There's No Business Like Winter Haven Business
The 2015 Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce meeting brought a little bit of Broadway right here to Polk County with the theme "There's No Business Like Winter Haven Business" and a special honor to Theatre Winter Haven's retiring founding Producing Director, Norman Small. Southeastern University Jazz Ensemble also entertained the crowd during the cocktail reception and dinner.
Chairman of the Board Greg Littleton, President and CEO reflected upon his tenure as Chairman including major milestones in the Winter Haven business community over the last year – the grand opening of the
CSX Central Florida Intermodal Terminal, The Central Florida Intermodal Logistics Center completing heir first 400,000 square foot warehouse, LEGOLAND Florida Resort opening the hotel, opening Heartlake City, a new area of the park themed after the LEGO Friends Brand and primarily targeted towards girls and announcing the opening this fall of two new operational centers, their North American headquarters and customer service center in downtown Winter Haven and a hub for Merlin’s Magic Making and their 6th team of model builders creating models to be shipped around the globe from a building in Lake Wales. CenterState Bank also opened their new operations center in Spring Lake Plaza and Winter Haven Hospital announced a $51 million investment in their facilities.
While these investments are major and mean jobs and complimentary industries coming our way – it is important to emphasize that the foundation of our local economy is in our small businesses. Within the last year the Chamber has averaged one ribbon cutting every two weeks. From the opening of Heartland Church in downtown Winter Haven to investments such as Integrative Physical Medicine on the Boulevard or the new building for Gator Painting and Pressure Cleaning or the new facility for Winter Haven Oral Surgery – just to name a few – these are small business owners reinvesting in the Winter Haven community and we thank you for that.
Greg also reflected upon the strides forward in the Chamber's three-year strategic plan. We have become even more vocal advocates for business to the local and state government, ensured Winter Haven has a seat at the table on important regional conversations and have started the “In the News” eblasts and blog posts to keep you informed to issues and developments that could affect your business. As a board we have also focused on the financial health of the Chamber and I am proud to report that the Chamber is in a very sound financial position offering more services, more efficiently to meet the needs of our members who invest in the Chamber. We have also focused on enriching the investor experience and in October of this year we will begin to roll out our retooled tiered dues investment schedule. This was developed because of feedback our members have provided as to what they are looking to get out of their Chamber membership.
The Leadership Winter Haven Distinguished Alumnus Award recognizes an individual who has carried through the lessons learned and knowledge gained throughout their time in Leadership Winter Haven into their career and community life. This year's recipient was Bud Strang, CEO of Six/Ten, LLC. He has taken his passion and desire to see Winter Haven thrive and made a career out of bringing that goal to fruition. All it takes is a stroll through downtown Winter Haven to see the legacy he and his partners, will leave for future generations of Winter Havenites. He has been actively involved in the start-up, growth and development of a variety of business ventures including real estate, agriculture, software and business services in Winter Haven around Florida. He is a managing member of Island Grove, LLC—one of the state’s largest blueberry farming operations—and is a director and officer of Gapway Grove Corporation, a closely held land and citrus cultivation business. Bud is a past president of the Chamber of Directors and of Main Street Winter Haven, board member of the Winter Haven Hospital Foundation and will be installed as the Chairman of the Board of the Central Florida Development Council in October. He is also a strong supporter of the Citrus Center Boys and Girls Club, the Polk Museum of Art and numerous other non-profits.
The Industry Award for a company with less than 100 employees went to Burr Printing. Burr Printing roots run almost 85 years deep. Founded in 1930 by George and Josephine Burr as the “Winter Haven Herald”, which became the city’s weekly periodical. In 1971, their son George L. Burr, III or “Larry” as he was known, transitioned the “Winter Haven Herald” weekly newspaper into the commercial printing business known as “Larry Burr Printing Co." Larry ran the company until 1985 when his son Duke, who had been previously touring the nation with country artist Reba McIntire, purchased the business from his father. Currently operating as Burr Printing Co., Inc., Duke is assisted by his wife of 29 years, Teresa, his pressman Ron Tiller, along with all of his children from time-to-time when they are needed. Burr Printing Co., Inc. is thankful to be doing business with customers not only all over Winter Haven and the Polk county area, but the state of Florida and nationally as well. Along with offset presses and two digital printers, they keep the old letterpress technology “alive and well” for numbering and perforating jobs when required.
The Industry Award for a company with more than 100 employees went to MIDFLORIDA Credit Union. MIDFLORIDA has also been in Polk County for quite some time – 61 years to be exact. The company started with one employee, Rebecca Keith, and has now grown to over 750 throughout the State of Florida. Started with self-described “meager” beginnings as Polk County Teachers Union, MidFlorida Credit Union has grown to over 40 branches, 3 of which are in Winter Haven, services over 200,000 members and has assets exceeding two billion dollars. MidFlorida is described as a company that is committed to improving the neighborhoods where they live and work. They demonstrate this promise by supporting local causes and organizations that focus on making our communities better and more enjoyable. This includes the Gift of Reading Program in which volunteers from MIDFLORIDA visit every kindergarten class in Polk, Highlands, DeSoto, Okeechobee and Indian River counties where they read a preselected book to each class, then present a copy of the book to each student, teacher and to the school’s media center. They also have a local school Give Back program through their debit cards, support the arts as the headline sponsor of Polk Museum of Art's Mayfair by the Lake and recently donated $50,000 to Lighthouse Ministries to complete the community room for men.
A special Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Norm Small, who is retiring as the producing director of Theatre Winter Haven after 45 years of service – that’s over 400 shows in case you were wondering. As the Orlando Sentential once wrote, Norm Small is THE “"go-to" advice guy among the state's and nation's community-theater groups.” He has won numerous national awards and this year has been no different with Norm being recognized with the Florida Theatre Conference Lifetime Achievement Award and being inducted into the Polk County Artist Hall of Fame by the Polk Arts Alliance. Perhaps what has made Norm so successful and a mentor to many other community theaters around the county can be summed up with this saying of his – “Showbusiness is one word and you have to remember that. You have to keep filling those seats.” And fill those seats Norm did. The 332-seats in the Theatre Winter Haven auditorium are often sold out show after show after show. The attendees at the Annual Meeting were also treated to a sneak preview showing of the Theatre's upcoming MainStage production, Sister Act, showing September 12 through October 11.
Amanda Jo Nicholason, Vice President of Member Services, and Chairman Littleton presented our Chamber Ambassadors who qualified for Presidential status with glass plaques thanking them for their services. This includes Alan Jenkins with Certigy, Glenda Jones with Winter Haven Hospital, Amanda Hurles with Citizens Bank & Trust, Elizabeth White with Great Impressions Printing, Robyn Keyt from Retriever Payment Systems, Ruth Hooper with Suncoast Media and Linda Hilson with Cruise Planners.
As is tradition, past presidents from the 80’s to today gathered for the passing of the gavel that ended with outgoing Chairman Greg Littleton passing the gavel to Debbie Harsh, HR Director for CenterState Bank, the 2015 – 2016 Chairman of the Board.
Debbie spoke briefly about her year ahead, stating that, "While I am pleased to tell you what great success the Chamber has experienced over this past year, we simply can’t stop there. Whether you are a large corporation or a small business entrepreneur, we need you all to lock arms with your neighbors, your co-workers, friends and family, and roll up your sleeves and let’s agree to partner together through collaboration for the continued development and betterment of our community to grow and build a community where we can work, play and worship while also attracting others to join us in being a part of a thriving and vibrant neighborhood and community that we can all be proud to be a part of."
The following installations were approved:
Nominated to a first three-year term:
Kevin Ashley, Peterson & Myers
Kevin Drake, Ledger Media Group
Alex Nikdel, CNP - Clark/Nikdel/Powell (will not be present)
Reappointed to a second-three year term:
Johnny Read Sr, Advantage Insurance
Lauren Schwenk, Oakley Rhinhart Cassidy
Ashlee Wright, New Beginnings High School
Officers for 2015 – 2016:
Chair- Debbie Harsh, CenterState Bank
Chair-elect- Hap Hazelwood, Six/Ten LLC
First Vice Chair- Adrian Jones, LEGOLAND Florida Resort
Treasurer- Dr. Martha Santiago. Polk State College
Immediate Past Chairman- Greg Littleton, Citizens Bank & Trust