Florida Trend | Florida's Business Authority

Working Together

Many hands make light work. It’s an old saying but one that also rings true today in Lee County, where organizations and individuals come together to make the area a better place to work and live.

Take the FutureMakers Coalition, a partnership of representatives from the business, education, government, and nonprofit communities in Lee County and four other neighboring counties. Its goal: to increase the percentage of working-age adults with college degrees, industry certifications, and other high-quality credentials to 55% and transform Southwest Florida’s workforce.

“The FutureMakers Coalition provides the opportunity for the entire region to get involved in supporting the development of a vibrant, productive workforce in Southwest Florida,” says Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, the anchor organization for the coalition.

FutureMakers success stories include a joint effort to meet the community’s need for certified nursing assistants. It brought employers and educators together and helped find funding sources to fill vacant seats in CNA programs at local tech colleges.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation is now taking these kinds of efforts to the next level with the opening of its Collaboratory site at its new headquarters space in the Midtown section of Fort Myers. Shared working and meeting space allows for collective discussions.

In that same kind of spirit, several local chambers of commerce have come together to form the Southwest Florida Alliance of Chambers. Originally established to advocate for water quality in the region, the group plans to continue watching the water as well as take up topics like education and workforce housing.

“When you think about how many thousands of businesses we represent, working together gives us a very strong voice,” says Colleen DePasquale, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce. The chamber alliance is following in the footsteps of local organizations like the Horizon Council, a public-private board formed in 1991 to advise the Lee County Board of Commissioners on economic development. Members come from the local business, government, and education sectors and work to make Lee County attractive to businesses looking to grow or locate in the area.

A new three-year partnership forged by the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, Florida Gulf Coast University, Community Foundation of Collier County, and Conservancy of Southwest Florida will be working to build awareness about the region’s changing climate and encourage community members to take action to minimize or address its impacts.

“We see some really good momentum building, and we’re excited about the opportunities to engage the community,” says Rob Moher, president and CEO of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.