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Rotary Happenings: Rotary examines current business environment of Sanibel and Captiva

By Staff | Aug 26, 2015

On August 14, the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club got right down to business. Instead of a speaker for Friday’s morning meeting Rotarian, Robert Monk with the Law Office of Robert Mond, ESQ. suggested that we should have a roundtable discussion basically with the intent of examining the current business environment on Sanibel and Captiva.

It’s no big secret that Sanibel-Captiva Rotary has a fairly good number of retired professionals in the club but we also, have a pretty good percentage of business professionals in the club actively engaged in the business community here on our Islands.

Talking Points for the round table were retail, trends in real estate, and personal and business changes seen by our Island Professionals.

First to speak was Scot Congress of Congress Jewelers.

Being in the higher-end jeweler business, Congress Jewelers was definitely affected, like all Island businesses, by the U.S. economic downfall in recent years and although the economy is recovering, customers are slightly more conservative in their spending.

The jeweler business itself has had to adjust to higher gold prices and the devaluation of diamonds. This summer the traffic counter at the store registered an uptick in the number of people coming into the store.

The average sale is up from the last few years, but not back to before the economic crisis. High-end jewelry sales are down but people are still buying quality jewelry pieces including the Congress Sealife Collection.

Although business comes in waves in the summer, the store has seen customers coming in from Sundial Beach Resort and South Seas Island Resort.

This is definitely a healthy sign, tourists are getting more comfortable with higher-end vacation spending, and this will help all Island businesses.

Trent Peake, Membership Services Manager of Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce, spoke in general about the visitors to the Sanibel and Captiva during the summer.

Businesses on the Islands are reporting great numbers this summer.

Room rates are less expensive during summer and that is bringing in nearby visitors from Tampa, Orlando, and Miami for family travel. They may be traveling on a budget but they still are enjoying all our Islands offers renting bikes; visiting Ding Darling, the Shell Museum, and CROW; eating out; and retail therapy.

Although the Islands are still seeing foreign travelers from Canada and Europe, the concern for the value of the Euro and fluctuations in oversea economies impact travel plans for this visitor pool.

Balancing that out this year will be Fort Myers Beach road construction project during season. This construction will send the day-tripper heading our way, so get ready!

Good for business, not so good for residents.

There definitely is great optimism in our island business community. We have seen a number of new businesses open up on the Island over the last few months and new restaurants are definite going to increase dining options.

It’s pretty much a given, most of our Island residents first came to the Islands as visitors.

So how about the Real Estate market?

Prices are trending up; there is an increase in new house construction starts and definitely confidence in investing in Island real estate.

The resale real estate market is getting stronger, particularly in the mid-range category.

Holli Martin, Insurance Agent for HEIDRICK & COMPANY INSURANCE is seeing the effects of Real Estate Sales in her office. Business is booming for both new sales insurance coverage and the generational shift of inherited property.

Because Florida has not had any major natural disasters in recent years, our state’s property insurance corporation, Florida’s Citizens Insurance Company’s cash reserves are strong and some of their policyholders have seen premiums going down.

Since 2013, Florida lawmakers want Citizens to get out of the insurance business. Private insurance companies are now capable of taking on the risk of insuring some of Citizen policyholders at reasonable cost.

The state has selected a number of private insurance companies they have confidence in and basically encouraging customers to transfer to these companies.

Right now, higher-end properties over $900,000 will continue to be covered under Citizens till their contract expires but then will not be eligible for coverage through Citizens and will have to go to private insurance coverage.

In January 2016, the coverage limit amount is reduced to $800,000 and in 2017 coverage limit will be $700,000. Flood insurance policies held by Citizens are going to cost you more if you own property on Island and to not reside in the State for the required six-month period per year or if you rent your property on Island.

We had many more Rotarians join in on the conversation regarding our Island economy and how traffic concerns are causing great apprehension for business owners particularly during season.

Rotarians had a lot of input on this including some out-of-the-box thinking. So, we invite City Planners to come conduct their own round table discussion on this and other matters with Rotarians.

This is a pretty smart group.

Sanibel-Captiva Rotary meets at 7 a.m., Friday mornings at the Sanibel Community House, Periwinkle Way. Guests are always welcomed.