Gulfshore Business Daily: February 26

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The journalists of The Naples Daily News, The News-Press, The Banner and the Marco Eagle announced they are forming a union Monday and asked management to voluntarily recognize the Southwest Florida News Guild, part of the NewsGuild-CWA. A delegation of the union’s organizing committee presented local management with a letter requesting voluntary recognition from the newspapers’ parent company, Gannett, which would pave the way for contract negotiations. More than 75% of non-management employees have inked union authorization cards, denoting unity among both newsrooms behind organizing efforts that would better equip employees to take on an ever-changing media landscape while preserving quality local journalism and the staff who produces it, according to a press release. The dedicated group will file signed authorization cards with the National Labor Relations Board requesting an election within a 30-day time period. The Southwest Florida News Guild would cover more than 50 reporters, photographers, planners, producers, news assistants and columnists spanned across both newsrooms. In the last six months, Gannett employees have filed and won union elections at the Arizona Republic, the South Bend Tribune and the Springfield News-Leader, a press release states.


During January, 1,132,103 passengers traveled through Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers (RSW), an increase of 7.8% compared to January 2019. The traffic leader in January was Delta Air Lines with 213,885 passengers traveling to and from Fort Myers. Rounding out the top five airlines were Southwest (188,439), American (144,365), Frontier (140,821) and Spirit (134,339). Southwest Florida International Airport had 10,162 aircraft operations, an increase of 8.8% compared to January 2019. Page Field saw 11,699 operations, a 25.5 percent increase from January 2019. For more information, visit



GATES Construction has completed a multi-phase remodel at the Lee County Emergency Operations Center (Lee EOC). The project involves 6,000 square feet of interior renovations to accommodate a larger operating space for the Lee County Emergency Operations team. The project has transformed the existing storage space into two new conference rooms, expanded the overall capacity of the break room, added a security access vestibule in the entryway corridor, renovated the emergency information hotline room and added a 200-square-foot freezer. Response and recovery is a whole community effort and the Emergency Operations Center is the county’s primary coordination center during disasters.  When disaster strikes, the EOC houses over 100 dedicated staff from various agencies and is a key component of Lee County’s preparedness efforts. GATES also served as Construction Manager for the original 29,000-square-foot building construction, which was completed in December 2012.  The renovation was designed by BSSW Architects.


Mitch Hutchcraft, the vice president of real estate at King Ranch/Consolidated Citrus, will discuss the future of agriculture in Southwest Florida at the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce’s Wake Up Naples event held at 8 a.m. on March 4 at the Hilton Naples. Networking begins at 7:30 a.m. Hutchcraft will discuss the opportunities and challenges the region’s agriculture industry faces, as well as the role industrial hemp and medical marijuana will play in shaping the industry’s future. Hutchcraft serves in a leadership role at King Ranch/Consolidated Citrus on issues related to governmental affairs, land acquisitions, business expansion and the strategic planning for company assets. He has more than 30 years of experience in his field. The event is sponsored by Vi at Bentley Village. The cost to attend is $30 for members and $40 for non-members and registrants at the door. A limited number of exhibitor tables are available for $125 (event admission included). Register online at


Leadership SWFL visited a variety of healthcare facilities in Lee and Collier County on Healthcare Day to learn about modern medical and rehabilitation technology, including anti-gravity treadmills.


The Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce welcomes chambers of commerce from Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel-Captiva and Estero as partners for its newest class of Leadership SWFL. The community immersion program is now celebrating its 22nd year. The next class of Leadership SWFL will run from May through December and will help participants transform into community champions, according to a press release. The program is designed to help busy professionals quickly become immersed in the region and connected to a strong network of fellow leaders. Online applications are open now for Leadership SWFL at and must be submitted by 5 p.m. on March 27 for consideration. Contact Christleen Knaub for more information at


Applications are open for the Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) Alumni Association Leadership Academy 2020 class. Organized by the Office of Alumni Relations, up to 15 participants meet on the last Friday of every month from April to September. The Leadership Academy gives an inside look at how FGCU meets the social, economic and entertainment demands of Southwest Florida by getting behind-the-scenes access to academic, athletics and arts programs. The cost to participate is $150.  Applications close on April 3. To register, click here


Jeff Richards and Jeanette Dean Richards, president and vice president of Better Buildings, Inc. (BBI) for over 25 years, purchased 100% of the decades-old company from the Dean family during the fourth quarter of 2019. The acquisition is the result of undisclosed negotiations between the longtime leaders and the family members associated with Dean Steel Buildings, Inc. The Richards’ first order of business has been expanding Better Buildings, Inc.’s existing general contracting and design-build services as well as employing their son, Jeffrey, as a job superintendent. This maintains the “family first” corporate culture established upon the firm’s inception. In addition, the Richards will continue to build, repair and grow the metal building contracting side of BBI. For more information, call Better Buildings, Inc. at (239) 285-9243 and visit


It’s March Networking Madness and the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce is combining its monthly networking events into one Super Social held from 4:30-6:30 p.m. on March 25 at Fort Myers Brewing Co. The Chamber regularly offers five networking opportunities each month, including its General Member Luncheon, Business Before Breakfast, Conversations & Cocktails, Leadership NEXT and Women in Business programs. In March, the Chamber will instead host the Super Social, bringing everyone together for one casual night of networking. Admission is $10 for Chamber members and $15 for future Chamber members and includes light appetizers from Burntwood Tavern and one complimentary drink. Food will also be available for purchase from participating food trucks. Click here for registration or call (239) 332-2930 for more information.


Laird A. Lile, a board-certified wills, trusts and estates attorney in Naples, has been appointed by the president of The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel to three committees that advise on policy initiatives for the legal profession. Lile has been appointed to the Artificial Intelligence Task Force, the Charitable Planning and Exempt Organizations Committee, and the Practice Committee, which addresses law practice management issues for trust and estate attorneys, including practical and ethical issues. Lile is a past state chair and a Fellow in The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel. He is one of two governors elected to the Board of Governors of the Florida Bar, representing the 20th Judicial Circuit. Lile’s eighth term concludes in June 2022. Lile currently serves on the Florida Supreme Court’s Task Force on the Distribution of IOTA Funds and is also serving a second term on the court’s Judicial Management Council and a third term on the Florida Courts Technology Commission. He is past chair of the Second District Court of Appeal Nominating Commission.


Shamrock Shenanigans Pub Crawl to benefit local cancer-stricken families

Amber’s Antibodies will host “Shamrock Shenanigans Pub Crawl” at 6:30 p.m. on March 13, with a pickup location behind Miller’s Ale House in Naples. Attendees will board trolleys and venture off to three different bars, and they are encouraged to wear green for the St. Patty’s Day-themed event. Seating is first-come, first served. Tickets are $50 each and pre-registration is required. Proceeds benefit Amber’s Antibodies grant program to support Southwest Florida families who are experiencing cancer and its funding for cancer research. For tickets, visit

Jennifer’s March Fashion Forward Friday to benefit Miles of Smiles Foundation

Jennifer’s women’s boutique is celebrating 37 years in business by giving back to local charities at “Fashion Forward Friday” events through April. Miles of Smiles Foundation will receive 5% of all sales from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on March 8. Shoppers will enjoy champagne and cupcakes and will receive 15% off all dresses. Jennifer’s will also be collecting donations for Miles of Smiles. Barn cats keep the property clean and donations of cat food are appreciated. Shoppers can also donate a bale of hay by making a donation to “Hay is for Horses.” Large bales are $45 and small bales are $15. The horses eat $700 worth of hay each month. 

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