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Three Large Businesses are Finalists for the Harris Award

October 11, 2022 News

Whether it’s resurfacing asphalt, educating our children or taking care of them, the three finalists for the Central Florida Development Council’s George W. Harris Jr. Success in Large Business provide service that is second to none. 

The award, given to companies with at least 100 employees, was named for George Harris, a former CFDC chairman and president of Citrus and Chemical Bank. This year’s winner will be announced Oct. 26 at the CFDC’s annual meeting at Haus 820 in Lakeland.  

Businesses were nominated based on their community service, commitment to growth in business, economic stability and promotion of free enterprise. Nucor Steel Florida won the award last year. 

“These three finalists continue to grow and, along with their employees, contribute to the burgeoning economy in Polk County,” said CFDC President & CEO Sean Malott. “We are grateful for their leadership in their respective fields and wish them all the best of luck.”  

Read about the three finalists below, listed in alphabetical order.

Central Florida Health Care

Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the non-profit health care organization started in Frostproof in 1972 and has been providing medical services ever since, moving from one clinic to 14 sites in three counties. 

Central Florida Health Care (CFHC) does more than care for people who don’t have insurance – its services are for everyone, said President & CEO Ann Claussen. “CFHC has state-of-the-art medical, dental, pediatric, OB-GYN, behavioral health, and optometry services. Most locations also have a pharmacy, making it easy to pick up a prescription after your visit. CFHC.org introduces providers and services you might not realize are in your backyard, as there are 15 locations throughout Polk, Highlands, and Hardee Counties.” 

Being a finalist helps CFHC reflect on its mission: “We are Healthcare with a Heart.” 

“CFHC’s mission is to ensure everyone receives quality, affordable primary and preventive health care, regardless of their ability to pay,” Claussen said. “No one should ever go without health care services because they don’t have insurance or can’t pay for treatment. That’s where Central Florida Health Care steps in. Its medical providers and staff go above and beyond every day, making a difference in the communities they serve.” 

CFHC’s status as a non-profit, Federally Qualified Health Center organization helps make it successful, she said. “For this reason, CFHC receives opportunities to serve even more people who need health care.” 

CFHC also provides food for residents, Claussen said. “The CFHC Feeding Hearts Food Distribution program offers free food boxes at 10 locations in the communities the organization serves. Thanks to partnerships with the United Way of Central Florida, Feeding Tampa Bay, the George W. Jenkins End Hunger Initiative, Freedom Tour and volunteers, CFHC distributed 1,734,453 pounds of food in 2021. The need remains high in 2022, and our team and volunteers continue helping families suffering during this time of inflation.” 

CFHC’s economic impact totaled about $87.5 million in 2021, according to the Florida Association of Community Health Centers. “Operating revenue stood at $63 million, charity care costs totaled $6.1 million and employee numbers reached 493, which has now surpassed 500 due to the opening of a new health center in Davenport. Central Florida Health Care is growing, and it will continue meeting needs and supporting community partners to make life better and healthier for everyone.” 

Southeastern University

When Southeastern University opened its doors at 1000 Longfellow Blvd. in Lakeland, the college was home to four buildings, 13 faculty members and 141 students from 18 states, Cuba, the Bahamas and the Philippines. Today the university has more than 425 full- and part-time faculty members, 10,000 students and 25 buildings. It offers more than 90 associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in five colleges.  

The Christ-centered university reaches far beyond its Lakeland home, with more than 200  extension sites in 41 states, including 46 in Florida.  

“We don’t do what we do to get recognition — that’s just not our culture,” said Sylvia Blackmon-Roberts, associate vice president of community relations. “However, we are always grateful to be recognized as it’s an indicator that we are successfully carrying out our mission, which is, ‘Equipping students to discover and develop their divine design to serve Christ and the world through learning and leadership’. ” 

Its mission and its people are what make SEU successful, Blackmon-Roberts said. “Every individual across our entire SEU community is vested in helping students discover their calling in life and showing them how to truly live it out. Like our president, Dr. Kent Ingle, says, ‘Our University integrates faith, learning and life’ as a success formula.” 

The university’s commitment to its mission is the cornerstone of SEU, she said. “It drives our programs, strategies, initiatives, planning and operations. We are intentional in serving both our students and our community. And in return, we are able to see that intentionality translate to our students and how they serve in every field and discipline that they pursue. We believe this is what separates us from other institutions.”  

SEU’s partnerships help contribute to economic development in Polk County, Blackmon-Roberts said, including its:  

  • Community Partnership with Crystal Lake Elementary School. 
  • Nursing and research partnership with Lakeland Regional Health
  • Hospitality Management partnership with Naples Hotel Group.

In addition, it serves the county by helping “students with special needs at the middle school, high school and college level through our Pathways School of Excellence and Link programs,” she said. “These programs create opportunities for these students to become independent and self-sufficient, and build employable skills.”  

The partnerships help expand SEU’s footprint in the community, she said. “SEU centers around service, and our students’ development is ultimately about serving others. Our impact is not limited solely to being a large employer — we have our foot in every sector to impact and elevate the quality of life within our communities.”  

Tucker Paving

Tucker Paving President Larry “Chip” Tucker is proud his company is a finalist for the award. “It’s an honor just to be considered among this amazing group of companies and organizations.” 

Tucker started Tucker Paving in 1994, breaking away from Tucker Construction company, which his father, Larry Tucker Sr., and his uncle started in 1965. It offers services that range from underground utilities and demolition to concrete curbing and asphalt resurfacing. To keep up with growth, it just built a new $1.8 million facility at 5658 Lucerne Park Road in Winter Haven.  

He said the company’s employees have made it successful. “It goes without saying that our team members are what has made Tucker Paving so successful over the years. We also have the opportunity to work with some amazing clients, vendors and suppliers located in Polk County.”   

Many of Tucker Paving’s more than 250 team members live in Polk County, “meaning they pay taxes here and support small businesses. Most of the projects we are currently working on are happening in Polk County. This development and infrastructure are crucially important to the overall economic development of our County.” 

Tucker wants people to know that Tucker Paving has “the knowledge, people and equipment to complete civil and site utility projects on schedule, on budget and with total quality.” 

Reservations are still available to for this year’s annual meeting, learn more HERE.

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