The Central Florida Development Council held its 2017 CFDC Annual Meeting yesterday at Haus 820 in Lakeland. The highlights of the evening included the presentation of the George Harris Jr, Economic Development Awards and hearing an inspiring address about traveling to space from the evening’s keynote speaker.

The event was sponsored by several Central Florida businesses, including Star Sponsors Citizens Bank & Trust, Drummond Company, Inc., Grasslands Golf & Country Club, The Florida High Tech Corridor, Polk State College, Saddle Creek Logistics Services, Six/Ten, LLC, and TECO. Rocket Sponsors included CBC Saunders Ralston Dantzler, CNP, and Duke Energy, in addition to the Launch Pad Sponsors, which included JSK Consulting, Keiser University, Madrid Engineering Group, Inc., Polk County Farm Bureau, and The Lunz Group.  Each of these businesses lend vitality to the region’s economic landscape through their commitment to the community, and we thank them for their continued support in helping launch our future.

During the evening, the prestigious George Harris, Jr. Economic Development Award was given to two businesses who have helped shape Polk County through expansion or job growth activities. The recipients are honored for their promotion of free enterprise, community service, economic stability, and quality growth.

The winner of the Success in Small Business category was Six/Ten, LLC, a Winter Haven company nominated for their expansive development projects. Additional nominees were DSM Technology Consultants for technology projects in Central Florida and The Lunz Group for their architectural design and work to secure the NOAA facility within Polk County.

Of the impressive list of nominees for the Success in Large Business category, Florida Southern College took home the honor.  “This award is especially meaningful to us because of our connection to Mr. Harris, Jr.,” said Robert H. Tate, vice president of External Relations. “On behalf of all of us at Florida Southern College, thank you.” Additional nominees were: Aldi for their facility expansion in Haines City; Arr-Maz for their facility expansion in Mulberry; Crown Linen for their facility expansion in Haines City; Florida’s Natural for being a leader in the citrus industry; and Tucker Paving for construction projects in Central Florida.

Keynote speaker, Captain Winston Scott, a former NASA astronaut who retired from the United States Navy in 1999, moved attendees to consider our community’s future possibilities and what tomorrow might hold. After his service with NASA and the Navy, he served as associate dean at FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, and executive director of the Florida Space Authority. Currently, Captain Scott works as Senior Vice President for External Relations and Economic Development at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne. Captain Scott shared his incredible professional story, as well as talked about what the future holds for industries like aerospace and logistics.

“Polk County is an incredible place with diverse industries, and where the quality of life is good,” said Capt. Scott. During his presentation, he pointed out that in 10 years we will be seeing more electric- and hydrogen-powered vehicles. He also maintained that in 20 years, there might even be more cargo planes that will fly to their destinations without a pilot.

“What can we do to prepare the economy for these trends?  How could Polk County position its current aviation, distribution, logistics, and business services sectors to support that future?  I urge all of you here tonight to collaborate on the possibilities,” Capt. Scott said. “The future is exciting and bright, and I can’t think of a region more poised to embrace that future.”

It was an exciting evening for all those in attendance, as the achievements of the Central Florida business community were celebrated. CFDC President and CEO Sean Malott said, “Over the next year, we remain committed to showcasing Polk County as a premier business destination and helping companies succeed in our community. Polk County is well positioned for growth.”

To view and share the Polk County Florida Showcase video, which was unveiled at the 2017 CFDC Annual Meeting, click here.