Yesterday, we welcomed over 430 people to a sold out Nora Mayo Hall to celebrate the people, businesses and successes of our Winter Haven community. The theme of the night was the Power of 5, a reference to the 5 pillars of Winter Haven, but also the evening's special presentation by the US Chamber of Commerce for your Chamber achieving the 5-Star Accreditation. The night was filled with excitement as we awarded the 93rd Banker's Cup Citizen of the Year Awards, enjoyed the fine dining of Terrie Lobb Catering, awarded the Small and Large Business of the Year, and passed the gavel from 17-18 Chamber Board Chairman Adrian Jones, to incoming Chair Kevin Ashley.
In collaboration with Potthast Studios, we also unveiled the Winter Haven Photo library that can be used as a tool for community businesses and people to share the story and brand of Winter Haven in a fun and consistent way.
Brince Manning from the US Chamber of Commerce presented Board Chairman Adrian Jones and Chamber President Katie Worthington with the 5-Star Accreditation plaque. Accreditation with the United States Chamber of Commerce is the only program of its kind that defines excellence in chamber planning and recognizes chambers for outstanding contributions toward positive change in their communities. The purpose of the U.S. Chamber's Accreditation Program is to facilitate continuing excellence in the chamber industry and to foster a pro-business environment across America.
Accreditation is a prestigious honor that distinguishes the high quality, expertise, and strong leadership displayed by Accredited state and local chambers of commerce. What this means is that your Chamber takes seriously it’s duty to provide a return on investment to it’s investors through programs and services, sound business and non-profit practices and advocating for a pro-business environment.
Banker's Cup Citizens of the Year Awards
The Banker’s Cup Citizen of the Year Award is considered Winter Haven’s highest honor as it recognizes a citizen who has made a significant impact/contribution over a number of years or through a single project. We honored two individuals, male and female, with this honor at our Celebrate Winter Haven event. Both of these Winter Havenites have a heart for giving and growing our community. Watch the videos to see what some of their nominators had to say about them.
Chris Hazelwood - Woman of the Year
Chris Hazelwood was honored as the Women of the Year for her community contributions that go beyond her resume. These contributions reach to the heart of countless individuals in the greater Winter Haven community. Chris has involved herself in numerous organizations and stands behind many worthy causes. She works with Meals on Wheels, the American Cancer Society, Relay for Life, Big Pink Ribbon, the Pampering Event at Belk and the Winter Haven Charity Challenge.
She is extremely hands on in her giving and approaches everything with love and kindness. Her friends and coworkers describe her as bright, cheerful, warm and a true inspiration. Because of her humble attitude, she has been able to leave a charitable legacy on our community.
Greg Littleton - Man of the Year
Greg Littleton was honored as the Man of the Year for his many years of humble service to our community. He is always giving of himself to make sure the business and organizations around him are succeeding. He doesn’t do this to strengthen his resume, he does it out of pure generosity. Greg has contributed his efforts to the Central Florida Development Council, Winter Haven Hospital, Winter Haven Chamber, Cypress Gardens Water Ski team, Polk State College, United Way, Polk Vision, Winter Haven Economic Development Council and countless others. At Citizens Bank & Trust, where he is President, he has instilled a culture emphasizing to the employees the importance of giving back to the community which has created a ripple effect of giving.
Ten years ago, he made it his goal to make sure he did the right thing to represent those were counting on him and we know that he has seen that goal through. His colleagues and friends describe him as kind, honorable, thoughtful, funny and an authentic leader. We have been honored to reap the benefits of Greg’s commitment to see Winter Haven grow.
Small & Large Business of the Year
Throughout the 2017-2018 year, we were able to honor a Small Business of the Month and Large Business of the Quarter. Being honored with this award automatically placed these businesses in the running for Small & Large Business of the Year.
Our Small Business winners include:
Central Florida Media Group
Law Offices of Elizabeth P. Davis
Painting with a Twist
State Farm – Karen Bryan
Sun Coast Media Group
Large Business of the Quarter includes:
Bond Clinic, P.A.
Small Business of the Year: Central Florida Media Group
Central Florida Media Group has grown from just 1 employee when it was founded in 2010 to 9 employees today and 38 contract employees. As we remember, 2010 was at the height of the great recession, hardly the ideal time to start a new business. But over the years CFMG has grown staff, revenues and product offerings in what they describe as a “steady ascent.”
Central Florida Media Group is a specialized marketing firm that helps businesses create targeted media and tell a unique story to engage and attract their customers. They offer content marketing services that help set their clients apart through storytelling with a highly targeted approach to niche publishing, website development, video production, social media management, blogging, and content creation.
They “fill the gap” in publishing by focusing on niche audiences such as Central Florida Ag Magazine, Central Florida Health News, Central Florida Doctor and even more specialized, The Blueberry News and The Peach News. But their engagement in making farmers successful goes beyond just printed storytelling. In 2017 they started an event, the Central Florida Farm Tour to attract both local visitors and tourists from around the world to get a glimpse of working farms in our community and gain a greater understanding of the importance of the agriculture industry.
It is part of the fabric of their culture to give back to the communities they serve. The list of non-profits and associations touched by Central Florida Media Group is long and spans the alphabet from the American Cancer Society to the Winter Haven Blue Devils Touchdown Club. In just the last year their staff has been engaged with over 35 non-profits. When asked why they are so involved they say, “It’s not because we feel obliged to but because it is our privilege to have a positive impact on where we work and live.”
Large Business of the Year: Bond Clinic, P.A.
Bond Clinic, P.A. is one of the oldest businesses in Winter Haven, celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. It has grown from 4 providers in 1948, to over 90 providers today, supported by over four-hundred employees. Tackling one of the greatest issues affecting Winter Haven, Bond Clinic P.A. is expanding access to healthcare at a rapid pace. Their CEO, Dr. Iakovidis, set out on a journey many years ago with a plan for Bond Clinic to provide quality medical care, close to home, with reduced cost and greater access. Many would say that was a lofty goal, but with diligence and teamwork they continue to make that a reality for Winter Haven. That goal coupled with the determination to support the community with time, talent and treasure has given them opportunities and new relationships like never before.
In 2018 alone, 16 new providers have joined the clinic. They also opened their largest campus in 20 years in partnership with Six/Ten LLC. This expansion, located on First Street in downtown just block from the original 1948 clinic, houses Pediatrics, Oncology, Thoracic and Vascular Surgery, Nephrology, Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine, Internal medicine and expanded Urgent Care hours, now open 12 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Over a 70 year history, Bond Clinic has proven that when you support the community, the community supports you. In the last year, Bond Clinic has provided free health screenings and information at over 45 events. They are the medical provider for the Florida High School Athletics Association Basketball Finals, Florida State Soccer Association, Florida Tropics Soccer Club and the official Orthopedic Surgeon for the Lakeland Magic, to name a few. Bond Clinic leadership and staff have been involved in dozens of charitable events throughout the year including sponsoring the American Heart Association Heart Ball, fielding a 60-person team and sponsoring the Heart Walk, sponsoring and providing a 40 person team at Relay for Life and running a “Be the Match” Bone Marrow Drive for their employees and the community at large.
Our Chamber Ambassadors are a dedicated team who work tirelessly to help our members feel welcomed and valued. We currently have 24 Ambassadors that give a great deal of their personal time for the good of the Chamber. Together they have dedicated:
Several years ago our Ambassadors helped to create a program to recognize exceptional dedication and commitment to the role. The ones who meet these criteria are our PRESIDENTIAL AMBASSADORS. Those presidential ambassadors that we are recognizing tonight have met numerous benchmarks including attendance at and assisting with the running of events, delivering welcome packets and recruiting new members! Amy Thompson with Wauchula State Bank and Kim Edwards with Sun Coast Media Group, were honored with their first Presidential designation.
A Look Back
Adrian Jones, with Merlin Entertainments gave us a reflection of what has happened over his year as Chairman, beginning by recognizing the four members of our board who are completing their terms. Bob O’Malley, Johnny Read, Ashlee Wright, and Hap Hazelwood were all honored for their hard work and dedication during their service on our board. Thank you to Chamber member Cielo Gift Baskets for the gifts for our outgoing members.
Last year, we kicked off 2018 with the “Authenticity Reimagined” brand video, created by the team at Potthast Studios. This video has been viewed 11,000 times on YouTube and Potthast has also won a Silver Telly at the 37th Annual National Telly Awards.
This partnership with Potthast Studios has continued with the creation of a community photo library that is now live. Business in the community can visit the Chamber website to access images that more accurately reflect the Winter Haven of today. In this way, our “authenticity reimagined” story can be told to potential residents, employees and customers on their marketing platforms and this is just the beginning. This tool will continuously be updated.
This brand campaign describes the fore core pillars of the Winter Haven Community, Collaborative Business Community, Premier Family-Friendly Destination, Lakeside Lifestyle and Downtown is Our Stage. All of these are held up by our strong foundation – our people. A Collaborative Business Community was bolstered by continued expansion amongst small and large businesses alike. This year the Chamber held over 50 ribbon cuttings and groundbreaking ceremonies to celebrate new businesses or business expansions. Winter Haven continues to evolve as a premier family-friendly vacation destination and Downtown continues to be our stage for music, art, business, health and recreation. And we can’t forget our most beloved feature, our Chain of Lakes, which continues to draw residents and visitors alike to our Lakeside Lifestyle.
We are proud to have started this journey to find the identity and purpose of Winter Haven and we know that this journey has just begun.
Adrian also reflected on his 8 years in Winter Haven, as he is in a new role with Merlin which will take him away from Winter Haven. Eight years ago he was the keynote speaker at the Chamber annual meeting when he was newly hired as the General Manager of LEGOLAND Florida Resort. He asked, then, if Winter Haven was up to the task on what LEGOLAND and growth would mean. He said last night that we exceeded every possible expectation he has in his head. He spoke about the sense of community in Winter Haven that he has never felt in any community he has worked in before. While we know he may not physically be in Winter Haven, he will continue to be our brand ambassador around the world.
As a special surprise for the night, Mayor Pro-Tem Nathaniel Birdsong presented Adrian with a "Key to the City". Nat noted that Adrian's leadership at LEGOLAND and within the community has strengthened our economy and our positioning as a family friendly, overnight destination. He noted that this is one of the highest honors the Mayor can bestow and it reserved for those individuals who have made a lasting impact on Winter Haven.
A Look Forward
Kevin Ashley, with Peterson & Myers, was welcomed in as our current Chamber Chairman for the 18-19 year. Kevin expressed his excitement about the initiatives we have on the horizon. He feels it is the duty of the Board of Directors to work on initiatives that will benefit the Chamber and community members 30 years from now. Initiatives that are heavily involved in education advocacy, both from a K-12 perspective as well as workforce and post-secondary education. We will continue those efforts as we support the Winter Haven Public Education Partnership on a pilot program with the Polk County Public Schools. More to come on that.
We will also begin work to preserve, enhance and protect the Chamber’s building, an architectural landmark by Winter Haven’s Gene Leedy. We will continue to tell Winter Haven’s story through our branding campaign, photo library, blog and social media. Winter Haven is an exciting place to be and the Chamber is at the forefront of its evolution.
Thank you to our Sponsors: