FMB Chamber Update

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“Small Business Relief” Friday

“The Chamber right now, like many Fort Myers Beach businesses, is functioning the best we can,” said Jacki Liszak, the Executive Director of the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce. “We reduced our staff hours and expenses, and cancelled most events through June. We, however, have virtual Executive Board Meetings and will soon resume via ZOOM, ‘Coffee Connections’ and ‘Business After Hours’ programs, rotating them every other Thursday. ‘Coffee Connections’ will be mornings and ‘Business After Hours’ in the late afternoon, though we have yet to determine exact times, so check our website. We were to have these at various member locations, so whoever was to host will conduct a virtual tour or talk about their business. We hope you will have your coffee for the morning programs and an adult beverage for the afternoon ones so we can all visit together.”

While the Chamber closed its office, it answers every telephone call and email. “Phone calls come directly to our cellphones,” explained Jacki, “and emails we answer from home. We still get daily questions from people all across the country who planned to visit or vacation, wanting information on when the beach, bars, and hotels will reopen, and we answer to the best of our ability, though often right now our response is we just don’t know, so we encourage them to keep checking our website or call back. The Chamber is still selling fundraising t-shirts for the FMB Lion’s Club, to offset money they lost from the ‘Shrimp Festival’ cancellation due to the coronavirus, and are passing along information to those who wish to support the ‘#WeAreFMB’ program to provide Publix gift cards to unemployed hospitality workers. The FMB Chamber hopes to continue to point people in the right directions.”

Jacki stays in touch with many Fort Myers Beach businesses as well. “Some are doing better than others, though it is interesting that every single member on our Executive Committee is still working, but most are trying to be patient and navigate life the way it is now the best they can, as these are uncharted waters and they just try to wrap their heads around the current situation. Many are using this down time to do deep cleanings and install things like new signage, and hotels like the DiamondHead Resort are retrofitting many of their rooms, but mostly they are contemplating the uncertainty and when they may resume business and bring back their workforce.”

Town Hall Program

One new virtual event the Chamber is undertaking this week is a “Town Hall Program” entitled “Coronavirus Small Business Relief” with the Town of Fort Myers Beach and Lee County via ZOOM on Friday afternoon, April 17, at 2 p.m. “The FMB Chambers is very excited about this,” intoned Jacki! “The is our first time doing something like this and we hope to do more every other week or so with different key players from our region to provide insight and accurate information. On April 17, the new Fort Myers Beach Mayor, Ray Murphy, will talk about the Town level, and District 3 Lee County Commissioner Raymond Sandelli will outline things at the County level as well as discuss the Horizon Council portal and resources, as this is something everyone should know about. Finally, John Talmadge, who is in charge of the Lee County Economic Development Office and seemingly has his finger on the pulse of everything, will address the group to hopefully take an overwhelming situation and help to make sense of it all! Sign in at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/179510584 roughly 15 minutes before we start and send questions in advance to ReliefInfo@fmbgov.com.”

The “Coronavirus Small Business Relief” virtual meeting concept came about from the Southwest Florida Chamber Alliance, Jacki explained. “This and all future topics are programs we will rotate between the various local Chambers, and are part of the reason we formed the Chamber Alliance, as a think tank to benefit our entire area, under the theory that ‘more heads think better together than one alone!’ In addition to these rotating meetings, some of our Chamber partners, like Fort Myers and Sanibel, invite FMB Chamber members to sit in on their virtual meetings and programs, and you can find that information on our website.”

FMB Chamber Survey

Along with these virtual meetings and programs, the FMB Chamber will soon conduct an islandwide business survey, “similar to what we did during the Red Tide and water quality emergency in summer 2018,” Jacki said. “It is important that we document our business impact and coordinate it through the Economic Development Office and Tourism Development Council. These figures will allow us to capture weekly snapshots in time, comparing numbers from last year to our current situation, to get our arms around where we are right now, so we encourage everyone to participate. The survey will include every business in the 33931 zip code, so please fill it out, even if you are not an FMB Chamber member or you are on San Carlos Island or further up the road. The data we accumulate will help us acquire additional funds that may come our way, like for radio and television advertising when we reopen the economy, so look for survey details on our website in roughly one week.”

Jacki concluded by saying, “if you know anyone who needs help, whether that be a local business, unemployed workers, families or others, please contact the FMB Chamber! Our community prides itself on being one big family, and we may have assistance resources you may not know about, so don’t be embarrassed, as people stand ready to help. An excellent example is the Senior Friendship Centers who can deliver seven delicious homecooked meals that meet nutrition guidelines to your doorstep once-a-week.” Call the FMB Chamber at 239-454-7500, email info@fmbchamber.com, or see www.fortmyersbeach.org. “At challenging time like this, it is all about community, and there is no better community then Fort Myers Beach!”