Category Archives: Economic Growth


Registration Open for Annual Economic Update

LAKELAND, FLORIDA (November 21, 2017) – “The ‘human condition’ is always to push forward for the better and economics is the study of that process.” Chief Economist Brian Wesbury of First Trust Advisors, L.P., a nationally recognized economist, will return as our guest speaker for the 31st Annual Economic Forecast Breakfast on Thursday, January 18, 2018 at the RP Funding Center.  Reporting the regional perspective is Dr. Tony Villamil, a nationally recognized business economist, with over thirty-five years of successful career as a senior economist, university Dean and high-level policymaker for both federal and state governments.

“This year has certainly been showered with events that continue to impact Americans”, comments Ralph Allen, Chairman of Allen & Company of Florida, Inc.  He further comments, “from historical hurricane activity in 2017 to unrelenting violence on both foreign and homeland soil.  These events define our thoughts, our actions and sometimes our financial well being.”  How these global stories influence the economies and ultimately our day-to-day lives is important to understand.

The doors will open at 6:45am for registration and breakfast at the RP Funding Center (formerly the Lakeland Center). This year all ticket purchases will be online.  Please register online at where you will find all the details for the event.  Student tickets and tables are available by contacting Rebecca Fortier at the Lakeland Chamber. The early bird pricing ends December 15th.

About Allen & Company of Florida, Inc.

Since 1932 Allen & Company of Florida, Inc. has provided financial planning and wealth management services to the communities we serve.  Headquartered in Lakeland, Florida, with operations in Winter Haven and Viera, Allen & Company is Florida’s oldest investment firm.

About the Lakeland Chamber

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:  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; and, the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce is the leading organization dedicated to creating a climate where business can prosper.




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Polk Goes Global III: Attendees will Gain Insight on Conducting International Business

The Lakeland and Winter Haven Chambers, in collaboration with the Central Florida Development Council, is pleased to host this year’s Polk Goes Global III – A Half-Day International Exporting Conference.

This exciting and informative event highlights the economic strength of Polk County’s international trade in cattle, citrus, manufacturers, and other goods and service exports. The county is centrally located between major Florida ports, with a free trade zone in the middle of the Tampa/Orlando area, plus a CSX intermodal logistics center. Ideally situated, Polk County is a hot spot for international distribution. Over $2 billion worth of economic activity occurs through the county each year. Polk Goes Global is sure to provide a wealth of information to any businessperson or investor looking to take advantage of the worldwide reach of Polk County.

The International sponsor of the event is Saddle Creek Logistics Services; additional event sponsors include Orlando International Airport, Polk State College Lakeland Campus and SunTrust Bank. The Keynote Speaker will be Manny Mencia, SVP of International Trade and Business Development at Enterprise Florida.  For over 30 years, Mencia has acquired extensive international trade expertise while serving at the Florida Department of Commerce in various executive roles (1977-1991) and then as vice president of World Marketing at The Beacon Council (1992-1996) before joining Enterprise Florida.  His keynote address promises to offer attendees unique insight into the opportunities surrounding the global market.

There will also be a number of speakers and panelists to share their experiences on conducting international business in Polk County, including:

  • Joseph Bell, Regional Director of Enterprise Florida
  • David Befus, Associate Professor of International Business at Southeastern University
  • Sandra Campbell, Director at the U.S. Department of Commerce – Clearwater Center
  • Torrey Chambliss, Manager of Foreign Trade Zone at Port Tampa Bay
  • Mauro Costa, Managing Member of SOS Universal
  • Rick Garcia, President of Gulf Coast Avionics
  • Javier Marin, Director of Business Development and Global Trace at the Central Florida Development Council
  • Sandro Murtas, Regional Manager at the Small Business Administration
  • Eileen Rodriguez, Director of the Small Business Development Center at USF
  • Joel Sellers, International Sales Manager of Florida’s Natural Growers
  • Jennifer Simpson, Regional Director at the Eastern Region EXIM Bank
  • Dan Tapia, Manager of International Strategy and Policy at the Florida Chamber of Commerce

Polk Goes Global III will be held on Friday, November 17, 2017, 7:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., at the Polk State College, LTB Auditorium, located at 3425 Winter Lake Road, Lakeland, Florida, 33801. Admission to the event is $25 for members of the CFDC, the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce, and the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce, and $35 for non-members. The price includes breakfast.

Attendees can register online by visiting the  Lakeland or Winter Haven Chamber websites or by going to or and clicking on the events tab.

For more information please contact:
Brianna Dingess

(863) 293-2138

Rebecca Fortier

(863) 688-8551 ext. 229

Javier Marin

(863) 937-4430


Florida SBDC Network, Enterprise Florida Partner to Help State Businesses Expand Overseas

FSBDCN-LOGO-COLOR-800 pxThe Florida SBDC Network and Enterprise Florida, Inc. (EFI) today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) solidifying a partnership to assist Florida-based companies tap into overseas markets.

Scholarship Export Assistance Program
Under the agreement, the Florida SBDC and EFI, in partnership with the U.S. Commercial Service, are offering a scholarship export assistance program to help businesses identify overseas growth strategies. Through the MOU, qualified “new and infrequent export” manufacturers and professional service providers have the opportunity to meet with a Florida SBDC International Trade Specialist to prepare a customized export marketing plan.

Secretary of Commerce and EFI President and CEO Gray Swoope said, “EFI and the Florida SBDC Network work hard to make sure the state’s small businesses receive the trade assistance they need. Through this MOU we can support small business growth and grow Florida’s export economy. Our state’s seaports and airports make Florida the perfect location for companies looking to grow internationally, and we look forward to working with small businesses across the state.”

“The Florida SBDC Network is committed to helping Florida’s small businesses take advantage of exporting opportunities to grow and expand,” said Michael Myhre, Florida SBDC CEO and Network State Director. “We are pleased to partner with Enterprise Florida and the U.S. Commercial Service to offer better opportunities to our clients and to strengthen Florida’s economy through the expansion of U.S. exports.”

Customized Export Marketing Plan

The MOU calls for the creation of export marketing plans, which take an average of 120 hours to develop, and include a thorough export readiness assessment, industry analysis, market analysis with target market recommendations, a review of overseas trade opportunities and an action plan that will include export promotion programs and services.

Export promotion opportunities may include international trade shows, trade missions and other matchmaking services such as the Gold Key program which provides an opportunity for companies to meet with pre-screened and qualified buyers, agents, importers and representatives. Enterprise Florida offers additional grants to qualified businesses for each of these programs.

The estimated market value of an export marketing plan is $10,000. As a result of the partnership between the Florida SBDC and Enterprise Florida, the cost to qualifying companies is $500. The remaining amount is underwritten by the Florida SBDC and Enterprise Florida.

The MOU was signed by Secretary Swoope, Myhre and Manny Mencia, Senior Vice President of International Trade and Development for EFI. Representatives from the University of West Florida, the Florida SBDC and EFI gathered to witness the signing following EFI’s board of directors meeting.

For more information, visit


Downtown Market Brings Fresh Access Bucks to Polk County

photo by Laura L Davis

photo by Laura L Davis

Lakeland Downtown Farmers Curb Market has joined forces with Enactus, a social entrepreneur group from Florida Southern College, to make it easier for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients to purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables.  Through a grant from Mosaic, the Market was able to provide the matching dollars needed for the Fresh Access Bucks Program which doubles the value of SNAP (food stamp) dollars when they’re spent at farmer’s markets for fresh, Florida grown fruits and vegetables.

Fresh Access Bucks (FAB) encourages healthy behaviors by making fresh, local produce more affordable and accessible to SNAP recipients (formally known as food stamps). The goals of FAB are to develop new market opportunities for farmers, increase access to and affordability of fruits and vegetables in underserved communities, and to increase people’s awareness of the importance of eating fresh fruits and vegetables. FAB promotes healthy eating habits in vulnerable communities by enabling farmers markets to accept food stamps and allows SNAP recipients to purchase double their food dollars for Florida grown fruits and vegetables. A SNAP recipient who spends $10 on fresh Florida grown produce receives an additional $10 to purchase additional fresh, local produce. Currently, 21 farmers markets are participating across Florida from Pensacola to Homestead. Fresh Access Bucks is a program administered statewide by a Gainesville based non-profit, Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers, Inc. The Lakeland Downtown Farmers Curb Market is the 21st market in the program.

SNAP benefits can be used for any eligible food items at the market.  Currently twenty-five vendors at the Lakeland Downtown Farmers Market qualify to accept SNAP, with at least 5 eligible for the FAB program as well.

“It is a great partnership. The students are running the program for us – from creating the marketing materials to manning the EBT station at the Market on Saturdays,” said Julie Townsend, Executive Director of the Lakeland Downtown Development Authority. “It is exciting to see FSC students engage with Downtown in this way. I think we will increase the awareness of the Market, and Downtown in general, on the FSC campus while providing a great service to the community.”

To kick start the program and for a limited time, the Market is also partnering with Citrus Connection to provide complimentary rides to the Market on Saturdays for EBT card holders through the Universal Access Program. When the barriers to access are removed, ridership increases. “We’ve watched the success of Polk State College and others who have partnered with transit. We want folks riding to Downtown,” said Townsend.

Program opening day is February 7, 2015, with a Citrus Connection ribbon cutting at 11:00 a.m. Enactus students are currently working on marketing materials, volunteer recruitment to staff the EBT booth and attracting more local farmers to the market.

“We were very excited when we first found out about the possibility of bringing Florida Organic Grower’s program to the Downtown Farmers Curb Market and for the opportunity for FSC to partner with LDDA. This is a great way to help expand business while providing a sustainable avenue to help improve the health of our community. This is exactly the kind of progress we would like to continue to see. We can’t wait to see where this takes us and the lasting difference we can make in Lakeland,” Julie Gladish, Senior at Florida Southern College and President of Enactus at Florida Southern College.

The Lakeland Downtown Farmers Curb Market is open every Saturday (except the month of August) from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in the 200 blocks of North Kentucky and East Bay Street. For more information visit


Learn how to Export with SBDC Trade Seminars

FSBDCN-LOGO-COLOR-800 pxThe Florida SBDC at University of South Florida hosts a comprehensive list of international trade-focused seminars for entrepreneurs interested in learning how to break into the export market.

Coming seminars (held at the SBDC offices at Port Tampa Bay) include:

International Trade Basics, Tuesday, Jan. 13

If you have a thriving domestic company, maybe it’s time to consider exporting to take your business to the next level. Companies that export grow faster, are more profitable and are less affected by downturns in domestic demand for their products and services. This course will provide you with a comprehensive overview on what it takes to go global.

Cost: $25

Selling to Latin America, Wednesday, Feb. 18

In this economy, improving sales can be a tough proposition. Maybe it is time to expand your customer base to Mexico, Central or South America? Get the insider tips and strategies on selling to this region, information on trade agreements, and how exporting is becoming easier to Latin America than ever before.

Cost: $25

Advanced International Trade Series, Wednesday, March 11

Like to go global, but not sure how to get there? Let the SBDC’s three-part Florida Export Series be your guide. We will put your business on the right path toward international growth and expansion. The Series will cover: steps for exporting success through proper trade planning; international business norms, protocol, and communicating across cultures; and documentation requirements and export financing options.

Cost: $120

Register for any international trade seminar online at