Last night, we welcomed over 430 people to celebrate Winter Haven, community collaboration and our very bright future! The theme of this year's event was Charting Our Future to 2030. As we celebrated the community's success and the people making that success possible, shared about our vision for Winter Haven future, presented the 94th Banker's Cup Citizen of Year Awards, enjoyed a delicious meal from Terrie Lobb Catering, awarded the Businesses of the Year and passed the gavel from 18-19 Chamber Board Chairman Kevin Ashley, to incoming Chair Artie Renee Pobjecky. To top it all off, we also announced our Capital Campaign project.
Banker's Cup Citizen of the Year Awards
Every year, we have the privilege of honoring a man and a woman for the Banker's Cup Citizen of the Year Awards. The Banker’s Cup 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. To present the 2019 winners was Greg Littleton with Citizens Bank & Trust and Chris Hazelwood, who won the award in 2018.
Our Woman of the Year is Debbie Harsh with CenterState Bank and our Man of the Year is Bud Strang with Six/Ten LLC.
Debbie Harsh, Winter Haven native and SVP/Chief Culture Office for CenterState Bank, is a bright light in our community and has been for many years. She has been involved in her church, civic organizations, community initiatives and really all things Winter Haven! She is described as loyal, a community servant, passionate, humble and always willing to help. Even though her job is very demanding, she still manages to have a work/life balance, being the best mom, wife and grandma she can be while also volunteering her time to local organizations and causes. One very dear friend, Bonnie Parker expressed that, “Winter Haven wouldn’t be the place it is without her efforts.” And we know that to be true today. Her efforts are not only strong, but full of positivity and passion. When faced with a challenge, she always faces it head on with a “can do” attitude. As a mentor to many, business leader and role model, Debbie Harsh is nothing but deserving of this award.
Bud Strang, CEO of Six/Ten LLC, had the vision to transform and restore the downtown core to create a path to Winter Haven 2.0, not solely for profit and certainly not for praise, but to leave the town he loves even better than when he grew up here. Bud has truly been the leader in the revitalization and progressive thinking of Winter Haven. Because of his dedication, optimism and different perspective, he had the courage to “take the jump for Winter Haven,” as Joe Dunham, owner of Grove Roots Brewing Co. shared, that was the catalyst to our forward motion. Because of Bud, Winter Haven has increased its walkability, authentic downtown presence, capacity of businesses in the downtown core and its progressive vision. While Bud is a huge inspiration to Winter Havenites, he is also representing our community all over America. He continues to humbly push us forward, believing in our town and our bright future ahead. “Winter Haven owes you a debt and this (Banker’s Cup Award) is an opportunity to thank you.” - Adrian Jones, Merlin Entertainments.
Business of the Year
Throughout the year we are thrilled to honor businesses of all sizes with a Business of the Month Award for their commitment and dedication to making our community a better place, as well as showing excellence in their businesses. Once a business has won the award, they are automatically placed in the running to win Business of the Year.
The nominees included:
Small Business of the Year
Nelson Kirkland, Founder of Central Florida Media Group and 2018 Small Business of the Year Award winner, came to the stage to present the 2019 Small Business of the Year winner. This year's winner is Moore & Associates CPA's!
Moore and Associates CPA’s was founded in 2004 with just two employees and has grown to 6 employees today. The business focuses on helping individuals and businesses of all sizes with the finance and accounting needs. But when speaking to one of the firm associates, they note that one of the firms core values is giving back to the community. They regularly commit time and resources to organizations such as the Rotary Club, school athletic fundraisers and service to the Central Florida Health Care board.
This firms commitment to giving children the opportunity to learn to play soccer will surely go down in history. As one nominator describes it, Moore and Associates is the backbone of the Winter Haven Youth Soccer Association. Les Moore, President of Moore & Associates is currently the President and Competitive Director of the Winter Haven Youth Soccer Association also know as Winter Haven Kicks with over 800 kids enrolled in the soccer development and competitive program. His philosophy on the field is “it’s all about the kids.” He focuses on instilling in them the desire, drive and confidence to succeed. He serves the community by dedicating his time to build a safe environment for kids to play soccer at the highest level.
In addition to running the Winter Haven Kicks Soccer Club and serving as the VP of Senior Boys on the board of United Soccer Association of Tampa, Les is currently the head coach of the boys JV soccer team at Winter Haven High School and for both the boys and girls’ soccer teams at Jewett Middle Academy. He is truly the go-to guy for all things soccer in our community. Because of his dedication, the Winter Haven Kicks Soccer Club had two of their girls soccer teams win the State Championship at the Florida Youth Soccer Association Presidents Cup this year and moved on to play in the Regional Championship in Texas.
Large Business of the Year
The Large Business of the Year was presented by Dr. Iakovidis, with Bond Clinic and 2018 Large Business of the Year Award Winner. The 2019 Large Business of the Year is Winter Haven Hospital!
Today, Winter Haven Hospital, part of the Baycare Health System, includes the 468-bed acute care main hospital, a 61-bed obstetrics hospital and concentrates in the treatment of heart disease, cancer, stroke, orthopedic conditions and behavioral health.
Winter Haven Hospital is Winter Haven’s largest employer with a direct economic impact of more than 2000 jobs and a very similar indirect impact in jobs created because of their relation to the hospital. Their annual operations have an economic impact of more than 500 million dollars, and that doesn’t even include the impact created by the multiple construction projects including renovation of the Women’s Hospital, construction of the new Emergency Department and the current construction of the 2nd floor and 3rd floor above the new ED. The new 2nd floor will house the expanded cardiac services of the Bostick Heart Center including electrophysiology and a new structural heart and valve program. The 3rd floor will house new intensive care units, increasing the number of available rooms for critically ill patients. As units and beds are shifting to the new space, the vacated spaces will be remodeled and updated for more private rooms.
It is Winter Haven Hospital’s primary goal to be as responsive to our community’s specific needs as possible, and access to primary care is one of those dire needs. To respond to the call, Winter Haven Hospital has partnered with Florida State University College of Medicine to develop a Family Medicine Residency Program. This three-year program will receive up to 6 new residents each year, which will help to expand coverage and provide services to the community through their Family Health Center.
Obviously, the hospital has undergone tremendous growth during its 93-year history, but even through the many changes the hospital’s core value of being engaged and invested in our community has never wavered. The hospital continues to be active members in numerous Chambers of Commerce, the Winter Haven Economic Development Council, the Central Florida Development Council and Main Street Winter Haven. They also contribute with time, talent and treasure to the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Central Florida Health Care, Florence Villa CDC, Polk State College, Ridge Art Association, Winter Haven Optimist Club and Rotary Club.
Chairman's Reflection & Passing of the Gavel
Before the traditional passing of the gavel, Kevin Ashley was welcomed back to the stage to say a few words before becoming Immediate Past Chair of the Chamber of Commerce.
As a part his closing remarks, he recognized three amazing members of the board, Kim Hulverson with BB&T Bank, Adrian Jones with Merlin Entertainments and Mike Potthast with Potthast Studios, who completed their terms and are rolling off. These individuals have been actively involved, not only on the Chamber board, but in the Winter Haven community as a whole.
After recognizing these members of the board for their dedicated service, Kevin reflected on his time as Chair. He shared about the outstanding growth that Winter Haven continues to see and how the Chamber has been an advocate for growing sustainably, investing in our community's infrastructure for quality of life and creating effective partnerships with our public education system. As a testimony to that growth, the Chamber has held 50 ribbon cutting for new and expanding businesses and several groundbreakings for new construction.
Last year at the Annual Meeting, Kevin also mentioned that the board would be working on initiatives that will have positive impacts, not just for those of us in the room, but for those who will be here 30 years from now. Those initiatives are finally coming to fruition after the staff and Chamber Board took a critical look at the Chamber facility, as a piece of that promise.
During the first 75 years of the Chamber's existence we were nomads around the Winter Haven community occupying various locations. In the mid-80’s, a group of business leaders, some of whom are in the room tonight, decided it was time to find a permanent home for the Chamber and they launched a capital campaign in 1987 to construct the building we have today. They enlisted the help of Winter Haven architect, Gene Leedy, who created this iconic staple of our downtown core that was dedicated in 1990. Over the last almost 30 years the Chamber of Commerce and its members have been at the center of the renaissance of Winter Haven.
The building has welcomed thousands of tourists and new residents seeking information. We have cultivated economic prosperity through the development and support of new and existing businesses. The Chamber has hosted pivotal meetings defining the community’s direction and provided a gathering place for celebration, collaboration and coordination.
But we cannot sit on our laurels. We have to build upon the strong foundation laid by those visionaries 30 years ago and as your Chamber is the hub for community communication and collaboration we have an obligation to Winter Haven to meet the needs of our future.
That is why over the last year, the Chamber’s Board of Directors has been laying the groundwork for a capital campaign to preserve and protect Gene Leedy’s artwork, reimagine the interior to reflect the vibrancy of today’s Winter Haven and modernize the facility to be the most effective resource for our members and the community! While the entire board of directors and staff has been involved in this project, it would not have gained traction if it were not for the hard work of one of our past presidents, Mr. Hap Hazelwood. He has been the primary driver of the start of this campaign and came to the stage to share an update on where we are currently on the project.
Capital Campaign Project
Hap shared how we have spent the last year, and really the last few years, laying the ground work for our initiative. The plans include the complete renovation of the first floor lobby into “The Hub”, a visitor, community and business welcome and resources center. The second floor, which is activated by the Chamber and our members more than any time in our history, will also get a complete face-lift, including the modernization of the facility and upgrading of the A/V equipment to make it a better resource for the members to use for meetings and seminars.
Included in the second floor will be a members lounge that can provide a place for our members to meet for a small one-on-one meeting or find a quiet place to get some work done in-between meetings. The third floor will get a boardroom that can hold about 12-15 people and allow us to rent out both the auditorium and the boardroom at the same time, something we cannot do today. These are just a sampling of the improvements meant to make your Chamber of Commerce building an even greater and more accessible asset to our community.
As you do with Capital Campaigns, we have been running a silent phase for the last year. Hap took a moment to thank those members who have stepped up to be early investors in this project.
Citizens Bank & Trust
The City of Winter Haven
Bond Clinic, P.A.
The Dantzler Family
Peterson & Myers, P.A.
Saddle Creek Logistics
Bank of Central Florida
Crown Shredding, Jay Burns
Victor Smith Law Group
He was also very pleased to share that we have 100% board participation in personal pledges to the campaign.
Through the silent phase we have seen immense generosity from this aforementioned group and have been able to raise in pledges $568,750 towards our campaign. Click here to learn more about the campaign and make your pledge. If you want to learn more, feel free to contact Katie directly to have a one-on-one regarding the campaign.
After sharing about the exciting reveal about our Capital Campaign we were pleased to welcome Artie Renee Pobjecky, Owner of Pobjecky & Pobjecky Global Immigration Firm as Chair of the 2019-2020 Board of Directors to the stage to share some final words. Artie expressed how elated she was to be joining us as Chamber Chairwoman! As we roll up our sleeves to continue to be brand ambassadors of Winter Haven, the information hub of our community and the organization that will lay the groundwork for a successful future, she feels that much will be accomplished.
And just like that, we wrapped another amazing Celebration of Winter Haven event! As we enjoyed a delicious meal from Terri Lobb Catering, networked with Winter Haven's finest business leaders and reminisced about 2018-2019, we are excited to put action and forward motion to the vision that we have cast for the future. 2030 looks bright.
Thank you to our sponsors: