Category Archives: Business News


Leadership Lakeland Graduates 30 From Class XXXV

IMG_2082With leadership from Class XXXV Chair Timothy B. Darby (Darby Law Group, P.A.) and Chair-Elect Michelle B. Ledford (MADE), 30 participants officially graduated on Thursday, May 10, 2018. More than 130 alumni and friends attended the invitation-only Leadership Lakeland Graduation & Banquet at the RP Funding 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 XXXV:

  • Margarita Alfaro, NuJak Companies
  • Teresa Fay Aman, Watson Clinic LLP
  • Daniel Jay Berman, Alliance for Independence
  • Lisa K. Birket, True MD
  • Jessica Brown, Hall Communications, Inc.
  • Joshua Keith Brown, Peterson & Myers, P.A.
  • Anthony C. Camarillo, RP Funding Center/City of Lakeland
  • Ashley Cheek, Lakeland Economic Development Council
  • Julie A. Davis, Baylis & Company PA
  • Danielle Fogel, Publix Super Markets, Inc.
  • Alison M. Foley-Rothrock, Esq., Foley Immigration Law/Red Tent Initiative
  • Caroline Gay, Lakeland Regional Health
  • Louis Santo Giampavolo, Polk County Sheriff’s Office
  • Mary Catherine Green, Tenth Judicial Circuit
  • Paul “Sean” Harper, Harper Little Construction Mgmt/WebPro Realty, LLC
  • Marshall Hurley, Createch Machine and Design
  • Eunice Martinez Hutto, Southeastern University
  • Billy Clifton Langston II, Florida Southern College
  • Kristen Lowers, Saddle Creek Logistics Services
  • Lucas Dean Martin, Floralawn
  • Kevin M. McWilliams, Ameriprise Financial
  • Brandt William Merritt, First Presbyterian Church of Lakeland
  • LaTrice Moore, D.B.A., Polk State College
  • J. Scott Reed, Pilka & Associates, P.A.
  • William E. Roll, Jr., Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc.
  • Amy Hammack Royal, GiveWell Community Foundation
  • M. Kimberly Schell, Parker Street Ministries, Inc.
  • Shukethia C. Troutman, La Rosa Realty
  • Darren Vogel, P.E., Vogel Bros. Building Co.
  • Julie Howes Ward, Polk County Public Schools/Rochelle School of the Arts

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.

Also, congratulations to Chuck McDanal (Kindelan McDanal & Associates) who was announced as the upcoming Chair-Elect for Class XXXVI!

05-15-18 Phantom of the Youkey TheaterFB

Networking with the Phantom of Youkey Theater

LAKELAND, FLORIDA (May 2, 2018) — You won’t want to miss this romantic and mysterious Business After Hours on Tuesday night, May 15, 2018. The RP Funding Center presents The Phantom of the Youkey Theater for one night only! Enjoy wonderful hors d’oeuvres, libations, and over 200 fellow member-investors. The classic black & white silent film, The Phantom of the Opera, will be playing as guests explore the Youkey Theater in hopes of catching a glimpse of the rumored Phantom of the Youkey Theater!

The party is starting earlier this month since we could not wait until our traditional Thursday to hold the event. So, please join us on Tuesday! We encourage you to adjust your schedule to attend this special event.

“The team and I at RP Funding Center are excited to host Business After Hours for a second year. We believe we have put together a Phantom of the Opera evening that will allow Chamber members to network and socialize in a special setting,” comments Tony Camarillo, Executive Director of the RP Funding Center.

The historic centerpiece of the RP Funding Center is the 2,226 seat Youkey Theater. The theater is named for Robert Youkey, former Lakeland City Manager, who had the vision to build the Lakeland Center for his community. The theater is home to the annual Broadway & Special engagements; the Imperial Symphony Orchestra; and is ideally suited for dance events, plays and concerts. The theater also offers the flexibility for meetings and general sessions and other corporate events.

05-15-18 Phantom of the Youkey TheaterFB

The Phantom of the Opera is a 1925 American silent horror film adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel Le Fantôme de l’Opéra, directed by Rupert Julian and starring Lon Chaney, Sr. in the title role of the disfigured Phantom who haunts the Paris Opera House, causing murder and mayhem in an attempt to make the woman he “loves” a star. The film remains most famous for Chaney’s ghastly, self-devised make-up, which was kept a studio secret until the film’s premiere. The film was released on November 25, 1925.

Before you enter the Youkey Theater, please take time to meet the teen CEOs from the Young Entrepreneurs Academy of Polk County (YEA! Polk). They will be displaying their product and services and are excited to meet with you. You won’t want to miss this! Meet new contacts! Reconnect with fellow members!

Name: Business After Hours with The Phantom of the Youkey Theater

Register Now:

Location: RP Funding Center, 701 W Lime St, Lakeland, FL 33815

Date/Time Information:  Tuesday, May 15, 2018, 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm EDT

Contact Information:  Katie McBride (863) 688-8551 ext 236, or

Fees/Admission:  $10 investors | $30 non-members


RP Funding Center

Central Florida’s premiere entertainment, sports and convention venue offers loads of indoor entertainment, and is within walking distance of downtown Lakeland’s unique shopping and dining options.

Arena, Theater, Exhibit Hall and Conference Center

The RP Funding Center is the only multipurpose facility in Central Florida with four distinct venues under one roof: the 10,000-seat George Jenkins Arena, 2,186-seat Youkey Theater, 28,000-square feet Exhibit Hall, and 34,000-square feet Conference Center.

Broadway Series

Theatre lovers enjoying a Central Florida vacation will enjoy The RP Funding Center’s annual Broadway Series, featuring five nationally touring productions. Enjoy upbeat musicals, on the edge-of-your-seat dramas and timeless classics. Locals who subscribe to their Broadway Series Subscription Package receive entrance into all five shows, free parking, priority seating, special discounts and 10 percent off pre-show dining.

Entertainment Series

The RP Funding Center’s annual Entertainment Series brings down the house with thrilling live concerts, ballets, standup comedy, dance performances and more.

Famous groups and performers who have and will take part in the entertainment series include The Tenors, Neil Sedaka, various Dancing with the Stars alumni, America’s Got Talent winner Jackie Evancho and Kathy Griffin.

Lakeland Pro Rodeo Classic

If you’re lucky enough to be in town for the Lakeland Pro Rodeo Classic, you must go. Professional cowboys and cowgirls compete for cash, shiny gold buckles, and most importantly, the title of champion – it’s a boot scootin’ good time.

Public Ice Skating

One of the coolest things to do at The RP Funding Center in November and December is ice skating. Dates are scheduled to coincide with Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, and sometimes summer vacation.


Annual favorites for Central Florida visitors include Collectorama, featuring collectibles including currency, knives, watches more; Buckler Arts & Craft Show, which occurs in the summer and fall; The Original Sewing & Quilt Expo in the winter; Snowbird Extravaganza, which features 50,000 sq. ft. of vendors and entertainment; the Log & Timber Home Show and Lakeland VW Classic, which is held outdoors and features multiple vendors and a parts swap. The RP Funding Center also hosts multiple knife and gun shows each year, and the occasional boating and hunting expo.

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.


Free Seminar on Eminent Domain in Preparation for US Highway 92 Expansion and Improvement

LAKELAND, FLORIDA (April 30, 2018) — The Florida Department of Transportation project to expand and improve US 92 (New Tampa Highway) from County Line Road to Wabash has been funded for 2020 and 2021 for obtaining right of way.

Now is the time for any business or landowner to take action to protect their property rights and/or get fair compensation for their business or property. Learn more about how you can prepare for this FDOT project, and the actions needed to protect your property and business with Guest Speaker Deborah Ruster of Peterson & Myers. Before joining Peterson & Myers, Deborah Ruster was a senior condemnation attorney with the Department of Transportation for six years. Since then she has been in private practice representing property owners and governments in eminent domain cases.

This seminar is free to the public and will cover topics such as how this project will impact you, what forms of compensation may be available, and what tricks and traps to look out for.

Sponsorships available!

Name: Enlightened Byte: Eminent Domain Timeline

Date: May 24, 2018

Time: 7:30 AM – 9:00 AM EDT

Location:  Peggy Brown Building, 215 S Lake Ave, Lakeland, FL 33801

Contact Information:  Send an Email or call (863) 688-8551 ext. 229

Fees/Admission:  Free with required registration – limited space available.

Registration: or at


8th grader at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy will represent Polk County at national competition.

Local Teen to Represent Polk County at National Competition

Local Teen to Represent Polk County at National Competition

More than $70,000 in scholarships to be awarded

LAKELAND, FL – April 27, 2018 – The Young Entrepreneurs Academy will host its 10th Annual Saunders Scholars National Conference and Competition on May 4, 2018.

Student semifinalists from YEA! chapters across the country will travel to the Rochester Institute of Technology to present their business ideas to a panel of judges.

Saunders Scholars is funded by entrepreneur and philanthropist E. Philip Saunders who began paving his business dreams while working at his dad’s gas station as a teenager. He recognized the need to provide truck drivers with more than just a fill up. He went on to create a national chain of truck stops known as Travel Centers of America.



Sachin Sivakumar, 8th grader and local YEA! Semifinalist (YEA! Polk)

Lawton Chiles Middle Academy, Lakeland, FL

Star Scout, Boy Scout Troop 711

8th grader at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy will represent Polk County at national competition.

8th grader at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy will represent Polk County at national competition.


Sachin was selected to compete in the final competition after successfully pitching his business concept to local business leaders in the YEA! Semifinals, or Shark Tank, held on April 4, 2018, at Southeastern University.


His business, ScoutVenture, involves solving for a common problem faced by many Boy Scouts. ScoutVenture is an app that helps Boy Scout Troops manage themselves and plan for the future.


Sachin travels to New York on Thursday, May 3 but is available for interviews Monday through Wednesday upon request.

MEDIA CONTACT:          Rebecca Fortier, (863) 688-8551, ext. 229, or cell (863) 221-2678,

 # # #

THE YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS ACADEMY (YEA!)                                                YEA! Is a national non-profit organization that teaches and empowers students ages 11 to 18 to launch and run their own real, small businesses through an exciting, projects-based program. Founded in 2004 with support from the Kauffman Foundation, today YEA! has empowered over 9,000 students at over 100 locations across the United States with international classes underway in India and Shanghai. YEA! graduates have been featured on TV’s hit show Shark Tank, raised tens of millions of dollars in seed capital, won millions of dollars in college scholarships, have been featured in the nation’s top publications, from The New York Times to Forbes Magazine, and have graduated from top business schools and colleges including the Harvard Business School, Wharton, Stanford, Cornell, RIT, Saunders, Simon, among others.

YEA! provides young people with the ability to recognize opportunities and shows them the power of their potential. YEA! students learn the magic formula on how to transform an idea—their idea—into an enterprise that creates value. YEA! teaches students how to unleash their imagination by introducing them to the formula of entrepreneurial success—at an early age.


Each year, students from every YEA! site across the country compete to be named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneur and win college scholarships at the YEA! Saunders Scholars National Competition. The Saunders Scholars program is named for and supported by Rochester area business magnate E. Philip Saunders. In 2008, the Saunders Foundation awarded YEA! a transformational gift to provide young entrepreneurs, innovators and inventors an opportunity to earn significant college scholarship awards.

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.

Suncoast Swantober Logo - white background


LAKELAND, FL (April 25, 2018) – Lakeland residents will have a chance to celebrate Octoberfest-style in Munn Park in downtown Lakeland on Saturday, September 22, 2018.  The Suncoast Credit Union SwantoberFest is a time to unwind and make new friends, learn new customs and sing a few songs.  Be there to help tap the inaugural keg at 5:00 PM on Saturday, September 22, as Lakeland’s Suncoast Credit Union SwantoberFest kicks off!

The Lakeland Chamber is proud to announce Suncoast Credit Union as the title sponsor of Lakeland’s only Oktoberfest-themed celebration!  Like a traditional Oktoberfest, our event will offer sights, sounds, and tastes that are Bavarian-inspired.

“Octoberfest is a chance for everyone to see what Lakeland has to offer,” says Mary McDonald, community relations director for Suncoast Credit Union.  “We are excited to help make this event a destination activity, and we are proud to be a part of this community.”

The logo for the event is an original design by Stacy Tabb of Boondock Studios and reflects traditional Germanic art while capturing the magic of Lakeland and incorporating a vine of hops bearing clusters of flowers.  Prints and t-shirts will soon be available for purchase at Boondock Studios at 811 N Florida Ave.

“I wanted to emphasize the centuries-old traditions of Octoberfest, therefore used a woodblock style combined with hand-painted watercolor to create a uniquely ‘Lakeland’ piece. The printing block was carved and then inked, and each print pulled by hand in the time-honored way,” comments Stacy Tabb, artist and co-owner of Boondock Studios.

Suncoast Swantober Logo - white background

Original logo design by Stacy Tabb, Boondock Studios

This community-wide event in Munn Park will be free to attend and feature a business expo as an opportunity for Chamber member-investors to engage directly with the community in a family-friendly setting.  Activities include German-style competitions, treasure hunt, and live music by The Europa Band.  VIP passes will be available for an extra-special experience, including a Child’s VIP pass – think Root Beer Garden! To register as vendor-exhibitor at the event, please click here or at

Title Sponsor:  Suncoast Credit Union

Exclusive Artist Sponsor:  Boondock Studios

Autobahn Sponsor: Fields Motorcars


Suncoast Credit Union is the largest credit union in the state of Florida, the ninth largest in the United States based on membership, and the 12th largest in the United States based on its more than $8.9 billion in assets. Chartered in 1934 as Hillsborough County Teachers Credit Union, Suncoast Credit Union currently operates 65 full-service branches and serves more than 750,000 members in the following Florida counties: Charlotte, Citrus, Collier, DeSoto, Dixie, Gilchrist, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lee, Levy, Manatee, Marion, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota and Sumter. Since its founding in 1990, the Suncoast Credit Union Foundation has raised and donated more than $22 million to organizations and initiatives that support the health, education and emotional well-being of children in the communities that the credit union serves. For more information, visit:, or @SuncoastCU.


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.