Gulfshore Business Daily: June 22

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Lead Photo: Chamber president and chief executive officer John Lai gathers with business luncheon special guests Samantha Padgett, Dana Young, and FRLA’s Lois Croft on Sundial’s balcony. Details below.

 

FLORIDA, REGIONAL UNEMPLOYMENT RATES CONTINUE TO IMPROVE

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity announced Friday that Florida has experienced 13 consecutive months of job growth, gaining 595,000 private-sector jobs over the year and 839,800 jobs since the height of the pandemic. Florida’s unemployment rate of 4.9% has remained below the national rate of 5.8% for 10 consecutive months. Florida’s unemployment rate has dramatically lowered over the year, decreasing by 9.3%, DEO reports. The unemployment rate in the Fort Myers area remained unchanged at 4.6% in May, down from 13.9% reported in May 2020. The Fort Myers area private sector employment increased by 16,600 jobs over the year, an increase of 7.9%. The unemployment rate in the Naples area was 3.7% in May, down from 13.1% reported in May 2020. The Naples area private sector employment increased by 15,300 jobs over the year, an increase of 12.1%. The regional industry gaining the most jobs over the year was leisure and hospitality, increasing by 12,200 jobs total in the Fort Myers and Naples areas.

 

STATE TOURISM EXPERTS CAST SUNNY OUTLOOK ON FLORIDA’S RECOVERY

Florida’s tourism is outperforming the national average in key performance indicators, and the 2021-22 Visit Florida budget is at an all-time high, the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce reports. Dana Young, Visit Florida president and chief executive officer, discussed the statewide industry’s recovery and outlook at the June 17 Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce business luncheon at Sundial Beach Resort. “When the rest of the nation generally shut down, but for a couple of weeks, Florida was open,” she told more than 140 gathered attendees at the sold-out luncheon. “We were the only voice out there, which leaves us in a fantastic strategic position.” Samantha Padgett, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) general counsel, spoke about labor shortage and required employee vaccinations and directed FRLA members to this website to list their staffing needs. The FRLA partnered on the first in-person San-Cap chamber meeting since March 2020. Adventures in Paradise sponsored the event.

 

Video courtesy of WINK News

PUBLIX DONATES $1.2 MILLION TO HELP RESTORE CORKSCREW SWAMP SANCTUARY

Publix Super Markets Inc. has committed to donating $1.2 million to help restore the wetlands at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in northeastern Collier County. The money will go toward removing the Carolina willow, an invasive tree that takes up too much water and threatens the cypress trees and the wildlife that live in the swamp. Before the willows began to grow, the area was all marshland. The willows have taken over about 1,800 acres of the 18,000-acre swamp. The sanctuary has already cleared 900 acres. The money from Publix will help clear about 500 acres more. The goal is to shred the willows and return more than 170 million gallons of water to the environment, which will help endangered species that call the area home, WINK News reports.

 

SIENA LAKES CONTINUING CARE RETIREMENT COMMUNITY OPENS FIRST PHASE

The grand opening of Siena Lakes continuing care retirement community will be celebrated with a ceremonial ribbon-cutting this morning in North Naples. Managed and developed by Baltimore-based Erickson Senior Living, the new community’s 35-acre campus is on Orange Blossom Drive between Airport-Pulling and Livingston roads. Siena Lakes helps meet the demand for senior housing in North Naples and provides significant local economic benefits, Erickson says. In addition to offering spacious apartment homes and amenities, Siena Lakes will create 250 career opportunities and is anticipated to generate millions in regional economic activity each year, including tax revenues from property and sales, the company reports. Already reserved are 75% of the 355 planned one-level independent living apartment homes in its first and second phases. The second phase is still being built by Kaufman Lynn Construction.  

 

CONSTRUCTION STARTS ON NEW CAPE CORAL FIRE STATION

Wright Construction Group Inc. broke ground on the new Cape Coral Fire Station No. 12, located at 2129 Chiquita Blvd., Cape Coral, on June 10.  The 10,559-square-foot, Level E facility will be built to withstand Category 5 hurricanes. In addition to housing firefighters, EMTs, paramedics and various firefighting equipment, the station will be used to provide shelter and backup resources to the residents of Cape Coral in case of emergency. The $4.5 million project features three apparatus bays more than 77 feet in length and eight bunk rooms. The building is reinforced with durable concrete, steel trusses, an aluminum roof, and a backup generator. This is the third fire station Wright Construction Group Inc. has been hired for as the construction manager for the City of Cape Coral as the fire department continues to expand its resources and improve response times for the growing population. 

 

FORT MYERS PROPERTY PART OF $79.5 MILLION TRANSACTION

Texas-based Youngquist Industrial Park and Gulfcoast Industrial Campus, a Youngquist Brothers development in Fort Myers, were sold to SFG Acquisitions LLC for $79.5 million. Gary Tasman & Shawn Stoneburner of Cushman & Wakefield | Commercial Property Southwest Florida represented the buyer and the seller in negotiating the transactions.

 

Dr. Thomas Quigley

QUIGLEY EYE SPECIALISTS EXPANDS INTO SARASOTA

Southwest Florida-based Quigley Eye Specialists is expanding into Sarasota. The practice announced that Eye Specialists of Sarasota and Dr. Michael Lamensdorf have merged with Quigley Eye Specialists. Lamensdorf is a board-certified ophthalmologist and Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. Lamensdorf will continue to see patients at the Eye Specialists office at 1428 S. Tamiami Trail in Sarasota. As a result of the merger, patients also will have access to multiple specialists at three locations in Sarasota, including Dr. Joseph Spadafora, who has more than 30 years of experience in ophthalmology and is the medical director of St. Lucy’s Eye Surgery Center, which merged with Quigley Eye Specialists earlier this year. Existing office staff will continue to provide care with a few new patient care specialists and opticians. Various aesthetic upgrades are planned for the office, including an eyeglass boutique with an extensive inventory of designer frames and sunglasses. Quigley Eye Specialists has acquired nine offices during the past year, bringing the total number of offices under the Quigley Eye Specialists umbrella to 21. 

 

FLORIDA GAS PRICES DECLINE 3 CENTS

Florida gas prices drifted lower during the past week. Prices at the pump are now 3 cents less than a week ago, AAA reports. The average price for gasoline in Florida is now $2.94 per gallon. “Florida drivers got a break from rising gas prices last week, and it appears that trend could continue this week,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Although crude oil prices notched another small weekly gain, wholesale gasoline prices declined. Market speculators believe Tropical Depression Claudette will cause reduced gasoline demand in the Southeastern U.S., as residents stay off the road during the storm. Gas prices may decline another few pennies this week as a result. Florida gas prices are now 4 cents less than this year’s high of $2.98 per gallon, recorded on June 11. The current state average is now only 3 cents more than the previous high of $2.91 per gallon, recorded in March 2021. It’s 2 cents more than the highest daily average price in 2018. Punta Gorda remains one of the least expensive metro markets for gas prices, at $2.85 per gallon.

 

Wildlife Biologist Ian Easterling and Conservation Associate Mady Eori, both with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, are pictured with captured Burmese pythons located utilizing a radio-tagged male scout snake during the breeding season.

WILDLIFE BIOLOGISTS PUBLISH TRACKING STUDY ON BURMESE PYTHON

A team of wildlife biologists at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, in partnership the United States Geological Survey, have published peer-reviewed research on the longest and largest tracking study to date on the invasive Burmese python. Titled “Spatial ecology of invasive Burmese pythons in southwestern Florida,” the research article is published in the June issue of Ecosphere. The objective of the Conservancy’s five-year study was to better understand the spatial ecology of the python to assist in the design of effective control programs. Determining and quantifying home range estimates and habitat associations can streamline targeted removal efforts for wide-ranging, cryptic animals such as the Burmese python. Additionally, since launching its Burmese Python Research and Removal Program in 2013, the Conservancy has captured and removed over 20,000 pounds of pythons through active searching and scout snake tracking efforts. Funding for the Conservancy’s python research and removal program is provided through the Naples Zoo Conservation Fund, the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida, U.S. Geological Survey and private philanthropy. The Conservancy collaborates with Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Collier Seminole State Park and Big Cypress National Preserve for radio-telemetry research and removal efforts.

 

CONCERTS THIS WEEKEND LAUNCH BEN ALLEN’S BACKYARD GRILL & PUB IN EAST NAPLES

Tickets went on sale Monday for the grand opening weekend of Ben Allen’s Backyard Grill & Pub, which is replacing the Brooks Burgers location in Freedom Square, 12655 Tamiami Trail E., in East Naples. Festivities start at 6:30 p.m. this Friday and Saturday with performances by the Ben Allen Band between 8 and 11 p.m. both nights as well as JP Soars & The Red Hots 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday. The cover charge is $20 for both nights. The restaurant’s menu showcases comfort food such as burgers, mix-and-match kebabs, finger foods, nachos, pizza, smoked brisket, prime rib and more. The bar also will offer a variety of beers, bourbons, whiskeys and cocktails. Purchase tickets by calling 239-304-9552.

 

 

CHARITABLE NOTES

Zonta Club of Naples donates $30,000 to charities

The Zonta Club of Naples awarded the $30,000 proceeds from its sixth annual Sparkle Dinner to the following charities: Pace Center for Girls, Shelter for Abused Women and Children, Teenage Parenting Programs (Naples and Immokalee), Path2Freedom, Meals of Hope, Youth Haven, Dreamcatchers and the Golden Gate Senior Center. Zonta Club works to empower, serve and advocate for women and girls in Collier County. 

 

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