Category Archives: Chamber News


Political Hob Nob 2018 Straw Poll Results


Results below from the straw poll taken at the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce Political Hob Nob 2018 on Tuesday August 14th. Voting administered by Polk County Supervisor of Elections.

U.S. Senate

  • Rick Scott, R, 222
  • Bill Nelson, D, 115
  • Rocky Roque de la Fuente, R, 7

U.S. House, District 9

  • Wayne Liebnitzky, R, 162
  • Darren Soto, D, 111
  • Alan Grayson, D 26

U.S. House, District 15

  • Neil Combee, R, 92
  • Ross Spano, R, 62
  • Andrew Learned, D, 61
  • Sean Harper, R, 40
  • Danny Kushmer, R, 34
  • Kristen Carlson, D, 19
  • Ray Pena, D, 17
  • Ed Shoemaker, R, 12

U.S. House, District 17

  • Greg Stuebe, R, 85
  • Julio Gonzalez, R, 84
  • April Freeman, D, 54
  • Bill Akins, R, 39
  • Bill Pollard, D, 22

Florida Governor

  • Adam Putnam, R, 234
  • Gwen Graham, D, 37
  • Andrew Gillum, D, 29
  • Ron DeSantis, R, 23
  • Philip Levine, D, 22
  • Jeff Greene, D, 6
  • Chris King, D, 1
  • Bob White, D, 1

Florida Attorney General

  • Ashley Moody, R, 184
  • Sean Shaw, D, 59
  • Frank White, R, 48
  • Ryan Torrens, D, 26
  • Jeffrey Marc Siskind, NPA, 3

Florida Chief Financial Officer

  • Jimmy Patronis, R, 203
  • Jeremy Ring, D, 91

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture

  • Denise Grimsley, R, 129
  • Baxter Troutman, R, 59
  • Matt Caldwell, R, 57
  • Roy David Walker, D, 43
  • Nikki Fried, D, 23
  • Jeffrey Duane Porter, D, 11
  • Mike McCalister, R, 10

Florida Senate, District 20

  • Tom Lee, R, 170
  • Joy Gibson, D, 51
  • John Manners Houman, R, 39
  • Kathy Lewis, D, 39

Florida Senate, District 22

  • Kelli Stargel, R, 218
  • Bob Doyel, D, 114
  • Ricardo Rangel, D, 6

Florida Senate, District 26

  • Ben Albritton, R, 216
  • Catherine Price, R, 90

Florida House, District 39

  • Josie Tomkow, R, 198
  • Ricky Shirah, D, 114

Florida House, District 40

  • Colleen Burton, R, 238
  • Shandale Terrell, D, 95

Florida House, District 42

  • Mike La Rosa, R, 204
  • Barbara Cady, D, 90

Florida House, District 56

  • Melony Bell, R, 231
  • Jeff Mann, R, 63

County Commission, District 2

  • Rick Wilson, R, 223
  • Katherine “Kat” Gates-Skipper, R, 69

County Commission, District 4

  • Martha Santiago, R, 143
  • Jim Guth, R, 116
  • Karen Cooper Welzel, D, 70

Circuit Judge, Group 10

  • Melissa Gravitt, 138
  • Keith Merritt, 128
  • Lee Cohen, 52

Circuit Judge, Group 11

  • Dana Y. Moore, 168
  • Steve Pinckett, 130

School Board, District 3

  • Scott Jones, 127
  • Sarah Fortney, 77
  • Kala Tedder, 53
  • LaTrice Moore, 51

School Board, District 5

  • Kay Fields, 119
  • Terry L. Clark, 98
  • Jennifer Sabin, 90

School Board, District 7

  • Lisa Miller, 209
  • David Byrd, 95

Polk Soil and Water Conservation District, Group 2

  • Greg Williams, 133
  • Joe Garrison, 118

Polk Soil and Water Conservation District, Group 3

  • Kyle Carlton, 175
  • OnDrew Hartigan, 70

Local and Regional Candidates to Participate in 2018 Hob Nob

LAKELAND, FL (July 12, 2018) – The 2018 Political Hob Nob being hosted at the Rocking H Ranch on Tuesday, August 14, 2018, provides an occasion to meet with local and state candidates and learn more about them.

In an effort to increase awareness of and participation in the elections process, the Lakeland Chamber provides this opportunity for the local community to speak with candidates and local clubs at their respective booths.  Attendees will vote in a Straw Poll administered by the Polk County Supervisor of Elections from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM with the results announced that evening at 7:45 PM.  Candidates will take the stage to introduce themselves.

The Rocking H Ranch provides the perfect “Old Florida” backdrop for the event.  Originally, an old Cattle Ranch, it now is one of the leading Agritourism spots in Florida.  Attendees will also enjoy great BBQ, beverages, valet parking and good company.

The event is made possible by underwriting from community-focused companies and organizations – Red Sponsors are Clark, Campbell, Lancaster & Munson, P.A., Ledger Media Group, Rocking H Ranch, Spectrum Business; Gubernatorial Sponsors include A-C-T Environmental & Infrastructure, Inc., Reed Mawhinney & Link, PLLC, and Watson Clinic LLP. Other sponsors and supporters are Bernie Little Distributors, BTB Catering, Lakeland Valet, Polk County Supervisor of Elections, WONN/WPCV/WLKF/WWRZ Radio, and (Linking Community Now Inc.).

Candidates may register for a Table until Tuesday, August 7, 2018 using this link or by visiting and clicking on the Events Calendar tab.

Tickets to the event are $25 with advance purchase and $30 if purchased at the door.  Corporate 10-Packs are available for $200.  Sponsorships are available.  Tickets can be purchased by using this link or by visiting and clicking on the Events Calendar tab.

Candidates and clubs that are currently registered to attend are listed below.  Candidates will be added to our event page as they register – please visit and click the Events Calendar tab to view.

Representative in Congress, District 15:

Neil Combee

Sean Harper

Danny Kushmer

Ed Shoemaker

Ross Spano

Kristen Carlson

Andrew P. Learned

Representative in Congress, District 17:

Greg Steube


Philip Levine

Attorney General:

Ashley Moody

State Senator, District 22:

Kelli Stargel

State Senator, District 26:

Catherine Price

State Representative, District 39:

Josie Tomkow

State Representative, District 40:

Colleen Burton

Shandale Terrell

State Representative, District 56:

Melony Bell

Jeff Mann

County Commissioner, District 2:

Kathryn “Kat” Gates-Skipper

Rick Wilson

County Commissioner, District 4:

Jim Guth

Martha Santiago

Circuit Judge, 10th Judicial Circuit, Group 10:

Lee Cohen

Melissa Gravitt

Circuit Judge, 10th Judicial Circuit, Group 11:

Dana Y. Moore

Stephen Paul Pinket

School Board, District 3:

Sarah Fortney

Scott Jones

LaTrice Moore

Kala Tedder

School Board, District 5:

Terry L. Clark

Kay Fields

Jennifer Sabin

School Board, District 7:

David Byrd

Lisa Miller

Clubs and Organizations:

The Republican Club of Lakeland

The Democratic Women’s Club of Lakeland

The Republican Women’s Club of Lakeland, Federated
Event Sponsors:

Red Sponsors

Clark, Campbell, Lancaster & Munson, P.A.

Rocking H Ranch

Ledger Media Group

Spectrum Business

Gubernatorial Sponsors

A-C-T Environmental & Infrastructure

Reed Mawhinney & Link, PLLC

Watson Clinic LLP

Media Partners

Big 4 Radio – WONN/WPCV/WLKF/WWRZ Radio (Linking Community Now Inc.)

Exclusive Beer Sponsor

Bernie Little Distributor

Event Sponsors

BTB Catering

Lakeland Valet

Event Partner

Polk County Supervisor of Elections

Location:  Rocking H Ranch, 2200 Ewell Rd, Lakeland, FL  33811

Date/Time Information:  Tuesday, August 14, 2018, 5:30 PM – 9:00 PM

Contact Information:  Rebecca Fortier,


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.


Lakeland Chamber President Cory Skeates Nominated as Treasurer of FACP

facpThe Nominating Committee, chaired by Dawn Adams of the Jax Chamber, has completed its work and presents the following slate of nominees:

New Board Members: (3 years)

Tamara Fleischhaker, Ocala/Marion County

Janet Kersey, Daytona

Sarah Pearson, Boca

Ray Villegas, Seminole County


Board Members for Re-Appointment:

Skip Alford, Palm Harbor (3 years)

Hope Allen, North Tampa (1 year)

Cindy Brief, Coral Springs (1 year)

Ted Everett, Washington County (3 years)

Kelly Flannery, South Tampa (3 years)

John Newstreet, Kissimmee-Osceola County (3 years)

Tracy Wilson, Tampa (3 years)

Chair Appointment: (1 year)

Kristopher McLane, Panama City Beach



Elizabeth Spies, Destin



Cory Skeates, Lakeland


Regional Chairs:  (*new)

*Central: Ray Villegas, Seminole County

East Central: Debbie Connors, Port Orange-S. Daytona

Northeast: Tresa Calfee, Clay County

Northwest: Ted Everett, Washington County

*Southeast: Cindy Brief, Coral Springs

Southwest: Donna Germain, Cape Coral

West Central: Kelly Flannery, South Tampa

Please join us in congratulating the nominees and thanking them for their willingness to serve!


Lakeland Chamber President Cory Skeates Graduates from IOM

Cory Skeates Graduates from Institute for Organization Management
A Leadership Training Program Produced by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation


WASHINGTON, D.C.— Institute for Organization Management, the professional development program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, is pleased to announce that Corydon Skeates IOM, President, of the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce, has graduated from the program and has received the recognition of IOM. Awarded to all graduates of the Institute program, the IOM Graduate Recognition signifies the individual’s completion of 96 hours of course instruction in nonprofit management. In addition, participants can earn credit hours toward the Certified Chamber Executive (CCE) or Certified Association Executive (CAE) certifications. Nearly 1,000 individuals attend Institute annually.

“Institute graduates are recognized across the country as leaders in their industries and organizations,” said Raymond P. Towle, IOM, CAE, the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s vice president of Institute for Organization Management. “These individuals have the knowledge, skills, and dedication necessary to achieve professional and organizational success in the dynamic association and chamber industries.”

Since its commencement in 1921, the Institute program has been educating tens of thousands of association, chamber, and other nonprofit leaders on how to build stronger organizations, better serve their members and become strong business advocates. Institute’s curriculum consists of four weeklong sessions at five different university locations throughout the country. Through a combination of required courses and electives in areas such as leadership, advocacy, marketing, finance, and membership, Institute participants are able to enhance their own organizational management skills and add new fuel to their organizations, making them run more efficiently and effectively.

Institute for Organization Management is the professional development program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. It is the premier nonprofit professional development program for association and chamber professionals, fostering individual growth through interactive learning and networking opportunities.



The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF) is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce dedicated to strengthening America’s long-term competitiveness. We educate the public on the conditions necessary for business and communities to thrive, how business positively impacts communities, and emerging issues and creative solutions that will shape the future.

Young Entrepreneurs Academy III (2017-18) at 2Infinity Extreme Air Sports field trip. From L to R:  Mark Van Wagenen, Manager, 2Infinity Extreme Air Sports; Sachin Sivakumar; Skyler Hollinger; Alexander Thomas; Om Tarapawala; Angel Mendez (in back); Warin Ding; Shelby Claville; Grant Gable; Luke Shamoun; and, Mark Scolnick, Central Florida SCORE.


LAKELAND, FLORIDA (May 22, 2018) — The Young Entrepreneurs Academy is recruiting students for the fourth class of the Polk County chapter for the 2018-2019 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 direct mission of the Academy is to help students embrace their passion, energy, creativity and talents, and view entrepreneurship as synonymous with success and freedom. The Academy teaches kids to believe in themselves, to think big, and to understand that they can achieve anything they set their minds to. In the process, students learn as much about leadership and self-empowerment as they do about planning, budgeting, and production. Students in the Academy discover in themselves confidence, optimism, and capabilities they never knew they had.

Alexander Thomas, graduate of the 2017-18 class and owner of Aerial Perspective, shares his experience at the Academy, “I have had a great time participating in YEA! Polk this year. I have learned the starting principles of how to develop, run, and manage a business. The business I founded, Aerial Perspective Drone Services, is advancing significantly. On April 4th, I pitched my business idea to the YEA! Shark Tank investors and I received $1,300. With the awarded cash I purchased the business’ first drone! During the weeks following the student business presentations, we had several guest speakers. Ms. Dawn Decaminada from Polk County Small Business spoke to us about what the government can do for small businesses. Also Mr. Mark Van Wagenen led us on a tour of 2Infinity Extreme Air Sports. My fellow students and I got to ‘jump’ after the tour! My class and I have also learned about advertising, marketing, taxes, banking, and continuity and exit strategies. We also met three people representing the media (The Ledger, Spectrum Bay News 9, and Hall Communications, who spoke to us about press releases and how to interview with a reporter. On May 15th six students, including me, set up booths for a Trade Show event hosted by the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce at the RP Funding Center. I was able to get several leads and received a lot of encouragement and advice. I am looking forward to running Aerial Perspective Drone Services to the best of my ability.”

Young Entrepreneurs Academy III (2017-18) at 2Infinity Extreme Air Sports field trip. From L to R:  Mark Van Wagenen, Manager, 2Infinity Extreme Air Sports; Sachin Sivakumar; Skyler Hollinger; Alexander Thomas; Om Tarapawala; Angel Mendez (in back); Warin Ding; Shelby Claville; Grant Gable; Luke Shamoun; and, Mark Scolnick, Central Florida SCORE.

Young Entrepreneurs Academy III (2017-18) at 2Infinity Extreme Air Sports field trip. From L to R:  Mark Van Wagenen, Manager, 2Infinity Extreme Air Sports; Sachin Sivakumar; Skyler Hollinger; Alexander Thomas; Om Tarapawala; Angel Mendez (in back); Warin Ding; Shelby Claville; Grant Gable; Luke Shamoun; and, Mark Scolnick, Central Florida SCORE.

A graduate of the 2016-17 Young Entrepreneurs Academy, Logan Soria, CEO/Owner of Stand Up!, comments on the program, “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, 2018 and guarantees interviews for all applicants. The final application deadline is August 24, 2018, and students may be placed on a waiting list.

Classes will take place 4:30 – 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays at Southeastern University beginning in October.

The tuition for the program is $495, and there are need-based scholarships available.

The application for the Polk County program is available at or For questions or additional information, please contact Rebecca Fortier at (863) 688-8551 ext. 229, or by email at

Media about our local Academy

The Young Entrepreneurs Academy of Polk Sponsors and the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce are helping to build the next generation of business leaders in Central Florida.

Premier Sponsors:

Lakeland Chamber Foundation

Jannetides College of Business & Entrepreneurial Leadership at Southeastern University

Investor Panel Sponsors:

Allen & Company of Florida, Inc.

Publix Super Markets, Inc.

SunTrust Bank

Scholarship Sponsors:

Citrus Center Kiwanis

Maximize Digital Media

Mulberry Community Service Center

Suncoast Credit Union Foundation

Community Sponsors:

Gary S Claville Trust

Got Candy & More Food Truck


Lakeland Chamber of Commerce

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