Winter Haven Hospital Announces $51 Million in Investment

Winter Haven Hospital has some big plans. Yesterday, Steve Nierman, President of Winter Haven Hospital (WHH), presented the plans for Phase 1 of a major expansion to the Winter Haven Economic Development Council, totaling a $51 million investment. Now that’s a big number, but it is just a portion of the investment WHH has made since they joined the Baycare Health System in 2013.  From renovations at Winter Haven Women’s Hospital (formerly the Regency), to investments in IT infrastructure, new imaging equipment and more, Baycare has projected another $23 million in investment.

Winter Haven Hospital has given us many reasons to be proud over its almost 90 year history, but the way the world receives medical care is drastically changing. The $51 million investment is a more than just a construction project. It is about preparing WHH for the healthcare challenges of today and of tomorrow; making them more efficient, more functional, more technologically advanced, more organized and most importantly, more equipped to deliver a quality patient-focused experience.

This transformation of Winter Haven Hospital focuses on the Emergency Department, the ICU and the Cath Labs.

Phase 1 consists of three main elements:

  1. Adding two additional parking decks to the current parking garage, adding roughly 200 spaces.
  2. Building a new two-story building located in front of the current Emergency Department that will be connected to the current hospital building. This new building will house a new Emergency Department on the first floor and a shell for future ICUs and Cath Labs on the second floor (Phase 2 proposal).
  3. The existing 22,700 square feet of the current Emergency Department will be renovated to provide a separate 12-bed psychiatric Emergency Department, a new 14-bed medical observation unit and a new central sterile processing department.

Here are few of the highlights of the many things Mr. Nierman reviewed:

WHH Architectural Renderings

The Parking Garage: 

While certainly not the most exciting of the announcements at its face value, this is a much needed start to make the other two items possible. The new two-story building will take up about 160 spaces currently located in front of the Emergency Department. The new Emergency Department will still have close parking for patients and visitors, but the additional 200 parking spaces in the garage will help off-set the decreased spaces, primarily for staff.

The New Two-Story Building

Emergency Department

Currently the Emergency Department has 33 beds, both for medical ER patients as well as psychiatric patients. The new Emergency Department will have 51 beds in private rooms for medical ER patients and the new psychiatric Emergency Department will have an additional 12 beds. That means the Emergency Department will have a total of 63 beds. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • This expansion will put WHH at the appropriate level of Emergency Department beds in comparison to their volume.
  • They will institute Direct Bedding which will allow patients to be placed in a room at a much quicker pace (Nierman mentioned another Baycare hospital that has instituted this method in which wait times from quick assessment at check-in to being placed in a room to be 7 minutes). This will also reduce the risk of patients leaving without treatment due to wait times.
  • The design of the new ER will be what Nierman called the “rack track” design in which the rooms will essentially be in a circle (or a square from this rendering) and will  be accessible from both sides with one entrance for medical staff from the central station in the center of surrounding rooms, and a different entrance for patients’ families who will enter from the outside hallway. This will increase efficiency, ease of patient monitoring and communication and privacy, among other benefits.
  • They will also be able to create a safer and more specialized environment with the physical separation of the medical Emergency Department patients and the psychiatric Emergency Department patients.

Medical Observation Unit

  • This new 14-bed MOU will be adjacent to the new Emergency Department and will improve processes for managing observation patients who require timely diagnostic testing.

Intensive Care Units

  • The proposed ICU units located on the second floor focus on optimizing the physician and patient experience. Each room size will be increased from 140 square feet with a 10 ft headwall to 200 square feet with a 13 ft headwall making it easier to bring in equipment for in-room emergency procedures.
  • Currently the ICU walls are curtains. The new proposed space will have actual walls from increased privacy.
  • Storage space will be drastically increased in the new space
  • The location above the new Emergency Department will decrease travel time between the ER and the ICU (currently the 4 ICUs are spread over the hospital)

New Cath Labs 

  • The location of the Cath labs will be optimized, being close the Emergency Department, the surgical suites and the ICUs.
  • New Cath labs will accommodate a future “Hybrid Lab” that allows surgical intervention, if needed
  • By moving the Cath labs to this new building, they will free up space in the current hospital for more inpatient private bed capacity.

This is just a glimpse at the $51 million investment. Phase two could be upwards of a $16 million investment.




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Introducing the 2015 Outdoor Sculpture Competition Sculptures

The sculptures that will be placed in Winter Haven’s South, Central and Virginia Miller parks have been announced for the 2015 Florida Outdoor Sculpture Competition. Every year, the Polk Museum of Art works with local cities to install new sculptures in downtown parks. This year, the cities of Winter Haven, Lakeland and Sebring are participating in the Florida Outdoor Sculpture Competition. The sculptures will be installed in March and remain in the park until February 2016.

Sculptures are selected by a committee of community members and PMoA staff. An independent judge selects the Best of Show, Second Place and Honorable Mention awards, which are announced at the public celebrations planned by the cities (tentatively planned for the last week of April for Winter Haven). The City of Winter Haven is looking for companies or individuals that would like to sponsor a sculpture for the year. A plaque will be placed with the sculpture for the year. For more information please contact T. Michael Stavres ( or Travis Edwards (

Check out the photo gallery below and enlarge by clicking on the photo. Stay tuned for more information in the Central Park Stroll

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Leadership Through Transition and New Opportunity

Central Florida ILC Central Florida, and particularly Winter Haven, is at a point of transition to become the center of the infrastructure conversation. Winter Haven offers a protected and connected hub for the burgeoning transportation, logistics, manufacturing and technology industries. Our location, at the confluence of significant transportation and technology grids, has prepared the area to receive, produce and distribute goods and services regionally and internationally. We have heard for the last 6 years how the CSX Central Florida Intermodal Logistics Center will be an economic driver for our entire community. But how do we know that and how do we capitalize upon it?

RendellWe know that because we can learn from many areas around the country that have experienced similar transitions into transportation, logistics, distribution and manufacturing hubs. One such area is Pennsylvania. With more than 34 years of public service, including 24 years as an elected official, Governor Edward G. Rendell led Philadelphia as mayor and Pennsylvania as Governor though times of transition and today continues to pursue many of the same issues he was passionate about while serving. Governor Rendell is a champion for America’s dire need to rebuild and reinvest in its infrastructure. He has also remained heavily involved in the campaign for government efficiency and strategic cost cutting through his work with entities such as Government Sourcing Solutions and Public Financial Management. Governor Rendell has been a resounding voice in the need for America to diversify, as well as to invest in its future. His consistent message spurred incredible development in Philadelphia and his investments and subsequent successes are highly visible in Philadelphia and the state of Pennsylvania.

Governor Rendell is also the Co-Chairman of Building America’s Future, an organization created with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger aimed at fostering renewed investment in our nation’s infrastructure.

We are at a pivotal point in Central Florida’s regional growth. Polk County has several key transportation focuses, one of which the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce passed a resolution on earlier this year (Central Polk Parkway). The Central Florida Partnership recently formed a Transportation Task Force to review key transportation priorities in their 7-county region (one of which is Polk, and we made sure there was Polk representation on the committee). Governor Rendell will offer unique insight into how Winter Haven, Polk County and Central Florida can capitalize on the multifaceted infrastructure investments in the area.

Join us on February 27, 2015 as the Winter Haven Economic Development Council and Envisors host the Leadership Connect Series.  Information on the event below:

WHERE:  The Ritz Theatre , 263 W Central Avenue, Winter Haven, Florida

WHAT:     Leadership Connect 2015- educational opportunity to connect business, government, and community leaders with the most advanced tools to properly invest in their communities.

WHEN:   Friday, February 27, 2015
8:30-9:00 AM- Registration and Networking
9:00 AM-11:00 AM- Seminar Presentations
11:30 AM-1:00 PM- Leadership Luncheon with Governor Ed Rendell

COST:     Leadership Connect Full Series (Seminar and Luncheon) $75.00
Leadership Connect Luncheon only $50.00

Tickets may be purchased through the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce




Posted in Chamber Events | 1 Comment

Demystifing LinkedIn for You and Your Business

This morning we had the privilege of listening to a fantastic presentation from Jarrett Smith, digital strategist at Clark/Nikdel/Powell, on how to use LinkedIn for your own professional development and business profit. This is one of those presentations that I wish every single chamber member could have heard as there were so many takeaways on what is arguably one of the most misunderstood and underused social platforms for business growth. So I wanted to make we were able to share the wealth of knowledge gained this morning.

1. Why LinkedIn Matters

  • User base – there are over 332 million people on LinkedIn with about half of those in the U.S. The users of this platform are more mature than Twitter/Facebook (average age 30-49) and over 20% have an annual income of $75k or more.
  • When the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) surveyed their members, 94% said they recruit off of LinkedIn.
  • LinkedIn profiles are indexed on Google which means you can be discovered through Google search if you have a LinkedIn profile.
  • LinkedIn is really the only platform where it is socially acceptably to do self-promotion and business promotion without annoying the heck out of your real-life friends i.e. the purpose of the platform is to promote yourself professionally and promote your business to other professionals. (shameless plug – follow the chamber on LinkedIn)

2. How Linkedin Works

  • It’s all about the connections. You have 1st degree connections – those are the people you are directly connected with. You have 2nd degree connections (think friend of friends) and then you have 3rd degree (friends of your friend’s friends). Those cumulatively make up your LinkedIn network. That means that when you search on LinkedIn or when people search for you, you are only seeing those results in your network. (Jarrett’s network is over $12 million people as displayed below). Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 1.25.46 PMScreen Shot 2015-02-04 at 1.25.54 PM
  • If you are looking for a job, it’s the place to be, but make sure your profile puts your best professional foot forward.  Use the expanded resume to do that with detailed descriptions of your projects, photos, videos, links to other websites that showcase your work, etc. Use the right “keywords” in your profile i.e. what words are people searching for that you hope they see you.
  • Connect to the heavy hitters in your area. Then those heavy hitters are connected to other heavy hitters. Be deliberate about circles of influence.
  • Accept connections from everyone, unless you think it is spam or sketchy in some way.

3. The Basics – the bare minimum you should be doing to make LinkedIn useful

  • Use a good headshot on your profile (no bathroom mirror selfies)
  • Use your real name
  • Include keywords in your profile
  • Fill out everything that LinkedIn asks you about that is relevant to you (i.e. all of those prompts they send you when you log in to your profile)
  • Give recommendations to your connections who deserve it
  • Connect with everyone you know in real life

4. Intermediate

  • Import your list of contacts from your email
  • Set your custom URL, put it in your email footer
  • Add Rich Media to your profile
  • Post to Pulse (the ‘newsfeed’ of LinkedIn, but only post relevant and thoughtful content)

The advanced methods discussed were very useful but require more in depth explanations (wish you were there now, huh?) If you want more on want Jarrett presented today, check out his presentation here or connect with him on LinkedIn.



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Digitech Graphics Group celebrates 25 years!


Congratulations to chamber member, Digitech Graphics Group, for celebrating 25 years in business. Digitech Graphics Group is a full service graphics company providing total business graphics solutions including graphic design, large format production, lamination, custom interior signs and wall graphics, wall murals, outdoor signs, banners, decals, fleet graphics, tradeshow and event graphics, tradeshow hardware and even a Christmas float.

Butch and Barbara Balingit started the company 25 years ago with an aim to make graphics with impact for clients across Central Florida. Since that time they have grown to a team of 11 and sustained many lifetime clients. For a look at some of their work, check out the gallery below (click on the photo to enlarge).

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Fantasy of Flight Opens Scaled-Down Museum

Press Release Below: 

Fantasy of Flight To Open Scaled-Down Museum

Kermit Weeks

Kermit Weeks

POLK CITY, FL (January 29, 2015) –  Fantasy of Flight owner, Kermit Weeks, announced today the opening of a scaled-down museum on Friday,  January 30th. “We want to allow the aircraft-loving public the opportunity to reconnect while we continue to create and design the next iteration (Act III) of the Fantasy of Flight attraction.  While there won’t be a restaurant, restoration tours, aircraft-of-the-day, ropes course or immersion environments,” Weeks said, “for the plane enthusiast there will be as many planes as we can comfortably put on display.”

Housed inside the now closed attraction’s former Maintenance Hangar, guests will be able to get up close and personal with some of their favorites including the 1944 B-24J Liberator, 1945 North American P-51D Mustang and 1945 Grumman Duck. Waldo Wrights Flying Service will also be back offering bi-plane rides for an additional fee. The museum will be open 11am to 3pm, Friday through Sunday seasonally beginning January 30th – April 26th, June 19th – August 2nd and November 20th – April 10, 2016. The museum will be closed on April 11, 2015 for a private event. Operating hours and dates are subject to change, so please call to verify before visiting

Fantasy of Flight is located just off Interstate 4 (exit 44) between Tampa and Orlando at 1400 Broadway Blvd. SE. Polk City, FL 33868. General Admission rates are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors 55 and over, and $8 for children ages 6-12. Children 5 and under are admitted free.


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First Downtown Residential Development in 20 years – Now Leasing


Raingarden Townhouse Apartments are now leasing. Last week I got the chance to take a sneak peek tour of these spacious and modern luxury apartments. The architect, Max Strang, began his career in Gene Leedy’s Winter Haven office and you can certainly feel those influences as you walk through the townhomes.  My favorite feature – the floor to ceiling windows that allow light to pour into the space. Max has been recognized as both Florida’s Best Young Architect by the American Institute of Architects and as the 2010 Architectural Firm of the Year.

The Raingarden Townhouse Apartments are located on the corner of Ave A SW and 2nd St SW. This is the first new residential development in downtown for almost 20 years and is a project of Six/Ten LLC. While there are still a few finishing touches being completed, you can contact Chad Lennox at 863-299-1195 x 1202 for more information on leasing.

Features include:

  • Modern polished concrete flooring throughout the first floor
  • 2-bedroom, 2.5 bath
  •  2-car garage
  • private courtyards
  • eat-at kitchen counter and formal dining area
  • All GE stainless steal appliances
  • large walk-in closets and a lot of storage
  • Master bedroom sleeping shades
  • Washer and dryer included

Click on the photos to enlarge:


Posted in Downtown, Economic Development, Real Estate | 1 Comment

Winter Haven once again named a State Surgeon General Healthy Weight Community Champion

The City of Winter Haven has been recognized, again, as Healthy Weight Community Champion. This designation was put in place by the State to show commitment to making Florida the healthiest state in the nation and the city is being recognized for measures that are positively impacting the health environment in our community. Much of this is due to the quality of life offerings in Winter Haven including trails, parks, recreation centers and more. Specifically, the website cited:

  • The City opened the Chain of Lakes Trail Ave T Pedestrian Bridge, which makes the Chain of Lakes Trail and overall trail network much more accessible and safe. The bridge is the first trail bridge in Polk County.
  • The City and Main Street Winter Haven work together to promote a farmer’s market in the downtown area.
  • On the first Saturday of each month, the City partners with Nat West with Fitness by the Fountain, which highlights a local gym. The highlighted gym provides an instructor to lead a free workout for citizens in Central Park.
  • The City owns a fleet of kayaks and hosts tours and ecotours of local lakes. The kayak trips are open to any group in the community for little or no cost.

Chain of Lakes Trail Bridge

Posted in City of Winter Haven, Health Care, Parks and Green Space | Leave a comment

LEGOLAND Florida Resort Announces Hotel Opening Date and New Land


Today LEGOLAND Florida Resort made two major announcements. The first, the opening day of the LEGOLAND Hotel is May 15, 2015. The second is the announcement of a new “land” in the park called Heartlake City, based on the LEGO Friends brand. (To view the press conference in full, click here.)

It wasn’t the best “chamber weather” today to show off the property, but you could still feel the excitement at the prospect of this hotel opening in exactly 4 months! This will cement LEGOLAND Florida and Winter Haven as a multi-day destination!

So here are the fun facts:

  • This project will created approximately 150 more jobs to Winter Haven!
  • The five-story, 152 room Hotel immerses guests in the creative LEGO® world as it’s designed to bring children’s imaginations to life. Every single room is themed and each guest room as no less than EIGHT LEGO® models. There will be 4 room themes, Pirate, Adventure, Kingdom and one surprise theme to be announced at a later date.

    Kingdom Themed Room-Kids

    Kingdom Themed Room

  • Located just steps from the main entrance of LEGOLAND® Florida, guests will have exclusive early morning access to the theme park designed for families with children ages 2-12
  • Ever been in a Disco Elevator? As guests enter the elevator, lights pulsate in the ceiling to music, guests stand on ‘lava’ tiles, a mirror ball rotates and different sound effects announce arrival on each floor (editorial note – I would love to see the LEGOLAND YouTube channel do a compilation of dancing disco elevator videos, with guest permission of course!)
  • Disco Elevator

    Disco Elevator

    There are more than 2,000 LEGO models in the entire Hotel created out of more than two million LEGO bricks!

  • LEGOLAND Hotel at LEGOLAND Florida Resort is the first LEGOLAND Hotel to have its own Model Shop and guests can sign up for Model Builder Workshop classes.
  • Hotel guests are greeted by a LEGO dragon and the spectacular entrance leads to themed play areas, a family pool, lounge, family restaurant, LEGO models and interactive features throughout
  • Behind the reception desk in the lobby is an entire wall created out of more than 5,000 LEGO Minifigures

    LEGOLAND Hotel Reception

    Lobby from LEGOLAND California Resort

  • The Castle Play area is based on the LEGO Kingdom and Pirates line with elements of adventure
  • Inside the Castle Play area there is a pirate ship complete with a blimp, docked along a moat filled with LEGO which surrounds an interactive castle
  • Every room includes a treasure chest that younger guests can unlock once they complete a special treasure hunt activity!
  • Special kid-focused features include peep holes at a lower level and LEGO bricks in each room for children to create their own masterpieces
  • Bricks Family Restaurant includes a buffet station designed specifically for kids with healthy options available at a height they can reach
  • Sky Line Lounge features a LEGO skyline with humorous scenes designed by the Park’s Master Model Builders
  • Restaurants and lounges are open to the public based on availability

Book your room today at

  • Bricks Family Restaurant

    Bricks Family Restaurant


Sales and Marketing Director Rex Jackson discusses Heartlake City “land”

The second announcement was about the new land “Heartlake City.” The 4-1-1:

  • Heartlake City will be a colorful and vibrant new land offering adventures for all ages. It is based on the LEGO® Friends line of toys which targets girls.
  • This land will be located where the former butterfly greenhouse and/or Fresh from Florida display was (directly across from the mansion)
  • The centerpieces will include a fantastic horse-themed disc coaster (think gravitron and pendulum carnival ride, but the higher-tech, pink-knuckle, 2-12 year-old friendly version) called Mia’s Riding Adventure
  • There will also be a ninteractive show called ‘Friends to the Rescue’ which will be in an indoor theater
  • New shops will be located inside Heartlake Mall
  • There will be a TV Studio to include the character corner since one of the characters aspires to be a TV news anchor.

All in all, this means big things for Winter Haven and Polk County. And BIG OPPORTUNITIES – We will have more people staying in Winter Haven, which means they will want to take advantage of all of the other things we have to do. So get those entrepreneurial hats on and take advantage of this amazing opportunity.

In this Fox News 13 story, learn more about this development boom due partially to the investment Merlin Entertainments Group has made in our community!




Posted in Commercial Developments, LEGOLAND® Florida, Merlin Entertainments | Leave a comment

Exercise Can Change Your Worklife in 2015

This morning chamber members gathered for a rather unconventional, and early, First Wednesday Business Breakfast entitled “How Fitness Can Change your Work Life in 2015 – A Moving Breakfast.” Participants were asked to “move’ throughout the entire breakfast, either via a spin bike or a step-up platform while the three speakers addressed the crowd. (Thank you to breakfast sponsors TD Bank, LA Fitness and GNC Winter Haven).

For Blog-Moving Breakfast

There were quite a few takeaways from the session that I thought would be helpful for those that couldn’t make the breakfast.

1. Exercise is great for your body, but it’s even better for your brain.

Nat West, retiree from Winter Haven Hospital and advocate for improving fitness, education and access to music in Polk, presented on a book written by Dr. John Ratey called Spark- The Revoluntionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. Dr. John J. Ratey, MD is a an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the basis of his studies for Spark is that exercise has a direct correlation for brain function. (Watch a fabulous Ted Talk from Dr. Ratey below that breaks it down perfectly in 10 minutes).

In this book he outlines how school systems who emphasize physical education as an important part of their curriculum and a stimulant for student learning. He cites an example in Naperville, Illinois where they had 19,000 student and every day each student would spend 45 minutes moving. What caught attention nationally was that only 3% of their students were overweight (compared to over 30+% of ours according to Nat). They also tested the students academically. According to an international benchmarking test called TIMSS – Trends in International Mathmatics/Science, the Naperville students tested #1 in Math and #6 in science, in the world (US normally in the low-to-mid teens). They also found at other schools where the implemented similar exercise programs that behavioral problems, suspensions and class skipping dropped dramatically. So definitely great info for your kids, but what about for you?

According to Dr. Ratey, exercise affects the part of your brain that you probably use most during your work day (slide from YouTube video shown above) :

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 11.53.33 AM

Exercise also keeps our brain cells “young and perky” which can help ward off certain cognitive disorders that can come with age. It also enables our brain cells to grow, which we need to retain new information. Bottom line – exercise optimizes your brains ability to learn.

Nat cited a few examples of teachers that “get this” in our own community including:

  • Mary Fisher at Jewett Middle Academy who is doing work on exercise to boost learning inside the classroom.
  • Shannon Rasmussen at Pinewood Elementary who is hosting a before school running group of which participation is contingent upon math scores.
  • Lisa Meyer at Garden Grove Elementary  is doing innovative things to keep kids moving in PE to keep the heart rate up to optimize learning capacity.

2. Polk County is still in the top 10 most obese DMA’s in the country. But there are people trying to change that.

Next the group heard from Colleen Mangan, Florida Department of Health, and volunteer chair for the Building a Healthier Polk initiative with Polk Vision. Colleen discussed what Building a Healthier Polk is focusing on which includes the fight to combat obesity through 6 key strategy areas:

The Building a Healthier Polk Initiative is a three year plan to reduce obesity based on 6 key strategy areas:

  • school based - increase overall wellness among youth in Polk County.  Strategy 1
  • neighborhood/community - increase access to and participation in physical activity for all members of a community. Strategy 2
  • physicians - access clinical practices in addressing Body Mass Index (BMI). Strategy 3
  • work based – support the use of evidenced -based employee health promotion/wellness programs to promote healthy behavior. Strategy 4
  • higher education – support college wellness programs that address unhealthy dietary patterns and inadequate physical activity. Strategy 5
  • communication – raise awareness through an on-going community-wide campaign that supports the Initiative’s activities and progress towards the goal. Strategy 6

With the work based focus, Building a Healthier Polk has brought together the Polk Wellness Professionals who have put together a Worksite Wellness Toolkit for businesses to build their wellness programs. Download the Worksite Wellness Tool Kit here. They are also kicking off their year with a walk around Lake Mirror in Lakeland next Monday, January 12 at 4:30.

3. Being “trapped at work” is not an excuse.

Finally, the attendees heard from Aaryn, a master personal trainer at LA Fitness who gave tips to how you can still stay healthy at work even if getting to the gym isn’t always possible.

  • If you get an hour for lunch, take 2o minutes to do this simple lunchtime exercise circuit. Or walk. Just be active.
  • Prepare your food day. Bring your healthy lunch. Stock healthy snacks. Don’t allow candy jars! If you have to go out to eat, choose the smart meal options.
  • Get up and stretch and take a break from looking at a screen.
  • Get a support group. If you are all doing planks or squats at your desk, then it will become the norm!



Posted in Best Business Practices | 1 Comment