By Colleen DePasquale, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce
While the end of 2020 is nearing, the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to affect the local business community for months, and perhaps even years, to come.
Beyond the many changes implemented to keep employees safe and their companies operating, business owners have also had to respond to a shift in spending habits.
Consumer preferences have transformed due to the pandemic. Online spending increased greatly as people spent more time at home. In fact, a recent survey found that 45% of consumers say they do more than half of their current shopping online – nearly three times the pre-pandemic level. This impact becomes more apparent as we head into the holiday season, with the National Retail Federation reporting that 60% of consumers say they plan to purchase holiday items online this year.
Local spending is a powerful force for the small business community. Most importantly, this local spending ideology is not limited only to retail shopping. The need for spending our dollars locally extends to businesses of all types, from retail to restaurants to home repair to personal wellness.
Local businesses need our support now more than ever. That’s why the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce launched a local spending campaign, called “Nov(m)ember: Be a Local Spender with a Chamber Member.”
The campaign highlights this region’s many incredible businesses and urges our community to support local businesses throughout the holiday shopping season and beyond.
Spending locally offers many benefits to consumers and our community at large. Local businesses:
Support our local economy. The money you spend stays in our community.
Invest locally. Our business neighbors want our region to succeed and are invested in the well-being and future of our community. They are also more likely to support nonprofits and causes that improve our local community.
Offer unique, handcrafted and locally inspired products that are unlike anything you would find among mass-produced options.
Provide local jobs. The Florida Small Business Development Center reported that there are 2.5 million small businesses in Florida. Supporting the growth of local businesses also supports the growth of local job opportunities.
Offer better customer service. You are a familiar face to local business owners, not just another customer or client.
Make our community a better place to live. The character provided by local businesses helps make Southwest Florida a must-visit destination.
Are our neighbors. You know the people behind the product or service, and your support helps them succeed.
Fortunately, there are many ways to support local businesses, including:
Getting familiar with local businesses. If you need a resource, the Chamber offers a list of local businesses at FortMyers.org/NovMember.
Shopping, dining and utilizing their products and services.
Purchasing gifts and gift cards from a local business for friends and family members, introducing them to a new service or product.
Giving local businesses a shout-out on social media.
Leaving a positive online review or a kind note of encouragement.
Shopping online at local businesses and utilizing their safe pick-up options.
This year has been challenging for businesses across all industries. Our Southwest Florida business community needs our support now more than ever.
For whatever services you may require this season – think locally.
Better Together, a voluntary, community-driven alternative to foster care, has introduced the Hopeful 100 Club to encourage monthly recurring gifts of $100 that cover the costs of keeping a child out of foster care and families together.
Since March, Better Together has seen a 155% increase in requests for help through its Better Families program, a voluntary alternative to foster care that hosts children short-term while mentoring parents through crisis.
“It costs an average of $30,000 per year in taxpayer dollars to keep a child in foster care,” said Megan Rose, CEO, Better Together.
“The alternative is donating $100 per month to cover the cost of providing a child with a safe and caring temporary home while parents work towards reunification. Despite challenges, Better Together has remained fully operational throughout the pandemic. With your support, children can wake up with their parents on Christmas morning rather than in foster care.”
With a small crew of seven full-time staff, Better Together has leveraged the support of hundreds of local volunteers to serve every single family that asked for help.
“We have not turned a single child away,” added Rose.
Better Together is 100% privately funded and community driven, and has served over 2,500 children in Southwest Florida and kept 96% of families together. The nonprofit was founded on the belief that loving parents should not lose children because they are having money problems, or had the courage to seek treatment, or got hospitalized without childcare. These challenges can be overcome with the right support system in place.
Walking through the new military museum in Cape Coral means taking a trip back in time.
On Tuesday, the Brotherhood of Heroes Military Museum and Resource Center officially opened its to serve veterans. From the Revolutionary War on, each exhibit tells a story, some with a Southwest Florida connection.
The museum in the “Purple Heart City” will not only house military treasures but also welcomes veterans’ groups like The Purple Heart and the Disabled American Veterans.
The museum, 4522 Del Prado Blvd. S., is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays, and closed Sundays and Mondays.
Admission is $4 and free for military personnel and first responders.
Lee County Clerk Linda Doggett announced the Cape Coral office will resume services by appointment starting Oct.26, 2020. Appointments at the government center will be available between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Cape Coral residents may schedule an appointment to pay traffic fines, court case fees, probation, and other municipal and county infractions. Notary services are also provided for a $10 fee, and a free public computer station is available to search and view court and official records online.
“Our primary goal is to ensure our Lee County residents have easy access to our services in a safe environment,” Doggett said. “While most of our services are available online, we understand that not everyone has computer or internet access.”
Anyone visiting the office will be required to wear a face mask, maintain six feet distance from others, and there is a two person limit in elevators. If they are unable to visit the office in person, they can connect via Zoom for select services during business hours without an appointment.
To schedule an appointment or video conference with a Deputy Clerk via Zoom, customers can visit LeeClerk.org.
Customers wishing to record documents are directed to use the Clerk of Court drop-box at the Cape Coral or Fort Myers Offices.
Passport services are available by appointment at the County Administration Building in downtown Fort Myers. Please refer to our website www.LeeClerk.org for detailed information or call 239-533-5007 for an appointment. Additionally, the City of Cape Coral is now offering passport services by appointment at the Cape City Hall complex. Call 239-574-0411 to make an appointment.
Until future notice, only virtual Marriage Licenses and Ceremonies are available. Please refer to our website www.LeeClerk.org for details.
The Cape Coral branch office is located on the second floor of the Lee County Government Center, 1039 SE 9th Place.
For more information on services offered, visit LeeClerk.org or call 239-533-5000.
WGCU Public Media is joining local community organizations in a campaign to promote National Estate Planning Awareness Week, October 19 – 25, 2020, by offering a free digital estate planning guide that will allow users to start organizing their financial assets and thinking through their personal goals.
Estate planning is one of the most overlooked areas of personal financial management. It’s been estimated that more than 120 million Americans do not have proper estate plans to protect themselves or their families in the event of sickness, accidents or death. This circumstance can cost many families unnecessary expenses and financial hardship. Proper planning can help avoid these unintended consequences.
In 2008, Congress passed a resolution proclaiming the third week in October as National Estate Planning Awareness Week. “Public television has long served as an advocate for financial literacy. Estate planning is a critical component of the financial health of most adults,” said Rick Johnson, WGCU general manager.
WGCU will recognize National Estate Planning Week by providing a free personal estate planning guide, which is downloadable. To request your digital planning guide, contact Jennifer Denike at (239) 590-2514 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“For more than 35 years, WGCU has provided public television programs and educational services to the people in this community. Raising awareness about estate planning is in line with our public service and educational mission,” Johnson said.
Encompass Health has placed land under contract and plans to build a freestanding, 40-bed, inpatient rehabilitation hospital in Cape Coral.
The hospital at the southwest corner of Pine Island Road and Pondella Road is expected to be named Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Cape Coral.
The hospital will care for patients recovering from debilitating illnesses and injuries, including strokes and other neurological disorders, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, amputations and complex orthopedic conditions. The hospital will provide physical, occupational and speech therapies that aim to restore functional ability and quality of life and 24–hour care by registered nurses.