As island businesses build back from Hurricane Ian damages, the time is opportune to reduce energy costs and environmental impact through clean energy, SCCF (Sanibel-Captiva Foundation) representatives told members of the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce, who gathered for its monthly business lunch on March 15 at the Marriott Sanibel Harbour Resort in Fort Myers.

CEO James Evan spoke first in behalf of SCCF, sponsor of the luncheon, and SCCF Coastal Resilience Manager Carrie Schuman, led a panel discussion focused on “Resilient Recovery.”

“We recognize the mission of the chamber to promote the prosperity of our members and preserve the quality of life in our community,” said Schumann. “We’re all looking for that quality of life to return….The timing of today’s program is positive, not only because so many are in the midst of rebuilding their homes and businesses, but also because new federal legislation has added to existing incentives to make clean energy investments even more attractive with better returns on investment.”

Panelist Diana Giraldo, chief creative officer of Community Development Reimagined, responded to issues concerning building code impacts on energy-efficient building locally, noting that California and Florida have the strictest building codes.

“If you are looking for energy efficiency to work for you, you have to go beyond the building codes,” she said. “You have to have a baseline audit. You want to make sure you benchmark the building.”

Panelist Julia Herbst, Florida’s Gulf Coast Program Coordinator for Solar United Neighbors, addressed the practicalities and wisdom of converting to solar power. “It’s a great business decision with good return on investment,” she said. She advised adding extra resiliency with battery storage and offered tips for shopping for solar installation contractors.

The panelists enumerated many tax and other incentives for businesses and residents to install solar right now, informing attendees that Sanibel and Captiva are eligible for the Rural Energy for America Program.

Richard Johnson, a “surprise” panelist who spoke from experience after converting his Bailey’s General Store to solar in 2008, addressed the soft benefits of renewable energy: “It does make a difference in the market. It does make a difference to your customer base. I have people come up and thank me for what I’m doing for the environment.”

He supported the wisdom of working through a co-op, which does all the research for you as well as lowers the cost through collective buying. He later affirmed that he will again install solar energy when Bailey’s rebuilds.

“This panel of informed experts gave us a load of information to digest and consider as we rebuild,” said John Lai, chamber president and CEO. “The bottom line? On islands known for their conservation ethic since the conception of the Sanibel Plan in 1976, planning ahead for climate change, sea level rise, water quality, and disaster resiliency is the only strategy that makes sense.”

The next chamber business luncheon takes place at the Marriott Sanibel Harbour Resort on Wednesday, April 11, featuring guest speaker Michael Polly, with Royal Shell Real Estate, Royal Shell Vacations, and RLR Investments.



The Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to promoting the prosperity of its members and preserving the quality of life of our community. The Chamber plays a key role in facilitating communication and cooperation between business, residents, and government to enhance the economic health of the islands. Its website,, receives over 1.3 million visits per year. For more information about the chamber, visit or contact John Lai, president and CEO, at 239-472-2348 or [email protected].