On Dec. 11, three members of the Sanibel Island community appeared before the Florida House of Representatives Select Committee on Hurricane Resiliency and Recovery in Tallahassee to present updates and need assessments to the 15-person committee. Representing Sanibel Island were councilman and former mayor Holly Smith, SanCap Chamber president and CEO John Lai, and restaurateur Marty Harrity. Fort Myers Beach Dan Allers also appeared before the special meeting.


The committee, formed following Hurricane Ian, heard updated reports on the status of Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel and Captiva islands, including the economic impact the hurricane continues to have on the barrier island communities, gratitude for earlier assistance, and requests for further financial aid.


“Right now, our goal is to make sure every single business that opens stays open, and that we expedite a  five-to-ten-year [recovery] timeline to a three-to-five-year timeline,” said Lai, who also represents the Southwest Florida chapter of the Florida Lodging & Restaurant Association. He reported the chamber currently has 104 business members — including boat captains, wedding photographers, and other businesses not occupying brick-and-mortar storefronts — and 50 visitors to the chamber welcome center on an average per day. That compares to 541 business members and 219 daily chamber visitors pre-Ian.


He finished with “three asks” of the committee: a state-level equivalent to ineffective federal SBA loans as a recovery mechanism; help with property insurance shortcomings; and a look at upcoming legislation resulting from Florida’s Surfside Condo 2021 collapse, which would require steep reserve funds and increased HOA dues.


Smith, who repeatedly commended the state’s quick action and robust support, added to the wish list requests for a resilient state transportation system, underground power lines, and permanent barge landings.


“We agree with the legislature that for a temporary period, our code should foster development while maintaining the local small-town and sanctuary qualities of Sanibel,” she said.


Smith, Lai, and Allers shared charts showing statistics on how the communities have suffered financial losses. The graphics are available for public viewing in the Committees section at myfloridahouse.gov.


Rep. Adam Botana, committee co-chair and local district representative, closed the meeting thanking the committee and offering a ray of optimism: “Our district is very resilient, and we’re going to fight back and be bigger and better than ever.”



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].