TRENDING

  • May 28, 2017 11:00 PM | Kevin (Administrator)

    Original Story on News-Press.com

    Bonita Springs and Fort Myers are the only two Florida cities among the country's 15 fastest growing by percentage.

    Bonita, whose population increased by 4.8 percent between July 1, 2015, and July 1, 2016, ranks eighth. Fort Myers, whose population increased by 4.5 percent, ranked 15th.

    The population numbers were released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

    Texas cities led the way with six in the top 15. Florida was second with two and seven states, all but one in the South and West, had one city each.

    Bonita’s population reached 54,198 and Fort Myers had a population of 77,146, according to the census report.

    Cape Coral remains the largest city in Lee County with a population of 179,804, a 2.8 percent increase year over year.

    Fort Myers' growth is making a comeback after it saw a decline during the recession that began in 2008.

    Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson attributed the growth to annexation to the east and urban infill. "We've had more urban infill than other cities in Lee County," he said.

     

    Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson Jr.

    Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson Jr. 
    (Photo: The News-Press file photo)
    The city is working on plans to increase the building density that would allow for more infill. The city is pushing plans for revamping the area south of downtown called midtown. 

    "The best way to seize the trend is to make sure we expand our infrastructure, curb appeal and walkability," Henderson said.

    The city could grow to 100,000 population in another decade if it continues to expand by 3,000 people a year, he said.

    The 100,000 magic number means the city could qualify for more state and national economic incentives, Henderson said.

     

    Florida Passes New York in State Population

    (Photo: U.S. Census Bureau)
    Bonita's growth didn't slow down during the recession. The city has grown by more than 10,000 since the 2010 census and it's unlikely the growth will slow.

    Two planned developments along the eastern edges of the city will only bring more people to the city.

    “We will expand and grow — that’s just the realities of economics and of more people coming to Florida,” said Mayor Peter Simmons. “We’re a very desirable destination, and we want to do what’s right for the quality of life of not only the people living here but the people coming.”

    Bonita was voted the second nicest beach in the country and the second nicest small city to live in.

     

    Bonita Springs mayor Peter Simmons.

     Bonita Springs Mayor Peter Simmons. (Photo: File)


    In addition to the warm white sands and bright blue skies, Simmons said decisions on a local level are just as important, such as decisions to halt an intersection flyover or work to protect wetland areas east of the city.

    “These decisions show we are trying to protect the environment and protect people’s quality of life,” he said. “By no means do I think all of these are mutually exclusive. They all contribute (to growth).”

    New York City remains by far the largest city in the country with 8.5 million residents. Phoenix, Arizona, had the largest population growth. The fifth largest city in the country gained 32,113 residents in one year. 

    Jacksonville was the only Florida city in the top 15 for population. It was 12th with 880,619. Jacksonville and Miami were the only two Florida cities in the top 15 for numeric growth. Jacksonville was 12th and Miami 14th.

  • April 22, 2017 8:15 PM | Kevin (Administrator)

    Link to full article on WGCU website  with audio.

    Members of Southwest Florida’s LGBTQ community and LGBT-friendly business owners celebrated a ribbon cutting Thursday evening for the region’s newest business networking organization: The Southwest Florida Harmony Chamber of Commerce.  The chamber was created to promote networking within the region’s LGBT friendly businesses and to promote economic opportunities for chamber members.

    Chamber members also aim to promote Southwest Florida as an LGBT-welcoming tourist destination.

    Thursday’s ribbon cutting event was held at The Gathering Place in downtown Fort Myers. Lee County Commissioner Frank Mann was the lone elected official in attendance and he delivered a brief address in support of the effort.

    Local LGBT rights advocate and chamber co-founder Arlene Goldberg said she wants the chamber to be a welcoming organization for LGBT people and the community’s allies.

    “There’s still discrimination against LGBT people when it comes to services, to employment and to housing,” said Goldberg.  “So we’re working on that, but since the federal environment right now is so conservative, we feel that working locally will encourage our people to band together and make us strong here.  If we’re strong here, I think that’s what matters right now.”

    The Harmony Chamber began the evening with 18 business members and Goldberg said the member list is growing.  “We have restaurants.  We have another company that repairs leather.  We have three realtor companies.  We have Visuality joined and the Laboratory Theater joined and ACT joined today and all different kinds of companies are joining,” said Goldberg.  “We welcome our allies.”

    The fledgling chamber is currently a labor of love for Goldberg and other board members with no physical space and no paid staff, but members plan to open a welcome center and hire an executive director in 2018. 

    The Southwest Florida Harmony Chamber of Commerce will hold its next meeting in May at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.

  • April 05, 2017 9:55 AM | Kevin (Administrator)
    Link to full article on USA Today 

    "In a ground-breaking ruling, a federal appeals court ruled that a 1964 law barring sex discrimination extends to sexual orientation, marking a major workplace victory for gays and lesbians." USA TODAY

  • March 25, 2017 8:30 AM | Kevin (Administrator)
    Original Story on Wink News's site (with Video)


    FORT MYERS, Fla. A dozen businesses in Fort Myers joined the new Southwest Florida Harmony Chamber of Commerce to help promote a more unified LGBTQ professional community.

    The Southwest Florida Harmony Chamber of Commerce will have their inaugural ribbon cutting event on April 20 at 5 p.m.

  • March 23, 2017 7:00 PM | Kevin (Administrator)

    Original Story on ABC-7's site (with Video)

    Leaders of the LGBTQ community are marking Southwest Florida as a place to live and do business and have created an LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce.

    Their mission is to promote gay-friendly businesses.

    Gay activist Arlene Goldberg said she constantly receives phone calls from people all over the country asking for gay attorneys and even "gayborhoods" in Southwest Florida.

    Goldberg and friend Sue Christiano have just created Southwest Florida Harmony Chamber of Commerce for that reason.

    Both women said the biggest question they get is why a gay chamber is needed in the first place.

    Their answer is simple. They said the gay community here is growing quickly and its members want to do business in a safe environment.

    They also want gay tourists to feel welcomed.

    Roy Yonkers and his husband moved from Raleigh-Durham to Fort Myers a year ago and opened Barks and Bubbles along US-41 last October.

    It’s a do-it-yourself dog wash complete with tubs and shampoo.

    “It's definitely a dog-friendly city,” Yonkers said.

    He said business is booming - and that's not all he discovered.

    “It's a very gay-friendly community,” Yonkers noted.

    He and his partner were excited to learn there is now an LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce.

    Its mission is to attract gay business owners like Yonkers to relocate here.

    “We're looking at hotels, catering, florists, ministers who are LGBTQ friendly,” Christiano said.

    She and Goldberg hope the growing LGBTQ community will even have its own "gayborhood" - a neighborhood of primarily gay people.

    “I think that downtown Fort Myers will be that place,” Goldberg said.

    She said the downtown area is attractive to the gay community.

    “It's a very active area. They have Art Walk, Music Walk, all kinds of things downtown. That attracts people. That also attracts the LGBTQ community,” Goldberg said.

    Tony Clark is also banking on that prediction.

    He opened up the Gathering Place, a gay-owned restaurant, in downtown Fort Myers, and is proud to be part of the new gay chamber.

    “It gives people in our community, if they need any kind of assistance, somewhere to go where they know they're accepted,” Clark said.

    That acceptance is something the Harmony Chamber hopes all businesses will embrace.

    “We need to pull together as a group so that we can network,” Goldberg said.

    Right now, the Southwest Florida Harmony Chamber of Commerce is virtual, their website open to the world. As their membership grows, plans call for opening up an office in downtown Fort Myers.

  • March 23, 2017 6:00 PM | Kevin (Administrator)

    Original Story on NBC-2's site (with video)

    Leaders of the LGBTQ community are marking Southwest Florida as a place to live and do business and have created an LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce.

    Their mission is to promote gay-friendly businesses.

    Gay activist Arlene Goldberg said she constantly receives phone calls from people all over the country asking for gay attorneys and even "gayborhoods" in Southwest Florida.

    Goldberg and friend Sue Christiano have just created Southwest Florida Harmony Chamber of Commerce for that reason.

    Both women said the biggest question they get is why a gay chamber is needed in the first place.

    Their answer is simple. They said the gay community here is growing quickly and its members want to do business in a safe environment.

    They also want gay tourists to feel welcomed.

    Roy Yonkers and his husband moved from Raleigh-Durham to Fort Myers a year ago and opened Barks and Bubbles along US-41 last October.

    It’s a do-it-yourself dog wash complete with tubs and shampoo.

    “It's definitely a dog-friendly city,” Yonkers said.

    He said business is booming - and that's not all he discovered.

    “It's a very gay-friendly community,” Yonkers noted.

    He and his partner were excited to learn there is now an LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce.

    Its mission is to attract gay business owners like Yonkers to relocate here.

    “We're looking at hotels, catering, florists, ministers who are LGBTQ friendly,” Christiano said.

    She and Goldberg hope the growing LGBTQ community will even have its own "gayborhood" - a neighborhood of primarily gay people.

    “I think that downtown Fort Myers will be that place,” Goldberg said.

    She said the downtown area is attractive to the gay community.

    “It's a very active area. They have Art Walk, Music Walk, all kinds of things downtown. That attracts people. That also attracts the LGBTQ community,” Goldberg said.

    Tony Clark is also banking on that prediction.

    He opened up the Gathering Place, a gay-owned restaurant, in downtown Fort Myers, and is proud to be part of the new gay chamber.

    “It gives people in our community, if they need any kind of assistance, somewhere to go where they know they're accepted,” Clark said.

    That acceptance is something the Harmony Chamber hopes all businesses will embrace.

    “We need to pull together as a group so that we can network,” Goldberg said.

    Right now, the Southwest Florida Harmony Chamber of Commerce is virtual, their website open to the world. As their membership grows, plans call for opening up an office in downtown Fort Myers.

CONTACTS

swflharmonychamber@gmail.com

PO Box 07427
Fort Myers, FL, 33919

800-967-7750

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The Southwest Florida Harmony Chamber of Commerce has applied, December 29, 2016 for Non-Profit exemption  as described in Section 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code

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