Lead Photo: Angela Cooley, Connie Ramos-Williams, Nickole Hendra and Christina Harris Schwinn
BEST OF BUSINESS VOTING ENDS TODAY
Today is the last day to vote for the Gulfshore Business 2021 Best of Business awards. Support your favorite Southwest Florida businesses by casting your vote across six sections, including finance and insurance, legal, marketing, commercial building and real estate, business services, and business dining and drinks. You may vote in as many or few sections as you feel confident. The 2021 Best of Business winners will be announced in a future issue of Gulfshore Business. Click here to vote.
FINANCIAL HELP AVAILABLE FOR RESTAURANTS, BARS STARTING MONDAY
Financial help is on the way for restaurants and bars that took a major hit when they had to close and limit customer capacity during the pandemic. The Small Business Administration will start taking applications Monday for payments to recoup some of those losses. The $29 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund is part of the latest round of COVID-19 aid signed into law last month to cover up to $10 million per business, with a single restaurant location capped at $5 million. The National Restaurant Association says more than 110,000 bars and restaurants closed at least temporarily in 2020, and sales were down nearly 25% from 2019. Owners can apply through the SBA’s online portal. The registration process can be started today before the applications open at noon Monday, WINK News reports.
FORT MYERS CRA LAUNCHES MICROENTERPRISE PROGRAM
Small, local enterprises will get help to recover from the COVID-19 slowdown and expand their businesses under the Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency’s (CRA) Microenterprise Program. The CRA will offer small businesses forgivable loans to help cover emergency costs created by the economic disruption during the public health crisis. Under the program, owners of businesses are eligible to apply in three redevelopment areas: downtown Fort Myers, Cleveland Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard. Businesses in those areas are eligible if they have been operating for two years and have a minimum of one other employee in addition to the owner but no more than 10 employees, including the owner. Owners must be current with local, state, and federal taxes and licenses and must demonstrate that the pandemic has impacted their business. They must agree to the option of one-on-one business counseling. An eligible business can qualify for a loan for up to $10,000 for eligible expenses. The loan can be forgiven after 12 months if the business shows it used the funds for approved COVID-related needs. For more information, click here.
FOUNDER OF QORVAL PARTNERS DIES IN NAPLES
James R. “Jim” Malone, the founding partner and chairman emeritus of Qorval Partners LLC, died April 21 in Naples after a battle with cancer. Having served as the CEO of six Fortune 500 companies in six industries, Malone founded Qorval 25 years ago to help grow and transform businesses, and spearhead hundreds of global and domestic turnarounds, reorganizations, mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, joint ventures and strategic alliances. One of the founders of the Naples Winter Wine Festival in 2001, Malone was a member of the board of directors of NYSE-listed Ametek Inc., a board member of Regions Financial Corp., chairman and co-founder of the Florida-based private equity firm Boyne Capital, a trustee and board member of the United Nations Business Council for 22 years, a member of The Florida Council of 100, and served many civic and community organizations throughout his career. Gov. Jeb Bush named him to serve as chairman of the Board of Governors for the nations’ third largest underwriter of property insurance, Citizens Property Insurance Corp. of Florida.
SUN COUNTRY AIRLINES TO START 4 NONSTOP ROUTES TO SOUTHWEST FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Sun Country Airlines will inaugurate twice-weekly nonstop flights later this year between Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers and Milwaulkee; Green Bay, Wisconsin; Duluth, Minnesota, and Rochester, Minnesota. The addition of these nonstop flights will offer more options to RSW this winter, the Lee County Port Authority reports. Flights start Dec. 15 to Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport (MKE) on Wednesdays and Saturdays; Dec. 16 to Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport (GRB) on Thursdays and Sundays; Dec. 17 to Duluth International Airport (DLH) on Mondays and Fridays; and Feb. 3, 2022, to Rochester International Airport (RST) on Thursdays and Sundays. For a full schedule of new Sun Country routes, click here.
Video courtesy of WINK News
PEOPLE FLOCK TO FORT MYERS BEACH AS SEASON CONTINUES
After more than a year of staying in, people are flocking to Florida for vacation. It’s expected that tourism will pick up even more during the summer months, traditionally the slower season. Fort Myers Beach already is packed, leaving restaurants slammed and hotels booked. Many businesses in Fort Myers Beach, such as Lani Kai Island Resort, need to hire additional staff because they’re busier than they could have predicted. Unfortunately, business owners say business is back, but not enough workers have returned yet, WINK News reports.
Video courtesy of WINK News
CAPE CORAL CONSIDERS COMMERCIAL PLAN FOR FUTURE OF BURNT STORE ROAD
The city of Cape Coral is considering a plan that would expand development along Burnt Store Road, the main thoroughfare from Cape Coral to Charlotte County with residential communities growing fast. While more traffic on roadways is unwanted most of the time, the possibility for additional restaurants and stores is welcomed by many community members who normally travel miles for amenities. City staff members are drafting a plan to bring more commercial projects to the corridor, similar to what people already see along Pine Island Road. But to add more development there, the city first must expand utilities such as water and sewer, WINK News reports.
FORT MYERS CRA ANNOUNCES HOME PRESERVATION PROGRAM
Owners of houses most urgently in need of repair will have a chance to save their homes under a partnership between the Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) and Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry Counties. The program will help preserve homes that have been cited for repeated code violations and potential safety hazards. Owners must live in the homes, meet income requirements and pass a background check. The first phase of the program will target houses in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. redevelopment areas. The CRA will identify a list of eligible homes and provide funding, and Habitat for Humanity will work with homeowners to apply for the program, assure requirements are met and determine what repairs are needed. Habitat will do the repair work using staff, local subcontractors and volunteers. To qualify for the program, homeowners must be below 80% of the area median income, have no tax liens against their property, be current with their mortgages and live in their homes. All adult members of the household must pass criminal background checks. For projects costing more than $5,000, homeowners will have to sign off on a lien on their property that would be forgiven after five years. If the homeowner sells the house or refinances before five years, the repair costs would have to be repaid. Eligible homeowners will qualify for up to $25,000 worth of repairs. The CRA has budgeted $250,000 for this phase of the program, which was approved by the City Council in February.
DISTINGUISHED ENTREPRENEUR OF SWFL AWARDS TO BE LIVE-STREAMED MAY 4
The Florida Small Business Development Center at Florida Gulf Coast University (FSBDC at FGCU) will host its annual Distinguished Entrepreneur of Southwest Florida Awards at 6 p.m. on May 4 via livestream. The 22 finalists were selected from a pool of nominees from the five-county area of Southwest Florida. They contend for one of four awards, including the Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year, Small Business Advocate of the Year, Distinguished Innovator of the Year, and William O. Webb award. Markham Norton Mosteller Wright & Co. P.A. is the hallmark sponsor. Register for the event here.
ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT PROGRAM TO RETURN MAY 22
Dress for Success SW Florida will host its Entrepreneurial Spirit Program (E$P) virtually from 9 a.m. to noon on May 22. E$P panelists and topics include “Business accounting,” presented by Angela Cooley, partner at Markham Norton Mosteller Wright & Co. P.A.; “Understanding the importance of legal formalities, entity formation, copyright, trademarks and personal liability,” presented by Christina Harris Schwinn, partner at Pavese Law Firm; “Small business loans and financing,” presented by Barbara Melvin, vice president community relations officer at First Florida Integrity Bank; and “Branding and marketing,” presented by Connie Ramos-Williams, president and chief marketing officer of CONRIC pr + marketing. The event is generously sponsored by Pavese Law Firm and CONRIC pr + marketing. Online registration is required with a suggested donation of $25 benefiting Dress for Success of SW Florida. A Zoom link will be sent upon registration and an E$P certificate will be emailed after course completion. To register for the seminar or for more information, click here.
ST. MATTHEW’S HOUSE PRESIDENT & CEO RETIRES
St. Matthew’s House President & CEO the Rev. Vann Ellison is retiring after 17 years of service. St. Matthew’s House Chief Operating Officer Steve Brooder will serve as interim director as the organization’s board of directors conducts a national search for Ellison’s successor. Under Ellison’s direction, St. Matthew’s House grew from a $1.5 million budget to a $25 million budget. Today, St. Matthew’s House serves Collier, Lee and Hendry counties with feeding and food distribution programs, emergency and transitional shelter, and the nationally recognized Justin’s Place and Jill’s Place addiction recovery program. “[Ellison] established a unique social enterprise model for St. Matthew’s House that includes six thrift stores, two commercial catering operations, a public restaurant, car wash, and hotel & retreat center that generate revenue to cover administrative costs so that 100 percent of every donation goes directly to help those in need,” said St. Matthew’s House Board Chairman Joe Trachtenberg.
NETRAM APPOINTED TO FLORIDA BAR COMMITTEE
Lotus Solutions LLC Founder and CEO Nirupa Netram has been appointed to The Florida Bar’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. The committee’s mission is to increase diversity and inclusion in The Florida Bar so it reflects the demographics of the state, develop opportunities for community involvement, and make leadership roles within the profession and The Florida Bar accessible to all attorneys. Netram founded Lotus Solutions LLC, a certified woman-and-minority-owned enterprise, to help businesses create diversity and inclusion. She co-chairs the immigration law practice section of the Lee County Bar Association, serves on the Horizon Council inclusion and diversity committee, the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce equity committee, and is a member of the Inclusion Allies Coalition. Netram graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Stetson University and Juris Doctor from Stetson University College of Law.
CHAMBER WELCOMES NEW OFFICE STAFF
The Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce has hired three new staff in recent months to replace employees who have resigned from their positions. They include communications and marketing manager Landen Drake, visitor center manager Aaron Walton, and administrative intern Jade Nakonetschny. They join director of operations Mitch Orr and president and chief executive officer John Lai at the Francis P. Bailey, Jr. Chamber Visitor Center offices on Sanibel Island. Walton most recently served as a general manager of Five Guys Burger & Fries. Drake previously worked with Crowne Plaza Hotel in Fort Myers, the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce, and, most recently, as marketing coordinator with CONRIC pr + marketing in Fort Myers. The chamber’s first internship ever, Nakonetschny’s position was made possible by a grant from one of the chamber’s strategic partners.
NEIGHBORHOOD HEALTH CLINIC NAMES VICE TREASURER OF FINANCE COMMITTEE
The board of directors at Neighborhood Health Clinic in Naples has appointed Janet Vasey as vice treasurer on the finance committee. Vasey has been a resident of Collier County for 25 years. She previously served as director of program analysis and review for the U.S. assistant secretary of the army, where she was a civilian employee for 20 years. Vasey earned degrees in economics from Rice University and her master’s degree in public financial management from American University. Vasey joined the Neighborhood Health Clinic in 2013 to serve on the finance committee and was elected to the board in 2014. The volunteer-driven 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization recently reached within 1% of its goal of $1 million to fund services and care for patients for another year with its “No Show” Gourmet Vintner Dinner fundraiser.
BSU 2020 ANNUAL, DRINKING WATER QUALITY REPORTS NOW AVAILABLE
Bonita Springs Utilities Inc.’s 2020 annual report and drinking water quality report are now available online. “The 2020 annual report provides an overview of the utility’s operations and activities during COVID-19, which included $3.9 million in capital credit payments to our members, upgrades to our water and wastewater facilities, conservation efforts and the utility’s financial report,” said John R. Jenkins, BSU executive director. The drinking water quality report, also known as a consumer confidence report, includes information about the source and quality of BSU-produced drinking water and documents the utility’s compliance with federal and state requirements. During 2020, BSU produced more than 3.68 billion gallons of potable water, treated 1.88 billion gallons of wastewater, and experienced peak day water production of more than 13.95 million gallons. Both the annual report and drinking water quality report are available online year-round. BSU members will receive a copy of the water quality report by mail upon request.
Lee County Domestic Animal Services celebrates prom season with pet kings and queens
Lee County Domestic Animal Services will reduce adoption fees for the month of May in honor of prom season. Adult dogs will be just $30 and adult cats $25 with an approved application. Each week will feature a prom king and queen and the adoption fees for those animals will be waived. The adoption package, valued at more than $500, includes spay/neuter, age-appropriate vaccinations, county license, microchip, deworming, heartworm test for dogs 6 months and over, and feline aids and leukemia test for cats. Domestic Animal Services adoption center, 5600 Banner Drive, Fort Myers, is open from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. To view adoptable pets, click here.
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