Immokalee Today Florida's 21st Century

Home rehab informational meeting - February 5

Some home-owning Immokaleans could take advantage of a state-county program to rehabilitate homes. 

The Collier County SHIP Owner-Occupied Rehabilitation Program will hold an informational meeting about the various opportunities on February 5, at 6 p.m. at CareerSource Immokalee (the One-Stop Shop), 750 South 5th Street

The program provides interest-free, deferred loans to assist eligible homeowners in with home rehabilitation. 

How, one might ask, does one apply for such a loan? 

 Your annual combined household income cannot exceed these maximum income limits, based on family size of: 

2014 Income Limits 
Household Size:         1               2                3                   4                5               6                7 

Very Low (50%)   $23,050     $26,350     $29,650     $32,900     $35,550     $38,200     $40,800 

What are the requirements of a Homeowner? You must own or have a mortgage for at least twelve months and the home must be your primary place of residence. Proof of mortgage or deed as well legal residency or citizenship status, will be required. 

Are there any restrictions as to where the property may be located? The property must be located within unincorporated Collier County, the City of Naples, the City of Marco Island, or Everglades City. 

Are there any other restrictions? The Owner-Occupied Rehabilitation Program may be used to rehabilitate single-family homes, townhouses, or condominium units. Mobile homes do not qualify for assistance. The maximum assessed value of the property cannot be over $300,000, including after rehab assistance (As determined by the Collier County Property Appraiser assessed value). 

How much money can I borrow? You may qualify for up to $30,000.00 for rehabilitation or repair work to your home. A Promissory Note will be secured by a Second Mortgage payable to Collier County when you sell your home, refinance your home, or lose your homestead exemption. 

Who does the rehabilitation work? Homeowners will submit an Application for Housing Assistance to Collier County Community & Human Services Department (CHS). Once CHS determines the household is income eligible, we will refer your case to Centro Campesino Farmworker Center Inc. who will initiate an inspection of your home. The inspection will determine if your home is eligible for rehabilitation. Note* There is a two part approval process; 1) Household eligibility 2) Property eligibility. 

Centro Campesino Farmworker Center, Inc. will oversee the rehabilitation process and will work with homeowners and contractors directly through the construction phase of the program. 

Applications for the Owner-Occupied Rehabilitation Program are available at the Collier County Community & Human Services Department located at 3339 Tamiami Trail E, BldgH #211 Naples, Fl 34112. 

Are there any fees required when applying? There is no application fee. 

How are the funds distributed? Funds are loaned on a first come first serve basis. The County is particularly interested in assisting low and very-low income households. 

Who do I call if I have more questions about this program? Call Mandy Moody at 239-252-2338 or Email at


Immokalee & Ave Maria featured in Gulfshore Business Relocation Guide

Immokalee and Ave Maria, just five miles to the south of Immokalee, share a page in the Gulfshore Business Magazine's annual relocation guide, published in January. 

The publication also lists the Seminole Immokalee Casino as the region's biggest tourist draw with over two million visitors annually. 

Economic incentives drive economic growth in Immokalee

The opening soon of the new hotel at Seminole Immokalee Casino and two chain eateries it certainly appears economic development in Immokalee is on the upswing. 

The Seminole Tribe of Florida can, of course, spur its own economic development but a new Taco Bell in Immokalee and a relocated and expanded Subway Sandwich Shop - to be followed by a frozen yogurt franchise - are the direct result of federal and state economic incentives sheparded by the Immokalee Community Redevelopment District (CRA). 

No less than the Naples Daily News cited recently in an editorial the exciting and change economic and civic climate of this once sleepy farming community into a shining example of Florida in the 21st Century. 

"With the economic incentives we have at our disposal, we could offer help for both Taco Bell and the new Subway Shop and help them realize the potential market they can find here in Immokalee," explained CRA Executive Director Bradley Muckel. "The increasing economic opportunities here are very exciting." 

And, of course, none this is to exclude the Wal-Mart set to open in Immokalee in 2016. 

Among the economic incentives is the U.S. Small Business Administration's designation of Immokalee as a Historically Underutilized Business Zone, or HUB Zone, which helps create jobs and attracts private investment into a community. 

The Immokalee Rural Enterprize Zone designation by the State of Florida allows new (and, in some cases, existing) businesses tax breaks and regulatory relief to help those new businesses get started. 

The Free Foreign Trade Zone, a 60-acre designation at the Immokalee Regional Aiport, offer customs and tariff assistance for companies which import and export goods into and from Immokalee and the rest of Florida. 

"It’s encouraging to see one announcement after another about big plans that could sustain Immokalee, a community that for a long time rose or fell on the success of its seasonal crops," opined the Naples Daily News back in December

"As documented (last) summer by Daily News reporter Maria Perez, young adults who came from field labor or blue-collar families are returning to Immokalee with degrees and specialized training to pursue their adult lives where they were raised. The draw of professionals with degrees back to their hometown can help lead the way long-term."

The future in Immokalee is a clear as a bright, crisp Floriday! 

Driver's License road tests to be offered in Immokalee

Immokaleans will soon be able to take the road test for a Florida Driver's License right here in Immokalee. 

This means, of course, no more driving all the way into Naples for the road test. 

Collier County Tax Collector Larry Ray announced the arrival in Immokalee of a mobile driver's license road test van January 15 with future visits schedule on a "periodic need basis." 

This unit will be operated by certified Examiners from the Airport Road and Orange Blossom Driver's License Offices on a rotating basis," Ray said. 

The Mobile Road Test Unit will begin testing on January 15  at the Tax Collector's Immokalee Branch Office, 106 1st Street. Initial tests will be administered by appointment only.

In order to be qualified to take the road test, applicants must bring a valid Learners Permit, registration and proof of insurance for the vehicle they will be driving for the test. Qualified residents wanting the road test should call the Airport Road Driver's License Office for an appointent, 239-434-4600.

Immigrants, non-immigrants (those with work permits) and Canadians can qualify for a Florida Driver's License. The State of Florida maintains a complete list of qualifications and qualifying documents here


Happy New Year!

Immokale Zocalo wins national award!

Awards and honors continue to flow to the Immokalee Zocalo - or Main Street Plaza! 

News came as a Christmas gift of a national award for the community plaza. The National Community Development Association (NCDA) has named the Immokalee Zocalo as the recipient of its 2015 Audrey Nelson Community Development Award. 

Named for the first deputy executive secretary of the NCDA in 1987, the award recognizes "exemplary uses of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program and the partnerships between local governments and non-profit organizations to assist low- and moderate-income persons. 

As an award recipient the Immokalee CRA and its design/construction team will be invited to Washington, DC, in January to present an overview of the project during the NCDA Winter Conference. 

"This is a great honor," said Immokalee CRA Executive Director Bradley Mucklel. "It's a fantastic recognition for the community of Immokalee as well as for our design team of architect David Corban, landscape architect Ellin Goetz and our construction team at Surety Construction." 

The Zocalo was honored in September by the Collier Building Industry Association by winning one of its coveted Sand Dollar Awards. 

Happy Holidays from the Immokalee CRA!

No matter what tradition you celebrate during this most wondrous season of the year, we wish you the very best! 

Immokalee Christmas Around The World - December 13!

For 23 years Immokalee's Christmas Around The World celebration has been a mainstay of holiday festivities in Southwest Florida and the 2014 edition is set for December 13! 

Sponsored and organized each year by the Christmas around the World Committee and the Collier County Parks & Recreation Department, the Annual Christmas Parade and Snow Gala is set to launch at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday right along Main Street in Immokalee. 
The 2014 parade will feature a special section devoted to, "Organizations that make Collier County , Fl.....The Place to Work & Live."
The parade will be followed by a Christmas Gala at the Immokalee community swimming pool with lots of food, games, music, machine-produced snow and singers and dancers from Immokalee. The highlight of the Christmas Gala is the Grand Finale and the arrival of Santa Claus, via helicopter, courtesy of the Seminole Tribe of Immokalee. The Seminole Immokalee Casino provides free books to every child who take pictures with Santa during the evening.
The parade will again feature a float competition and will travel from the corner of Carver and First (1st) Streets directly across from the Seminole Casino(506 S. First Street) continuing on a path that leads to the Immokalee High School’s football field parking lot. The Gala will start immediately thereafter at the Immokalee Soccer Field across our Immokalee High School.
Partial proceeds from this Parade & Gala will go towards several scholarships to deserving Immokalee High School Seniors who plan to advance through higher education.  The remaining funds will be used by Parks & Recreation to offset Gala Event expenditures. Parks and Recreation will be charging an entrance fee of $1.00 to all persons 36 inches and taller. 
Please contact the Immokalee Chamber of Commerce for more information, (239) 657-3237 or e-mail, As she is every year, long-time Immokalee community leader Cherryle Thomas chairs the 2014 event. 

Immokalee Christmas Tree Lighting - An extraordinary event!

For the first time, Immokalee held a community Christmas Tree in the First Street Zocalo! 

"It's a good start," said Cherryle Thomas to the Naples Daily News. Thomas is chair of the advisory board of the Immokalee Lighting and Beautification Municipal Tax Service, which paid for the decorations.

Read more about the event in the Daily News (if you have a subscription) and see photos. 


"Have you heard what's happening in Immokalee lately?"

So proclaims the joyful editorial in the November 29 edition of the Naples Daily News

Yes, that's right: the Naples Daily News triumphantly boasted of all the advancements and growth occuring in today's Immokalee.  And Immokaleans are grateful for the shout out! 

You won't be able to read the full editorial unless you're a paid subscriber to the Naples Daily News but we'll quote for you a few passages and you'll get the idea how proud the newspaper seems to be of the progress being made in our community:

"It’s encouraging to see one announcement after another about big plans that could sustain Immokalee, a community that for a long time rose or fell on the success of its seasonal crops.

"As documented this summer by Daily News reporter Maria Perez, young adults who came from field labor or blue-collar families are returning to Immokalee with degrees and specialized training to pursue their adult lives where they were raised. The draw of professionals with degrees back to their hometown can help lead the way long-term in reducing Immokalee’s poverty, with about 4 of 10 residents living below the poverty line.

"2000 census data showed that 3.8 percent of Immokalee residents 25 and older had an associate, bachelor’s, graduate or professional degree. That rose to 6.1 percent for 2008-12, based on updated census data.

"A group of Immokalee High School students tinkered with their grandmas’ recipes to develop a line of food products with a taste of Immokalee. So far they have a spice mix, a fire roasted tomato and jalapeño sauce, orange zest chocolate chip cookies and an idea for an Immokalee hamburger. They recently debuted two of their products at Wynn’s Market in Naples.

"Not coincidentally, the theme of this year’s Immokalee Foundation event was Hope Grows, and sponsors say it set a fundraising record with more than $2 million in donations. Students who have emerged from poverty to pursue their own careers are helping give hope to today’s students assisted by the foundation.

"Yet other forms of excitement planned for Immokalee keep its agricultural and ranching roots in place. The Seminole Tribe of Florida plans to host a rodeo in late January. Fire Chief Paul Anderson, who is leading an Immokalee Fire Control District that is making strides to emerge from near-bankruptcy five years ago, planted the idea. He hopes it will help the district identify more volunteer firefighters. Under Anderson, the district has seen its fire insurance rating improve and is working toward catching up on building inspections that fell by the wayside with its budget crisis during the Great Recession.

"About six months ago, years of planning by the Immokalee Community Redevelopment Agency came to fruition with a nearly $1 million public plaza and park at First and Main streets. The gathering spot has wood benches and a landscaped area next to a band shell.

"Another initiative in the works involving the CRA is a plan with the Safe & Healthly Children’s Coalition of Collier County and other organizations for Immokalee Ciclovia early next year. The event would feature families coming together weekly to walk, run and cycle the streets of Immokalee.

"Meanwhile, the Seminole Tribe is helping direct the community forward. Part of the vision is a new four-story hotel on the site of the Seminole Casino Immokalee.

"Other plans for major new projects emerged this year, including a Walmart at Westclox Road and North 15th Street that will add jobs and eliminate long trips for those in town needing to get to a discount outlet, now dozens of miles away."

Yes, ineed, have you heard what's happening in Immokalee lately?