All posts by Cory Skeates

24Apr/09

Chamber Crowns 7th Annual King of the Wing

The deck at Citizens Bank & Trust was the perfect venue for Thursday evening’s festivities!  Bank staff were on hand and created a welcoming and fun atmosphere for everyone to enjoy- especially as the beverage dispensers!

Nearly 600 Chamber members and guests sampled wings, ice cream and more as they waited for the announcement of the judges’ careful decision. As they went, attendees were able to sample food & treats from: Beef O’Brady’s, BubbaQue’s BBQ, Dragon Ice Cream, The End Zone, Gator’s Dockside, Kazbor’s, Kerr’s Winghouse, Mojo’s Winghouse, Rita’s Water Ice, & Zohra’s Lakeside Restaurant.

In addition to the food folks, the luau had wonderful support from sponsors! Bernie Little Distributors, Fun Bike Center Motorsports, Focus Magazine all provided support. Party People Celebration Co. dressed the tables, added balloons & created the “luau feel”. Southside Package & Lounge, Signs & Specialties & Image Creations By Billie all provided the last little extras to bring the event together.

After much deliberation (and a little math), the judges were happy to announce BubbaQue’s BBQ as the 2009 King of the Wing… Congratulations!

This event would not be such fun without the work from sponsors, vendors, and volunteers… Thanks so much for making our 10th Anniversary a great one! For more pictures of the 10th Annual Luau Downtown, visit the Chamber’s Flickr page!

22Apr/09

Chairman’s Update: CSX

Due to the recent media attention surrounding the Central Florida Commuter Rail Legislation being debated in Tallahassee, I’d like to take this opportunity to reaffirm the Chamber’s position to our members, our friends, and the citizens of our community on the various issues of CSX, freight traffic in our downtown corridor, as well as commuter rail.

Our work on the CSX issue began back in 2006. As many of you know, the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce (LACC), in partnership with the City of Lakeland, the Lakeland Downtown Development Authority, and other community stakeholders, extensively studied the impact of the proposed CSX ILC project in Winter Haven. A Lakeland CSX Task Force was formed at that time to address the issue of increased freight traffic through Lakeland as a result of this project. The group met with CSX, the Florida Department of Transportation(FDOT), the Department of Community Affairs and local and state elected officials to learn how best to protect Lakeland from the negative effects of additional freight moving through our city.

The Chamber’s position was concisely presented in a Resolution adopted by our Board of Directors in February 2008, and states:

“The Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce recommends that the FDOT fund and conduct a complete and meaningful feasibility study to identify the most efficient and cost effective alternatives for development of a statewide commuter and intercity rail plan, including specific steps, projects, timelines and required funding for implementation.

Furthermore, the LACC recommends that the FDOT undertake a comprehensive statewide analysis of freight rail corridors to identify alternatives for the “Super Freight Rail Highway” specifically for the routing of freight traffic away from existing urban areas and their respective future growth boundaries to minimize conflicts between freight rail, vehicle, truck and pedestrian crossing movements and related urban development.”

Our position has not changed and we maintain our resolve as summarized above.

It became clear to those of us studying the issue in detail that any successful rail strategy would, by definition, need to be regional in its scope and perspective due to the inherent complexity and scale of rail projects themselves. Lakeland officials began meeting in 2008 with business representatives from Orlando and Tampa through a group termed the Super Regional Strategy Team. It was immediately clear to us that the communities to our east in the Orlando area, as well as the communities to our west in the Tampa Bay area, had coalesced separately and formulated effective, regional rail strategies for the benefit of their regions. All the while, the Central Florida region had not yet even begun to think regionally on this topic. It quickly became apparent that unless we, the Central Florida region, worked together in a collaborative manner to develop a regional and statewide transportation plan, no one area would be successful in its short or long-term transportation goals.

Understanding this gaping need, we took action. As a result of efforts on the part of many, including the LACC, stakeholders representing the Lakeland, Polk County, Tampa and Orlando areas agreed to support both the Central Florida SunRail Commuter Rail project, as well as the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA) transportation plan. Likewise the leaders from both the SunRail and TBARTA organizations agreed to support legislation that would relocate freight rail traffic around Lakeland and other impacted urban areas in the Central Florida regions.

The Chamber’s lobbying efforts this legislative session have focused on the inclusion of the “Lakeland Language” in Senate Bill 1212 and House Bill 7009. In a letter sent to members of the Senate Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Committee on Monday, April 20, I, as Chairman of the LACC, urged the Committee to support the proposed language and amendments that have been advanced by Lakeland that:

  • Require FDOT’s assistance to work closely with affected communities to identify and address impacts with increased freight traffic;
  • Finalize the FDOT District 1 Rail Traffic Evaluation Study and require the FDOT to commence a Project Development and Environmental (PD&E) Study so that a preferred re-routing alternative can be identified that minimizes the impact of freight rail traffic in the urban corridor;
  • Requires the preferred alternative, with a priority ranking from the Polk Transportation Planning Organization, or its successor, to be programmed for funding in the department’s work program in a fiscal year no later that 10 years from commencement of construction of the CSX Winter Haven ILC; and
  • Adequately addresses the LACC’s stated desire for continued focus on regional connectivity of passenger and freight systems in the Central Florida region.

It is important for Chamber members to know that the LACC has not wavered in our view that the ultimate goal is to move the freight rail out of our downtown corridor and to mitigate the negative impacts of the CSX ILC to our community. We must continue to support the development of a regional commuter rail system and we will continue to partner with our Central Florida friends and stakeholders to build a shared regional growth plan.

The LACC will continue to keep members updated on this important issue as it moves through Session. House Bill 7009 and Senate Bill 1212 have been placed on their respective Chamber’s calendars and are waiting to be heard on the floor.

Anu's signature
21Apr/09

Dry Clean The Hula Skirt and Tune The Ukulele

It’s time for the 10th annual Luau Downtown,

a Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours

luau guy

Featuring the 7th annual “King of the Wing” Contest

Local restaurants and caterers compete for the honor of

“Best Chicken Wings” in Lakeland.

• Live Entertainment • Beverages
• Food Samples from Area Restaurants
• Great Place for Networking

Thursday, April 23

5:30-7:30 pm

Hosted “On the Deck” of:

CBTstackcolor

402 S. Kentucky Avenue

Gold Sponsors:

• Fun Bike Center Motorsports • Focus Magazine • Bernie Little Distributors

Silver Sponsor:

• Party People Celebration Co.

Patron Sponsors:

• Signs & Specialties, Inc. • Southside Package & Lounge

$10 Chamber Member – $30 Non-Member

Preregister online at Luau.LakelandChamber.com

21Apr/09

POLK SCHOOLS, CFAA RECEIVE $1.4 MILLION NASA GRANT

LAKELAND, Fla. – (April 21, 2009) – The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has awarded Polk Public Schools a $1.4 million education grant to enhance Kathleen High School’s Central Florida Aerospace Academy (CFAA), an aviation-oriented high school/career academy located on the campus of the Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In.

The Central Florida Aerospace Academy is part of Florida’s A++ legislation requiring high schools to implement professional and career academies in high wage, high skill professions. Students enrolled in the aerospace academy receive instruction in avionics, pre-engineering and aerospace technologies. Currently, the academy’s avionics track prepares students for a career as avionics technicians. The pre-engineering and aerospace technologies tracks provide technical knowledge and experience and introduce students to the aerospace environment with a focus on flight, navigation, aircraft systems and design.  They also provide an excellent background for continued college studies in engineering and aerospace.  The academy is also preparing to offer an Air Force JROTC program.

A portion of Polk’s grant money will be used to enhance the academy’s curriculum through intensive, activity-based “discovery mode” lessons.  Learning activities will embed mathematics and science standards and concepts into workforce education courses leading to specific certifications.  Grant monies will also be used for additional professional development for CFAA instructors.  The University of South Florida-Tampa and USF Polytechnic-Lakeland will assist with curriculum development.  Resources of Lakeland’s Traviss Career Center and Polk Community College will also be utilized.

The NASA grant program awarded a total of $11.5 million to public school districts, state-based education initiatives and not-for-profit education organizations across the country.  Individual grants ranged from $300,000 to the $1.4 million.  Polk received the largest grant award at $1.4 million.   Other grant recipients included the Chicago Public Schools, Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., the Georgia Department of Education and the Council of Chief School Officers in Washington. D.C.

Community and education partners involved in the CFAA are the Polk Public Schools, Polk Public Schools Workforce Education Department, Sun ’n Fun Fly-In, Florida Air Museum, Lakeland Lindner Regional Airport, University of South Florida-Tampa, USF Polytechnic, Polk Community College, Gulf Coast Avionics, Central Florida Development Council, FAA Safety Team and Production Studios and Traviss Career Center.

20Apr/09

Marketing Mondays | Where the Magic Happens

Robert Scoble is a geek.  He was an evangelist for Microsoft for three years and is among the top social media strategists.  As of today, he is being followed by 82,411 people on twitter.  As much a large groups play a huge part in web 2.0 (or whatever we’re calling it now), Scoble reminds us that to practice what some of you have always known: that intimate, small-group interactions are where the real magic happens.  It’s leveraging social media to implement these interactions that is key:

Pierre's chalet (view from the hot tub)

In all the hype about celebrities over on Twitter and Facebook we’ve forgotten something: experiences you have with crowds of other people are rarely magical unless it’s a concert and, even then, I’ve seen musicians give concerts to four of my closest friends and then go out and give concerts to thousands of people. I would rather have the small experience EVERY TIME. Which is one reason I like Peter Himmelman’s Furious World so much.

I’ve been around the world. I’ve met some of the smartest people in the world. Just this week I shared a Guinness with the deputy prime minister of Ireland.

But as I get around the world I find I’m not chasing the crowds. I’m chasing the magical experience.

What are some of the magical experiences in your life? Bringing a kid into the world is one of mine. Two people. And a doctor and nurse. The power of four again.

Getting married? When done best there are only a few participants: two people, a minister, and a witness. Four people.

A great dinner out? I’ve found that if there’s four people at the table that you love it always is magical. Five or more? Introduces noise and reduces the magic.

Laurent Haug, founder of LIFT conference

This is something I’ve discovered thanks to Laurent Haug, founder of the LIFT Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. He invited me to spend time after the conference at his friend’s Swiss Chalet.

It is still the most magical experience I’ve had with someone I’ve met online.

Just a small group hanging out over a weekend, skiing, eating food that’s not good for us, taking photos, hanging out in the hot tub drinking Laurent’s friend’s expensive brandy. You can see the photo of the hot tub on this post.

Laurent shows us CoComment

It even turned into one of those product launches that really sticks with me, when Laurent (pictured here) showed us something he was working on called CoComment. I no longer use that service, but laid the groundwork for a variety of others, including Disqus who I’m headed to see today.

The point is, that magical experiences in life are — for me at least — those that are small and done with four or so other people.

So, why don’t our social networks try to get us to split up into smaller groups? Facebook and friendfeed do, in their various ways. Yesterday I signed into Facebook for the first time in a while. I tried importing my Tweets and instantly got complaints. Why? Because the usage model there is all about talking with small groups of friends.

While Twitter gets the hype and chases the big crowd experience I’m left noticing that Facebook might run away with the real monetization prize: because Facebook is better setup for having magical experiences online with small groups of friends.

How magical? For the past few weeks Maryam has been showing me some of the conversations she’s been having with old school friends from around the world. She’s giddy that she’s finding cousins and old friends she hasn’t seen for decades.

Magic.

I look at my friendfeed experiences, too. I’m starting to put people into separate lists. Four at a time. I imagine having dinner with them and having a conversation about something.

This is a technique I learned from Linda Stone. When she invited me over for dinner she sat me next to a famous author and a famous Microsoft researcher to see if magic would happen.

This is something that many PR people and big company employees never get. Read Tara Hunt’s experience of trying to find book reviewers. She’s chasing the magical experience. Her PR company is chasing “bloggers with reach.”

Hint: Tara is right. The magic is with people who care. The magic is in small numbers. The magic is in creating an experience that has nothing to do with a committee. That post is something every PR and big company employee should read and understand at a deep level. She wants to create magic (she calls it Whuffie) and she knows that if she has a small number of people who are fanatical about what she’s doing that that’s how it’ll get done.

Anyway, just one of my thoughts as I am working today on Building43 — we’re looking to find people who are fanatical about the Internet and create a magical experience. I wonder who I should invite to dinner?

Here’s another example. Tomorrow at 3 p.m. I’m getting a tour of the Monterey Bay Aquarium from the guy who does their friendfeed/Twitter communities. I can get three other people into the tour. The first ones who email me at scobleizer@gmail.com get in.

What kind of magical experiences are you trying to create?