Industry Appreciation Awards

Celebrating Lee County businesses that drive the local economy, employ our workforce and shape their industries.

Join us for Lee County’s 30th Anniversary of Industry Appreciation Awards ! This year’s awards ceremony will be held on October 27, 2023!! 

Superior quality, community and resiliency were at the heart of what made 2022’s Industry Appreciation Awards (IAA) unlike any other year. Seventeen of Southwest Florida’s top companies made the list of finalists for the event that took place at the Caloosa Sound Convention Center in downtown Fort Myers. The winners were recognized at the annual IAA luncheon hosted by the Horizon Council, Horizon Foundation and Lee County Economic Development on Friday, February 10, 2023, a rescheduled date from October, 2022 due to Hurricane Ian.

Inclusion & Diversity Award – Recognizes a local business that demonstrates strong vision and leadership in overcoming social and diversity obstacles, leading to an improved business environment and results

The winner is:

  • Minaya Learning Global Solutions – The strategic learning architects of Minaya Learning Global Solutions are committed to developing its clients’ number one resource – their people. Diversity and inclusion has always been at the heart of this minority-owned and woman-owned business. In addition to a diverse team of six employees in Fort Myers, Minaya has more than 100 diverse contractors working globally, all of whom assist clients with their diversity initiatives.

The finalists are:
  • Cushman & Wakefield Commercial Property Southwest Florida takes pride in being a diverse, equitable and inclusive commercial real estate company. This is reflected in its employees, clients, community stewardship, and even its podcast content. This company has received a variety of accolades for diversity – including from Forbes and Bloomberg.

  • Peyko Venue – As a special events venue, Peyko takes pride in loving people and treating them as family. They are proud to serve and hire without discrimination, including a disabled employee who struggled to find employment but has now been on their team for three years. They also provide their event space free of charge to the United Haitian American Chamber of Commerce of Southwest Florida.

Minaya Learning Global Solutions

Large Business of the Year — Awarded to a Lee County company that has been in business six or more years under the same corporate name and ownership. The company must offer high-quality products and services, provide superior customer service, demonstrate strong ethical standards, be community minded, actively support employee development, and exhibit exemplary leadership within its industry and with its clients, contributing to the economic growth and free enterprise of Lee County. The Large Business of the Year category is for companies with 51 or more employees.

The winner is:

  • Henderson, Franklin, Starnes, & Holt, P.A.As the oldest law firm in Fort Myers, Henderson Franklin, Starnes & Holt has a proud tradition of service and excellence. Established in 1924, it has grown to become one of the largest locally-based law firms between Tampa and Miami. The firm employs more than 55 attorneys – the majority of which have been with the firm for between 10 and 56 years. It’s no wonder Henderson Franklin Starnes & Holt has consistently been recognized with top honors at the national, state and local levels.

The finalists are:

  • Seagate Development – Seagate Development Group has excelled at providing an array of residential and commercial real estate and development services by doing things The Seagate Way – bringing exceptional concierge levels of service to everything they do. They have changed the landscape of Southwest Florida and grown from a team of 12 to more than 200 employees in just seven years.

  • Storm Smart Building Services – Founded in 1996, Storm Smart has built custom storm protection solutions with turnkey service for more than 90,000 homeowners. As a result, Storm Smart has grown and now employs over 350 people. It enjoys exceptional brand loyalty with 59% of its revenues coming through referrals and repeat business – a testament to the Fort Myers-based company’s high-quality products and extraordinary customer service.

Small Business of the Year – The same criteria apply as the Large Business of the Year, but companies may not have more than 50 employees to be eligible.

The winner is:

  • Spiro & Associates – Under the leadership of Chris Spiro, Spiro & Associates has accelerated client performance for 37 years through game-changing marketing, advertising, public relations and branding. In addition to creating a new “No Walls” office space, the company recently expanded its services with an in-house app development team, a full-service social media department, and a digital photo and video studio.

The finalists are:

  • Apex Painting Group – As a 19-year-old college student at FGCU, Jonathan Bucci set out to change the industry status quo with Apex Painting Group. He has since earned his college degree and created a thriving Estero-based company that has provided thousands of Southwest Florida customers with a contractor they can truly count on. Now an award-winning entrepreneur, Jonathan and the Apex brand personify what “small business” stands for.
  • RG ArchitectsRG Architects is a responsive, sustainable architecture, urbanism and industrial design studio founded by Javier Salazar, Ryan Richards and Charles Gutekunst in 2012. The team has established a regional practice with an excellent reputation – responding in dynamic ways to positively impact the daily lives of Southwest Florida citizens through their award-winning designs.

Innovator of the Year — Recognizes a local business that develops innovative advanced technologies that have a positive economic impact Lee County’s growing economy and within its industry.

The winner is:

  • My Undercover Agent – Based in Cape Coral, My Undercover Agent is a Real Estate Tech Startup envisioned, developed and founded by Kari Leftwich-Wolfe in 2016. By developing technology to elevate the real estate industry internationally, My Undercover Agent serves as a prime example of the budding ecosystem in Lee County for tech-startups.

The finalist is:
  • C3 Investment Group – Caloosahatchee Cannabis Company – widely known as C3 – launched the first cannabis café and CBD marketplace in Florida and developed one of Florida’s first “Fresh from Florida” certified CBD lines. Seed & Bean Market and PureNative Hemp are both subsidiaries of C3, an industry leader which is paving the way for innovation with an emphasis on high-quality, thoroughly tested products that adhere to state and national guidelines.

Manufacturer of the Year — Awarded to a Lee County manufacturing business that exhibits excellence in leadership, performance, profitability and workforce relations. 

The winner is:
  • HF Scientific – HF scientific is a leading global producer of instrumentation, test kits and chemical reagents used for monitoring water quality in a variety of applications. The company is a leader in its industry and holds many patents for innovative products. The company moved its headquarters from Canada to Fort Myers in 1980, was acquired by the leading brand Watts in 2005, and expanded its footprint with the opening of a new state-of-the-art, 35,000-square-foot manufacturing facility and global headquarters in 2021.

The finalists are:

  • Advanced Hurricane Technologies – As a family-owned and operated business, Advanced Hurricane Technology, Inc. manufactures quality shutters and doors that are in high demand wherever hurricanes occur. Most importantly, the Zabala family takes pride in their employees and leads with a sense of purpose, which is to protect people’s lives, homes and investments. They are based in Fort Myers, and also have offices in Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and Ecuador to meet widespread demand.

  • Aerox Aviation Oxygen Systems – An aerospace company originally founded in 1981, Aerox Aviation and Oxygen Systems designs and manufactures aviation equipment for a global customer base. Since purchasing and relocating the company to Bonita Springs in 2020, Scott Ashton and his wife have grown the business by 60% with an emphasis on personal integrity and relentless customer service.

Technology AwardThe Technology Award recognizes a local technology-focused company that is committed to growth and adding new technology-related products and/or services, customers, and staff and supports the technology community in Lee County.

The winner is:

  • Vectra Digital – Founded in 2017 invests heavily in research and development. As a result, this company has earned its position at the forefront of artificial intelligence-based technology development – technology that Vectra Digital is making available to small and large businesses alike.

The finalists are:

  • MashGrape Technologies – provides business technology solutions and support to small businesses, bringing large IT department buying power and management to the table. With a top-down approach, the company’s focus is a planned IT strategy for the client’s entire technology footprint.

  • Inceptus – provides high-end consulting services and military grade cyber defense to businesses of all kinds. Its team of experts leverages years of digital combat experience to build customized programs of cyber resilience for each client’s business strategy.

Click here to learn more about each award

IAA Introductory Video

IAA Event Photos