The Central Florida Development Council’s highest honor — the George Harris, Jr. Award — is presented annually to businesses, institutions and organizations in Polk County which promote free enterprise, community service, economic stability and quality growth. The economic development organization’s investors vote to recognize both small and large entities which are recognized at its annual meeting.

The prestigious award is named for George W. Harris, Jr. who was Chairman and President of Citrus and Chemical Bank. Harris, who was a towering figure in banking, finance, philanthropy and civic leadership, died in 2006 at the age of 71.

He was an early and impactful Chairman of the Central Florida Development Council, whose office was located in the headquarters of Citrus and Chemical Bank in Bartow, Florida for 22 years.

The energetic and good natured banker was a graduate of Georgia Tech where he met Harriet Griffin, his future wife and mother to his three children. While Harris was a giant in the banking industry, his endearing legacy is his love of people and his community.

His numerous honors include the 2003 George Jenkins Award from the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce and induction into the Tampa Bay Business Hall of Fame. Harris was the first statewide recipient of the Community Bankers of Florida Banker of the Year Award and he received the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the Polk County Opportunity Council. Citrus and Chemical Bank received the Dick Pope, Sr. Award from the Central Florida Development Council, the same honor which would one day pay homage to his name and community service.