LAKELAND, Fla. – (April 21, 2009) – The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has awarded Polk Public Schools a $1.4 million education grant to enhance Kathleen High School’s Central Florida Aerospace Academy (CFAA), an aviation-oriented high school/career academy located on the campus of the Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In.

The Central Florida Aerospace Academy is part of Florida’s A++ legislation requiring high schools to implement professional and career academies in high wage, high skill professions. Students enrolled in the aerospace academy receive instruction in avionics, pre-engineering and aerospace technologies. Currently, the academy’s avionics track prepares students for a career as avionics technicians. The pre-engineering and aerospace technologies tracks provide technical knowledge and experience and introduce students to the aerospace environment with a focus on flight, navigation, aircraft systems and design.  They also provide an excellent background for continued college studies in engineering and aerospace.  The academy is also preparing to offer an Air Force JROTC program.

A portion of Polk’s grant money will be used to enhance the academy’s curriculum through intensive, activity-based “discovery mode” lessons.  Learning activities will embed mathematics and science standards and concepts into workforce education courses leading to specific certifications.  Grant monies will also be used for additional professional development for CFAA instructors.  The University of South Florida-Tampa and USF Polytechnic-Lakeland will assist with curriculum development.  Resources of Lakeland’s Traviss Career Center and Polk Community College will also be utilized.

The NASA grant program awarded a total of $11.5 million to public school districts, state-based education initiatives and not-for-profit education organizations across the country.  Individual grants ranged from $300,000 to the $1.4 million.  Polk received the largest grant award at $1.4 million.   Other grant recipients included the Chicago Public Schools, Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., the Georgia Department of Education and the Council of Chief School Officers in Washington. D.C.

Community and education partners involved in the CFAA are the Polk Public Schools, Polk Public Schools Workforce Education Department, Sun ’n Fun Fly-In, Florida Air Museum, Lakeland Lindner Regional Airport, University of South Florida-Tampa, USF Polytechnic, Polk Community College, Gulf Coast Avionics, Central Florida Development Council, FAA Safety Team and Production Studios and Traviss Career Center.


Marketing Mondays | Where the Magic Happens

Robert Scoble is a geek.  He was an evangelist for Microsoft for three years and is among the top social media strategists.  As of today, he is being followed by 82,411 people on twitter.  As much a large groups play a huge part in web 2.0 (or whatever we’re calling it now), Scoble reminds us that to practice what some of you have always known: that intimate, small-group interactions are where the real magic happens.  It’s leveraging social media to implement these interactions that is key:

Pierre's chalet (view from the hot tub)

In all the hype about celebrities over on Twitter and Facebook we’ve forgotten something: experiences you have with crowds of other people are rarely magical unless it’s a concert and, even then, I’ve seen musicians give concerts to four of my closest friends and then go out and give concerts to thousands of people. I would rather have the small experience EVERY TIME. Which is one reason I like Peter Himmelman’s Furious World so much.

I’ve been around the world. I’ve met some of the smartest people in the world. Just this week I shared a Guinness with the deputy prime minister of Ireland.

But as I get around the world I find I’m not chasing the crowds. I’m chasing the magical experience.

What are some of the magical experiences in your life? Bringing a kid into the world is one of mine. Two people. And a doctor and nurse. The power of four again.

Getting married? When done best there are only a few participants: two people, a minister, and a witness. Four people.

A great dinner out? I’ve found that if there’s four people at the table that you love it always is magical. Five or more? Introduces noise and reduces the magic.

Laurent Haug, founder of LIFT conference

This is something I’ve discovered thanks to Laurent Haug, founder of the LIFT Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. He invited me to spend time after the conference at his friend’s Swiss Chalet.

It is still the most magical experience I’ve had with someone I’ve met online.

Just a small group hanging out over a weekend, skiing, eating food that’s not good for us, taking photos, hanging out in the hot tub drinking Laurent’s friend’s expensive brandy. You can see the photo of the hot tub on this post.

Laurent shows us CoComment

It even turned into one of those product launches that really sticks with me, when Laurent (pictured here) showed us something he was working on called CoComment. I no longer use that service, but laid the groundwork for a variety of others, including Disqus who I’m headed to see today.

The point is, that magical experiences in life are — for me at least — those that are small and done with four or so other people.

So, why don’t our social networks try to get us to split up into smaller groups? Facebook and friendfeed do, in their various ways. Yesterday I signed into Facebook for the first time in a while. I tried importing my Tweets and instantly got complaints. Why? Because the usage model there is all about talking with small groups of friends.

While Twitter gets the hype and chases the big crowd experience I’m left noticing that Facebook might run away with the real monetization prize: because Facebook is better setup for having magical experiences online with small groups of friends.

How magical? For the past few weeks Maryam has been showing me some of the conversations she’s been having with old school friends from around the world. She’s giddy that she’s finding cousins and old friends she hasn’t seen for decades.


I look at my friendfeed experiences, too. I’m starting to put people into separate lists. Four at a time. I imagine having dinner with them and having a conversation about something.

This is a technique I learned from Linda Stone. When she invited me over for dinner she sat me next to a famous author and a famous Microsoft researcher to see if magic would happen.

This is something that many PR people and big company employees never get. Read Tara Hunt’s experience of trying to find book reviewers. She’s chasing the magical experience. Her PR company is chasing “bloggers with reach.”

Hint: Tara is right. The magic is with people who care. The magic is in small numbers. The magic is in creating an experience that has nothing to do with a committee. That post is something every PR and big company employee should read and understand at a deep level. She wants to create magic (she calls it Whuffie) and she knows that if she has a small number of people who are fanatical about what she’s doing that that’s how it’ll get done.

Anyway, just one of my thoughts as I am working today on Building43 — we’re looking to find people who are fanatical about the Internet and create a magical experience. I wonder who I should invite to dinner?

Here’s another example. Tomorrow at 3 p.m. I’m getting a tour of the Monterey Bay Aquarium from the guy who does their friendfeed/Twitter communities. I can get three other people into the tour. The first ones who email me at scobleizer@gmail.com get in.

What kind of magical experiences are you trying to create?


Don’t Slam Shut Our Open Doors

Don’t Slam Shut Our Open Doors

As commencement season approaches, a sense of accomplishment and celebration prevails on college campuses across the country. We, as community college educators, experience enormous pride and satisfaction as our students graduate. The degree or certificate awarded represents great achievement for our students, particularly in this current economic climate.  Many have overcome numerous obstacles while on the path to higher education. With unemployment hovering at nearly nine percent nationally and more than almost 10 percent locally, the challenges for our students – many of whom work at least part time and balance family responsibilities – are getting even tougher.

The Florida Community College System, now called the Florida College System, was founded and continues to embrace the Open Door policy – providing quality higher education to everyone motivated to working toward that goal. Our system has been hailed, both nationally and internationally, as the model for a successful higher education system that delivers high quality education at an affordable price — with maximum return on investment for both students and taxpayers. Our secret to success is no secret at all: we go the extra mile to support students, all students, and the results have been immeasurably positive for our communities and our residents.

Often called Florida’s “best kept secret,” our community colleges are also touted as the “best budgetary bang for their buck” for students and Florida taxpayers. The citizens of our state have benefited by our cost-effective ability to meet community demand for professionals in virtually every field. Think of the nurses, paramedics, and law enforcement officers in Florida who got their start at a Community College. All of this has been accomplished at a fraction of the cost to educate students at a university.

The Florida College System is unique in its efforts to embrace those who come to us with enormously diverse backgrounds, experiences, and abilities by providing a unique and supportive learning experience. Recent high school graduates, professionals seeking career-change training, former drop-outs who now recognize that education is the answer — thrive in our dynamic classrooms. Now, adding to the mix are the thousands of recently unemployed, seeking to upgrade job skills and credentials. New students are flooding our Open Doors, leading to unprecedented growth in our districts and unprecedented strain on our resources. The logic of the unemployed investing in education is admirably forward-thinking. These people are not waiting for the phone to ring with job offers that simply might not exist. When the economy rebounds and opportunity knocks, our graduates will be the ones called upon to answer the door. Or will they? With the budget cuts currently proposed for our system, we are now being forced to ask this question of our legislators.

In the past, our passion for the community college mission compensated, in part, for what we lacked in funding. Today, however, we struggle to meet enormous public demand with increasingly strained resources. If education and training are so vital to sustain our economy; if our legislators understand that an educated and skilled workforce is vital for communities to flourish, why then is the state funding for community colleges the most threatened in higher education?

As college presidents, it is imperative that we inform the citizens of our communities about the impact of this budget crisis on our operations. In fact, it is our responsibility to represent our Boards of Trustees, faculty, staff and students as we battle this fiscal threat to our mission. The citizens that we serve depend upon our colleges to provide relevant programs of study, customized training and lifelong learning opportunities. And today, our much-admired Open Door may soon slam shut on the people who need us most, at the worst possible time.

Governor Charlie Crist recently said “Florida’s community colleges enjoy a unique and much-needed role in our state by providing affordable education to students of all ages, including returning students who want to grow, refine and change their careers, because of their ability to respond to local labor market needs,” he continued, “Our community colleges are uniquely positioned to prepare workers for high-demand occupations that are critical to our economy.”

This statement underscores our rationale for establishing a multitude of new programs at the request of business and industry leaders seeking skilled employees in high demand fields.  Yet after two years of successive funding reductions, we have been advised by the Governor’s budget office to anticipate an additional four to ten percent cut from our base funding for the 2009-10 budget year – this at a time where we have watched our enrollments swell by over 14% in the last year, bringing our combined enrollment to over 76,000 students this year.

To offset these unprecedented financial losses we have been forced to make tough choices.  We are now faced with making the decision to offer fewer sections of classes, reducing the number of workforce training programs, reducing support services to our students, limiting supply and equipment purchases, and, regrettably, increasing  tuition paid by our students at a time when their need for financial aid has never been greater.

So what is the solution? If community colleges are the key to economic recovery, what message are state leaders sending to our citizens? The consistency with which the state legislature continues to cut our funding perpetuates the paradox — without training and education, individuals will be unable to find new jobs or afford to pay the taxes that fuel the economy – directly affecting the economic climate of Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando and Polk counties.

The idea that our colleges and the Florida College System as a whole is a discretionary part of higher education funding must change. With our state budget in crisis, our goal is to convince legislators of the value of funding our state colleges. We must also enlist the support of business and industry and the citizens of our communities to bring a voice of reason to this funding process. We ask that our legislators fund enrollment growth, assess the lowest percentage of budget cuts possible, minimize tuition increases and allow our local boards of trustees the maximum flexibility to administer those cuts.

As we prepare to congratulate our graduates receiving degrees and certificates this spring, we are proud to be an integral component of the local economy and workforce. Faculty, staff, administrators and our trustees attend our commencement ceremonies with great pride. Unfortunately, our sense of accomplishment is tempered by concern for future students. How many will we be forced to turn away? With the help of our legislators and the support from the communities we serve, we hope that the answer will be “none.”

Eileen Holden, Ed.D.

President – Polk Community College

Katherine M. Johnson, Ed.D.

President – Pasco-Hernando Community College

Gwendolyn W. Stephenson, Ph.D.

President – Hillsborough Community College


Business & Breakfast | Marketing in a Down Economy

When budgets shrink, marketing is often one of the first items to be eliminated.  At the Chamber’s April Business & Breakfast, attendees learned the importance of maintaining a marketing presence throughout tough times as well as free ways to make an impact.

April Business & Breakfast

CPS Investment Advisors sponsored the program, titled “Marketing in a Down Economy.”  CPS Regional Director of Retirement Services, Brian Mau, moderated a panel discussion and Q&A session with representatives from Madden, a brand identity firm in Lakeland.  President Steve Madden, Creative Director Allen Reed, and Creative Account Manager Michelle Ledford shared insights about national and local marketing trends and trendsetters.

A recurring theme of the breakfast was the importance of maintaining a marketing presence in order to gain marketshare.  The Madden team presented some great ideas for marketing outside of the proverbial box as well as some key ways to market at little to no cost.  In addition to using email blasts, attendees were encouraged to establish themselves as experts in their fields, use PR for free publicity, and implement or update customer referral programs.

April Business & Breakfast April Business & Breakfast

Guests were treated to an excellent breakfast and beautiful scenery at the Grasslands Country Club.

For audio of the event, please download the second episode of the Chamber podcast or subscribe here.



Governor appoints USF Poly CEO to regional planning post

Governor appoints USF Poly CEO to regional planning post

(Lakeland, Fla., April 15, 2009) –  Governor Charlie Crist has appointed Dr. Marshall Goodman, vice president and chief executive officer of the University of South Florida Polytechnic, to the Central Florida Regional Planning Council. His term begins April 13, 2009, and ends Oct. 1, 2010.

The Central Florida Regional Planning Council is a planning and public policy agency that works with public and private leadership in central Florida to achieve a healthy and sustainable future. It serves DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Okeechobee and Polk Counties.

“I’m honored to serve the governor and represent the university and the community,” said Goodman. “The decisions and actions of the council have a significant and positive impact on the future of this region.”

Since joining USF Polytechnic in 2006, Goodman has made regional economic development a priority. In his career he has traveled extensively and has consulted on state politics, government ethics, public administration, and international trade. From 1999-2001 he served Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson as special assistant for globalization. His international focus areas have included India, the Pacific Rim, Central and South America, and the European Union.

Goodman’s civic involvement includes seats on the boards of the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce, the Auburndale Chamber of Commerce, the Lakeland Economic Development Council, the Central Florida Development Council, the Polk Museum of Art, the Learning Resource Center of Polk County, Polk Vision, the United Way of Central Florida, the Bartow Regional Medical Center and others. He is a participant in the Tampa Bay Partnership’s CEO Direct leadership program and a member of the inaugural class of Leadership Polk and active with the Tampa Bay Partnership and myRegion.org.