The new Preserving Paradise leadership program’s equation for success is simple: thriving ecology = thriving economy. A partnership between four local organizations –SanCap Chamber, Captains for Clean Water, The Everglades Foundation, and SCCF (Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation) – Preserving Paradise aims to involve local, high-amp business leaders in water-quality advocacy through intense networking and educational immersion into the complex issues.


“This is a first-of-its-kind program to involve proven leaders in a fashion that supports maybe the most important ingredient for keeping Southwest Florida financially viable,” said John Lai, SanCap Chamber president and chief executive officer. “Never before has an initiative razor-focused on water quality and the environment as a teaching moment for improved business climate. Now that we’ve lived first-hand the perils of tainted waters and sea-level rise, the need for a program such as this has become abundantly apparent.”


The program invites decision-makers and influencers in the Southwest Florida realm of non-profit organizations, hospitality industry, and other commercial enterprises to apply for a course of seven day-long sessions designed to profoundly familiarize them with the importance of a clean environment to the region’s future as a sustainable model for ecotourism and lucrative destination looking forward to guaranteed economic success.


“It is imperative that local business leaders are empowered to advocate for the natural environment that supports Florida’s economy,” said Eric Eikenberg, chief executive officer of The Everglades Foundation. “This program will provide an array of educational opportunities for those leaders to engage more effectively in protecting the environment upon which their businesses rely. The Everglades Foundation was founded more than 30 years ago by two businessmen, who recognized the connectivity between the Everglades and Florida’s economy. We are proud to partner with these organizations to enrich the advocacy of today’s leaders.”


Interested leaders can apply online at to be considered for 20 available slots in the biweekly educational program running August to October. It will include relevant, dynamic on-site and in-classroom involvement, such as on-the-water excursions to critical Everglades and Caloosahatchee sites, in concert with government entities, to personally experience the importance of clean water and the threat of pollution to our future quality of life.


A graduation ceremony follows the completion of the seven sessions, whereupon participants become official wildlife and habitat ambassadors at an elevated advocacy level informed by front-row involvement.


“We founded Captains For Clean Water because we were frustrated with how water was being managed in Florida and the negative impacts of Lake Okeechobee discharges and red tide on our businesses,” said Captains For Clean Water executive director Capt. Daniel Andrews. “We are proud to partner with these organizations to empower business leaders to make a difference in the fight. This is an opportunity to make a tremendous impact on the future of our waters and help build a more resilient economy in Southwest Florida.”


Preserving Paradise graduates will go forward as community spokespersons for clean water and role models for other businesses, setting examples for how businesses can effectively impact the environment in a positive way and become the “good guys” in the overarching water-quality drama.


“Water is the lifeblood of our communities in Southwest Florida,” said James Evans, SCCF chief executive officer. “To preserve our paradise, it is essential to understand the connection between our natural systems and the ecology of our waters, our quality of life, and our local economy. SCCF is proud to partner with these fine organizations to educate our business leaders on the importance of clean water.”




The SanCap Chamber 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].