Things Are Looking Bright for Lehigh

By: Butch Swank

Last month I wrote an article about a group I’m forming with two other people, Katrina Salokar, the East Lee Roar owner, and Jesse Nadell, a financial professional with Prudential. Our announcement generated wildly more interest than I ever allowed myself to imagine. The consistent theme of the conversations we’ve had is that people find our novel approach appealing. A broad spectrum of businesses from large Naples builders, Fort Myers civil engineering firms, and even investment bankers have registered for our event. Who would have ever thought a Lehigh Acres business organization could pique the interest of these influential people? Well, certainly not me. I just wanted to connect Lehigh businesses and help our community.

It turns out what attracts these “outsiders” is two-fold. The first is they find our aspirations and methods align with their goals. We deliberately focus on the positive and work towards doing good. The other component is they’re smart and connected, which means they already know what the future holds even when most in Lehigh do not. For example, we have Alico Road being worked on to connect to Sunshine and State Road 82. Right after that happens, a 400,000 square foot retail space is planned at that very intersection. There will be new neighborhoods constructed on this new road. New neighborhoods need restaurants and services, and these will be built right here in our neck of the woods. These smart and well-connected people know local relationships with plumbers, air conditioning installers, lawn care vendors, and electricians are vital to grease the wheels for this unprecedented growth.

This is a delightful opportunity for the Lehigh business community. Currently, we (local Lehigh businesses) all just keep our heads down and do our work. If we’re really being smart, we’ve got to embrace these opportunities and expand the reach of our collective businesses. By doing this, we will bring more jobs and revenue to Lehigh. Additionally, we will be a part of the team building the restaurants and shops that other communities already have. We’re going to be part of making Lehigh Acres even better. Lehigh Acres has always had amazing people and neighborhoods. What we’ve lacked has been the ability to pop in your car and drive five minutes to grab dinner with your sweetie. Currently, there is nowhere to stroll down a sidewalk looking at shops without driving at least forty-five minutes somewhere else and then forty-five minutes back. These activities will soon occur in our very neighborhood, and I don’t mean in some far-off future that never seems to materialize. Lehigh Acres has already begun this transformation and will look substantially different in two to three years.

This is a very long way of me saying that things are looking very bright for our community. Getting local and regional leaders together gives us a say in how Lehigh grows and allows us to participate in that growth actively. We have not had a seat at the table or a voice in crafting our future for many years. Those days are over. We started the Southwest Florida Business Alliance to fill a leadership void, and it has been rewarding to see outside groups sincerely working to help us grow. Our teachers, doctors, cashiers, florists, retirees, dog groomers, and everyone else deserves the amenities and perks that go with living in a well-managed community. Local Lehigh leaders are stepping up and turning this into a reality. At the risk of repeating myself, this is not some vague, far-off future. The wheels are already turning, and this bright future will rapidly become our brilliant present.

Finally, let me share a bit more about the organization we are forming. The Southwest Florida Business Alliance is a group of vetted, trusted, performance-oriented business people that seeks to highlight and promote what’s best about doing business in Southwest Florida. Our members can be described as top talent sharing an outlook towards growth and improvement. Our philanthropic arm will lean towards assistance and support for fixes only. In short, we favor action over talk. SWFL Business Alliance is where the best and the brightest are supported, and fellowship has a new home. There is so much opportunity for us to grow together, and it begins, simply enough, by us getting together.

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