Southwest Florida Roundup
Eight months after Hurricane Ian’s storm surge pushed 34 commercial shrimping boats aground along the Lee County shore — and in doing so put more than 300 shrimp industry workers out of a job — the shrimpers are slowly getting back out on the Gulf of Mexico.
The Florida Division of Emergency Management has completed a $9.6-million project that recovered and refloated 34 shrimp trawlers, but only 10 of the boats are back in operation. In all, about 50 trawlers were based out of the Fort Myers Beach area before the hurricane.
Shrimping had been a $52-million industry in Florida, with Southwest Florida accounting for about 43% of the state’s harvest. Grant Erickson, owner of Erickson and Jensen Seafood in Fort Myers Beach, says his company operated 11 shrimp boats before the storm, and five are back shrimping. He says three of his boats were destroyed and another three are being repaired. Erickson says many of the shrimp docks were also destroyed and will have to be rebuilt. “The shrimp crop is healthy and sustainable,” he says. “I’m not worried about that, but there was so much damage. It might take five years to get us back.”
- Construction on a shopping center is expected to start later this year in Babcock Ranch.
- Construction is underway on the $35-million Civitas of Cape Coral, a 96-unit apartment complex being built by Tampa-based ReVital Development Group. Rents will range from $452 to $1,673 a month, depending on income. The project is being promoted as Cape Coral’s first workforce housing development. A 190-unit residential development called GroveParc Townhomes is expected to be completed by early 2025. Located in Pasco County near I-75, the 48-acre project will feature pedestrian access to the nearby Krate at the Grove open-air dining and retail center in Wesley Chapel.
- Sarasota’s Trepp Developments is planning SOTA, a 16-story tower in downtown Sarasota. The project will feature 35 condominiums and 120 hotel rooms managed by Hilton’s Tapestry Collection. Plans also include a restaurant.
- Meg Stepanian is the new executive director of the Naples Fifth Avenue South Business Improvement District, replacing Bruce Barone Jr., who resigned.
- Philip Minden, former president of St. Joseph’s Hospital- South in Riverview, has started work as president of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa. He replaces Nate Malcolm, who stepped down as the Tampa hospital’s president after five months. Minden has worked for BayCare Health System, the hospital’s owner, since 2016.
- OTO Development, a South Carolina-hospitality management firm, has purchased the 172-room AC Hotel by Marriott hotel in downtown St. Petersburg for $59.6 million. The hotel, which opened in early 2023, had been owned by Greystar Development. In 2022, OTO Development purchased the DoubleTree Beach Resort on North Redington Beach, a Pinellas County beach community, for $65.9 million. It also purchased the Hilton Garden Inn St. Pete Beach for $34.5 million in 2019.
- St. Petersburg-based travel insurance provider Squaremouth has hired Rupa Mehta to be its new CEO, replacing Jessica Burns, who retired. Mehta has worked in a variety of corporate strategy and operations roles during her 16-year career, most recently for Angi and Groupon.
- Boat maker Chris-Craft has opened a 70,000-sq.-ft. factory in southern Manatee County. The company, which employs 300 in Sarasota, plans to add 200 jobs over the next two years. The new facility will produce six models of boats up to 28 feet long.
- Sandra Frank, CEO of the All Faiths Food Bank in Sarasota and DeSoto counties for the last 11 years, will retire at the end of this year. The food bank has started a national search for her replacement.
- Bradenton-based Bealls is rebranding its more than 600 outlets in 23 states to simply “Bealls.” Also, the 68 Bealls Department Store locations in Florida will be renamed Bealls Florida.
- Fusion5, which makes laptops and tablets, is opening a factory in Pasco County, where the U.K.- based company plans to hire 30. Fusion5 also has a factory in Texas.
- Lauren Prager is the new CEO of Tampa-based Synapse Florida, which helps connect tech-industry entrepreneurs. Prager, who has worked for the non-profit since 2018, replaces Brian Kornfeld.
- Work has started on a 6.5-mile stretch of road linking the Polk Parkway to U.S. 17. To be called the Central Polk Parkway/ S.R. 570B, the four-lane toll road will cost $257 million, with construction projected to last into 2029. Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport has started construction on a $73-million, fivegate terminal expansion. The project includes five passenger waiting areas with room for 970 seats.
- North Port’s Warm Mineral Springs Park, closed since some of its buildings were damaged by last year’s Hurricane Ian, has reopened. Meanwhile, Warm Mineral Springs Development Group has proposed building a 250-room resort and spa near the city-owned park. The spring, with its 85-degree, mineralrich water, attracts about 150,000 people each year.
- AmSkills, a Pasco County-based workforce training provider, has opened a training center in Pinellas County’s Lealman neighborhood. The center will offer students hands-on training in mechatronics, machining and robotics.
“The only thing that really has changed over the years is the mixers. They do a better job than they did 40 to 50 years ago.”
— Tony Moré, the third-generation owner of Tampa’s La Segunda Bakery, who died in April at age 80. His family’s bakery, known for its Cuban bread, opened its first location in Ybor City in 1915. Moré, who earned a doctorate in chemistry, worked for a time as a high school chemistry teacher but returned to the family business when he learned his parents needed his help. His son, Anthony Copeland Moré, runs the business now.