FGCU pledges to help RESTART SWFL, restore consumer confidence

Initiative aims to help businesses respond to COVID-19 impact

Fort Myers, Fla. – May 19, 2020 – Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) is launching RESTART SWFL, an initiative dedicated to helping businesses respond to the impact of COVID-19 on their operations, work force, vendors and customers.

“We know that good health makes good business, so it makes sense for FGCU’s Lutgert College of Business and Marieb College of Health & Human Services to unite to mobilize expertise and resources, along with those of our local partners, to help businesses,” said Christopher Westley, dean of FGCU’s Lutgert College of Business. “Our intention is to create an environment in which consumers will feel more comfortable to re-enter the marketplace.”

Joined by his colleague, Ann Cary, dean of FGCU’s Marieb College of Health & Human Services, Westley unveiled the RESTART SWFL Seal of Confidence Tuesday at Lutgert Hall.

“We believe the path to recovery is anchored in consumer confidence, so that’s why we’re introducing the RESTART SWFL Seal of Confidence: a campaign to bring a renewed sense of confidence and prosperity to the region in which business owners pledge to adhere to a set of standards involving health, business and ethical practices,” Westley said.

Along with the pledge, FGCU will launch a series of free web-based discussions led by experts from Lutgert and Marieb, as well as community leaders. These will assist businesses in complying with new standards in hygiene and best practices for business. The goal is to assure customers that establishments have sound systems in place to ensure their well-being and are providing fair value and service.

“If business owners take two of these classes and take the pledge, they will earn this seal,” Westley said.

While the primary goal of the RESTART SWFL initiative is restoring consumer confidence, the efforts are broader. The initiative soft-launched in March with the creation of the Coronavirus Economic Impact Survey. These ongoing surveys of nearly 1,000 Southwest Florida business executives help FGCU see how the region is recovering over time, trends in consumer demand and the workforce, and business concerns moving forward.

Additionally, RESTART SWFL features an expanded FGCU Small Business Development Center (SBDC). At least two-fifths of businesses forced to close because of a disaster never reopen, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). To help businesses regain their footing and thrive, the SBDC offers a range of services that include recovery plan assistance, cybersecurity training, risk assessment and other invaluable tools at little to no cost. The SBDC recently added staff members in anticipation of greater need.

“Our two colleges have partnered to double down on our strength – education – which benefits the public we serve,” said Cary. “We know that businesses are more likely to open safely by instituting health measures that can protect customers and employees. And with the efforts Dean Westley has outlined, we believe this is just one small part we can play to educate the public on these important issues, support business owners, grow consumer confidence and RESTART SWFL.”

Like Cary, Westley is looking toward the future with hope.

“Over the last two months, we’ve watched as society changed, drastically,” Westley said. “I speak for everyone at FGCU when I say we look forward to mobilizing our expertise and resources, along with those of our local partners, to help businesses respond to the impact of COVID-19 on their livelihoods.  Things will get better, and we’re here to help this process along.”

For additional information about RESTART SWFL, panel discussion schedules, RESTART SWFL Seal of Confidence registration and other COVID-19 resources, visit FGCU.edu/restart.