Southwest Florida BUSINESS TODAY ®
Fort Myers Chamber panel discusses impact of $15 wage
The Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce addressed the potential business impact of a statewide proposal to increase minimum wage levels during a business breakfast held Nov. 8 at Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre in Fort Myers. A proposed ballot initiative to raise Florida’s minimum wage to $15 an hour will be discussed during the upcoming legislative session and is expected to be included on the 2020 ballot. The panelists addressed the business perspective about the consequences if the increase of minimum wage is increased from $8.46 an hour today up to $15 an hour in 2026. The Chamber assembled a panel of economic and business professionals to share information and provide education on this potential increase in Florida. “The Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce recognizes the challenge of earning a living wage, and we believe compensation should be based on what the local market will bear,” said Colleen DePasquale, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce. “Voters need to really understand the impact of government mandated minimum wage increases – especially how local businesses will be impacted if it were to come to fruition. We had representatives from both sides of the discussion provide a balanced, knowledgeable overview of what this means for our region.” Panel participants included Dana Brunett, senior business development specialist for the Lee County Economic Development Office; Victor Claar, Ph.D., associate professor of economics for Florida Gulf Coast University’s (FGCU) Depart®
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ment of Economics; Lois Croft, regional director for Lee, Collier, Charlotte and Glades counties for the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association (FRLA); and Jay Johnson, owner of Bubba’s Roadhouse & Saloon in Cape Coral. Janeth Castrejon of CareerSource said she learned information but was left wanting a more balanced picture.
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Phil Stalnaker introduces panel - Lois Croft, Jay Johnson, Victor Claar, Dana Brunett.
“Areas of concern about this mandatory increase or unintended consequences are elimination of entry level jobs, tips may be eliminated for servers, reduction of hours for staff, businesses forced to increase wages for other employees, high costs for employers that need to pass onto the customer. The Southwest Florida market consists mainly on small businesses that may be negatively impacted by this increase and may not have the resources big corporations have to pass the big expense,” she said. “Besides understanding the unintended consequences, the panel did not address the positive impact it can have on the individual employees and their families. According to the Pew Research Center survey conducted spring 2019, 67% of Americans support raising the minimum wage. Two-thirds of Americans may be supporting this increase due to the high increase in inflation over the years, the not-so-affordable workforce housing issue, and despite the lowest unemployment in a decade, wages have not increase as historically has. Overall, the panel did address the business community concerns, but a diversified panel with both sides of this debate may be more educational to the community.” The panel was moderated by John Talmage, director of the Lee County Economic Development Office. The event was hosted by the Member Advocacy Committee of the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce, which acts as a voice for businesses on legislative, community and economic development issues within the Greater Fort Myers area through leadership and education.
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This space is free to use and is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 25071 Chamber of Commerce Drive in Bonita Springs. Its central location is perfect for busy professionals who drive between Naples, Fort Myers and beyond for appointments. The first quarter of 2020 will also mark the application deadlines for the Bonita Chamber’s two signature development programs: Impact SWFL and Leadership Bonita. Impact SWFL is a five-month professional development program that fast-tracks new connections and community engagement for young professionals looking to become leaders in their industry. Leadership Bonita is more than 350 graduates strong and will celebrate its 22nd year in 2020. This eight-month program features fullday sessions that give participants behind-the-scenes tours of organizations critical to Southwest Florida’s operations. Graduates of Leadership Bonita make lifelong business connections and friendships. Applications for Impact SWFL and Leadership Bonita are available online at BonitaSpringsChamber. com under the “Programs & Events” tab. 2020 will be full of new Bonita Chamber programs and benefits and will kick off with a Chamber tradition – the Community Expo at the Promenade. Businesses can call (239) 992-2943 for the opportunity to purchase a table display at this signature event, which saw more than 1,400 community attendees last year in just a three-hour span. To receive news updates from the Bonita Chamber, follow its Facebook Page, @BSAChamber or contact Communications@BonitaSprings Chamber.com to be added to its informational email list.