenge raised $20,000 to help Harry Chapin Food Bank provide healthy meals to Southwest Florida families. Held April 22-25, participating club members pledged a specific dollar amount for every stroke during their round of golf, making donations by cash or check after 18 holes. Harry Chapin Food Bank, which is helping to lead the community’s fight to end hunger, has set up drive-thru distribution sites throughout the community to assist local families impacted by COVID-19. For every $1 donated to Harry Chapin Food Bank, the organization is able to use its purchasing power to buy $8 worth of food. Cypress Lake Golf Club’s donation equates to about 80,000 meals.

Waterside Shops donates nearly 1,000 meals during pandemic

Waterside Shops fed hundreds during the pandemic by donating nearly 1,000 meals to first responders throughout Southwest Florida and individuals in need. In partnership with California Pizza Kitchen, hot pizzas, boxed lunches and take-and-bake pizzas were distributed. Volunteers from the Senior Center delivered food to the elderly in need and families at Lee Health Child Development Centers and NCH daycare received hundreds of take-and-bake pizzas to cook at home with their children. During the three weeks, meal recipients included Collier County EMS, Naples Fire & EMS, Collier County Sheriff’s Office, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, Physicians Regional Medical Center, North Collier Fire Station, NCH, The Senior Center at JFCS, Lee Health, The Shelter for Abused Women & Children and Youth Haven.  

Sunshine Ace Hardware partners help deliver care packages to NCH employees

Sunshine Ace Hardware has partnered with NCH Healthcare System and community physicians to provide care packages to all 5,000 employees of NCH, a collaborative effort that recognizes all health care workers who are helping keep the community safe. To assemble the care packages, Sunshine Ace secured 10,000 rolls of toilet paper and 5,000 bottles of Green Ox disinfectant cleaners. Lipman Family Farms also provided fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables. Another care package will be provided in the next two weeks. Sunshine Ace also helped secure N95 safety masks, antibacterial soap, sanitizer, cleaning supplies, coveralls and shoe safety covers to NCH and Lee Health.

St. Matthew’s House presents Q&A on COVID-19 impact on the poor

St. Matthew’s House President and CEO Vann Ellison on Monday conducted a phone-in question and answer session to address questions from the public on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Southwest Florida residents living in poverty. A recording of the session is posted at St. Matthew’s House has provided food, shelter and comfort to those struggling with food insecurity, homelessness and addiction for 32 years. St. Matthew’s House is the only emergency homeless shelter in Collier County, sheltering more than 300 men, women and children every night, and providing more than 500,000 meals each year to those in need. For those who have shelter but are food insecure, direct assistance is offered through the St. Matthew’s House food pantry and grocery distribution.

STARability Foundation to participate in GivingTuesdayNow

The STARability Foundation will participate in GivingTuesdayNow, a new global effort being held on May 5 to promote charitable organizations and their need for support during these uncertain times. This event is unique way to connect with others in Southwest Florida and around the world because of COVID-19. STARability, which offers vocational and life skills training, social activities, art classes and other life-enriching opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, suspended its programs on March 16 to safeguard its participants, families and staff against the spread of the coronavirus. Since then, STARability has moved its programs to virtual platforms so STAR participants can continue to learn and engage with their community. To participate in GivingTuesdayNow, visit

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