Gulfshore Business Daily: August 26

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 A new Reason Foundation study finds Florida could net between $11 billion and $17.9 billion by leasing the Florida Turnpike, giving the state much-needed money to fund other transportation projects or pay down growing public pension liabilities, according to a news release. Using data from comparable long-term toll road leases worldwide, the Reason Foundation report estimates that the medium-range net proceeds (after paying off outstanding Turnpike bonds) would be $14.5 billion for a 50-year lease of the Florida Turnpike. The state would likely be able to choose to receive that money in either a lump-sum up-front payment or annual lease payments. For the full study, click here. Reason Foundation is a nonprofit think tank dedicated to advancing free minds and free markets. For more information, visit


Nominations are open now for the 2020 SWFL INCredible Awards, celebrating the businesses, nonprofits and individuals who help Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties thrive. Finalists and winners will be recognized at the Oct. 6 SWFL INCredible Awards, hosted virtually by SWFL Inc. All applications are available here and must be submitted by Sept. 18. The awards to be presented include the Small Business of the Year, celebrating its 20th year, the Nonprofit of the Year, Innovation Award, and individual awards such as the Distinguished Volunteer Award, INCredible Award and the SWFL Citizen of the Year. Tickets for the SWFL INCredible Awards are available now at for $10. Sponsors include The SKY Family YMCA and Bonita Springs-Estero Realtors. Contact Christleen Knaub for sponsorship information at


Local students pitched innovative ideas to tackle issues ranging from mental health to reducing waste at The Immokalee Foundation’s second annual Shark Tank, hosted via Zoom in mid-July. The competition was the culmination of a four-week entrepreneurship virtual summer camp for students that was supported by The Immokalee Foundation and hosted by Florida Gulf Coast University’s School of Entrepreneurship. The Immokalee Foundation’s students pitched their creative business startup ideas–much like the popular TV show–to a panel of local business leaders. The first-place winner was H.O.P.E–Helping Others, Positive Encouragement, presented by the team of Alejandra Ramirez, Angel Aguilar Calmo, Ashley Juarez, Esmeralda Perez Martinez, Jose Rosario Juarez and Marianna Briones. Each student won $500 for the team’s idea to create a support system to help high schoolers develop coping skills and build peer relationships to deal with mental health issues. Second place was awarded to Game Go team, including Ivan Vega, Jonathan Vega, Jovanny Cruz and Luis Ponce. They won $250 each for their pitch to provide a gaming service that doesn’t require internet connectivity. The third-place winner was The Future of Families, presented by the team of Eduardo Chavez, Elvis Velasquez, Kener Matias and Lizbeth Huapilla. They were each awarded $100 for their idea to provide resources to help immigrant families with basic needs during their transition to life in the U.S.


The Lee Board of County Commissioners voted Tuesday to approve the purchase of two parcels for Conservation 20/20 totaling more than 600 acres. The parcels include about 194 acres on Four Mile Cove Parkway in Cape Coral and adjacent to Four Mile Cove Ecological Park to the south and the Caloosahatchee River along the eastern boundary. A second parcel of about 427 acres on Carter Lane in Alva is within Hickey Creek Swamp on the south side of State Route 80 and has potential for marked hiking trails. The total purchase price for the properties is nearly $10.5 million, plus closing costs. Conservation lands help the county protect drinking water, enhance water quality, provide nature-based recreational opportunities, protect areas from flooding and provide wildlife habitat. For more information, visit
Video courtesy of WINK News


Seminole Casino Hotel in Immokalee plans to reopen at 2 p.m. Monday, Aug. 31, according to its website. The casino hotel will reopen with new and stringent “Safe+Sound” program guidelines. The safety guidelines include multiple new initiatives designed to create an environment that helps to keep guests and team members safe, WINK News reports.


Developers, investors and real estate experts will address the dynamics of development in the current economic environment at the 2020 Real Estate Symposium from 8:30 to 11 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 17. The annual event is presented by the Real Estate Investment Society (REIS) in partnership with the Lutgert College of Business at FGCU. This year’s program will be delivered as a live webinar. Leading developers, investors and consultants will address site selection and development strategies, risk and reward, for commercial and residential properties. Local values, capital, lending, and return factors will be discussed by a panel of local experts, moderated by Sean Ellis of Roetzel & Andress. There is no charge for REIS members and FGCU students. Admission is $20 for all others. Registration online at is required to receive the link to the event. 

Seal of the School District of Lee County. Credit: WINK News.


The School District of Lee County says it will make “Grab & Go” breakfast and lunch meals available to students using the Lee Home Connect instructional model beginning Tuesday, Sept. 1. Middle and high schools will be used as the main distribution sites for these meals, WINK News reports. Five breakfasts and five lunches, all meeting USDA nutritional requirements, can be picked up once a week. Families will have the option of either Tuesday or Thursday morning. Middle school sites will distribute meals from 7:15 a.m. to 8 a.m., and high school sites from 7:45 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Four schools distributing meals to only their students have set unique times. For distribution sites and times click here.  


Lee Health’s Lee Health Solutions is offering a positive self-management education program for individuals with HIV. The program, originally developed at Stanford University Patient Education Research Center, is designed for people 18 years of age or older with HIV to help them learn ways to better manage their chronic condition and the related symptoms. The free virtual workshop is 2.5 hours once a week for six weeks. Virtual workshops will be offered 1 to 3:30 p.m. Wednesdays, beginning Sept. 23. For more information or to register, call 239-343-9264. 

Cindy Love-Abounader


Collier County YMCAs announce management agreement

The Boards of the YMCA of South Collier and the Greater Naples YMCA have reached a new management agreement under which Lucinda “Cindy” Love-Abounader, longtime CEO of the YMCA of South Collier, will lead the operations of both organizations. “This agreement gives us an opportunity to share resources, learn from each other’s successes and grow the impact that we can make in our communities,” said Love-Abounader. Love-Abounader has 20 years of YMCA leadership. The YMCA of South Collier and the Greater Naples YMCA are 501(c)3 donor-supported charities that focus on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.

DeRomo’s welcomes culinary director 

DeRomo’s Gourmet Market & Restaurant in Bonita Springs welcomes L.J. Cousson as director of culinary. He will oversee customer service and product supply as well as ensure a focus on true, traditional, Old World Italian cuisine with a modern twist. Cousson has 38 years of culinary experience, specifically in the fine-dining sector of the hospitality industry. That includes nearly two decades as executive sous chef for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and nearly a combined decade as executive chef for The University Club and Kinkhead’s, all in Washington, D.C. Cousson will enhance market and restaurant food items at DeRomo’s and create an in-season menu that features a wider variety of famous Italian seafood dishes. For updates on DeRomo’s, call 239-325-3583 or visit

Sanibel Captiva Community Bank hires Muchler as loan coordinator 

Carrie Muchler has joined Sanibel Captiva Community Bank as a loan coordinator in the bank’s residential lending division at the Bridge Branch, located at 9311 College Pkwy, Fort Myers. She is responsible for supporting residential loan officers in assisting customers with residential loans, including conventional and construction loans. Muchler has more than 20 years of experience in various industries, including finance, loss mitigation, accounting and sales. A Southwest Florida resident since 1989, she has been an active Optimist Club of Fort Myers volunteer for nearly three decades. To learn more about SanCap Bank, visit

The Bike Bistro hires Starr

Tre Starr has been named the new “sultan of service” at The Bike Bistro, a specialty bike shop and coffee bar on Summerlin Road near the Sanibel Causeway. A native of Berkeley, California, Starr is a graduate of Barnett Bicycle Institute in Colorado and a personal trainer certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. The Bike Bistro is a destination for cycling enthusiasts who enjoy relaxing with a cup of coffee and healthy snacks before or after they ride, according to a news release. Riders can lounge in chairs, socialize with other cyclists, and log onto the internet using the shop’s free WiFi. The shop has been renting and selling custom-fitted bikes, gear and apparel since 2012. For more information, visit


Boys & Girls Clubs of Lee County announces $70,000 renovation

Brooks & Freund, Ferrada Painting, Kesco Flooring, and Total Electric recently donated $70,000 worth of in-kind services and materials to significantly renovate the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lee County’s Lehigh Acres club site. The project involved interior painting, new carpet and flooring as well as structural enhancements to expanded programming space. The renovation was funded through charitable contributions of the four local businesses, who donated materials and labor to complete the project. In addition to the renovation, the club also received brand new furniture through the support of United Way, a long-standing community partner. 

Lee County Domestic Animal Services plans annual ‘Flip This Kennel’ next week

Lee County Domestic Animal Services will host the fifth annual “Flip This Kennel” event in a modified format from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4. As in past years, DAS along with various county agencies and area rescues will decorate kennels and catteries to showcase often overlooked shelter pets in the adoption center. This year’s “Flip This Kennel” is board game-themed and each will be decorated with a spin on favorite childhood games. The event was rescheduled from March due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the shelter’s adoption center remains open by appointment only. Visitors to the DAS shelter or its Facebook page can vote all day on Sept. 4, by liking the picture of their favorite kennel or cattery. Winners will be posted on the Facebook page on Sept. 5.  To make an appointment to visit the adoption center call 239-533-7387. Available pets can be viewed at  


Fort Myers financial advisor earns national recognition for philanthropy

Duane Chaney, a financial advisor at Raymond James in Fort Myers, is one of three national finalists for the Community Service Award as part of the 14th Annual Invest in Others Awards. Chaney is being honored for founding Madisen’s Match, a tennis tournament benefiting Barbara’s Friends, Golisano Children’s Hospital cancer fund. Madisen’s Match has raised more than $1.3 million for Lee Health and Golisano Children’s Hospital since 2008. Because Chaney is a finalist, Barbara’s Friends will receive a $10,000 donation from the Invest in Others Charitable Foundation. The Invest in Others Awards will be presented digitally from Sept. 21-25. The video awards presentation for the Community Service Award will be held at 4:45 p.m. on Sept. 22 at


MS Center receives grant from the Community Foundation of Collier County

The Multiple Sclerosis Center of Southwest Florida recently received a $5,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Collier County. These funds will support the sustainability of mental health services for clients and caregivers. With the outbreak of COVID-19, the center in Bonita Springs has received an influx of requests to increase counseling services. Local counselors specialize in multiple sclerosis and offer a better understanding of clients’ specific challenges. The grant aids its mission by improving the quality of life for those living with MS. Visit the MS Center online at


Special Olympics Florida receives grant from Community Foundation

Special Olympics Florida (SOFL) has received a $5,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Collier County. These funds will support general operations for sports training, competition, and healthcare programs for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Special Olympics Florida in Collier County serves more than 2,400 athletes and unified partners who participate in community sports, Unified Champion Schools, and young athletes’ programs. To learn more, visit  

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