Category Archives: Chamber Initiatives

Key Strategic Initiatives


Lakeland Electric to Host Customer Workshops to Share Information About a Proposed Base Rate Increase

lakeland electric


Lakeland Electric is proposing raising our customer’s total monthly residential bills by around two dollars. Businesses would also see minor increases. This additional money will go to maintaining and upgrading Lakeland Electric’s power plants, poles, wires, and substations, as well as cover operational costs that rose over the last three years.

We invite our customers to join us on June 26, 2018 at RP Funding Center, 701 W. Lime Street from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., or on June 25th or June 28th virtually via the Internet from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Lakeland Electric staff will share information about the proposed base rate increase and customers will be able to provide comments.

Our customer’s bill is made up of several charges: base rate, environmental charge, fuel charge, and taxes and surcharges. Lakeland Electric is proposing raising one charge on the electric bill – the Base Rate – around 3% in October 2018. It could be lower or slightly higher than 3% depending on your customer class. Since the Base Rate is only one portion of your bill, your overall bill would go up by about 1.8%, which equals $2.43 for an average residential customer using 1200 kilowatt hours every month.

Even with this possible increase, Lakeland Electric will continue to have some of the lowest electric rates in the state. In fact, in 2017 Lakeland Electric ranked as having the overall lowest rates in the state in 6 of 8 customer categories (i.e., commercial, residential, industrial, etc.).

Customers are encouraged to RSVP for one of the workshops at

For more information about these workshops and the proposed base rate increase, please visit

The link to the virtual meetings can be found here:

In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 286.26, Florida Statute, persons with disabilities needing special accommodation to participate in this proceeding, or those requiring language assistance (free of charge) should contact the City of Lakeland ADA Specialist, Jenny Sykes.  Because providing a reasonable accommodation may require outside assistance, organizations, or resources, the City asks that any request be made with as much notice as possible, preferably 72 hours, but no later than 48 hours in advance of the event, at: (863) 834-8444, Email:  If hearing impaired, please contact the TDD numbers: Local – (863) 834-8333 or 1-(800) 955-8771 (TDD – Telecommunications Device for the Deaf) or the Florida Relay Service number: 1-(800) 955-8770 (VOICE), for assistance.

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


Tourism Marketing Meeting to Feature Latin America Marketing Specialist on May 10

Auburndale, FL (May 4, 2018) – Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing (PCTSM) will host the next Tourist Development Council (TDC) Marketing Committee Meeting at 9 a.m. on Thursday, May 10, 2018.

Victor Manjarres, President of TM Latin America, will be the featured guest speaker. Manjarres, who has nearly 30 years of experience in the tourism industry, will discuss his company’s strategies to promote Polk County as a tourist destination to Latin America markets. TM Latin America has extensive experience in marketing, sales, communications, public relations, brand positioning and e-commerce in the tourism sector in the major markets of Latin America including Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Argentina, with presence throughout the entire region.  Latin America is one of the fastest growing international markets in the travel and tourism industry and Central Florida is one of the top vacation destinations for Latin Americans. Manjarres will present an overview of this market and how PCTSM is targeting this audience and how businesses can capture more visitors from Latin America.

The meeting will be held in the PCTSM conference room located at Lake Myrtle Sports Park, 2701 Lake Myrtle Park Road, Auburndale.  Industry professionals are encouraged to attend. For more information, contact Kris Keprios at 863-551-4750 or     


About Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing:

Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing (known nationally as Visit Central Florida), is the official destination marketing organization for Polk County, Florida, and specializes in helping visitors plan a fun-filled Central Florida vacation.


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,

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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.


Polk State College to Celebrate 118th Commencement Ceremony

Adam Putnam HeadshotWinter Haven, April 18, 2018 — Nearly 700 students with Polk State College’s 118th graduating class will walk the stage Thursday, May 3, at the RP Funding Center to receive their diplomas.

The upcoming commencement ceremony, which will start at 6:30 p.m. at 701 W. Lime St. in Lakeland, will feature remarks by Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam.

“We are truly honored to have Commissioner Putnam joining us to celebrate the success of our students,” Polk State President Angela Garcia Falconetti said. “Commissioner Putnam is a longtime supporter of Polk County and its local state college, and I believe students and guests will benefit greatly from his words of encouragement and his vision for Florida’s future.”

A total of 1,077 students qualify to march in the May 2018 commencement ceremony. Ninety percent of those are Polk County residents.

Here’s a more detailed look at Polk State’s 118th graduating class:

  • 218 students will receive degrees from one of Polk State’s baccalaureate programs:
    • 142 will receive a Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management
    • 48 will receive a Bachelor of Science in Nursing
    • 21 will receive a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
    • 7 will receive a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace
  • 672 students will receive Associate in Arts degrees, which are fully transferable to any institution within the State University System.
  • 187 students will receive Associate in Science degrees, which prepare students to go directly into the workforce in fields including nursing, engineering technology, and diagnostic medical sonography.
  • 57 students will graduate Summa Cum Laude with a grade-point average (GPA) of 3.9 or greater; 64 will graduate Magna Cum Laude with a GPA between 3.75 and 3.89; and 151 will graduate Cum Laude with a GPA between 3.5 and 3.74.
  • 28 students will graduate with 4.0 grade-point averages.
  • 18 students will receive the College’s Honors Program distinction on their diplomas. These students have completed a minimum of 18 credit hours in courses with Honors Program designation and achieved a grade-point average of 3.2 or greater.
  • The youngest graduate is 16 and the oldest is 64.
  • In addition to Florida, students from Colorado, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia will receive Polk State diplomas.

“Polk State’s 118th commencement ceremony will celebrate the achievements and perseverance of all students and their supporters,” Falconetti said. “Our students serve as testaments to the College’s ability to provide access to quality higher education that prepares them for life and success.”

Steve LesterThe ceremony also will honor Polk County Sheriff’s Office Chief of Staff Steve Lester, who will receive the Polk State College Foundation’s May 2018 Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Chief Lester received a Polk State Associate in Science degree in 1982 and a Polk State Associate in Arts degree in 1983, and credits the College with giving him the educational foundation he needs to be successful.

He went on to receive a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and a master’s degree from Troy University. He reports directly to Sheriff Grady Judd, and is second in command of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, where he has served for more than 30 years.

Chief Lester will join Polk State on May 3 in celebration of the College’s 118th graduating class.

About Polk State College
Located in Winter Haven, Florida, and established in 1964, Polk State College is a multi-campus institution serving more than 16,000 students with Bachelor of Applied Science, Bachelor of Science, Associate in Arts and Associate in Science degrees, as well as a wide range of certificate and workforce training options.
The College also operates three charter high schools. Polk State’s advantages include small class sizes; hands-on learning; dedicated faculty; day and night classes; online options; affordable tuition; excellent financial aid; and a diverse community and vibrant student life, including fine arts opportunities, clubs, and intercollegiate athletics.