I think we're all ready to safely spend time together in-person, and I hope you can join us on Monday, March 29 for Beers With Your Peers at Fort Myers Brewing Company. This is our only event for March since we try to be thoughtful of travel challenges during Spring Break and Spring Training.

Whether you can stay for the whole event (5:00-7:00PM) or pop in for a few minutes, we encourage you to come by to meet your fellow members, and the Chamber Board and staff. We'll be indoors and outdoors with plenty of room for distancing (we thank you in advance for following all safety guidelines at Fort Myers Brewing, and for wearing a mask when you are unable to distance). Here's the link to register.

Admission is $15 and includes one complimentary beverage. Food trucks will be on-site if you wish to purchase. Thank you to CMR Construction & Roofing for sponsoring and Fort Myers Brewing Company for hosting. 
The United Way of Florida needs your help. In order to better understand the needs of our community during the pandemic, please take a few minutes to complete this survey. There are no identifying questions and you will not be asked to put in your name, email, or phone number. 
I attended yesterday’s Tourist Development Council and have a few things of note to share. You can review the full TDC report online.

  • RSW air traffic was down 39.4% for the month of January but at the same time, they rank #1 in the US for recovery and #18 in the country for traffic. RSW also projects that April 2021 will be better than April 2020. The renovation that was originally going to bid last April, has been approved to go to bid next month. This will put the 3-year project behind only 1 year.  

  • Approximately 49% of bed tax collected comes from real estate/rentals (vs. hotels).

  • Bed Tax collected in January was down 8.8% and YTD we are down 8.6%. Though the Occupancy and Average Daily Rate (ADR) numbers are not strong they are slowly but surely increasing each week. Tam Pigott, Director, VCB, shared the weekly STR data for comparison if you want to dig into the data it starts on page 12.  

  • We scored with Southern Living and will have a strong presence in 3 months of the magazine, including Sanibel as the cover for the April edition

  • Jeff Mielke, Director, Lee County Sports Development (LCSD), shared the outcome of the last quarter of 2020. September 2020 broke historical records and October 2020 was the best October in LCSD history. November was not as strong, but we were able to host two basketball tournaments while others in the US were being cancelled. Overall, for 2020, hotel room nights were down 13% but direct visitor spending was $59,696,000.  

  • Tam Pigott shared that we can expect a strong summer for visitors and that is great news! 
Chamber and Foundation Board member Suzanne Boy from Boy Agnew Potanovic has shared that the firm is hosting their annual seminar and networking event, Proactive Workplace Solutions: An HR & Employment Law Seminar, beginning at 7:30 a.m. on March 26 at the Caloosa Sound Convention Center at the Luminary Hotel.

The all-day seminar was created for Southwest Florida employers, and will feature sessions focused on proactive and cost-effective solutions to workplace legal issues. Topics include tips for navigating ADA/FMLA issues, employment law Q&A, expected changes in employment law under the new Biden administration, and a keynote speech on the importance of inspirational leadership during times of crisis by nationally recognized speaker Chip Madera. View the schedule here.

Registration is $75 for general admission and $50 for Boy Agnew Potanovic clients, and includes 
a continental breakfast and plated lunch. Attendees can learn more by emailing the firm or by visiting their website.
I have a few updates for you on the Legislative Session.

  • Almost 3,000 bills have been filed this session.

  • 85% of the bills that pass, will pass in the last 10 days of session.

  • GFMCC supported bills focused on business COVID liability projection – House Bill 7 (HB7) passed through the House and the Senate Bill 72 (SB 72) was scheduled for the Rules committee on March 11. 

  • GFMCC supported continued Visit Florida funding and removal of the sunset clause.

  • We are monitoring two bills HB1429 / SB2008 – that affect the use of Tourist Development Tax and call for vote approval every 5 years. This was a surprise bill and we are doing homework on this issue and will update you as it progresses.

  • On the Federal level, I have learned of an historic opportunity to advance Everglades Restoration funding. The Army Corps of Engineers has identified the need for $725 million annually over the next four years to keep all the currently authorized Everglades restoration projects on track – projects like the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir. Obviously, this is a big ask, but it’s also an incredibly exciting and historic one because it’s getting traction. Last week the entire Florida Congressional Delegation on the House side, sent this letter making the $725 million ask. Our Chamber supports this action and will be sharing our support either individually or with the SWFL Alliance of Chambers shortly.  
The Florida Chamber Safety Council will be hosting the Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety Health + Sustainability, in-person, on May 10–12, 2021 at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando, FL. At this conference, Safety, Health, and Sustainability leaders convene to share the latest data/research, industry benchmarks and best practices for the EHS industry. Take advantage of professional development opportunities and network with peers across industries who share a passion for safety, health, and sustainability as a competitive business advantage. View the growing agenda of speakers/topics and to register today.

This conference may be of interest to some of you and if you are planning on attending, would you be interested in sharing your learnings afterwards? If so, please contact me.
I can imagine it has been a tough year for those of you with school-aged children and I wanted to share this in case you missed it. A new initiative was rolled out on Monday, March 8 from the Lee County School District, Connect with LEE (Live Educational Experts). This program provides virtual after-school support for homework and class assignments for grades K-12.  
Yesterday I met with two potential new members, completely different industries, but both dynamic entrepreneurs! One said she liked my vibe; she totally made my day. I would love to have them join the Chamber because I think our members rock, but I also look at the potential they bring to us – I embrace new ideas and good partnerships.

I have invited them as my guests to the Beers With Your Peers event on March 29 so they can get to know us, so I hope to see you all there! It's time for us to reconnect in a casual setting and catch up.  

In the meantime, stay safe, #ShopLocal and have a great weekend!