This week I thought I would offer up something different. Casual conversations over the past few weeks have brought up podcasts so I did a little homework on this. 

“A podcast is an episodic series of spoken word digital audio files that a user can download to a personal device for easy listening. Streaming applications and podcasting services provide a convenient and integrated way to manage a personal consumption queue across many podcast sources and playback devices." -from Wikipedia
For first time listeners, here is an article on the basics of podcasts (how to listen, subscribe and find podcasts). The topics are endless – so here are a few suggestions to get you started. I would love to hear back from you on suggestions and will share next week.  

  • I follow these two on Facebook because I find them inspiring - though I am not a minimalist, more like a pack rat - Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, The Minimalists

  • As an avid hockey fan, I found this one, Puck Podcast, a weekly hockey podcast that talks about nothing but the NHL with analysis, interviews, opinions and information.  

  • Our own Tessa Lesage, FutureMakers Coalition, has a podcast called Talent Talk that features "conversations that dive deep into the ever-changing world of talent and economic development from the perspectives of those designing, working in and experiencing these systems.” 

  • Cole Peacock from Seed & Bean shared this one with me a few months ago, a local podcast from Charlie and Barb McDermott called Good Neighbor Podcast where they interview local businesses from SWFL.  

  • Another recommended podcast from our area is The Royal PalmCast from Royal Palm Coast Realtor Association. Host Jim Sanville gets to the human side of the real estate business, discussing things that Realtors®, home buyers and home sellers care about with the personalities that make this industry hum.
Here are legislative updates, as of April 2, 2021.

VISIT FLORIDA UPDATE - The Chamber supports this bill and is monitoring as it moves through committees. 
TOURIST & CONVENTION DEVELOPMENT TAXES - On March 29, HB1429 was heard in its third committee, the State Affairs Committee, passing with only 2 “nay” votes. On March 30, SB2008 was scheduled for its first committee but was TP'd (and no, that isn't the act of toilet papering a house, it is when a bill is Temporarily Postponed). That means that the bill will remain in this committee and will not be able to move forward unless it is heard and passed by this committee again at a future date. While it is possible that this could be the end for SB 2008, we will continue to closely monitor this bill and keep you updated. 

The Chamber does not support the proposed changes and has developed this position statement and written letters to members of both committees: The Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce supports preserving the current uses of Tourist Development Taxes and opposes any expansion of those uses outside of current tourism marketing activities.
COVID LIABILITY PROTECTION – This bill provides liability protections for businesses, educational institutions, and health care facilities that have substantially complied with governmental health and safety guidelines to keep employees, customers, and patients safe. This bill was signed by the Governor on March 29. Thank you to the Chamber Board and Member Advocacy Committee for taking on this issue!  
MAIN STREET FAIRNESS – SB50 was passed by the Senate last week and HB15 is in its final stages of approval. As a reminder, these bills would increase state revenue from an online sales tax that has always been due but will finally be collected. This revenue will offset a looming $713 million unemployment tax increase.  This creative solution combines top priorities this legislative session by leveling the playing field for main street businesses and avoiding a significant tax increase on Florida’s job creators. 
Linda and I virtually met Dr. Jerry Parrish, Chief Economist and Director of Research, Florida Chamber Foundation, when we started weekly calls with the Florida Chamber at the beginning of COVID and he is one of our favorites (we joke that we're the President & Vice President of the Jerry Parrish fan club!) Dr. Parrish shared a few insights this week: 

Job numbers were released recently for February 2021 and Florida's unemployment numbers continue to drop. February's unemployment rate was 4.7 percent, down from 4.8 percent in January - a positive sign that Florida's COVID-19 recovery continues. 

The March Consumer Sentiment Index for Florida was released this week and increased 3.7 points to 80.9. All components that make up the index, Floridians' opinions of their personal financial situation and their expected economic conditions for the country as a whole increased in the March surveys. 

We share The Florida Scorecard Covid numbers on our website but to see more details about Lee County, here is a direct link

There's a new webinar series from Enterprise Florida and SBDC Florida Network: “Virtual Minority & Small Business Boot Camp." This 11-session webinar series that will take place from 9am-10am every other Wednesday starting on April 7, is designed to educate minority and small businesses regarding information integral to growth and success. Each hour-long session will provide small business owners, staff and team members with resources needed to create, maintain, and grow a successful business. One time registration will allow attendees to participate in all 11 sessions. 

Here is a flyer with more details.
The City of Fort Myers is offering a COVID-19 Emergency Relief Microenterprise Loan Program. It is a forgivable loan program with loans of up to $10,000 for eligible businesses. As you will see in the attached guidelines, some of the eligibility requirements are: 
  • Business must be located within city limits of Fort Myers 
  • Business can have no more than 5 employees, including the owner 
  • Business must have been operating for past two years 
  • Business owner(s) must meet low to moderate income requirements 
  • Business must have been negatively impacted by COVID 

Here is a flyer with more detail. If you need assistance, email Leigh Scrabis, Director of Community Development, Catalyst Community Capital, Inc. or call 239.209.4283.
I would like to say "Thank You" to the friends, family, Chamber Board members, and to my Riva Del Lago peeps for supporting my “celebrity bartender” outing at the “Battle of the Burntwoods” event with the United Way. We raised over $147,000 during that event and through the generosity of this wonderful community, the United Way met their annual fundraising goal of $10.8 million, supporting the needs of our neighbors.  
I was fortunate enough to get my vaccine last Friday at the “old” RSW site and it was an amazingly seamless process. I was impressed by the hospitality and the organization. As we head into warmer weather, Lee County announced on March 31 that they will moving the process to the empty Sears store at the Edison Mall in the next few weeks. We will keep you informed of their moving date.

Have a great weekend!