FORT MYERS, Fla. – More than five months after Hurricane Ian decimated parts of Florida, 25 small businesses in the region are continuing their recovery efforts with some help from a unique partnership between Verizon Business and two non-profits.
Verizon has donated $250,000 to Collaboratory, a local non-profit community problem-solving organization in Southwest Florida, and Florida TaxWatch, a trusted non-profit that promotes economic development across the state that serves as the ‘eyes and ears’ of Florida taxpayers.
Collaboratory and Florida TaxWatch worked with community leaders to select the final 25 small businesses – ranging from family-owned coffee shops and bait and tackle businesses to a floral truck and wedding venue. Each received a $10,000 grant in December 2022.
The funds come at an important moment after Hurricane Ian, which is estimated to be one of the costliest natural disasters of 2022, left many businesses destroyed or without the resources to rebuild. According to some estimates, up to 25 percent of small and midsize businesses could be forced to permanently close without immediate financial support.
“We’re proud of our commitment and our partnerships to help small and medium size businesses continue on their path to recovery long after Ian’s initial impact,” said Aparna Khurjekar, Chief Revenue Officer, Business Markets and SaaS at Verizon Business. “Small businesses are the bedrock of the local communities we serve, and by helping them recover, we’re able to see these communities thrive once again.”
“Verizon Business’s donation in the wake of Hurricane Ian has provided our community’s small businesses with critical relief as recovery efforts continue,” said Sarah Owen, President and CEO of Collaboratory. “There’s a long road ahead of us, and along with caring companies like Verizon Business, Southwest Florida will rebuild into a more resilient region.”
“Small businesses are the backbone of Florida’s economy, so when tragedy strikes or natural disasters hit, like when Hurricane Ian severely impacted Southwest Florida, it’s important that companies, nonprofits, and neighbors throughout the state come together and help them recover. That’s exactly what’s been done here with this $250,000 donation from Verizon, distributed with the help of Florida TaxWatch and Collaboratory,” said Dominic M. Calabro, President and CEO of Florida TaxWatch. “Florida TaxWatch is honored to partner with Verizon and Collaboratory to advance small business resiliency and ensure that they survive and thrive in Southwest Florida.”
“We are inspired by the resilience of our small business community in Lee County as they continue to rebuild and recover following Hurricane Ian. While the storm caused significant disruption, we are committed to the goal of not just bouncing back, but coming back stronger than ever before and applaud Verizon for their assistance in making this a reality,” said Brian Hamman, President & CEO of the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce. “Our Chamber of Commerce stands with these businesses, offering our support and resources as we work together towards a brighter future for our community.”
Small business owner Captain Ozzie Lessinger, who is one of the recipients of a $10,000 grant, said the money has been transformative not just for his fishing business, but for the entire local economy.
“The fishing guide community has been hit extremely hard by Hurricane Ian,” he said. “This grant is making a huge difference for my business, and Verizon’s support of our industry is very much appreciated.”
For more information, visit Verizon.com.