Gulfshore Business Daily: March 5-9 Weekly Roundup

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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 9

Miller to Resign as DDWS Executive Director

Birgie Miller, executive director for the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge (DDWS) since 2010, has tendered notice of her resignation to the board of directors, effective summer 2018. The board of directors hired Miller eight years ago as DDWS’ first-ever executive director. She had previously served as a member of the board for three years. Miller brought nearly 20 years of nonprofit experience to “Ding” Darling. Raising millions of dollars through donations, fundraisers, and grants, Miller has overseen the acquisition of several parcels of new refuge lands and the implementation of more than a dozen new exhibits, improvement projects, and research studies for the refuge. She worked with the refuge to design and fund the first-ever of the national wildlife refuge system’s game apps and an iNature trail that uses QR code technology. She also spearheaded the SanCap Solar Connect program to offer affordable solar conversion to island residents and businesses. Miller grew the DDWS staff from two fulltime and one part-time employees to six fulltime employees and two fulltime interns. She will be leaving Sanibel Island, home to DDWS, when she resigns from the position.​

Thursday, March 8

Collier County Tourism Has Strong January

Collier County tourism got off to a strong start in 2018, with all January key performance indicators showing positive increases over January 2017, according to the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau. Short-term visitors staying in paid lodging increased 1.9 percent; occupancy was up 7.9 percent; average daily rate climbed to $248.30, an increase of 7.5 percent; and both visitor spending and total economic impact from tourism increased 4.9 percent over January 2017. Collection of the Collier County Tourist Development Tax—paid by guests on January stays in hotel rooms, short-term vacation rentals and campgrounds—was nearly $3.77 million, a year-over-year increase of 31.24 percent. When those numbers, which reflect the new 5 percent collection rate, are recalculated at the comparable 4 percent collection rate that was in effect for January 2017, the rate of increase is 4.99 percent.

Wednesday, March 7

SWFL Startup Weekend Coming in April

Entrepreneurs in Southwest Florida will have the chance to build real companies from scratch during the second Southwest Florida Startup Weekend, taking place from April 13 to 15 at Endeavor Innovative Workspaces in Fort Myers. Startup Weekends are 54-hour events designed to provide experiential education for technical and non-technical entrepreneurs. Beginning with Friday night pitches and continuing through brainstorming, business-plan development and basic prototype creation, Startup Weekends culminate in Sunday night demos and presentations to a seasoned panel of investors and entrepreneurs. At the start of the event, approximately 75 startup entrepreneurs will make one-minute pitches to each other and create 10 to 15 teams after they’ve selected the best ideas. Experienced entrepreneurs will help mentor the teams and provide guidance throughout the weekend. Cost is $69 per person for the early bird rate before March 15 and $89 thereafter. The cost is $25 for students. To register, go to and type “Fort Myers” in the search field.

Tuesday, March 6

Naples Beach Hotel, Athens Group Partner

The Watkins family—third-generation owners and operators of the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club—partnered with The Athens Group to redevelop the property in order to enhance its legacy and continue its enjoyment by the community as a hotel, beach bar and golf club. The family will continue operating The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club through the 2020-21 season as it works with The Athens Group on the property’s redevelopment. The Athens Group’s proposed plan for The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club is still being developed, but the company’s objectives include a residential component that will make it possible to preserve the resort’s golf course, which was redesigned by Jack Nicklaus in collaboration with John Sanford in 2016.

Monday, March 5

Pearl Brands Wins 13 ADDY Awards​

Pearl Brands won 13 awards at the 2018 American Advertising Awards Suncoast Chapter, recently held in Sarasota. The Fort Myers-based firm entered in on behalf of its clients including Bayliner Boats, Heyday Wake Boats, Southwest Florida Marine Industries Association, Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina, the Barancik Foundation, Noel Painting and Lee County Solid Waste and Recycling. Projects ranged from public service announcements and print advertising to social media campaigns and brochures. Pearl Brands competed against advertising agencies from Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee and Collier Counties. Pearl’s entries resulted in seven gold awards, three silvers, two Amy Awards for the highest scoring entry in each major professional category, and one Judge’s Choice award. The American Advertising Awards is the advertising industry’s largest and most representative competition, attracting more than 60,000 entries every year in local AAF Club (Ad Club) competitions. The local Ad Club phase is the first of a three-tier, national competition. Pearl’s awards will next be submitted to the second tier and compete against winners from other local clubs in one of 15 district competitions. District winners are then forwarded to the national stage of the American Advertising Awards.

Don’t wait until the end of the week to find out what’s happening in Southwest Florida. Sign up for our free daily newsletter, Gulfshore Business Daily, to stay connected.


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