Category Archives: Announcements

25Jun/09

School Board Contractor Selection: Changes in Store

GOAL:

A Polk County School Board Process for Selecting Contractors
 that is “Fair, Equitable and Transparent”

A “white paper summary” of a June 15 Meeting between Polk County Chamber of Commerce representatives and Assistant Superintendent for Facilities/Operations, Fred Murphy.

Over the past 90 days, a number of Polk County’s Chamber executives and their
volunteer leaders have been approached by local contractors who felt the process used for selecting contractors to manage major construction projects of the Polk County Public School System was flawed and unfair. There exists a strong feeling that dollars spent for Polk Schools should be spent with those businesses that are legitimately based in Polk County. There also exists a strong desire to ensure the process is free of favoritism.

RC-AFLAC

Following discussions that initially took place between Lakeland, Bartow and Winter Haven Chamber executives, a decision was made to request a meeting with Polk Public Schools Administration. Immediately upon inquiry, Superintendent Gail McKinzie offered to arrange such a meeting with Assistant Superintendent for Facilities/Operations, Fred Murphy. (Murphy was tapped to resolve contractor selection and favoritism issues in November 2008 following the initiation of an FBI investigation into alleged wrongdoing by district staff.)

On June 15, Mr. Murphy met with representatives from the Bartow, Davenport, Haines City, Lakeland, Mulberry and Winter Haven Chambers of Commerce. The two-hour meeting was framed by a thorough review of where Polk Public Schools are in their efforts to create a contractor selection process that is “fair, equitable and transparent.”

Mr. Murphy spoke for the majority of the two-hours allocated and displayed a sincere commitment to creating a selection process that may not always make everyone happy, but a process that will truly be “fair, equitable and transparent.” The phrase is repeated here again to underscore Murphy’s repetitive statement of commitment.

He provided detailed information regarding the policy which is currently in its final draft stages. More importantly Mr. Murphy addressed two important points:

a.)    Within the new policy (under development), the mere offer of a gift by a contractor to a School Board representative will cost a contractor any future right to do business with the School Board.  The gift policy will prohibit school personnel from accepting gifts with a monetary value over $50.00.

b.)   The new selection process will include a “local recognition of proximity” policy that will provide a legally defensible edge for Polk County-based contractors.

Chamber representatives present felt that positive steps were being taken to develop a process for contractor selection that was indeed “fair, equitable and transparent.” Those Chambers present have since conferred and expressed confidence that Fred Murphy’s goals for the Contractor Selection Process will be a significant step forward and hold the potential to restore contractor confidence and respect.

The new policy is expected to be presented to the School Board for consideration by August. When the policy is finalized, we will present the document in its entirety.

The commitment of all Chambers involved is to bring positive change to this contractor procurement process. Mr. Murphy displays a sincere grasp of the challenge and the commitment to make such positive change.

We welcome members’ comments regarding this important “buy local” issue.

24Jun/09

Governor Crist Vetos Property Insurance Bill

Florida Chamber Alert:

Today, Governor Charlie Crist vetoed Chamber-backed property insurance reform legislation – HB 1171.  Here is the Governor’s veto letter.

The Florida Chamber continues to believe that Florida is financially unprepared for a hurricane and that we must enact solutions to fix our state’s insurance crisis. The Chamber will continue to work closely with Gov.  Crist and the Florida Legislature to craft legislation to address this critical issue.

The report “Into the Storm: Framing Florida’s Insurance Crisis” by the Florida Chamber and The Florida Council of 100 outlines several of the policy recommendations we will continue to pursue.

24Jun/09

USF Poly sees nothing but Blue Skies

(Lakeland, Fla., June 24, 2009) – Late yesterday, as violent thunderstorms doused central Florida yet again, Marshall Goodman sent a tweet: “No need to worry about the rain, Central Florida. Blue Sky is coming soon!”

Goodman, VP and CEO of the University of South Florida Polytechnic, announced today that USFP’s business incubation facilities will be named Blue Sky. Earlier this year the Central Florida Development Council invested $700,000 toward the construction of an incubation facility on the new I-4 campus, expected to open in 2012. In the meantime, however, the community will be served by at least two incubation facilities: one in Lakeland and one in Winter Haven, dubbed Blue Sky West and Blue Sky East, respectively.

Blue Sky West will be a 6,428 square-foot location at 116 S. Kentucky Ave. in Lakeland. Blue Sky East will open at 199 Ave. B NW in Winter Haven with 3,000 square feet. USFP officials expect both facilities to open in early fall 2009.

A tweet refers to a post on Twitter, the popular social networking site. Goodman used the relatively new technology, as well as his personal Facebook page, to tease online followers not about the weather but about economic development in central Florida.

The Blue Sky facilities will be the first public business technology incubators in Polk County. They will focus on attracting and nurturing entrepreneurial businesses by creating a place where USF Poly faculty, staff and students can work with businesses to develop innovative technology.

“This is an important step for our region, as we cultivate a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation,” says Goodman.

“These facilities will provide opportunities for a wide range of enterprises. Some will be raw start-ups, and some will be more advanced. Regardless of the stage, Blue Sky represents an opportunity to thrive.”

According to Goodman, “The story of innovation is the story of entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurship is all about calculated risk. That is the principle upon which we’ll base Blue Sky. We will provide a climate to nurture innovation.

“This is a huge opportunity, not only for entrepreneurs but also for investors. We hope it will bring to this area more technology-oriented businesses with the potential for growth and new jobs”

Initially, USF Poly will seek information technology companies interested in software, networking and developing specific IT projects.

“We have felt for the past five years at least that an incubator is integral to this region’s long-term economic success,” says Tom Patton, executive director of the Central Florida Development Council, which has donated a total of $1 million to the USF Poly incubator concept. In addition to the $700,000 for construction on the new campus, CFDC donated $300,000 for current operation of Blue Sky. USF Poly has pledged to match those operating funds to provide $600,000 to fund Blue Sky.

The $700,000 for construction will be used to apply for state matching funds and in pursuit of an Economic Development Administration grant. According to Patton, the long-term goal is a technology park that develops around the incubator at the heart of Florida’s High Tech Corridor.

“This is a major step forward in developing and growing our technology incubator,” says Steve Budd, USFP’s program director for entrepreneurship and venture planning. “It will become a living, learning laboratory for interdisciplinary and applied research, education and training that directly impacts technology commercialization and business development.

“Our incubator will be a focal point where the university’s academic development and our community’s economic development will blend and synergize to create a win-win for all stakeholders — the business community, our students, our faculty, and many others.  I believe that this is where the magic happens, where we will create high-tech, high-wage jobs.”

There are 7,000 incubators and counting around the globe, and they create jobs, grow companies and help technology evolve. President Obama has pledged $250 million a year in federal funds to seed a regional network of such organizations–an effort aimed at growing jobs and innovation.

“This is the first time in the U.S. that a new administration has made this kind of commitment to innovation, entrepreneurs and technology,” says Dinah Adkins, president and CEO of the National Business Incubation Association. “This is the first time we’ve had a presidential administration that wants to invest in this.”

The U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration says business incubators provide communities with significantly greater results at less cost than do any other type of public works infrastructure project.

A recent study conducted for the U.S. Economic Development Administration showed that business incubators provide communities with significantly greater results at less cost than do any other type of public works infrastructure project. In the study of the economic impacts and federal costs of EDA construction program investments, researchers found that business incubators are the most effective means of creating jobs – more effective than roads and bridges, industrial parks, commercial buildings, and sewer and water projects. In fact, incubators provide up to 20 times more jobs than community infrastructure projects (for example, water and sewer projects) at a cost of $144 to $216 per job compared with $2,920 to $6,872 for the latter, the report notes. For more information on the study visit www.nbia.org/works.

“Business incubators are critical components of the nation’s entrepreneurial support infrastructure and the only public works projects that were designed entirely as job generators,” says Adkins. “The jobs created by incubators aren’t one-time construction jobs, but enduring, high-paying positions that contribute to community and U.S. global competitiveness.”

Business incubation programs provide entrepreneurs with a guiding hand to help them turn their ideas into viable businesses.  Many thousands more jobs have been created by companies that have graduated from these programs and now operate self-sufficiently in their communities. For more information about business incubation and the EDA study, visit www.nbia.org/works.

For more information on Blue Sky see poly.usf.edu/BlueSky.

15Jun/09

Marketing Mondays | This was too good to pass up!

From Catch Your Limit Consulting:

I was thinking about how the basics in life are the basics in business….being honest and consistent in your business practices and brand-messaging. Don’t over-promise…over-deliver. These sorts of thoughts run through my head all the time. I don’t separate my life into work and other. Work is one of the ways I invest my time as I live my life. As such, I don’t have one set of values for work and another set for the rest of the time.

It’s hard work finding customers. I want to keep them. It’s too expensive to just work with people once. I feel the same way about my friends. However I found them, I appreciate them. I’ve invested in our relationships and I don’t want to squander that investment.
So, whether it’s at work or elsewhere I behave in a manner that I believe encourages trust. I believe I’m worthy of people’s trust and I behave accordingly.
I mentioned being honest and consistent about what I say. I do my best to manage expectations. I want people to feel they get more out of their time with me than it “cost” them. I want people to want to have a relationship with me, business or otherwise.
I treat people with respect. I do my best to be on time and I want others to show me the same courtesy. I listen to people when they talk to me; I want others to give me their attention when I am speaking to them. I treat people fairly and want to be treated so in return.
This is beginning to sound like a rant and that’s not my intention.
What I’m offering is the belief that treating people with respect is appropriate behavior at all times: at work, behind the wheel of your car, at home, everywhere. Not everyone has gotten this message. All I can do, is do my best to lead by example.
I am asking everyone who reads this, to do your best to lead by example, as well. Holding ourselves accountable to the highest common denominator standard of behavior will enrich all of our lives. I think that’s what civilization is supposed to do for us.
If I may, let me encourage you to choose civility.
Lynnette Leathers
This is so important now, when it’s easy to cut corners and wring our customers for every last penny.  It’s not much more than the Golden Rule, but as it applies to our businesses; an area that can be easy to overlook.
What are you doing to raise the common denominator?
15Jun/09

LAKELAND ELECTRIC REDUCES FUEL CHARGE

LAKELAND ELECTRIC HAS THE 2ND LOWEST RESIDENTIAL RATES IN FLORIDA

LAKELAND, FL (June 15, 2009) – During today’s Utility Committee meeting, the Lakeland City Commission voted unanimously in favor of reducing the current fuel charge by $2.15/1,000kWh effective July 1, 2009.  Starting in July, Lakeland Electric’s fuel charge for residential customers will be $54.75/1,000kWh.  With the newly established rate, a residential customer will pay $113.24/1,000 kWh, making it the second lowest residential rate in Florida.

Below is a breakdown provided by the Florida Municipal Electric Association that compares the rates of similar sized municipal operated electric utilities, neighboring investor owned electric utilities and other utilities operating in Polk County.

July Residential Rates for 1,000 KWH

Utility Base Rate Fuel Charge Total

Florida Power & Light                     $51.89                   $54.92                   $106.81

Lakeland Electric                               $58.49                   $54.75                   $113.24

JEA (Jacksonville)                            $60.97                   $55.14                   $116.11

Progress Energy                                $63.72                   $56.00                   $119.72

OUC (Orlando)                                    $77.25                   $42.07                   $119.82

Tampa Electric                                   $51.92                   $64.16                   $125.23

GRU (Gainesville)                             $71.60                   $61.00                   $132.60

Tallahassee                                         $64.80                  $76.05           $140.85

Bartow                                                 $68.52                   $72.96                   $141.48

Fort Meade                                        $110.86                 $82.00                   $192.86

Lakeland Electric commercial customers will also enjoy the benefits of the lower fuel charges.  Lakeland Electric’s largest industrial energy users will have the lowest commercial rates in the state starting in July.

Lakeland Electric bills are broken out for customer convenience to show the base charge and the fuel charge.  The fuel charge on a utility bill is exactly that, the actual costs for fuel used to generate the amount of electricity used within a residence or business.  Most utilities subscribe to the same billing practice and break out the base rate and the fuel charge for their customers. There is no mark-up in fuel.  In fact, fuel is a straight pass-through to customers.  Lakeland Electric makes no profit in fuel.

Lakeland Electric is Florida’s third-largest public power utility.  Lakeland Electric provides electricity to more than 120,000 residential and commercial customers. Power is generated at Lakeland Electric’s two main power plants, the 941-megawatt McIntosh Power Plant and the 176-megawatt Larsen Power Plant. The utility also operates a group of energy-efficient generating units capable of providing up to 50-megawatts of additional electricity when other units are out of service or during periods when demand for electricity is highest.