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Need to catch up on business news in Southwest Florida? No problem, here are the top stories of the week pulled from our daily newsletter, Gulfshore Business Daily.

Friday, March 16

Lee Food-Rescue Campaign Starts Sunday

Lee County Solid Waste has created “Donated not Wasted,” a food rescue campaign to encourage seasonal residents and visitors to donate unopened pantry items before returning north. About 70,000 tons, or 13 percent, of the waste stream in Lee County is food, according to a 2016 waste audit. Nationwide, Americans throw out about 30 percent of the available food supply. To help reduce those numbers, unopened canned or dry goods can be dropped off from Sunday to April 2 at any Lee County Library System location or Lee County Recreation Center. Additional collection containers are located at the Six Mile Cypress Slough and the Topaz Court Household Chemical Waste Facility. For more information, visit www.leegov.com/solidwaste or call (239) 533-8000.

Thursday, March 15

VenturePitch SWFL Announces Semi-Finalists

Organizers of VenturePitch SWFL have announced the 10 semi-finalists for its 2018 second quarter VenturePitch SWFL. From this pool, four Southwest Florida entrepreneurs will be selected to compete for up to $50,000 in equity investments at a Shark Tank-style event from 5-8 p.m. on April 12 at Babcock Ranch. The semi-finalist companies, which span multiple industries, are: 1950 (Venice), which manufactures WarpWrapz goggles; Accugentix (Naples); AmbuTrak, LLC (Sebring); Envision Solutions, LLC (Bonita Springs); HarpersLove (Naples); Jejo's Market (Sarasota); REvest Exchange (Naples); Stabilized Steps (Naples); The Nickel Ride, LLC (Fort Myers); and YES Home Network, LLC (Fort Myers). Presenting companies must be in the pre-revenue stage or within the first few months of producing revenues, in business less than two years, have a scalable business model, and have not already raised more than $1 million.  Early bird admission to the event is available at $55 until March 23. Ticket prices will increase to $75 after that date. Sponsorships are available. For more information, visit www.venturepitchswfl.com.

Wednesday, March 14

Manpower Survey: Hiring at 'Strong Pace' in Cape Coral-Fort Myers

The Cape Coral-Fort Myers Metropolitan Statistical Area employers expect to hire at a strong pace during the second quarter of 2018, according to the ManpowerGroup Employment Outlook Survey. Among employers surveyed, 25 percent plan to hire more employees from April through June, down just 1 percent from the same period last year. This number is offset by the 5 percent that plan to reduce payrolls, the same as Q2 of last year, while 70 percent of employers expect to maintain current staff levels, up 4 percent from the same time last year. Zero percent of surveyed individuals indicate they are not sure of their hiring plans, down 3 percent from Q2 of 2017. This yields a Net Employment Outlook of 20 percent, 1 percent lower than the same period last year. The survey did not report on any other Southwest Florida MSAs.

Tuesday, March 13

FutureMakers, Learning Programs Join Forces to Fill Skills Gap in SWFL

The FutureMakers Coalition has announced a strategic project, co-designed by Immokalee Technical College (iTech), Fort Myers Technical College (FMTC) and the Hendry County School District, to reach its goal of increasing the percent of college graduates and residents with advanced certifications in Southwest Florida (55 percent by the year 2025). The Technical and Adult Education Completion program aims to improve access to information, awareness and perception of regional educational opportunities among historically underserved, unemployed, or underemployed adults in Immokalee, Hendry County and Fort Myers. Further, the initiative aims to ensure students complete their degree and/or certificate programs so they can join the workforce in their desired industry. The program will involve multiple approaches to increase access to training and removing barriers to completion, including grassroots, one-on-one outreach, digital marketing, public relations, community relations as well as the use of predictive analytics to help understand where students are falling through the cracks and increased support once students enter into the programs. Prospective students can learn more about the programs at each college by visiting HendryAdultLearning.org, Hendry County; iTech.edu/AdultLearningProgram, Immokalee; and AdultLearningProgram.FortMyersTech.edu, Fort Myers.

Monday, March 12

Golden Apple Teacher Awardees Announced

The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools has announced the six recipients of the 2018 Golden Apple Teacher Award. They are: Matthew Bourbina, Fort Myers High School; Dr. Patrick Hanrahan, Ida S. Baker High School; Samantha Hutchinson, Island Coast High School; Esteban Jaramillo, Mariner High School; Brooke Przespolewski, Gulf Elementary School; and Maria Rose, Edison Park Creative & Expressive Arts School. The Golden Apple Recipients are chosen after going through an extensive selection process that began in September with a communitywide invitation to nominate teachers from The School District of Lee County. The six finalists were selected after completing a three-step process, which included a blind comprehensive application, observations in their classroom of their teaching style and skill, and personal interviews with the Golden Apple Selection Committee. The Golden Apple Teacher Recognition Program was the first major project funded and developed by The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools, Inc. Recipients of the Golden Apple Teacher Award will be honored at a black-tie affair held at 5:30 p.m. on April 6 at the Hyatt Regency at Coconut Point. The banquet will be broadcasted via NBC2 at 7 p.m.on April 8. Tickets for the Golden Apple Banquet can be purchased for $160 per person by contacting the Foundation office at (239) 337-0433.

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