Gulfshore Business Daily: May 20

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Florida Gulf Coast University’s Chris Westley, dean of the Lutgert College of Business, announces RESTART SWFL, FGCU’s Economic Recovery Initiative. Courtesy of FGCU
Lead Photo: Florida Gulf Coast University’s Chris Westley, dean of the Lutgert College of Business, announces RESTART SWFL, FGCU’s Economic Recovery Initiative. Courtesy of FGCU



Florida Gulf Coast University is launching RESTART SWFL, an initiative dedicated to helping businesses respond to the impact of COVID-19 on their operations, workforce, vendors and customers. “We know that good health makes good business, so it makes sense for FGCU’s Lutgert College of Business and Marieb College of Health & Human Services to unite to mobilize expertise and resources, along with those of our local partners, to help businesses,” said Christopher Westley, dean of FGCU’s Lutgert College of Business. “Our intention is to create an environment in which consumers will feel more comfortable to re-enter the marketplace.” Joined by his colleague, Ann Cary, dean of FGCU’s Marieb College of Health & Human Services, Westley unveiled the RESTART SWFL Seal of Confidence on Tuesday at Lutgert Hall. “We believe the path to recovery is anchored in consumer confidence, so that’s why we’re introducing the RESTART SWFL Seal of Confidence: a campaign to bring a renewed sense of confidence and prosperity to the region in which business owners pledge to adhere to a set of standards involving health, business and ethical practices,” Westley said. Along with the pledge, FGCU will launch a series of free web-based discussions led by experts from Lutgert and Marieb, as well as community leaders. These will assist businesses in complying with new standards in hygiene and best practices for business. The goal is to assure customers that establishments have sound systems in place to ensure their well-being and are providing fair value and service. “If business owners take two of these classes and take the pledge, they will earn this seal,” Westley said. For additional information about RESTART SWFL and panel discussion schedules, visit

Video courtesy of WINK News


While the Board of Governors works out their plan for getting students back on campus, students at Hodges University will already be in class as the university plans to reopen in just days, WINK News reports. Students will be learning inside of this brand new building and gloves, masks, sanitizer and other safety precaution materials will be sitting right in the lobby ready for use. Hodges University is anxious to get students back in the classroom, but the staff acknowledges that safety comes first. A big reason for reopening is that not all classes, such as physical therapy, can be done online. Although the university plans to fully reopen this fall, a slow transition starting June 1 is a good way to prep, rather than opening all at once.


 The Lee Board of County Commissioners voted Tuesday to approve the extension of an agreement with the Florida Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged to allow Lee County to serve as the Community Transportation Coordinator for an additional 12 months. The board’s action ensures coordinated services continue to be provided to individuals who are transportation disadvantaged through June 2021.


Because of continued voluntary compliance and the community’s greater awareness for the Centers for Disease Control guidelines, Lee County announced the reopening of pools, playgrounds, pavilions, courts, multi-purpose fields (soccer/lacrosse/football), fishing piers and splash pads beginning Friday, May 22. Staff will be onsite to help encourage following the CDC guidelines, including social distancing. Commissioners stressed it is imperative that residents remain vigilant to continue to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The county reopened hiking trails April 22, and beaches and most outdoor spaces at parks on April 29. Lee County Parks & Recreation summer camp plans continue to be finalized; camp will begin June 15. For announcements about camp, county operations and other information, check or Facebook Lee County Government.

Dennis Chapman


The Village School of Naples Head of School Dennis Chapman is one of five school leaders across Florida selected to serve on the Florida Council of Independent Schools (FCIS) Task Force: Considerations for Reopening Schools. This task force will serve as a think tank of school leaders currently in the field experiencing the impact of COVID-19 and will make recommendations as to how best to reopen FCIS’s 158-member independent schools, which serve more than 73,000 students. A native of Miami, Chapman has nearly 15 years of independent school leadership experience and 20 years of nonprofit experience. He joined The Village School in 2018 after serving as president and head of school at The New School in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Before that, he was the associate head of school for The Out-of-Door Academy in Sarasota. Chapman holds a Bachelor of Arts in mass communications from Trinity International University and a Master of Education in educational leadership from the University of South Florida.


A four-story medical office building is under construction by Physicians Regional Healthcare System across from the Physicians Regional – Pine Ridge hospital campus. The 107,000-square-foot building at 6376 Pine Ridge Road in Naples is being developed on more than 9 acres of vacant commercial property south of Pine Ridge Road, just east of Interstate 75 and west of Napa Boulevard. The project recently broke ground.


Library patrons will be able to visit Lee County’s regional libraries with limited service, hours and capacity beginning Tuesday, May 26. The Cape Coral Lee County Library, East County Regional Library, Fort Myers Regional Library, Northwest Regional Library and South County Regional Library will open at 25% capacity with hours 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Previously announced contactless services and book returns will continue at all library system branches. Lakes Regional Library will not reopen its doors May 26 because of a previously scheduled project. The anticipated opening for this site is June 11. At the five libraries that will reopen May 26, signs will be posted for following CDC guidelines and floors will be marked to indicate spacing for social distancing. Plexiglas shields are installed at all public service desks, and hand sanitizer and wipes will be provided to the public. For additional information call 239-479-4636, text 239-204-5321, chat at or email These services are available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto


State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto has been named executive vice president of Hope Healthcare. With a distinguished career in public service that spans two decades, Benacquisto was first elected to the Florida Senate to represent Southwest Florida in 2010 and was subsequently reelected 2012, 2014 and 2016. She served as the majority leader from 2012 to 2014 and the deputy majority leader from 2011 to 2012. Previously, she served as councilwoman for the Village of Wellington, Florida, from 2002 to 2010. Benacquisto has supported Hope services for several years, serving as co-chair of the annual Yachts of Hope and Shine events that benefited those in need of Hope Hospice. She has been recognized with numerous honors and awards and served in volunteer positions with a broad variety of political, civic and human service organizations.

Construction of Sunseeker Resort construction site in Charlotte Harbor. Credit: WINK News.


Allegiant Air’s Sunseeker Resort project in Charlotte Harbor is on hold indefinitely, WINK News confirmed through an official transcript Monday. This comes after Allegiant halted the construction of Sunseeker due to the coronavirus pandemic. Allegiant says it will not put any more capital into the project for at least 18 months and later, it said indefinitely. The company says it is working to preserve the most important assets of its model – the airline – and is focused on quickly restoring its balance sheet. “One of these difficult but required decisions was to shut down the Sunseeker Resort development,” the airline reports.


Tamiami Angel Fund III, Florida’s largest angel fund, invested in digital landscape-irrigation technology that delivers big water savings. Using digital technology to precise water the exact shape of a landscape, the system made by IrriGreen requires 50% less water than conventional technology to irrigate the same area. The digital technology, combined with the patent-pending nozzle design, eliminates wasteful overlapping arcs that conventional irrigation systems use. Tamiami Angel Fund III investors invested $350,000 into IrriGreen, joining other angel funds, including Band of Angels and Sand Hill Angels. IrriGreen, located in Edina, Minnesota, and San Francisco, is the 14th company in the portfolio of Naples-based Tamiami Angel Fund III. Fifth Avenue Family Office is the administrator of the angel funds.


MÉR Cos. celebrates 10 years

MÉR Cos., with staff and resources in Naples along with Knoxville, Tennessee and Annapolis, Maryland, celebrates its first decade in business. The marketing and brand services firm has three divisions providing a full-spectrum of services, including brand communications, branded events and experiential marketing, and material solutions. Company founder Paul Cherney started the firm to provide various specialized marketing services, from printing and specialty items to consumer trade show management. The company has steadily grown and diversified over the past 10 years, adding a brand communications division in 2017. For more details, visit

Luca Hickman

Henderson Franklin welcomes Hickman

Henderson, Franklin, Starnes & Holt P.A. has appointed Luca Hickman to the firm. He will be based out of Henderson Franklin’s Fort Myers’ office. Hickman, who is a registered patent attorney with a dual U.S./German degree in engineering, will expand the breadth of the firm’s litigation and intellectual property practice areas. Prior to joining the firm, he worked for a boutique international intellectual property law firm. Hickman has experience working on high-profile business and contractual matters, assisting clients with the creation and management of intellectual property portfolios, brand licensing and anti-infringement matters. Hickman is a member of the Catholic Bar Association. Hickman received his undergraduate degrees from the Milwaukee School of Engineering (with high honors) and Lübeck University of Applied Sciences. He also graduated valedictorian and first in his class from Ave Maria School of Law.

PHOTO of all students for 2020 presentation


The Founders Fund to award college scholarships to 24 Collier County students

The Founders Scholarship Fund is awarding 24 Collier County students college scholarships this month despite canceling its major fundraising event this past spring. A special Zoom celebration and scholarship presentation will be held on May 28 to honor the scholarship recipients and their families. The Founders Scholarship Fund, a local 501 (c)3 non-profit organization, will award $240,000 in renewable scholarships to local students who have shown determination, academic achievements, and financial need to pursue a college education. Each student will receive $2,500 per year for up to four years so long as they maintain a 3.0 average. The Founders Scholarship Fund was founded in 1991 by Club Pelican Bay golf members and is a non-profit/tax-exempt charitable organization. Since its inception, over 700 students have been awarded more than $4 million in scholarships.

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