Category Archives: Announcements

YEA! Polk Graduate Logan Soria, CEO of Stand Up!, Pitches to Investors


LAKELAND, FLORIDA (June 13, 2017) — The Young Entrepreneurs Academy is recruiting students for the Polk County chapter, only the fifth chapter in Florida, for the 2017-2018 school year.

The Young Entrepreneurs Academy is a 30-week program for students, ages 11-18, where students start and run their own business and form connections with community leaders. The program will feature guest speakers from businesses and five field trips.

The program has three main sections: the big idea, the pitch and the launch. In the big idea phase, students brainstorm ideas, explore their passions, and learn how to evaluate a business opportunity.

The pitch will be a five-minute presentation by the students to an investors’ panel, which is made up of sponsors. During the launch phase, students will open bank accounts and file for legal fictitious names. The students will display their products at a trade show in May 2018. LkldTV captures the magic of the program in their video from this year’s trade show

A recent graduate of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, 18-year-old Logan Soria, CEO/Owner of Stand Up!, shares his experience, “You are going to go through a part-time business boot camp. That isn’t something you should be afraid of. As an entrepreneur, you have to embrace the barriers ahead – whether it be a lack of knowledge, funds, or ability. Trust me, if you try your best, you will make it through those hard times and you will be rewarded by your success.”

The Lakeland Chamber of Commerce chapter will accept up to 20 students; the early application deadline is June 30. Classes will take place 4:30 – 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays at Southeastern University beginning in October.

The tuition for the program is $595, but there are some need-based scholarships available. The program offers the opportunity to participate in the YEA! Saunders Scholars Competition with the chance to win college scholarships.

The application for the Polk County program is available at

To learn more about YEA! visit, or for information on our local chapter, please visit at, or contact Rebecca Fortier at (863) 688-8551 ext. 229 or by email at  The YEA! Polk Sponsors and the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce are helping to build the next generation of business leaders in Polk County.

Lakeland Chamber of Commerce

The Lakeland Chamber of Commerce represents 1,400 member businesses in the Lakeland area and provides opportunities for networking, professional development and advocacy for companies of all sizes. Five-Star Accredited by the US Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber upholds the following vision and mission statements:

Vision Statement:  The Lakeland Chamber of Commerce will be the premier catalyst for the advancement of Lakeland’s economic growth and enhancement of quality of life– creating Florida’s community of choice.

Mission Statement:  The Lakeland Chamber of Commerce is the leading organization dedicated to creating a climate where business can prosper.

 The Young Entrepreneurs Academy

The Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) is a 501(C) 3 offering groundbreaking year-long classes that teach middle and high school students how to start and run their own businesses. Throughout the class, students develop business ideas, write business plans, conduct market research, pitch their plans to a panel of investors for startup funds, and launch and run their own, fully formed companies and social movements. The project-based program empowers students to take charge of their futures. Founded in 2004 at the University of Rochester with support from the Kauffman Foundation, YEA! today serves thousands of students nationwide. In 2011, the United States Chamber of Commerce Foundation became a national sponsor and partner of the Academy to help celebrate the spirit of enterprise among today’s youth and tomorrow’s future leaders. YEA! bridges the business and educational communities to fulfill its mission of teaching more students how to make a job, not just take a job. YEA! is made possible by The Kauffman Foundation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the E. Philip Saunders Foundation. For more information, visit

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is dedicated to strengthening America’s long-term competitiveness and educating the public on how the free enterprise system improves society and the economy. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.



publix field

Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium Seeks “Best of the Ballparks” Designation

The Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium needs your vote! Only one day left! Please show your community pride and vote for Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium as the BEST Ballpark! Our Lakeland stadium has made it to the final four and needs your vote to win! You can make a difference with a daily vote.

Welcome to Best of the Ballparks, High-A! You don’t need to login to vote: Just click on your preferences. If you do login, you’ll automatically be added to the Ballpark Digest newsletter list, where you can track all the results in this competition.publix field


The Salvation Army Lakeland Family Store Prepares for Future Growth


More donated items needed for store’s new processing center.

 Lakeland, FL (June 9, 2017) – With The Salvation Army Lakeland Family Store establishing its own processing center for donated items, the store now has the chance to raise more funds for the Army’s regional adult rehabilitation center, where 163 men reside from 6-12 months to get the needed help and education to solve their alcohol, drug and other afflictions. By encouraging more Lakeland area residents and businesses to donate their unwanted clothing, household goods, furniture, appliances and vehicles, the store’s potential income growth will be a big support to the adult rehabilitation center in providing shelter, food, clothing, medical assistance, counseling, meaningful work, vocational training, fellowship, and spiritual guidance to people who have lost their self-direction.

By setting up the new processing center in the back of the Family Store, which is located at 3915 S. Florida Avenue in Lakeland, donated items get delivered directly to sorting stations to be evaluated and priced before being displayed on the store’s floor. The processing center assures maximum efficiency and sustainability standards are being applied to the handling of donated items. The turnaround time for donations to become available to sell is dramatically cut, and both the travel time and fuel consumption of the Army’s delivery trucks are significantly reduced.

“It makes sense that our Lakeland Family Store, which is blessed to have space for future growth, operates its own processing center. We need more people in Polk County to donate their unwanted items so ultimately our adult rehabilitation center can help more people in our region, which includes Polk County, who want to have clean and healthy lives,” said Major John Reed, administrator for the Tampa Adult Rehabilitation Center.

To schedule a free truck pickup of unwanted, tax-deductible items, please call 1-800-728-7825 or visit And if someone wants long-term help to solve drug or alcohol dependency, please call 1-813-972-0471 ext. 59074.


Leadership Lakeland Graduates 31 from Class XXXIV



With leadership from Class XXXIV Chair Lesley Verplanck Chambers (Harrison School for the Arts) and Chair-Elect Timothy B. Darby (Darby Law Group, P.A.), 31 participants officially graduated on May 11, 2017. More than 150 alumni and friends attended the invitation-only Leadership Lakeland Graduation & Banquet at The Lakeland Center. Beginning in August, the class members undertook a rigorous schedule including overnight and full-day programs to immerse themselves in the community and in the development of leadership skills. Congratulations to the graduates of Leadership Lakeland Class XXXIV:

  • Lyle L. Bowlin, Jannetides College of Business & Entrepreneurial Leadership, Southeastern University
  • Scarlett Bowman, Spectrum Business
  • James W. Brown, Compass Mortgage LLC
  • James J. Butler Jr., Watson Clinic LLP
  • Michael Clanton, CenterState Bank of Florida, N.A.
  • Jason DeMeo, We Are Curio
  • Christine Ehlenbeck, Keller Williams Realty
  • Katherine Fitzwater, Curious Jane
  • Jill M. Gable, Madden Branded Goods
  • Ashley Ann Green, Sunrise Community
  • Lance Green, Lakeland Regional Health
  • Elisa Turner Harden, Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc.
  • Michelle Maenza Hinds, Hall Communications, Inc.
  • Craig Stephen Hosking, Maximize Digital Media
  • Michael Huff, A.D. Morgan Corporation
  • Dana B. Hurley, Allen & Company of Florida Inc.
  • Matthew David Jones, GrayRobinson, P.A.
  • Silvana Knight, EXIT Realty of Lakeland
  • Arthur A. Martinez, Lakeland High School
  • Frank Dee McCaulley III, Trinity Presbyterian Church
  • Alison Midili Smith, Publix Super Markets Inc.
  • Robert Thomas Pericht, Saddle Creek Logistics Services
  • Emily Plank, Emily Plank Photography
  • CW2 James L. Ring, 383rd Military Police Detachment (CID)
  • Lisa Strollo Ruthven, The Ruthvens
  • Virginia Sigle, Boring Business Systems
  • Nicole B. Travis, City of Lakeland
  • Alan H. Turner II, United Way of Central Florida
  • Stacy Walsh, YMCA of West Central Florida
  • Marilyn Watson, Bank of Central Florida
  • Sarah Breed, Lakeland Chamber of Commerce

Leadership Lakeland is an annual program designed to identify leadership and enhance existing leadership in our community. The program unites leaders from diverse backgrounds and perspectives to improve their ability to lead effectively, offering its members a broad range of experiences and insights about the community, its people, its needs, and its services.


GrowFL Announces 2017 Florida Companies to Watch Finalists 

2015 Madrid Logo small cropped

Madrid Engineering Group, Inc. Among Second-Stage Businesses Competing to Earn Prestigious Honor

(Bartow, Fla.) Madrid Engineering Group, Inc. was among the first round of 2017 Florida Companies to Watch finalists recently announced by GrowFL. The awards event – now in its seventh year – honors 50 select second-stage companies from throughout the state for developing valuable products and services, creating quality jobs, enriching communities, and broadening new industries throughout Florida. Chosen from a candidate pool of more than 800 nominations, the finalists collectively represent $598 million in annual revenue and employ 3,200 full-time equivalent employees.

The company founder and president, Larry Madrid, said “being a finalist for GrowFL’s 2017 Companies to Watch is certainly a high honor. I think of it as a confirmation that the direction we are currently going is the right one for us. Our plan is to grow revenue by offering a wider range of services to a broader group of clients.” Not only is Madrid providing more services including geotechnical engineering, structural engineering, and construction engineering inspection (CEI), they are also providing technical assistance for a new roadway technology called CONSOLID, which uses polymers to chemically stabilize roadway construction materials. “This new technology could literally change the way roads are constructed in the US”, says Madrid, who claims his test results show that roads constructed using CONSOLID are stronger and less susceptible to water damage.

The Florida Companies To Watch program consists of two rounds of selections. Finalists now advance to the second round, where they will be further evaluated based on their performance in the marketplace, innovative products, services or processes, philanthropy and empowered employees.

“We applaud these first round finalists who have shown how they stand out in their regions as innovative business leaders, going to the next level to grow their companies.   They are true rock stars,” says Dr. Tom O’Neal, GrowFL Executive Director.

The Finalists represent a unique group of scalable, high-growth enterprises that are already located within Florida. These high growth enterprises are an important segment of our economy and their numbers have been steadily increasing, which contributed to Florida’s ranking of 24 on the Kauffman Index of Growth Entrepreneurship. According to this report, “entrepreneurship is not a monolithic phenomenon, and it includes many moving parts. Creating new businesses is a different economic activity from running small businesses, which in turn is different from growing businesses.” Florida Companies to Watch recognizes the different approach needed to successfully grow and scale a business, and celebrates those that are working to achieve this goal.

Presented by GrowFL and developed by the Edward Lowe Foundation, Florida Companies To Watch is a distinguished awards program specifically designed to seek out second-stage businesses from a wide range of industries representing all areas of the state, not just those in major metropolitan areas. In addition to evaluating past growth and projected success, applicant companies are judged according to their special strengths and impact in their markets, communities and within the state – thus deeming them “worth watching.”

The winners will be announced in MID July. The 2017 honorees will be celebrated at the awards ceremony October 14th at The Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, FL.

For more information visit


Additional information about Madrid Engineering Group, Inc.:

Madrid Engineering Group, Inc. (MEG) is a 25-year old minority owned business located in Florida and serving the southeast US in the fields of geotechnical engineering, structural engineering, geology, and construction engineering inspection (CEI). The company has 45 employees and an office location in Bartow (central Florida). MEG has completed over 8000 projects primarily in central Florida but spanning the entire state. Madrid has an in-house fleet of track and truck-mounted drill rigs for SPT and auger sampling (by land or barge), well installation, etc. and a CMEC- and AASHTO-certified soils and materials laboratory.


Highlighting their technical capabilities and innovation, Madrid Engineering won Project of the Year in 2014 and 2016 from the American Society of Civil Engineers, Ridge Branch for shallow soil mixing and specialty deep foundation design, respectively. They are currently working on some exciting and challenging projects using innovative soil stabilization technologies such as GeoFoam®; lightweight cellular concrete; PhosphoCrete ™; wick drains; and CONSOLID. The company has been honored as a Best Place to Work for 4 of the last 5 years, and is an Employer of Distinction, so honored this year by Career Source Polk.


About GrowFL

GrowFL was created in 2009 as an economic development program focused on assisting second-stage growth companies prosper in the state of Florida. By providing strategies, resources and support to second-stage companies for next level growth through Strategic Research, Peer Learning and Leadership Development, GrowFL helps companies overcome obstacles to growth and leads them towards prosperity. Based on the philosophy of Economic Gardening® – to grow existing businesses in a community, region or state – GrowFL, the Florida Economic Gardening Institute, is a critical component to the state’s economic development strategy and Florida’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. GrowFL is a statewide economic development organization certified by the National Center for Economic Gardening through the Edward Lowe Foundation. GrowFL has assisted more than 1000 companies through the Strategic Research and CEO Roundtable programs and recognized 300 successful entrepreneurs through the annual awards program, Florida Companies to Watch. Learn more at


About Edward Lowe Foundation

Established in 1985, the Edward Lowe Foundation is a national, nonprofit organization that supports entrepreneurship through research, recognition and educational programs, which are delivered through entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs). The foundation focuses on second-stage companies – those that have moved beyond the startup phase and seek significant, steady growth. In addition, the foundation has a mission of land stewardship and is committed to preserving the natural resources and historically significant structures at Big Rock Valley, its 2,000-acre home in southwest Michigan. Learn more at