Gulfshore Business Daily: February 23

Lead Photo: Chamber representatives celebrated the new real estate office with a ribbon-cutting. Details below.

 

SOUTHWEST FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT REPORTS JANUARY TRAFFIC 

During January, 686,563 passengers traveled through Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers. This was a decrease of 39.4% compared to January 2020; however, it was a 5.9% increase compared to December 2020. The traffic leader in January was Southwest Airlines with 149,608 total passengers. Rounding out the top five airlines were Delta (138,462), United (91,985), American (81,639) and JetBlue (64,981). Southwest Florida International Airport had 8,628 aircraft operations, a decrease of 15.1 percent compared to January 2020. Page Field saw 11,334 operations, a 3.1 percent decrease compared to January 2020.
 

REPORT: NAPLES HOME INVENTORY DOWN, CLOSED SALES UP FOR JANUARY

Overall home inventory decreased by 60% in January compared to January 2020, according to a January market report released by the Naples Area Board of Realtors (NABOR), which tracks home listings and sales within Collier County, excluding Marco Island. Overall, pending sales increased by 39%, and the median closed price increased by 15% to $395,000, the report shows. Overall closed sales increased by 50%. The full January 2021 Market Report will be released on Wednesday here.
 

PUBLIX OFFERS 225,000 EMPLOYEES $125 GIFT CARDS TO GET VACCINATED

Publix Super Markets Inc. is giving a $125 Publix gift card to each of its more than 225,000 employees who get vaccinated against COVID-19. The Florida-based supermarket chain is the latest major employer to offer an enticement to its workers to immunize themselves against the virus. The gift cards are being offered to current employees who submit an internal form and proof of vaccination, the company said. Publix said it’s encouraging but not requiring workers to get vaccinated.
 

FULLY VIRTUAL SOUTHWEST FLORIDA READING FESTIVAL SET FOR MARCH

The 22nd annual Southwest Florida Reading Festival celebrates the power of reading while showcasing nearly 30 best-selling authors in addition to crafts, contests and prizes all month long. Live events start March 1, but attendees can visit the festival website now to view the author lineup, plan their schedule and take a look at the virtual marketplace booths. Click here for early access to the online festival. The Southwest Florida Reading Festival is free and community-supported through donations, sponsorships and grants. For more information call calling 239-533-4832 or go to ReadFest.org.
 

LEE COUNTY MPO’S CITIZEN ADVISORY COMMITTEE TO MEET MARCH 4

The next Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting will be held at 3 p. m. on March 4. Agenda topics for the meeting include Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) amendments to add a new safety project to address wrong-way driving on the I-75 off-ramps and to adjust the transit planning funds that the MPO receives, a Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP) amendment to revise the transit planning funds in the MPO’s budget, a presentation on the MPO’s Goods and Freight study, follow up on electric vehicle legislative discussions and impacts, and a review of the Regional TRIP (Transportation Regional Incentive Program) priorities. For more information, click here.
 

LOVER’S KEY STATE PARK TO OPEN WELCOME AND DISCOVERY CENTER

FOLKS (Friends of Lovers Key) and Lover’s Key State Park will open their Welcome and Discovery Center this spring. The center will educate park visitors on some of the different species within the park and overall facts about the location. The center will also include a community room that can be rented for classes, meetings, parties, wedding receptions and more. Members of Florida Gulf Coast University’s service-learning class, Trails for Tails, got a sneak peek of the center on Feb. 6. The students will continue to work with the park throughout the semester to help educate the public about Lover’s Key State Park. Trails for Tails is now in its second-year partnership with Lover’s Key State Park. This semester the class will partner with the Lee County Native Plant Society to start the planting of native species surrounding the Discovery Center that will promote a healthy ecosystem.
 

GIS VETERAN LAUNCHES MAPMAKING AND MAP SERVICES FIRM

Phillip Sherman, a geographic information systems (GIS) analyst with more than 10 years of experience in utility mapping and spatial tools, has launched Sherman Spatial Solutions LLC. The Fort-Myers-based consultancy gathers and applies data to GIS-driven maps and tools for the type of analysis that helps individuals and businesses make better decisions. Team members create and maintain maps of any kind and for any industry throughout the U.S. and around the world. They also edit and digitize CAD files as well as design and deploy spatial applications. To mark this milestone, the founder and CEO is providing complimentary consultations to anyone who may be interested in GIS services. Sherman Spatial Solutions also has training packages available. 
 

NINO’S THICK & THIN PIZZERIA RELOCATING AND EXPANDING 

Nino’s Thick & Thin Pizzeria is expanding and relocating to a larger, free-standing building in South Fort Myers. The family-owned Italian restaurant recently purchased Luigina’s Pizza & Grill at 18767 S. Tamiami Trail and will relocate as Nino’s Pizzeria and Restaurant. Operating in Fort Myers for the last 42 years, Nino’s plans to incorporate some of the most popular Luiginas’ dishes into the new menu and has future plans to make improvements to the building. During the transition over the coming weeks, Nino’s continues normal restaurant operations at its current location, 18911 S. Tamiami Trail, Fort Myers. 
 

CHAMBER CELEBRATES OPENING OF KELLER WILLIAMS SANIBEL OFFICE

The Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 16 celebrated the opening of the Keller Williams Realty office at 2440 Palm Ridge, Unit 4, on Sanibel — a partnership between longtime Sanibel real estate agents Sarah Ashton and Chris Kirchner. The office had officially opened on Sept. 1, 2020. Kirchner has been working in real estate since he moved to Southwest Florida in 2009. He has been the recipient of the International Rising Star, RE/MAX 100%,  and Executive Club Awards multiple times, along with additional awards. Ashton moved to Sanibel Island in 2001 and began selling real estate in 2003. She serves as the president of the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society and was past president of the Sanibel & Captiva Chamber and the American Business Women’s Association local chapter.
 

Jennifer Hall

SANIBEL CAPTIVA COMMUNITY BANK HIRES HALL

Jennifer Hall has joined Sanibel Captiva Community Bank as a customer service representative and teller at the McGregor branch in Fort Myers. She is responsible for assisting customers with personal and business banking transactions. Hall has prior experience working in the banking, real estate and investment advisory industries. Founded in 2003, Sanibel Captiva Community Bank has two locations on Sanibel Island and six more locations throughout Lee County.
 

William “Walter” Grace Jr.

GREEN SCHOENFELD & KYLE LLP HIRES GRACE

Attorney William “Walter” Grace Jr. has joined Green Schoenfeld & Kyle LLP, a law firm specializing in estate and business planning, probate and corporate law. With more than 50 years of business and legal experience, Grace’s areas of expertise include real property, probate and trust. Prior to joining the firm, he practiced as a solo attorney with a Southwest Florida comprehensive full-service law firm and, most recently, a Fort Myers trial law firm. Walter also served as trial counsel for the U.S. Army in the Republic of Vietnam. A member of The Florida Bar, Grace holds a law degree from Florida State University and an undergraduate degree from Emory University. He previously served as president of Goodwill Industries and the Rotary Club of Fort Myers. Grace serves as a trustee for First United Methodist Church and attends Cypress Lake United Methodist Church.
 

Video courtesy of WINK News

GIRL SCOUTS ARE BACK SELLING COOKIES AT STOREFRONTS IN SWFL

Girls Scouts are back in front of storefronts selling their famous cookies in Southwest Florida. The COVID-19 pandemic forced cookie booths to close much earlier than expected last year, but Girl Scout troops will be back this year selling their cookies in front of storefronts while also trying to keep shoppers safe. The Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida saw about a 13% drop in sales last year because of the virus. This year called for a scaled-down operation of 20 booths instead of 80 or more. Masks are now part of the Girl Scout uniform and hand sanitizer is front and center. And it’s contactless payment only. A cookie finder on the Girl Scouts’ website lets consumers type in an address to locate the nearest booth. If you can’t find an in-person location nearby, you can still buy the coveted cookies online, WINK News reports.
 

THE CLUB AT THE DUNES HONORED WITH 2021 GOLDEN FORK AWARD

The Club at the Dunes, a private club within The Dunes of Naples residential community in North Naples, has been honored by Golf Inc. with a 2021 Golden Fork award. The Club at the Dunes came in first place in the “Private Club Renovation” category in the publication’s annual Golden Fork competition. In 2019, The Club at the Dunes completed a $9.2 million renovation and expansion project. Golf Inc., the world’s only magazine for golf course developers, owners and management company executives, annually recognizes the best new amenities and golf industry’s top dining facilities (Golden Fork Awards) at public and private clubs in its February/March issue. Golf Inc. recognized a total of 19 honorees across the nation this year. Eleven of those honorees were in categories for best new and renovated dining facilities, while eight were in three amenity categories. 
 

CHARITABLE NOTES

 

Bone marrow drive for local boy held Saturday

In partnership with Be the Match, Lee Health will be holding a bone marrow drive to support JaKobe “Kobe” Washington, an 8-year-old boy from Florida who is diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Because Washington is African American, he has a 23% chance of finding a match, Lee Health states. The event takes place from 9 a.m. to noon on Feb. 27 at Golisano Children’s Hospital in Fort Myers, parking area B3-4. The process to see if a person is a match for Kobe is simple. Participates just drive up, swab their cheek and place the sealed kit in the drop-off box. Be the Match is a nonprofit that services the largest marrow registry in the U.S. with more than 20 million potential blood stem cell donors. For more information, click here.
 

Goodwill offering free tax assistance for qualifying taxpayers in Southwest Florida

Goodwill Community Resource Centers(CRC) in Southwest Florida have trained IRS-certified volunteers who can help taxpayers file their 2020 returns for free. It’s through the VITA program, or The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. The VITA program offers free tax preparation to people who generally make $66,000 per year or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly, and limited English-speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. Goodwill offers this service in conjunction with the IRS and the United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee Counties, and can assist residents in claiming any special credits and deductions for which they may be eligible. Goodwill’s free tax sites will be hosted at United Way House & Goodwill Job-Link in Bonita Springs; Goodwill CRC in LaBelle; Goodwill CRC in Lehigh Acres; Palm Beach Goodwill CRC in Fort Myers; and Goodwill CRC in Clewiston. Goodwill is also offering federal tax filing online through the My Free Taxes Program.
 

Shine 2019 raised $440,000 to benefit Hope

Signature Hope Hospice fundraiser set to ‘Shine’ in 2021

The second annual Shine fundraiser for Hope Hospice is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Oct. 15 at the historic Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers. The outdoor event will feature riverside cocktails, dining, entertainment, and a live auction to support Hope’s mission of providing comforting care to everyone living with serious illness. Shine will be hosted with the appropriate recommended measures in place, to ensure the well-being of all guests. Florida Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka and former Florida Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto will return for a second year to serve as the fundraiser’s chairs. More than 250 guests attended the inaugural Shine event in 2019, which raised $440,000 to benefit Hope. To learn about sponsorship opportunities or to request an invitation to the event, call 239-985-7758.
 

Pete Tuffo, Ben Wilson, Michael Nachef, Rod Nobrega, Chris Simoneau, Gordon Glover, Isaac George, Paul Simone, Todd Van Curen, Chris Lewis, Jacob Hochhausler

Suffolk presents sporting clay tournament to benefit Kids’ Minds Matter

Suffolk recently presented a sporting clay tournament benefitting Kids’ Minds Matter, a children’s mental health initiative by Lee Health Foundation. On Feb. 19, Suffolk, along with their sponsors and participants, raised $40,000 during a fun-filled day of sport clay shooting at the Bermont Shooting Club in Punta Gorda. Kids’ Minds Matter originated to raise awareness about the need for pediatric mental and behavioral health care services and to raise the funds required to make these services available in the region through Golisano Children’s Hospital, Lee Health and partners in Southwest Florida. 
 
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