Fort Myers Beach is Going Wireless
Local entrepreneur Jon Gentle has seen the future, and the future is Wi-Fi. This enterprising young businessman, along with his partner, Ivan Arbogast, is on a mission to bring Fort Myers Beach into the 21st century, one business at a time. His plan? Nothing short of making the entire island a free wireless area, something he says will appeal to and bring to the beach an entire generation of cash-spending 20 to 40 year-olds who live here year round - thus eliminating the decades long dependence on season and giving folks a new reason to want to come to our island.
"We're here to help businesses embrace technology to increase revenue for the local community both on and off the island," said Gentle, who recently opened his and Arbogast's business - NBS Technology - in Indian Creek Plaza by Valerie's. "I am here to tell you that the war is over and technology has won - we're just trying to help Fort Myers Beach catch up."
Gentle and Arbogast both hail from St. Louis, and Jon told us that he was a snowbird for about 10 years - coming here to wait tables during season - before moving here permanently a few years ago.
"I have always loved this area and I started my work career here by helping to open Wahoo Willies in Times Square," he said. "In 2007, Ivan and I ran a company where we developed and patented a product that was sold on the Home Shopping Network and QVC. We had a 98% retention rate of over 22,000 nationwide customers. Then our boss didn't pay us so we left and started NBS in our kitchen."
The way it works is that businesses pay to advertise on a website - beachlist.org - that will include all calendars of events, happy hour specials, bands, what-have-you. When anyone logs in to the free Wi-Fi - which should be available from the bridge to the Lani Kai beginning on July 15th - they will see that website first before being allowed to search on Google or Facebook.
"The demographics of this area have changed," Gentle told us. "(More young people) are here all year and have money to spend. If one of these young professionals knows they can come down to the beach with their laptop and work, they will do it. There is no reason anymore for an off-season. Every single person under 50 who I have spoken to recently has asked how we can make this happen and said they want to be a part of it."
Gentle told us that the concept of free Wi-Fi is nothing new.
"A lot of cities have it - Miami Beach, for one, and New York City is completely wired," he said. "So why not here? We are piping it in wirelessly from a connection off-island and our goal is to have it available from Pink Shell to DiamondHead by the beginning of season and all the way down to Fish Tale Marina by the end of season."
Jon told us that his goal is to help the island grow through local businesses supporting local businesses.
"We want to create a single spot for instant communication for everyone that is about the island," he said. "I want folks to accept the fact that this technology is here and if they want their business to thrive, they need to reach out to the younger population that is already here."
Gentle has been involved with computers since he was a kid, and recently helped out at the Kid's Film Festival by turning the Bay Oaks Recreation Campus wireless in a matter of minutes.
"Internet marketing and website traffic are the main ways people use to find local businesses now," he said. "We just want to help the island get a jump on the new technology so everyone can benefit."
For more information about what Jon is doing, readers can feel free to call him at 239-867-6708.
To test NBS's new Wi-Fi, Sand Paper Associate Editor Keri Hendry will write an entire story from the beach in front of the Gulfshore Grill sometime during the week following the 15th of July.
It's going to be a rough day at the office.