Gulfshore Business Daily: December 15

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The community has weighed in on its willingness to get a vaccine for COVID-19, according to a recent survey from Gulfshore Business. More than 62% of respondents said they would take the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it becomes available, while 16.16% said they would wait to see if there are negative side-effects. More than 21% of respondents said they would not take the vaccine. Ninety-four percent of those surveyed said they had not contracted COVID-19, while nearly 6% said they had. Gulfshore Business published the survey on Friday, Dec. 10, compiling results through Monday, Dec. 14, reaching 742 Southwest Florida residents in all.


Bill Barker is stepping down this week as publisher and president of the Naples Daily News, Fort Myers News-Press and other Gannett newspaper properties he has been responsible for overseeing. “Bill Barker has decided to step down as regional president while the company continues its important consolidation work, and giving him a path to pursue other meaningful opportunities. His last day will be Dec. 18,” Executive Editor Cindy McCurry-Ross wrote Monday in an email sent to the staff of the local newspapers. “It’s been an incredible run. I have so loved being here in Southwest Florida and working side by side with you to build something special over the last seven years,” McCurry-Ross quotes Barker, noting that Shawna Devlin Ferenz, regional vice president of sales, will be the new site leader for Naples. Barker, who began his newspaper career as a pressman, has been president and publisher of the Naples Daily News since 2013. For the last five years, he also was a regional president with corporate oversight of the Gannett newspapers in Fort Myers, Tallahassee and Pensacola as well as the USA Today Network in Florida and Tennessee. He previously was employed by Media General as president and publisher of the former Tampa Tribune and director of operations of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.


Collier County ranked No. 2 in SmartAsset’s “Places with the Lowest Closing Costs,” list for Florida. The financial technology company determined the places in Florida where closing costs made up the lowest percentage of home values. The places where the closing cost to home value ratio was lowest were the places that ranked highest in the study. For additional information on the study, including the full methodology, results, and interactive map, click here.


Video courtesy WINK News


You might not notice red tide on the beach, but it’s evident further out in the Gulf, and it’s hurting the charter boat industry. Medium concentrations of red tide are high enough for fish kills, yet the shores remain clean. Still, there are red tide advisories at beaches along the coast, and it kept some beachgoers from swimming. Marine researchers at FGCU say concentrations are high enough for fish kills. While the university’s researchers took a dive 75 miles offshore recently and didn’t find red tide, some fishing captains near North Naples canceled trips because they couldn’t keep bait fish alive with the water conditions, WINK News reports.


For the fourth straight report card, all four of Lee Health’s adult acute care hospitals have earned the highest national marks for safe care. The Leapfrog Group announced its Fall 2020 Hospital Safety Grades, awarding Cape Coral Hospital, Gulf Coast Medical Center, HealthPark Medical Center and Lee Memorial Hospital each “A” grades. The Safety Grade assigns letter grades to all general hospitals across the country. It is based on a hospital’s performance in preventing medical errors, injuries, accidents, infections and other harms to patients in their care. Since 2000, The Leapfrog Group has promoted improved health care safety, quality and affordability in the U.S. through a commitment to transparency. For more information, visit


The Naples Airport Authority (NAA) and the City of Naples Fire-Rescue Department celebrated the grand opening of the new Naples Airport Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting Station/City of Naples Fire Station No. 3 (ARFF) with a hose uncoupling. The event included remarks from NAA Executive Director Chris Rozansky, NAA Board of Commissioners Chair Michael Lenhard, City of Naples Fire-Rescue Department Chief Pete DiMaria and City of Naples Mayor Teresa Heitmann. The new ARFF is a state-of-the-art facility that replaces the airport’s original fire station that was built in 1989. The $5.8 million facility was jointly funded by the Naples Airport Authority and FDOT. For more information, visit

Video courtesy WINK News


A Southwest Florida artist has spent much of the pandemic painting murals on the walls of homes. Now her work is catching the eyes of even more homeowners. All Jane Ford needs is water, paint and a splash of color and imagination. Because of the pandemic, she’s in high demand right now. Ford says she’s glad she can bring joy to people during such a difficult time, WINK News reports.



Rudi Hamer

Hamer elected to Blessings in a Backpack board of directors

Rudi Hamer, Sanibel Captiva Community Bank’s assistant vice president and commercial relationship manager, has been elected to the Blessings in a Backpack, Southwest Florida Chapter board of directors. Hamer is responsible for managing a portion of the bank’s existing commercial loan portfolio and expanding existing commercial relationships. She has been with the bank since 2017, when she relocated to Southwest Florida from Pennsylvania. With more than 25 years of banking experience in the commercial and residential lending fields, Hamer previously worked as a licensed commercial and residential insurance agent. Blessings in a Backpack. mobilizes communities, individuals and resources to provide food on the weekends for elementary school children across Southwest Florida who might otherwise go hungry.

Carl Barraco

Community leaders join the cause for affordable homes

Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry Counties has appointed its chairman and five new board members for 2021. Carl Barraco will serve as chairman and new members include Diana Giraldo, Heather Turco, Nancy Ramos, Sandra Stilwell Youngquist, and Shiva Sharma. Together with the rest of the board, the new members will work to expand affordable homeownership opportunities for low-income families in need of a decent and affordable place to live. For more information, visit

Charlotte-DeSoto Building Industry Association installs 2021 board of directors

The Charlotte-DeSoto Building Industry Association (CDBIA) on Dec. 1 installed its 2021 president, executive board members and board of directors. Caryn Huff-Sufferling, senior project manager for Wharton-Smith Inc. was installed by 2004 and 2019 CDBIA President Zac Extejt, Charlotte County Seawalls. The CDBIA 2021 Executive Board includes first vice president Jim Weisberg, associate vice president Colleen Ferrara, treasurer Adam Riley, secretary Rick Kelley, and immediate past president Melanie Markel. The following members have been sworn in as the 2021 CDBIA Board of Directors. Associate directors: Carl Barraco Jr., Trena Casa, Rich Lancette, Nicholas Worden, and Carlene Zeches. Builder directors Beth Cantin-Brown, Rodney Luke, Kathy Kemeny, Blair McVety, Kyle Schnaufer, and Jim Smith. CDBIA ex-officio: Jim Anderson, Wendy Atkinson, Mellisa Chalk, Anna Crapet, Odette Embury, Zac Extejt, Suzanne Graham, Rick Ilmberger, Jonathan Kapper Sr., Kevin Koch, Patrick Lewis, Robert Markel, Bob Miller, Sharon Neuhofer, Don Riggs, TJ Thornberry, Tom Thornberry, and Bill Truex.



Lee Health auxiliaries commit more than $1.1 million in 2020

The Lee Health Auxiliaries of Lee Memorial Hospital/HealthPark Medical Center/Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, Cape Coral Hospital, and Gulf Coast Medical Center announced commitments totaling more than $1.11 million for the fiscal year 2020 to benefit Lee Health patients, their families, staff, physicians and the Southwest Florida community. This continues the Auxiliaries’ legacy of compassion, service, and support. Funds raised are earmarked for projects, programs, technology, equipment, supplies, and education. Auxiliary donations are made possible because of the support of Lee Health employees at fundraising sales, gift and uniform shops, thrift shops, Scooter’s coffee bars, onsite U.S. Post Offices, and other events and programs. Additionally, volunteers, Auxilians, visitors and patients contribute to this success. 


Video courtesy WINK News

Lee County banker gives back through public schools foundation

Harlan Parrish of FineMark National Bank is putting education before all else. After 36 years in banking, he considers himself a numbers guy, but it’s his work in schools that he prioritizes. “I firmly believe that it’s so important to our economic vitality,” Parrish says. That’s why he has volunteered for 21 years for the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools, work for which Gulfshore Life Magazine has recognized him as one of its men of the year. The foundation’s coming year, he says, may be one of its most challenging. To offset anticipated state budget cuts, Parrish and the foundation help raise money to make sure local teachers and children are supported, providing basic needs, mentorship and college/career prep to students as well as money to keep teachers well supplied, WINK News reports.

Bank of America partners with nonprofits to give holiday gifts

This holiday season, Bank of America is partnering with local nonprofit organizations to give holiday gifts to the community, funded by the bank’s Southwest Florida team members. The nonprofits include Lee Health, Residential Options of Florida, The Shelter for Abused Women, Lifeline Family Center, St. Matthew’s House and the Salvation Army. Bank employees had the opportunity to fulfill a child’s wish list via an online platform that ensured all contributions arrived safely and on time. This effort is an extension of Bank of America’s commitment to investing in the long-term health of the communities it serves, through partnerships with organizations that provide increased access to affordable housing, workforce development, financial literacy and more.

DeRomo’s partners with Café of Life for Christmas fundraiser

DeRomo’s Gourmet Market & Restaurant is collecting funds through Dec. 20 to purchase turkeys on behalf of Café of Life’s Christmastime distribution. This comes after the Bonita Springs venue raised $2,500 last month, resulting in 191 Thanksgiving meals for the region’s less fortunate families. Stephen Schmitt, director of operations, asks all participants to mail their monetary donations to DeRomo’s Gourmet Market & Restaurant (26811 S Bay Drive, Suite 140 & 148, Bonita Springs, FL 34134). Anyone sending a check should make it out to DeRomo’s and indicate ‘Café of Life – Christmas’ in the memo. Patrons can also present their donations to a market or restaurant cashier upon checking out of DeRomo’s during its current hours of business. For more information, call DeRomo’s at 239-325-3583 or visit

Harrison Ambs, chief strategy officer at Vectra Digital, and daughter Helen

Vectra Digital kicks off walking challenge, to donate $1,000 to charity

Vectra Digital is raising awareness of charities through its own 2 Million Steps for Charity Challenge. The company’s employees each chose a charity to walk for and are competing against each other for the most steps completed. The employee who wins the challenge Dec. 21 will receive a $250 gift card and a donation of $1,000 to the charity they are walking for. Employees started the challenge in late November and have so far surpassed 1.2 million steps. Vectra Digital President Albert Arguelles, who is raising the American Legion in Bonita Springs, walked 30,000 steps in a day. Vectra Digital, a full-service marketing agency in Fort Myers, will be sharing employee charity stories to Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter. For more information, visit
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