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2018 George Harris Jr. Economic Development Award Nominations

September 6, 2018 News

The George Harris, Jr. Economic Development awards recognize organizations with a positive impact on the economy through job growth or expansion activities. Awarded for excellence in the promotion of free enterprise, community service, economic stability and quality growth.

Awards are presented in two categories:

  • Success in Small Business – less than 100 employees
  • Success in Large Business – more than 100 employees

The following area companies were nominated for the 2018 George Harris, Jr. Economic Development award. The winners will be announced at the CFDC Annual Meeting October 9, 2018.

Nominees for Success in Small Business Award

Everett Whitehead & Son, Inc.
Nestled in downtown Winter Haven, FL. Everett Whitehead originally established his business in residential construction, but later, as leadership was passed down through three family generations, the company evolved into a large-scale commercial and industrial enterprise now known as Everett Whitehead & Son, Inc. Founded on the bedrock of quality workmanship and hands-on management, Everett Whitehead & Son, Inc.’s consistent commitment to excellence from conception to completion of a project has engendered the company as one of the most recognized and respected names in general contracting. Today, the business boasts 64 years of experience in design-build, commercial and industrial construction in Florida and other southern states.

With deep rooted ties to Polk County, Everett Whitehead & Son, Inc. has left an undeniable footprint on the Winter Haven community, becoming one of the most venerable players in the city’s industrial and economic regeneration. A few of the company’s most notable efforts in design-build contracting include the construction of the award winning RainGarden Apartments, City of Winter Haven Downtown Parking Garage, and Derry Down event venue. Within the past 10 years, the company’s completed construction within the downtown corridor, which also includes the new Bond Clinic facility and state-of-the-art Tennis Center, has already exceeded $40 million with more projects still looming on the horizon.

Most recently, Everett Whitehead & Son, Inc. has been selected as the downtown Winter Haven design-build contractor for the 20 on Second Apartments and the build-out of the former Elk’s Lodge for the award winning Black Oak Creative digital media agency. They have also been chosen as a member of the design-build team for the field house center at the Chain of Lakes Complex.

For Everett Whitehead & Son, Inc., revitalizing Winter Haven isn’t just another project, it’s a lifetime investment in the prosperity of their home.

Gulf Coast Avionics
Rick Garcia’s love of aviation began while growing up in Miami. He attended George T. Baker Aviation High School and went into the Air Force after graduation. After his service in the Air Force he began working as an avionics technician in Tampa. However, he knew there was more and in 1984 Gulf Coast Avionics was born and was located at Tampa International Airport.

In 1999 Rick decided to move his business to Lakeland Linder Regional Airport becoming a partner with Polk County and Lakeland Linder Regional Airport. This was one of the best decisions he ever made. Today Gulf Coast Avionics sells, installs and repairs aircraft electronics in a wide variety of civil and military, General Aviation aircraft and helicopters. In addition to the Lakeland facility, Gulf Coast has facilities in Portland, Oregon, Leesburg, FL, Bogota, Colombia as well as 15 other marketing agreements with companies using the GCA name worldwide. Gulf Coast services customers all over the world through a wide variety of business segments such as mail order, eCommerce, Amazon and several industry trade shows.

As President/CEO Rick was appointed by the Governor as a Trustee for Polk State College and has served on several community boards such as Lakeland Chamber of Commerce, Polk Vision, Sun n Fun Fly-In, The Aerospace Center for Excellence, and many other boards within the aviation industry. Gulf Coast was honored to receive Scott Linder Small Business of the Year Award in 2009. Wanting to share his love of aviation with the next generation Rick started Central Florida Aerospace Academy. Starting with 45 student the first year CFAA has grown to over 375 students. While Rick has enjoyed his 34+ years in the aviation industry one of his greatest thrills today is seeing the next generation of aviators spark their enthusiasm in aviation.

As a medium-sized employer in Polk county, Kegel strives to provide benefits that rival much larger companies. Kegel is expanding its global reach while continuing to cultivate its roots in Central Florida. Since 2016, Kegel has experienced revenue growth of nearly 40% and 33% job growth. In addition, Kegel has improved the wages paid to its employees, paying nearly 33% more in total direct labor wages in 2018 compared to 2017.

Much of the recent sales growth has come from international business, significantly increasing the amount of export revenue flowing back into Polk county. This exposure also helps bring diverse groups of international visitors to Lake Wales, where they can learn more about Kegel products or get bowling lessons in the training center.

The company’s success has stimulated on-going innovation both inside and outside of the bowling industry. Kegel is introducing several new types of coaching tools, such as SPECTO, which will be tracking bowling balls during PBA television broadcasts by FOX Sports next year. The recently renovated state-of-the-art training center offers customers, and the Webber International University bowling teams, the best facilities in the world to train and succeed. Kegel is proud to be a part of several national championships earned by the WIU athletes since starting the bowling programs nearly a decade ago.

Kegel manufactures the highest quality products and services the industry by supporting competitive tournaments (at its own expense) all over the world, but its success would not be possible without dedicated and passionate employees, Kegel’s greatest asset.

Peterson & Myers
Peterson & Myers has provided legal services to clients in Polk County and central Florida for over seventy years. The roots of the firm’s practice area began with a foundation in the citrus industry and has grown into new areas as economic growth occurred. The firm has gone on to represent large industrial clients, regional medical centers, educational institutions, logistics and distribution companies, residential developers, and countless family owned/small businesses.

The firm’s representation has facilitated an innumerable number of new jobs and economic growth in Polk County. In addition to economic development, Peterson & Myers, P.A. and its employees have been long time supporters of the many charitable organizations in central Florida.

One example is the modifications made to local Polk County ordinances facilitated by Jack Brandon, a partner at Peterson & Myers, which permitted local municipalities to grant ad valorem tax credits to new and expanding businesses in Polk County. These ordinances have been used many times to bring large scale business expansion and growth to Polk County, such as Amazon, Wal-Mart Distribution Centers, Federal Express, Nucor Steel mill, and many others.

The Lunz Group
Over the past three years, The Lunz Group has seen a 30 percent growth of its business annually. Now the largest architecture firm in Polk County with a team of 22 highly-qualified professionals, The Lunz Group has completed more than half of our work outside of Polk County. The firm has also completed large scale projects that have directly impacted the economic development of Polk County, including:

  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) facilities at Lakeland Linder Airport
  • The design for the new Customs and Border Protection facility, catapulting Lakeland Linder from a regional airport to international
  • The design of the new Watson Clinic Highlands campus and recent completion of their Phase Two expansion, introducing new specialties to the healthcare provider, and
  • The recent warehouse expansion at Saddle Creek Logistic Service’s headquarters in Auburndale, FL, adding 343,200 square-feet to the existing facility to better serve the distribution needs of the area.

In the past two years The Lunz Group has opened two new offices in Dunedin and Celebration, FL, expanding our ability to better serve our clients and emerging markets across Central Florida.

Two Blue Aces
Two Blue Aces LLC (TBA) is a consulting firm specializing in analysis of strategic plans to help companies succeed. We offer leadership strategies to get more out of limited resources by focusing on efficiency and productivity. All our consultants have one goal in mind — to find the optimum solution to a company’s business and leadership challenges.

Currently, TBA has six Senior Consultants in Florida, Virginia and Louisiana who assist 8 different Defense-related companies in 6 states including multiple businesses here in Florida. We assist two economic development councils with strategic plans for targeted expansion in the aerospace and aviation market sectors. Additionally, TBA consults with Florida Polytechnic University on their strategic planning and industry partnership program. The firm also consults with Draken International and continues to play a significant role in their community engagement program and international business development. Consultants from TBA also participate on the Florida Defense Support Task Force and the South Florida Defense Alliance – two Florida military support groups sponsored by the governor.

Lastly, TBA conducts leadership seminars connected to the Harvard Business School, writes a regular Blog on leadership topics and just began a book project with a successful publisher/editor offering lessons learned on the essential components of leadership in a dynamic world.

Nominees for Success in Large Business Award

CenterState Bank
CenterState Bank was started by a group of local bankers and entrepreneurs over 25 years ago. From humble beginnings the bank has grown to approximately $12+ billion dollars in assets with over 100 branch locations in Florida and Georgia.

The Bank has experienced extraordinary growth through organic expansion along with an aggressive acquisition program. CenterState has successfully acquired 19 other banking institutions. All of this growth has been planned and managed right here in Polk County from the Bank’s headquarters in Winter Haven. The Bank currently has 428 employees in Polk County and over 2,000 employees company wide. CenterState also has a national footprint serving clients coast to coast through its correspondent banking division.

CenterState has always had a passion for serving the community through various fundraising and outreach programs. In 2017, the bank volunteered thousands of hours in various communities participating in 340 events and activities through its footprint with over 100 unique organizations.

Central Florida Health Care
For over 46 years, Central Florida Health Care (CFHC) has answered the call to serve the community’s health care needs. With 366 dedicated employees and highly skilled health professionals, our nonprofit organization serves the tri-county area of Polk, Highlands, and Hardee counties. We provide medical, dental, pediatric, and OB/GYN including other ancillary services such as pharmacy, laboratory and radiology to all patients regardless of their ability to pay.

In 2017 CFHC proudly served 42,426 patients, representing 134,558 patient visits. Year to date, CFHC has far surpassed last year’s numbers in serving our patient population.

One exciting project that CFHC is working on this year is our new Haines City Clinic. The 11,000 square foot clinic is under construction and will be open for full services mid-October.

Crystal Lake Elementary is our 15th clinic as a result of collaborative efforts with the Polk County School Board, United Way, Southeastern University, UCF and other partners to have a clinic located on the school campus to provide medical and dental services.

Our health centers offer high-quality, patient-centered care for every stage of life as a federally qualified health center. All our clinics are staffed with trained community health workers to assist patients and community members to ensure that access to health care is not a barrier to treatment.

CFHC continues to focus on providing compassion care with dignity and respect to all patients. We are committed to meeting the needs of patients in the Central Florida area by striving to offer quality, affordable, primary and preventive health care.

Draken International
Draken International provides a range of contract air services to the Department of Defense and international allies, with services including airborne adversary support, close air support training, flight training, threat simulation, operational test and electronic warfare support, and other missions. With a strategy based upon “build it, and they will come”, Jared Isaacman, CEO, and his team of military veterans have dedicated the last seven years traveling the world in search of safe, credible, and capable aircraft to answer the growing global demand for commercial air services. As a result of these efforts, the company now boasts the largest privately-owned fleet of fighter aircraft in the world with over 120 fighter jets including Mirage F-1s, Douglas A-4s, Aero L-159s, and MiG-21s, among other aircraft. Draken was recently recognized by Inc. 5000 Magazine as the #18 fastest growing company and #2 Top Government Services companies in the United States. This was the second year in a row that Draken made the Inc. 5000 list.

In March 2018 the company announced a $6.7 million expansion of its headquarters and repair infrastructure at Lakeland Linder International Airport.

On June 1, 2018, the Pentagon announced that the Air Force had awarded Draken a $280 million contract to continue providing training services for the 57th Adversary Tactics Group at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, as well as Luke Air Force Base in Arizona and Hill Air Force Base in Utah.

In November 2018 the Air National Guard (ANG) awarded Draken a five-year contract to provide red air services to support key combat readiness training exercises throughout the United States.

Draken continues to provide Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) training and Close Air Support (CAS) for the United States Marine Corps (USMC) at MCAS Cherry Point and MCAS Yuma and United States Navy’s (USN) Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center (NAWDC) at NAS Fallon.

Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center
Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center continues to invest in the advancement of Polk County’s economic prosperity. Our recent additions include services in cosmetic & reconstructive surgery, bariatric surgery, robotic-assisted orthopedics, robotic-assisted urology, cardiac rehab and cardiac electrophysiology. We strive to consistently bring the latest technology and best practices to our community.

In 2018, we have become a Center of Excellence in the latest advancement for treating enlarged prostate and we have adopted a nationally recognized multidisciplinary approach to fighting breast cancer.

With the added services to support our community’s health, from 2016-2018, Heart of Florida increased employment from 800-1000 employees.

Over the past 2 years, we have invested in opening new locations across Polk County. We have added an ambulatory surgery center, our employed physician practices have expanded into 21 offices in Davenport, Haines City, Winter Haven, Champions Gate, Four Corners, Lake Wales and Clermont. Our free-standing emergency department will open in January 2019. Our job growth continues well into 2019 giving support and additional economic growth for Polk County.

We also are a leading supporter of local businesses and in 2017, the hospital spent $3.1M for services provided from these area businesses. As a tax-paying member of our community, Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center is an engine of revenue for the city and county, paying $3.7M in taxes in 2017.

Lakeland Regional Health
Lakeland Regional Health (LRH) reaches beyond its hospital walls to promote wellness, education and discovery in new places and new ways, providing a wide range of inpatient and outpatient healthcare services at its Medical Center, Hollis Cancer Center and Physician Group care locations.

As a not-for-profit corporation, all of LRH’s income over expenses are reinvested back into the health system on behalf of the community. As Polk County’s third largest employer with more than 5,500 team members, LRH has earned workplace awards for excellence from Forbes, Gallup and Becker’s Hospital Review.

LRH is home to the nation’s busiest single site Emergency Department with more than 210,000 visits and nearly 40,000 patient admissions to its Medical Center in FY2017. Expansion projects necessary to improve access to care completed in the past five years include the Carol Jenkins Barnett Pavilion for Women and Children, Grasslands Campus, Hollis Cancer Center and the Bannasch Institute for Advanced Rehabilitation Medicine. These expansion projects provided significant benefit to patients, families and our community, and to local contractors participating in each construction-related project.

LRH leads the way in healthcare innovation, offering patients the County’s only Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (Florida’s highest designation), Level II Trauma Center, neurointerventional surgical suite and hybrid operating rooms in which life-saving interventional approaches and complex surgical services are performed.

Schwarz Partners Packaging dba MaxPak, in Lakeland Florida, is a corrugated box manufacturer supplying corrugated boxes, displays, fulfillment services, and packaging supplies to customers in Florida and south GA. MaxPak produces boxes for the Food and Beverage industry as well as the Fruit and Produce markets. The majority of our customers are other industrial manufacturers in Central Florida and we ship Agricultural boxes all over FL and South GA.

Since 2009, due to the growth of our business, our production facility in Lakeland has added an additional 20MSF of production space (giving us a total of 167MSF) and we are planning another 22MSF addition in 2019. Our sales have more than doubled in this time frame and we have added approximately 30 people to our team so that we now employ 150 people full time in the box plant. We have purchased a 150MSF building in Lakeland to serve as a WH/DC and employ 6 full time associates there. In addition to these locations we have a fulfillment operation which has 4 full time employees and can employ up to another 40 part time workers as the need arises to complete projects for our customers. Our total space in Lakeland now encompasses over 350MSF. We also employ another 8 full time associates in Thomasville, GA and Jacksonville, FL at two WH/DC’s to better serve our “northern” customers.

MaxPak had a second fulfillment operation in Lakeland that is now run by our sister company “The Royal Group” also a division of Schwarz Partners Packaging. This location has 10 full time employees and can have upwards of 100 temp employees working on a project on a daily basis.

Fun fact: If you were to lay down all the boxes we produce in a year they would cover almost 30 square miles.

SYKES Lakeland
One of the largest employers in Polk County, SYKES Lakeland has the capacity to employ more than 1,000 full-time employees, all of whom are offered benefits, paid training and tuition reimbursement.

Deeply committed to the growth and development of Polk County, the company has forged strong partnerships with the Lakeland Economic Development Council, Florida Tropics, Lighthouse for the Blind, Junior Achievement of Polk County, Lakeland Family YMCA, and more. They also participate in several community outreach programs, including food drives, holiday drives, volunteer programs and partnerships with local charities. Long recognized as an employer of choice in the area, SYKES Lakeland was honored with Career Source Polk’s “Best Places to Work” award three years in a row as well as their “Employer of Distinction’ award for the fourth year. SYKES Lakeland is proud to be part of the Polk County community and is committed to its continued success, growth, and partnership opportunities.

Tucker Paving
Tucker Paving, in Winter Haven, Florida has been serving the area for over 23 years. Our in-house personnel self-perform site work, underground utilities, base, asphalt, concrete, hauling, and recycled aggregate. We work for state and local governments as well as private developers, general contractors, theme parks, and national home builders. The company has grown from $6 million in revenues in 2010 to $50 million in revenues in 2017, averaging a 46% annual growth rate for 7 years. With this type of growth it was only natural for Tucker Paving to outgrow their current office. The company has purchased property in Winter Haven and is in the permitting process to start construction on a new facility.

This year we had the pleasure to work with the City of Auburndale on the redevelopment of Pilaklakaha Avenue “PK Avenue”, a 4-lane 3,300 LF roadway. Improvements included aesthetics, pedestrian safety, water lines and storm water quality and quantity improvements. Another exciting project was taxiway E and F improvements at the Winter Haven Airport- Gilbert Field.

As of August 2018, the Tucker Paving team of more than 236 team members has worked over two million hours without a lost-time accident. This is a powerful achievement, and why our employees continue to make Tucker Paving a great place to work.

Walmart eCommerce
Walmart’s new e-commerce fulfillment center in Davenport, FL, a massive, state-of-the-art facility houses millions of items dedicated to fulfilling online orders that enables faster shipping directly to customers or to stores. It is the latest addition to the next-generation fulfillment network Walmart is building to support its rapidly growing e-commerce business. The 50-acre campus, located near the intersection of I-4 and Highway 27 in Polk County, features two buildings spanning a total of more than 2.2 million sq. ft.

The Walmart eCommerce Center in Davenport has Walmart is a place of opportunity. Here, you can go as far as your hard work and talent will take you. Walmart associates are building better lives for their families, and we’re proud to be a part of their success stories. We’re investing in our associates by offering competitive pay, advanced training through Walmart Fulfilment Academy, career development through our Path to lead program and, most of all, a chance to move up. No matter what goals our associates set for themselves, we want to help them grow professionally and personally.

Our FC currently employees over 1100 employees with the average hourly rate at $15.40 per hour. More than 75% of our salaried management team started as hourly associates. Managers, on average, earn $70,000 annually and manage and help mentor up to 300 associates. We currently have 64 salaried managers based out of our Davenport Location.

By the Numbers:

  • The new 50-acre Walmart eCommerce Fulfillment Center Campus is the sixth in the Walmart network and the first in Florida.

Unique facts and features include:

  • 2.2 Million Square Feet of Space
  • The building size is equivalent to roughly 20 football fields
  • 33 miles of shelving
  • The dock doors can withstand wind speeds of up to 120 miles per hour

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