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November 6, 2014
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy.

The U.S. Small Business Administration sums it up well and best: "Small Business, Big impact!"

According to the SBA?web site,, there are some 23 million small businesses in America. Collectively, they account for 54 percent of all U.S. sales, are the source of 55 percent of all jobs, and are a significant force in the commercial marketplace, occupying 30-50 percent of all commercial space.

Here in Lee County, small businesses - defined by the SBA as companies employing fewer than 500 - constitute nearly all of the 15,600 that comprise our economic base.

Some of the most resourceful were recognized Thursday at an annual luncheon designed to not only recognize small business efforts but those businesses that persevered through adversity to not only survive, but thrive.

Finalists named at the 20th annual Southwest Florida Blue Chip Community Business Award luncheon include three from Cape Coral - Lee County Plumbing Supply Inc., Priority Payments South Florida and Turbine Generator Maintenance Inc. -?as well as Marketplace Title of Estero and Purely You Spa of Naples.

The winner of the 2014 Blue Chip Award, which was open to nominees from Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties, was Lee County Plumbing Supply which pressed on through the tragic death of one of its founding owners, the encroachment of big-box competition and the Great Recession.

According to a release issued by the Southwest Florida Blue Chip Community Business Award program, William and Dania Lopez bought Lee County Plumbing Supply Inc. in 1982. Revenues at purchase were low.

They regrouped and "grew the business by turning it into a successful specialty parts supply business and propane sales operation."

When William died in the store of a brain aneurysm in 1998 at the age of 62, "his wife took over the business, his father sold propane, and a cousin served as secretary."

Slammed like so many construction-reliant businesses during the recession and facing a proliferation of chain-store openings, "the family kept expenses to a minimum, saved what they could, did inexpensive promotions and offered the best customer service they could. Because they had saved during good times, they were able to build the Lee County Plaza, in Cape Coral, (where) their business sits today, with other businesses supplying additional income. William and Dania's daughter, Dionne, now run(s) the family business, which is once again thriving."

We congratulate all of the finalists with additional kudos to Lee County Plumbing Supply. Their stories are an inspiration to those of us proud to be part of the small business community.

They also are stories to which many of us can relate.

Our thanks, as well, to event co-ordinators and sponsors, BB&T-Oswald Trippe and Company and BB&T Bank. This is a program worthy of your efforts and the others who make it possible.

- Breeze editorial



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