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BLUE CHIP COMMUNITY BUSINESS AWARD DATE SET

The 25th annual Southwest Florida Blue Chip Community Business Award program will take place on Nov. 6 at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa in Bonita Springs.

Coordinated and sponsored by McGriff Insurance Services, the program recognizes small-business owners who have overcome adversity to achieve success. Registration for the event is free and available here

Thriving for-profit companies with their principal office located in Charlotte, Collier, or Lee County may apply for the award. Eligible companies must have been in continuous operation for at least three years under the same ownership and have five to 400 payroll employees.

Applications are due by Sept. 4, at which time an independent panel of judges will select five finalists to be honored at the Nov. 6 luncheon.

Of the five finalists, one business will be announced as the Southwest Florida Blue Chip Community Business Award recipient at the luncheon ceremony.

Businesses can nominate themselves or be nominated by a third party. To submit an application, contact Stacey Mercado at (239) 433-7189 or SMercado@mcgriffinsurance.com.

PARATRANSIT DRIVER EARNS TOP AWARD

Lee County employee Chris Cowles has won a state competition for transit drivers and will advance to the national competition on May 19 in Palm Springs, California.

LeeTran joined more than 60 public transportation systems on April 5 to participate in The Annual Florida Triple Crown Bus Roadeo in Jacksonville, a competition of driving skills and maintenance disciplines.

Cowles took first place with the highest combined score in the paratransit competition and was also recognized as the first-place winner in vehicle inspection while also receiving a perfect score in wheelchair training and overall general testing. This is the sixth consecutive year Cowles has earned a top award.

Also participating on behalf of LeeTran was first-time participant Ben Wilson, who is a fixed route operator.

NAPLES SOAP CO. ADDS TWO LOCATIONS

Naples Soap Co. will add two new Florida stores. The company will open its first location on Florida’s east coast in May in Cocoa.

The 1,200-square-foot store is located in historic Cocoa Village at 407 Brevard Ave.

Plus, an additional location is slated to open on April 15, just blocks away from the beach at 30 Beach Drive NE in downtown St. Petersburg. The 1,000-square-foot location is the company’s second store in the Tampa Bay area.

Naples Soap Company currently operates retail stores along Florida’s west coast and in the middle of that state with a store in Mount Dora. A full line of skincare products, including those aimed at relieving eczema and psoriasis, are also available at NaplesSoap.com.

ST. MATTHEW’S HOUSE RECEIVES THREE NATIONAL ACCOLADES

St. Matthew’s House earned top ratings from three prominent nonprofit evaluators.

St. Matthew’s House earned Charity Navigator‘s highest possible four-star rating, top honors from Best Christian Workplace Institute, and certification of excellence from Citygate Network.

Charity Navigator is the largest and most-visited evaluator of nonprofit organizations in America; only a quarter of the more than 9,000 charitable organizations evaluated earn their top four-star rating.

For the second straight year in a row, Best Christian Workplace Institute certified St. Matthew’s House as a “Best Christian Workplace.” This honor is given to participating organizations based on anonymous staff surveys.

Citygate Network certified St. Matthew’s House after a 360-degree look at the organization and audit of all its facilities, policies and procedures, and financial records.

GLOBAL INNOVATOR COMES TO SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

SecondMuse, a global collaboration agency and B-Corp, is set to launch a community-sourced incubator in Fort Myers alongside the Southwest Florida Community Foundation and in partnership with the City of Fort Myers.

Based out of the new Collaboratory that is adjacent to the Dunbar community, SecondMuse’s incubator will focus on developing the next generation of leaders as well as strengthening the overall economic ecosystem.

SecondMuse specializes in building connected 21st-century economies and has multiple offices in and outside of the U.S.

Jonathan Romine will be the program director of SecondMuse’s Southwest Florida location. Romine has spent the past decade in Southwest Florida starting, growing and managing small businesses that generate more than $14 million in revenue. He most recently served as principal and director of landscape architecture for EnSite, Inc.

UNITED AIRLINES TO START NONSTOP FORT MYERS-WASHINGTON DULLES SERVICE

United Airlines will inaugurate new service between Fort Myers and Washington, D.C., on Oct. 29.

United will operate twice-daily, year-round service between Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) and Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) (www.flylcpa.com). United currently operates more than 140 daily flights to 12 Florida cities.

For more information or to book a flight, visit https://www.united.com.

Cape City Manager Appoints Stephen Poposki as Interim Building Official

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Cape Coral City Manager John Szerlag has appointed Building Inspector III Stephen Poposki as “Interim” Building Official.

Poposki will oversee the building division, which is responsible for inspections, permitting, plan reviews and enforcing the state laws and codes adopted by the City as they apply to the construction of buildings and other structures.

Poposki is a certified building code administrator and was most recently a Building Inspector III working for the City of Coral. He also is certified in several trades as a Plans Examiner and Building Inspector. Poposki’s past experience includes private sector construction superintendent, president of a property maintenance company, and Chief Executive Manager of Historic Buildings, LLC.

Poposki has a bachelor’s degree in industrial and operations engineering from the University of Michigan.

BUILDER PARTNERS WITH FGCU FOR CONSTRUCTION MANAGEMENT PROGRAM

A. Vernon Allen Builder (AVA) will collaborate with Florida Gulf Coast University as it launches its new construction management program.

AVA’s owners Ryan Benson and Andy Bringardner will serve as adjunct instructors for the new program, lecturing on custom residential home construction and building science applications.

As part of the collaboration, the firm will also be accepting interns enrolled in the program who are interested in a construction management career path.

FGCU received approval from the Board of Governors of the State University Center of Florida to launch the new program, and several builders and contractors in the area are participating in the launch.

NWWF TOP-RANKED FOR CHARITY WINE AUCTIONS

The Naples Winter Wine Festival (NWWF) has been honored as Wine Spectator magazine’s top 2018 charity wine auction in the country for the 13th time since the festival’s 2001 inception.

The honor recognizes last year’s 2018 NWWF, which raised a total of $12.8 million during its live auction and $2.3 million during its Fund a Need program, totaling $15.15 million to help benefit the at-risk and underprivileged children of Collier County.

One hundred percent of funds raised under the tent during the festival directly supports charitable programs that improve the physical, emotional and educational lives of underprivileged and at-risk children in Collier County.

As a result of funds raised during the 2018 festival, the annual event has raised more than $176 million for its founding organization, the Naples Children & Education Foundation (NCEF). 

MILLIONS IN LCEC EQUITY RETIRED THIS YEAR

The LCEC board of trustees has approved a $14.6 million 2018 equity allocation.

In addition, an $11.9 million equity retirement was approved, putting those funds back in the pockets of active and inactive electric cooperative members.

This amount includes an $8.1 million return of equity to inactive customers with memberships that have been closed since 2011, and an additional return of $3.3 million to current and inactive members.

Customers will see credits on their bill or equity checks soon.

Over the years, LCEC has returned more than $280 million in equity to customers.

Equity in LCEC is not equivalent to cash or liquid assets. Equity represents members’ investment in LCEC’s electrical system in the form of substations, poles, lines, transformers, and other facilities.