A quarter of my term as FNGLA President has already elapsed. With The 2022 Landscape Show and other late summer/early fall events in the rearview, I had planned to spend some time travelling the state with our new CEO, Tal Coley, to visit with FNGLA members. In my effort to detail to him the extensive beauty of our industry, we were making plans to visit many greenhouse and nursery growers, along with many landscape professionals who keep Florida in a ‘state of beauty.’
Then, during the last week of September, I was shocked by multiple events: the sudden loss of BioSafe Systems President Rob Larose; and Hurricane Ian making landfall on the southwest coast of Florida. In the case of both events, plans had been made should either occur. Both events have had and will continue to have an impact on my life both personally and professionally.
Rob was a very kind man, a very generous man, and someone I’m happy to have spent the last six years working for. He boot-strapped a business the old-fashioned way. And now, very close to BioSafe’s 25th anniversary, the company has become the difference-maker in the industry which Rob had set out to become. Rest in peace, Rob. You are already missed dearly by many, and we will continue your mission.
Immediately after finding out about Rob’s passing, I learned Hurricane Ian would likely make landfall where I live, here in Tampa. Plans were made, generator was tested, property was secured, and all emergency goods were purchased and staged for deployment for what seemed to be an imminent disaster. Then, as we all now know, the storm turned east and made landfall at Cayo Costa, laying waste to large swaths of surrounding areas, and leaving a wake of floods and devastation for hundreds of thousands of folks.
With many FNGLA (and personal) family members suffering catastrophe, I sought the counsel of Past FNGLA President “66” Ed Bravo (Big Trees Plantation, Newberry). Ed dealt with major hurricanes Irma and Michael during his tenure as an association leader. With Ed, I travelled south to Cape Coral and Fort Myers following the storm. With my family accounted for - albeit having suffered extreme property damage, my focus shifted to generating relief efforts for FNGLA member businesses, employees, and families. President-Elect Phil Buck (Crawford Landscaping, Naples) and I surveyed Lee and Collier counties and spoke with members who suffered damages to gauge the immediate needs. Along with the fantastic support of FarmShare, a non-profit food bank, and members of Royal Palm, Manasota, Palm Beach, Broward, Frontrunners and Action chapters, we staged at least two donation distribution sites and provided water, food, fuel and toiletries for our members in time of need. THANK YOU to all those who contributed to the FNGLA Disaster Relief Fund, donated materials, or volunteered time and equipment to the relief efforts. You are shining examples of what makes our industry, FNGLA, and our country so great. And, a special ‘thank you’ to Mainscape, Big Earth Landscape Supply and SiteOne Landscape Supply for serving as distribution sites for FNGLA relief efforts!
Let me wrap up by imploring FNGLA’s Chapter leaders to review their respective FNGLA Hurricane/Disaster Manuals at their next Board meeting. As we know too well by now, plans can change - but having a resource could almost guarantee a faster, more efficient response in the case of future disasters. If you have questions regarding the manual, or need assistance in developing a disaster guide, please reach out to the FNGLA staff or officers. We are here to help you promote and protect your business.
See you soon,