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Chamber president’s report: The road ahead

July 8, 2015
By Bud Nocera , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Make no mistake about it; when completed, the Estero Boulevard infrastructure project will be the best thing to happen to Fort Myers Beach in its history. But for now, it may seem like the most painful and torturous point in beach history.

Once completed, the memories of distress will fade and the benefits of a well-functioning road drainage system, new water and sewer lines, hardened electrical poles, a natural gas line at least halfway down the island, and good sidewalks will make the project seem like just a small bump in the road.

The challenge right now is for the county and state government to work with property owners and town government, to determine how best to handle the ever increasing traffic to one of the most popular

tourism destinations in the county.

In the meantime, the beach business community must survive this infrastructure replacement project. The Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce has some thoughts on this. Six months ago we began

talking to other communities that have been through this type of major roadwork. From them we have learned what may help our beach businesses to survive.

Here are some of the ideas: We know good communication between Chris-Tel Construction, Cella Molnar and Associates, and the business community will be essential. We are offering to help the town, county, and Cella Molnar get their word out to our business community. We have the communications infrastructure in place and we are offering it as a means to "re-tweet" their messages.

We are also offering to sponsor a weekly morning coffee meeting between business owners, the town, county, Chris-Tel and Cella Molnar to offer the ability for construction management to have weekly updates to affected businesses and take questions from business owners.

As the new water line is installed there may be times our restaurants and hotels must adhere to three day boil water notices. The Chamber plans to stage trucks with bagged ice and have gallon carboys of

potable water near the construction and deliver it to the affected restaurants and hotels.

The Chamber is offering our beach businesses free business consulting and financial planning in anticipation of the construction. We do this in conjunction with the Small Business Development

Center at Florida Gulf Coast University College of Business. FGCU has assigned business consultant Duane Hoversten to this task, and he is currently working with businesses on the beach.

The Chamber will be asking the town government for a temporary relaxing of the town sign ordinance to allow feather flags in the construction zone.

Our vision is for the chamber to buy a dozen "Open for Business" feather flags and to put them in front of businesses in the immediate construction zone. As the construction moves down the beach, so

will the flags.

Finally what the Chamber can bring to this construction party is the ability to turn on a dime. We may need to implement promotional events or special offers in the construction zone.

One of my favorite lines from the movies is from Raiders of the Lost Ark. As Indiana Jones watched the Nazis put the Ark of the Covenant in a truck, his sidekick asked, "What are you going to do now, Indy?" To which Indiana Jones replied, "I don't know, I'm making this up as I go along." Like Indiana Jones, this beach needs to be flexible and resilient in the months and years ahead. No doubt Chris-Tel and Cella Molnar have a good feel for what this will look like and what it will do to us. Kaye Molnar has already spoken to our chamber members of the harsh reality of the project.

The Chamber's job will be to stand ready to assist the town, the county, Chris-Tel and Cella Molnar without getting in the way. We will be ready to offer businesses whatever help we can to get them through the project intact. And by the way, the assistance we offer is for both chamber member businesses and non-member businesses. It's the right thing to do.

--Bud Nocera is the president of the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce



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