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Small businesses embrace Hurricane Ian recovery progress with help from Verizon Business, Collaboratory and Florida TaxWatch

FORT MYERS, Fla., March 01, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- More than five months after Hurricane Ian decimated parts of Florida, 25 small businesses in the region are continuing their recovery efforts with some help from a unique partnership between Verizon Business and two non-profits.

Verizon has donated $250,000 to Collaboratory, a local non-profit community problem-solving organization in Southwest Florida, and Florida TaxWatch, a trusted non-profit that promotes economic development across the state that serves as the ‘eyes and ears’ of Florida taxpayers.

Collaboratory and Florida TaxWatch worked with community leaders to select the final 25 small businesses – ranging from family-owned coffee shops and bait and tackle businesses to a floral truck and wedding venue. Each received a $10,000 grant in December 2022.

The funds come at an important moment after Hurricane Ian, which is estimated to be one of the costliest natural disasters of 2022, left many businesses destroyed or without the resources to rebuild. According to some estimates, up to 25 percent of small and midsize businesses could be forced to permanently close without immediate financial support.

“We’re proud of our commitment and our partnerships to help small and medium size businesses continue on their path to recovery long after Ian’s initial impact,” said Aparna Khurjekar, Chief Revenue Officer, Business Markets and SaaS at Verizon Business. “Small businesses are the bedrock of the local communities we serve, and by helping them recover, we’re able to see these communities thrive once again.”

“Verizon Business’s donation in the wake of Hurricane Ian has provided our community’s small businesses with critical relief as recovery efforts continue,” said Sarah Owen, President and CEO of Collaboratory. “There’s a long road ahead of us, and along with caring companies like Verizon Business, Southwest Florida will rebuild into a more resilient region.”

“Small businesses are the backbone of Florida’s economy, so when tragedy strikes or natural disasters hit, like when Hurricane Ian severely impacted Southwest Florida, it’s important that companies, nonprofits, and neighbors throughout the state come together and help them recover. That’s exactly what’s been done here with this $250,000 donation from Verizon, distributed with the help of Florida TaxWatch and Collaboratory,” said Dominic M. Calabro, President and CEO of Florida TaxWatch. “Florida TaxWatch is honored to partner with Verizon and Collaboratory to advance small business resiliency and ensure that they survive and thrive in Southwest Florida.”

"We are inspired by the resilience of our small business community in Lee County as they continue to rebuild and recover following Hurricane Ian. While the storm caused significant disruption, we are committed to the goal of not just bouncing back, but coming back stronger than ever before and applaud Verizon for their assistance in making this a reality,” said Brian Hamman, President & CEO of the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce. “Our Chamber of Commerce stands with these businesses, offering our support and resources as we work together towards a brighter future for our community."

Small business owner Captain Ozzie Lessinger, who is one of the recipients of a $10,000 grant, said the money has been transformative not just for his fishing business, but for the entire local economy.

"The fishing guide community has been hit extremely hard by Hurricane Ian,” he said. “This grant is making a huge difference for my business, and Verizon’s support of our industry is very much appreciated.”

For more information, visit

About Verizon

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE, Nasdaq: VZ) was formed on June 30, 2000 and is one of the world’s leading providers of technology and communications services. Headquartered in New York City and with a presence around the world, Verizon generated revenues of $136.8 billion in 2022. The company offers data, video and voice services and solutions on its award-winning networks and platforms, delivering on customers’ demand for mobility, reliable network connectivity, security and control.

About Collaboratory

Collaboratory is committed to coordinating the solving of all of Southwest Florida’s social problems on an 18-year deadline including homelessness, poverty, mental illness, racism, illiteracy and more. We plan to do this with the entire community working together including people of all ages, colors, abilities, beliefs and imaginations across all five counties. We’re committed to coordinating all of this on a massive scale, in the way NASA coordinated the hundreds of thousands of businesses, universities, institutions and people to get us to the moon in nine years. We’re not oblivious to people saying this is ridiculous, insane and crazy but we’re driven by the inspiration of all those great figures in history who have come before us to achieve things no one ever thought remotely possible. We’re building the largest, most democratized living laboratory for community problem-solving in American history.

Collaboratory was founded in 1976 as the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. It has made over $100 million in grants since then and is home to more than 650 philanthropic funds. It is upon that legacy of a commitment to community we plan to fulfill on that mission at the level of its greatest expression. As Collaboratory, we will finish what we started.

To learn more and get involved, call 239-274-5900 or visit

About Florida TaxWatch

As an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit government watchdog and taxpayer research institute for more than forty years and the trusted eyes and ears of Florida taxpayers, Florida TaxWatch (FTW) works to improve the productivity and accountability of Florida government. Its research recommends productivity enhancements and explains the statewide impact of fiscal and economic policies and practices on citizens and businesses. FTW is supported by its membership via voluntary, tax-deductible donations and private grants and does not accept government funding. Donations provide a solid, lasting foundation that has enabled FTW to bring about a more effective, responsive government that is more accountable to, and productive for, the citizens it serves since 1979. For more information, please visit

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Media Contact:
Erin Cheever

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