BRADENTON -- The Iwo Jima Memorial Project is taking form as promoters have applied to start a nonprofit organization and elected a board of directors.
Gregg Anderson, founder and owner of Digital Images Business Solutions, spearheaded the effort with Kevin Henault, owner of Veteran Air, after Sarasota's Public Art Foundation dropped its pursuit of the original 12 1/2-foot-tall Iwo Jima memorial statue.
Anderson said the Iwo Jima Memorial Project Board has applied for nonprofit status, a process that will take six to 19 months to complete.
In the interim, Anderson said they will partner with American Ideals Foundation so donors can take tax-deductible donations.
"They need to be the functioning nonprofit so people can make claims for their proceeds. They are a facilitator," said Anderson.
Once the Iwo Jima Memorial Project receives its nonprofit status, a five-member board will manage all activities. Members now include Anderson; Henault; Hugh Shields, marketing manager for Gold Coast Eagle Distributing; and Robert Moffa, founder and chief operating officer of the American Ideals Foundation Inc. Anderson said they have one more board member spot to fill.
Shields said his company has a strong interest in supporting U.S. veterans.
"John Saputo, the owner of Gold Coast Eagle, is a retired Marine," said Shields. "He's very passionate about helping the military and giving back."
Gold Coast Eagle Distributing imports and exports beers from all over the world. Shields said they are one of the largest employers of veterans in Southwest Florida.
Moffa said his background and experience running a nonprofit will be helpful to the Iwo Jima Memorial Project.
"We're the first nonprofit organization to put the first national memorial outside of Washington, D.C.," said Moffa, a reference to the National Farmers Memorial.
The Iwo Jima Memorial Project Board is working to establish the fair market value of the statue. Once that is done, the project will pursue a letter of intent with the seller, who's asking for $1.2 million, and begin raising money to purchase the statue.
"We are doing due diligence to make sure we know the current market value," said Anderson. "If it's below $1.2 million, then we have to make decisions on how to proceed or to proceed at all."
The original Iwo Jima statue was used as a model for the 32-foot-tall bronze Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va.
Janey Tate, city of Bradenton and Palmetto reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. You can follow her on Twitter at Janey_Tate.