Florida Poly Names University President

Florida Poly Names Dr Avent

Dr. Randy Avent (left) shakes hands with Florida Polytechnic Board of Trustees Chair Rob Gidel.

Florida Polytechnic University‘s admissions campaign slogan is BE THE NEXT and today they gave Dr. Randy Avent an end to that statement – BE THE NEXT University President.

Florida Polytechnic University’s Presidential Search Committee has selected Dr. Randy K. Avent, an accomplished academic leader and current Associate Vice Chancellor of Research Development at North Carolina State University (NC State), to be the University’s first president.

The committee approved Dr. Avent’s appointment as president at a public meeting this morning at the Lakeland Center. Avent, 55, is expected to begin as Florida Polytechnic’s president this summer. The University’s Board of Trustees will begin contract negotiations immediately. The final step in the University’s hiring process will be a review for confirmation by the State University System of Florida Board of Governors.

As president, Avent will report directly to the Board of Trustees – serving as the chief executive officer responsible for development and operation of Florida Polytechnic. When the University opens in August 2014, it will emphasize STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs, and offer students real-world problem-solving, work experience, applied research and business leadership opportunities through industry partnerships.

In addition to his role as Associate Vice Chancellor of Research Development at NC State, Dr. Avent is also a professor of Computer Science and is the founding director of the university’s Data Science Institute.

Prior to joining NC State, Avent served as the Chief Scientist in the Office of Basic Research in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering where he oversaw scientific programs and developed strategic plans for future science and technology investments.

BeTheNext.com CNPFrom 1986-2009, Dr. Avent worked in a variety of capacities with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory. Notably, Avent served as the Associate Chief Technology Officer, as the Founding Leader of both the Airborne Communications Laboratory and the Advanced Decision Theory Laboratory, and as the Associate Leader of the Adaptive Beamforming Laboratory.  While at MIT, Avent helped to create and execute strategic initiatives that aligned MIT with emerging application- and curiosity-driven research opportunities.

Avent received his B.S. degree in Zoology from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He also received an M.S. degree from North Carolina State University in Electrical Engineering, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in Biomedical Engineering and Mathematics. Avent is a graduate of the Boston Executive Program at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.


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Milestone day for CSX Intermodal Logistics Center

Central Florida ILC

Today marks an exciting milestone in the development of the Central Florida ILC! Officials released the following information to mark the occasion.

Evansville Western Railway, an affiliate of CSX, today announced the start of operations at the state-of-the-art intermodal terminal located just off State Road 60. Known as the Central Florida Intermodal Logistics Center (ILC), this facility serves as a centralized hub for transportation, logistics and distribution serving Orlando, Tampa and South Florida.

The 318-acre intermodal terminal is surrounded by 930 acres that is planned for development of up to 7.9 million square feet of warehouse distribution centers, light industrial and office facilities. The terminal features five 3,000-foot loading tracks and two 10,000-foot arrival and departure tracks. It’s estimated the terminal will process up to 300,000 containers a year.

“The Central Florida ILC will add yet another transportation and logistics capability in a state that’s already known for excellent ports, great highways, and extensive railroad connectivity,” said Clarence Gooden, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer at CSX. “The terminal will provide an anchor for economic development in the region and position Florida for future growth while reducing congestion on the highways.”

While Evansville Western Railway owns the facility, the terminal is operated by CSX Intermodal Terminals, Inc. with rail service provided by CSX Transportation (CSXT). Containerized freight previously handled at CSX’s intermodal terminal in Orlando is immediately being shifted to Winter Haven. CSX will serve the region’s intermodal market from the new Central Florida ILC and close its Orlando intermodal terminal. CSXT’s Taft yard in Orlando will continue to serve other rail freight needs.

While Evansville Western Railway owns the facility, the terminal is operated by CSX Intermodal Terminals, Inc. with rail service provided by CSX Transportation (CSXT). Containerized freight previously handled at CSX’s intermodal terminal in Orlando is immediately being shifted to Winter Haven. CSX will serve the region’s intermodal market from the new Central Florida ILC and close its Orlando intermodal terminal. CSXT’s Taft yard in Orlando will continue to serve other rail freight needs.

The terminal incorporates cutting-edge technology that is efficient, innovative and environmentally friendly. Several of its green technology initiatives include:

  • three high-powered electric cranes that minimize noise and emissions;
  • solar panels on each building which provide alternative and renewable energy sources;
  • high mast exterior lighting using LED (light emitting diodes) to reduce energy consumption and light pollution;
  • silver LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for its administration buildings.

“This is one of the most technologically advanced facilities of its kind in the country,” said Tony Reck, Chairman and CEO of Evansville Western Railway. “The ripple effect of this terminal’s operations will be felt statewide and beyond – ultimately setting the stage for future growth in the region. Without the tremendous support and visionary leadership of Winter Haven and state officials, none of this would have been possible.”




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Splash into Spring with a LEGOLAND Water Park Preview!

Dive in Spring at the Water Park Preview

LEGOLAND Water Park Preview April 10th!

Ready to dive into the warmer months?  LEGOLAND® Water Park is offering a preview day to all chamber members, their employees,  friends and families!

Join in on the FUN on Thursday, April 10th from 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.  Tickets are  $10 per person and include parking adjacent to the water park (car pooling is encouraged). All water park features will be operating and the food venues in the water park will be open for your convenience at regular pricing.

You are encouraged to invite coworkers,  friends and family! 

Warm Weather Fun at LEGOLAND

Come float, slide, splash or just watch. Soak up the fun for just $10.    Tickets are on sale now at:

Chamber Lobby from 9 am. to 3:30 p.m. Monday – Friday

Citizens Bank & Trust Winter Haven and Lake Wales locations

CenterState Bank Winter Haven location

First come first served while they last. 

You may also purchase online and we will have them waiting for pick up in the chamber lobby. All tickets must be picked up by 2 p.m. on Thursday, April 10th. Minimum Credit Card Purchase: $20. No limit on number of tickets, however all sales are final. 

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Grand Reopening – Willowbrook Grill

The City of Winter Haven cordially invites all chamber members to enjoy a Grand Reopening Celebration of the the newly renovated Willowbrook Grill at the Willowbrook Golf Course tomorrow, Friday, March 14th. The official ribbon cutting will be at 11 a.m. Willowbrook Golf Course is located at 4200 State Road 544 E – Winter Haven, FL 33881.
Willowbrook Reopening Flyer



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The need for STEM

At this morning’s Focus on Education breakfast hosted by the chamber’s education committee, the overarching message was “Paying it Forward.” From students to principals to members of our business community, we all have talents to share that can support and improve our schools. One way you can help is to take a few moments to participate in a survey for the Public Education Partnership regarding your business’ needs for a pipeline of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) educated employees. See their letter below and please take a few moments to participate in their survey.

Take the survey

Dear Colleagues,

The Public Education Partnership of Winter Haven, Inc. (‘PEP’), a not-for-profit 501 (c)(3) grass roots organization, is committed to assuring that Winter Haven’s schools are unequaled in quality, relevance, and student performance. PEP seeks to improve its schools through advocacy, community engagement, and collaborative partnerships. PEP’s board consists of educators, businessmen and women, and community leaders. A Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)  Sub-committee has been formed to focus on the development of a strong pipeline of talent within our community in the STEM areas. 

To this end, the STEM Sub-committee is gathering information about the STEM “talent gap” that currently exists in our community to understand the jobs (with associated required skills) that are unfilled and the educational/skill development needs that must be addressed in the future.  We need your help!  Please find a unique and important survey at the link below that will ask you to provide the following: basic information, information about STEM position titles in your business that are unfiled, the associated skills with these positions, and the opportunity to provide feedback to the committee.


It is understood that dependent upon the size of your organization, you may need multiple individuals to complete this survey.  Please help us to get this survey to the correct individual(s) in the organization. We request that this survey be complete by March 31st; although, we understand that some of the information will change over time and we will continually be updating the data for our region.

We thank you in advance for contributing to this important project!

The PEP STEM Sub-Committee


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May I say, Thank You Winter Haven …

chamber horizontalWell, the walls are bare and the boxes are almost all packed. The twenty-two months since I tendered my letter of retirement have evaporated and my tenure here at the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce ends today.

As I sit here in what may be Florida’s most functional Chamber of Commerce building I am so grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to work with Winter Haven’s finest business leaders. I’ve learned and laughed and shed an occasional tear while making some of the best friendships of my lifetime. I also want to thank our great Chamber staff and volunteers whose dedication and determination make this among Florida’s best business organizations.

I’ve also enjoyed invaluable support from my wife Melea and family.

Please welcome your dynamic new Chamber President/CEO, Katie Worthington. (Notice new title in keeping with Chambers across the country. Steve Crisman will now serve as Chairman of the Board.)

Support Katie and take care of each other. Buy Winter Haven first.

I hope you will stop by this afternoon (Friday, February 28) between 4:00 and 6:00 p.m. here in the Chamber Auditorium to meet Katie and allow me to express my appreciation for your support.

Thank you for eighteen wonderful years.  I’ll leave you with these words from Lennon/McCartney …

There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more.

Posted in Uncategorized | 34 Comments

Put a Little PEP in Your Step – Monday, March 3

The Public Education Partnership Invites YOU …PEP Open House

Posted in City of Winter Haven, Education | Leave a comment

Winter Haven’s Dining Adventure! The Menus.



It’s a one night dining extravaganza like no other and it includes complimentary cocktails. Ten restaurants feature their most interesting fare for a scrumptious sampling you will long remember. It’s the Taste of Winter Haven and it is the perfect complement to the Bankers’ Cup Award ceremonies. Here’s all the delectable details …

Arabella’s Ristorante
Chicken Cacciatori
Shrimp Aurora Pasta

 Cam’s Catering
Prime Rib
Shrimp Scampi
Garlic Cheddar Mashed Potatoes
French Rolls

 Chalet Suzanne
Saffron Shrimp Curry served with Caviar Rice
Chalet Suzanne Mini-Sticky Buns with Orange Aspic Glaze

 Chef Boy R G’s
Roasted Pork
Black Beans and Rice

 Chick Fil A
Breast of Chicken Salad
Chocolate Chunk Cookies

 Gourmet Goodies Bake Shop
Mini Cupcakes: Chocolate Indulgence, Salted Caramel and Strawberry Champagne
Mini Cookies: Chocolate Chip, White Chocolate Craisin, Butterscotch Rum
Lemon Tarts
Chocolate Fudge Brownie Bites
Chocolate Covered Strawberries

 Rick’s BBQ
Smoked Prime Rib

 The Seasoned Stone
 Beer & Bacon Jam Sliders
Seasoned Stone Cheese Sticks

Terrie Lobb Catering
Cajun Shrimp with Cheesy Grits
Mini Dessert Assortment

 Tinsley Family Concesssions
Hot Shots
Original Recipe Chicken Bites
Twice-baked Potatoes

As well as a selection from Richard’s Fine Coffees

The evening begins Thursday, February 20 at 6:30 p.m. and ends by 9 p.m. at Nora Mayo Hall. The Banker’s Cup recipients have been selected and you’ll want to congratulate them!

Complimentary cocktails courtesy of Citizen’s Bank and Trust Company

$100 per person. No tickets sold at the door. You can download an RSVP form here.

 Purchase tickets online here.

This year’s evening is presented by

BB&T Bank
CenterState Bank
Citizens Bank and Trust Company
Community Southern Bank
Florida Traditions Bank
Platinum Bank
SunTrust Bank
Wells Fargo

Posted in Chamber Events, Dining, General Announcements | 1 Comment

CareerSource POLK … New Brand for Polk Works!



Polk Works has officially become “CareerSource POLK.” Please be sure to update your address book with the new e-mail address below. “Like” Polk Works on Facebook (which will flip to CareerSource Polk shortly.) CareerSource POLK will be your workforce partner.

Stacy Campbell-Domineck
Chief Executive Officer
600 N. Broadway Ave., Suite B
Bartow, FL 33830
P: 863-508-1600 x 1113
C: 863-899-6597
F: 863-508-1601



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LEGOLAND Florida Presents Themed Movie Weekend!

LEGOLANDFLORIDA_LEGOMOVIE_0001WINTER HAVEN, FLA. (Feb. 3, 2014) – LEGOLAND® Florida celebrates the launch of the first-ever, full length theatrical LEGO® adventure, “The LEGO® Movie ”, with a movie-themed weekend in the park on Feb. 8 and 9. Guests can head to their local theatre to watch “The LEGO Movie,” opening nationwide on Friday, February 7, and then come to LEGOLAND Florida to see LEGO come to life amidst more than 50 rides, shows and attractions and special movie-themed fun all geared for families with children ages 2 to 12.

“The LEGO Movie” Weekend at LEGOLAND Florida includes the following activities:

  •  “The LEGO Movie” Scavenger Hunt – Miniland USA
  • Movie characters Emmet, Wyldstyle, Lord Business and MetalBeard are lost in Miniland USA. Guests can help find them to save the day! Guests can submit an entry to win a LEGO Prize Pack at www.LEGOLAND.com. See website for official rules.
  • “The LEGO Movie” Video Game Challenge – Warner Bros. Games Zone
  • Gaming fans can test their skills and play the latest action-packed video game, “The LEGO Movie.”
  • Build Your Own World Competition – Imagination Zone
  • Guests can use their imagination to build their own unique LEGO model. LEGOLAND Florida Master Model Builders will select a winner from each event day to receive a LEGO prize pack. Official rules will be available at the park.
  • The LEGO Movie” Mural Build – Imagination Zone
  • Families can build together and help create a giant LEGO poster of “The LEGO Movie.”
  • Character Meet & Greets – LEGO City
  • “Fans can walk the red carpet and meet two of the stars of “The LEGO Movie.” Emmet and Wyldstyle.

“The LEGO Movie,” from Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures and LEGO System A/S, opens in theaters on February 7, 2014. Directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, it stars Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie and Charlie Day, with Liam Neeson and Morgan Freeman. The original 3D computer animated story follows Emmet, an ordinary, rules-following, perfectly average LEGO minifigure who is mistakenly identified as the most extraordinary person and the key to saving the world. He is drafted into a fellowship of strangers on an epic quest to stop an evil tyrant, a journey for which Emmet is hopelessly and hilariously underprepared.

“The LEGO Movie” Weekend is included with park admission and guests will have complete access to a full day of theme park fun with more than 50 rides, shows and attractions. The best way to experience LEGOLAND Florida is with the LEGOLAND Florida Resident Annual Pass as low as $99 each. Pass members receive unlimited admission for 12 months to LEGOLAND Florida and the LEGOLAND Water Park, as well as all other Merlin US attractions (LEGOLAND California & Water Park, LEGOLAND Discovery Centers, Sea Life Centers and Madam Tussauds), free parking and 10% off food and merchandise with no black-out dates. For the most current information on special events, daily operating hours and to purchase tickets, visit www.LEGOLAND.com.

Posted in LEGOLAND® Florida, Tourism | Leave a comment