Observations on South Florida business
When you give as much as Gary Trippe has, you deserve every accolade you get.
Hundreds of business leaders turned out for the Horizon Council’s Industry Appreciation luncheon in Bonita Springs on Thursday. During the highlight of the event, the council named Trippe the recipient of the Bruce T. Gora Legacy Award, which recognizes an individual who has established a history of distinguished service and contributions to the growth of Lee County.
One of the most influential business people in Fort Myers, Trippe built a hugely successful regional insurance agency called Oswald Trippe and Company from his kitchen table in 1982. He was so successful that banking giant BB&T acquired it in 2009 and kept the name.
But here’s the thing about Trippe: He didn’t just drive off into the sunset in his RV.
Instead, Trippe launched Disabled Veterans Insurance Careers, an innovative nonprofit program to train veterans for careers in the insurance business. You can read more about DVIC on its web site.
Plus, Trippe continues to be involved in the Florida Blue Chip Community Business Award he created, now in its 22nd year. You can read more about that by clicking here.
Those are just two examples of how Trippe continues to give back to his community even after selling his business. There are more you haven’t heard about and that’s why he’s so richly deserving of recognition.
Robert Beatty will make you want to be a student all over again.
Beatty, the dean of the Lutgert College of Business at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, says a big part of his mission is to sell the school to prospective students and their parents. Today’s families expect a financial return on their investment in education, he says.
There is a lot to like about FGCU: the resort-style student housing, athletic facilities and small classes where faculty enjoy hands-on teaching. “We’re seeing a huge amount of kids from outside the region,” says Beatty, who spoke recently to a gathering of the IMA’s Southwest Florida chapter, an association of accountants.
In just 20 years since its start, FGCU has risen from the scrub and marsh near Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers to a state university with 15,000 students and more than 500 professors. When you drive onto the campus, the first building you see is the business school.
Beatty says Lutgert College’s mission is to help young people become ready for jobs in Southwest Florida. For example, the college now has a trading room equipped with Bloomberg terminals. These expensive computers are essential for money management and finance students know how to use them. “Our kids are job ready,” Beatty says.
Beatty says more job-ready degrees that combine business with other disciplines are coming to FGCU in the next few years, including:
•A bachelor’s degree in construction management that will be interdisciplinary and will be housed in the Whitaker College of Engineering;
•A bachelor’s degree in informatics that will combine data management with health sciences, filling a critical need for the health care industry in the region;
•A bachelor’s degree in supply chain management that will help build projects such as the giant intermodal project being planned near Clewiston at Airglades Airport;
•A bachelor’s degree in real estate management that will draw faculty from other universities in South Florida including Florida International University in Miami and Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton;
•A bachelor’s degree in professional sales that will draw students from liberal arts programs to help large corporations in Southwest Florida such as Gartner, Hertz and Arthrex.
Beatty says the needs of Southwest Florida business are the key when he’s planning for new business degrees. “If you tell me you’re going to hire kids, I’m in,” he says.
Southwest Florida has two strengths: budding entrepreneurs with great ideas and retired executives rich with experience.
So when an organization brings them together, you can sense that something awesome is going to happen. Maybe we’ll even find the so-called unicorn, that elusive company every venture capitalist and angel investor dreams about earning them a fortune.
That promising organization is Fusion Pointe, a nonprofit organization that is based on a hugely successful program in Cleveland called JumpStart that brings together startup entrepreneurs with experienced mentors.
“We try to do very specialized mentoring,” says Rob Strandberg, executive director of Fusion Pointe. Strandberg recently spoke to more than 40 entrepreneurs and mentors gathered recently at ReliabilityWeb in Fort Myers to discuss how angel and venture capital investors value companies.
Fusion Pointe mentors help startup entrepreneurs get their companies ready for angel and venture capital investing, says Tim Cartwright, chairman of the Naples-based Tamiami Angel Funds and a board member of Fusion Pointe. “Fusion Pointe can bridge that education gap,” Cartwright says.
Learn more about Fusion Pointe by visiting www.fusionpointe.org and Tamiami Angel Funds by visiting www.tamiamiangels.com.
There are other venture capital events around Southwest Florida sponsored by Tamiami Angel Funds, too. These include VenturePitch and Founder’s Talk events. Visit http://www.tamiami-e.co to find out more.
Blogging for entrepreneurs in Southwest Florida (SoWeFlo)