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Chamber had successful 2018

December 27, 2018
By MEGHAN BRADBURY ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

The Greater Lehigh Acres Chamber of Commerce had a great 2018 with many new programs, some of which included working with the schools.

"When I first stepped into this position a year and a half ago, it was with the intent of making a difference in Lehigh Acres. Little did I know, Lehigh Acres was about to make a difference in me," Chairman Ed Moore said. "While my tenure of chairman is ending, I have thoroughly enjoyed this experience. I am happy to have served as Chairman this last year and a half and would do it again."

During 2018, the Chamber really reached out to the Lee County School District, as well as the schools in Lehigh Acres. One of the ways was participating in the Save Our Students (SOS) program. The program worked in collaboration with the Lee County School District and business owners to help mentor students in particular fields of business.

"The goal is to try and keep people here . . . keep the workforce here and train them for what businesses actually need," Moore said.

For example, if that employer was looking for someone in finance, the student would be good at math and interested in the field. Moore said the employer is looking to create a good solid employee for their business.

"The school would then match the criteria with the proper student," he said. "That student, over the summer, worked part-time for those businesses. It was a very big success county-wide. This was the first year Lehigh had embraced that. We will obviously be doing it again next year."

The chamber also has a scholarship program that has been funded. They are currently working with the culinary department at East Lee County High School to provide funds to the students.

To keep with the theme of working with the schools in Lehigh Acres, the Awards Gala 2019 scheduled to take place Saturday, Jan. 26, will feature East Lee County High School theatre department and Lehigh Senior High School Center for the Arts vocal department for the live entertainment.

During the election, the chamber also held a town hall featuring the school board candidates running, to further educate the community of who the candidates are and what their platforms were.

"We've taken a big interest in it because education is too important not too," Moore said.

In addition to the school board town hall, they held luncheons that featured a different politician "at both sides of the aisle, so to speak," from April through October, he said, so they could speak about their platform and educate the business owners more about them.

The Lunch & Learns, which kicked off at the beginning of the year, were held to highlight a large range of topics, ranging from real estate marketing, starting a business, search engine optimization to cancer screening.

"We've really tried to pull together a very good educational program, not only for businesses, but personal as well," Moore said, adding that they were focused on teaching the public and business owners.

Another highlight, was the Coffee with a Cop program, which the Chamber held.

"Our police officers in Lehigh, the gals and guys that serve over here, people need to get to know these officers. First of all, they are human beings. They have such great souls," Moore said.

Every month the officers shared their stories, highlighting why they were chosen as the Officer of the Month.

"To know that these people face fear every single day and they face it head on and solve problems, it is amazing to me," Moore said. "I just love them and can't say enough about them."

A successful event, the Business Expo, was held in September.

He said it was a very nice, successful day due to the dozens of businesses that were located in one place for the public to meet and great and get to know what their business entailed.

"Some don't have storefronts," he said. "It was a good way to showcase your business. We will do that again."

The smaller events, such as the bowling tournaments, were also successful because it was a nice way for businesses to socialize with one another and get to know the people.

The chamber also coordinated Develop Lehigh to work with Lee County EDO to bring new businesses into Lehigh. Moore said they also did interviews with CNN Money, Reuters and RDP Radio Network promoting substantial growth of Lehigh Acres. In addition, the chamber worked with the county commissioners on a regular basis to give Lehigh Acres a voice in the county.

"These are simply the highlights of what the chamber has done in 2018. There are so many other things, like pushing to get a foot bridge replaced, or street lights fixed . . . they are too numerous to mention," Moore said.

With 2018 almost concluded, the Lehigh Acres Chamber of Commerce is excited about what's ahead as they welcome two new board members, Mike Welch and Lenore Maffetore.

Moore said Welch plans on reaching out to the commercial real estate and builders in 2019. He said it's exciting because State Road 82 is building so fast, especially with the commercial land available.

"We are working with them in a much larger way than we ever have, which in turn will help feed with the Lee County EDO of trying to get new business to come in," he said. "We are really excited. It's very exciting to see the energy that is going on in Lehigh right now. It is very positive. Things are happening. Look around, there is excitement in the air."



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