On the heels of milestone achievements for Southwest Florida International Airport, Lee County Port Authority (LCPA) outgoing executive director and CEO Benjamin R. Siegel revealed airport improvements through 2028 and beyond at the Feb. 21 SanCap Chamber monthly business luncheon. It took place at Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort in Fort Myers in partnership with Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA), sponsored by Stevens Construction.

Having passed the 10 million-passenger milestone and scored the busiest December in airport history in 2023, despite Hurricane Ian’s impact, LCPA carries on with its three-phrase, multimillion-dollar projects to continue to meet growth and high-season demands, Siegel said.

Currently underway, the phase one, $331 million terminal expansion project will consolidate the airport’s three checkpoints into one, giving all passengers access to all airport restaurant and retail facilities, which will greatly expand.

“By the end of the day, you’re going to have a whole new experience,” said Siegel, emphasizing no property taxes will be used to fund the airport projects.

Phase two will add 14 gates to Concourse E. Targeted to complete in 2027, it is estimated to cost $800 million. Project three will improve and expand rental car facilities and parking by 2028 for about $320 million.

“I’m very excited to talk about our ultimate build-out,” Siegel said, taking chamber members to 2042 and beyond with future outlooks. “One thing I get a lot of questions about is when is a parallel runway coming, we only have one runway?…. But it’s not really justified until after 2040 … based on its impact on the entire air national system.”

Siegel also showed maps of the forthcoming 1,100-acre Skyplex that will develop across from JetBlue Park with aeronautical services, office space, and retail and hospitality outlets.

“It is really in the heart of the whole area,” he said. “It’s really a gem in terms of the economic development of Lee County.” Siegel, who retires April 1, ended by introducing his forthcoming replacement at LCPA, Steven Hennigan.

“RSW is the heartbeat of tourism and economy for our islands, so its future is our future,” said John Lai, SanCap Chamber president and CEO. “Ben has always kept us on our toes where local air transportation is concerned, and we look forward to working with Hennigan in the same capacity.”

Lai also introduced his replacement as Southwest Regional Director of FRLA, a position he has served alongside his chamber role since Hurricane Ian, to keep both organizations thriving during frugal times. Colleague Chris Lopez, formerly the regional manager of external affairs for Tampa Electric (TECO), steps up to the position.

Another new player on the local tourism support team, Kizzy Sanchez spoke as the new regional partnership manager for Visit Florida, the state’s marketing agency.

The next chamber business luncheon will take place Wednesday, March 20, at Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort with guest speaker FRLA general counsel Samantha Padgett, who will provide this year’s post-legislative updates for Southwest Florida. Sponsorships are available.


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, sanibel-captiva.org, receives over 1.3 million visits per year. For more information about the chamber, visit sanibel-captiva.org or contact John Lai, president and CEO, at 239-472-2348 or [email protected].