The Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce hosted U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross on Oct. 28 for a virtual roundtable with Lee County business and community partners.

The roundtable featured discussion on the local economy, the challenges of doing business in the wake of COVID-19, and ideas for revitalizing industries and communities, generating more jobs and creating a resilient economy.

“Hosting Secretary Ross was a great opportunity for our community and the future of our economy,” said Colleen DePasquale, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce. “The Chamber was proud to unite our region’s business leaders to represent Lee County in this thoughtful, engaging discussion.”

Roundtable participants included DePasquale as well as Helen Edenfield, global director for facilities at NeoGenomics; Daniel Eveloff, senior vice president of Regions Bank and board president for the Horizon Foundation; Kevin Kollker, director of operations for Scotlynn; Matt Price, CEO of Seagate Development Group; Ray Sandelli, commissioner for the Lee County Board of County Commissioners; Robert Shovlin, president of the clinical services division for NeoGenomics; John Talmage, director of the Lee County Economic Development Office; and Jen Whyte, co-owner of Fort Myers Brewing Company.

Economic recovery was a key point of discussion, with Ross commenting on Florida’s standing.

“There are indicators that we are holding to a standard and steady pattern of economic recovery here in the Sunshine State and across the country,” Ross shared during the roundtable discussion. “Americans saved more than $22 trillion between March and September. And once we beat the virus, there will be pent-up demand in the tourism sector. We can expect that Americans, empowered by these savings, will be ready to spend here in your state in the near-term.”

Talmage shared that the Southwest Florida International Airport is “recovering faster than any other in the state,” while developer Price commented that Lee County is “pro-business, pro-growth” and has “ways to get things done versus getting in the way.”

Participants also weighed in on the results of the PPP program and discussion of forgiveness rules and a second, more targeted PPP loan program.

“There is nothing more important than retaining our employees,” Whyte said as she spoke about the impacts on the craft beer industry. “A good team is the heartbeat of a small business.”

The roundtable was organized by the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce and hosted at NeoGenomics, a company specializing in cancer genetics testing and information services. Before the roundtable, Michael Walsh, chief of staff for the U.S. Department of Commerce, received a tour of NeoGenomics’ Fort Myers headquarters.

“American-owned businesses like those represented by the Chamber form the economic backbone of our communities,” Ross said during the roundtable. “I was pleased to learn that NeoGenomics will open a new world headquarters right here in Fort Myers, next September. No doubt this new facility will continue to strengthen the Florida economy, creating more high paying jobs and valuable opportunities for hardworking Americans.”

About the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce:
Serving Lee County and surrounding areas since 1989, the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce, Inc. is a business organization of professionals who support and promote a progressive, sustainable community. The Chamber represents over 750 businesses, professionals, and individuals throughout Lee County, providing opportunities for members to participate in a variety of meaningful networking, educational and community- and business-focused programs and events. The Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce is located at 2310 Edwards Drive in downtown Fort Myers. For additional information regarding membership opportunities or events please call 239-332-2930 or visit www.fortmyers.org. For the latest news and updates, follow the Chamber on Facebook at www.facebook.com/gfmcc or Twitter at @FtMyersChamber.