Economic Development Awards – Success in Business

The Central Florida Development Council’s highest honor — the Economic Development Awards — is presented annually to a large and a small business, institution and/or organization in Polk County which promotes 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.

George W. Harris, Jr. Economic Development Award – Success in Large Business

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.

Jim Brantley Economic Development Award – Success in Small Business

When unemployment hovered around 16 percent in the early to mid-1980s, Polk County government and business leaders knew they had to do something. Back-to-back freezes had wiped out the citrus crop, phosphate mining was declining and Piper Aircraft closed its 2,500-employee manufacturing plant in Lakeland.

Jim Brantley was the county’s director of Community Development, a man who worked with officials in the county’s 17 cities, people who trusted him.  He became the first director of the newly created Economic Development Department within Polk County government — the answer to officials’ pleas for help. 

Brantley was charged with the task of creating the Central Florida Development Council as the county began emulating the state Department of Commerce’s initiatives nearly 35 years ago that in 2019 the Central Florida Development Council has named its small-business award in his honor.

Recent Award Winners Include:

Awards are presented in two categories:

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

Small Business

    • 2019 The Lunz Group
    • 2018 Peterson & Myers
    • 2017 Six/Ten LLC
    • 2016 Broadway Real Estate
    • 2015 Clark/Nikdel/Powell
    • 2014 Madrid Engineering
    • 2013 ACT

Large Business

    • 2019 Draken International
    • 2018 CenterState Bank
    • 2017 Florida Southern College
    • 2016 LEGOLAND
    • 2015 Florida Polytechnic University
    • 2014 Saddle Creek Logistics Services
    • 2013 Coca Cola Main Street

Additional recipients include:

  • ButterKrust Bakeries
  • Citizens Bank & Trust
  • Citrus & Chemical Bank
  • Clark Environmental
  • Colorado Boxed Beef
  • Cypress Gardens
  • Florida’s Natural Growers
  • GEICO
  • Mosaic
  • Polk State College
  • Progress Energy
  • Publix Super Markets
  • State Farm Insurance
  • TECO
  • The Ruthvens
  • W. S. Badcock Corp.