Bok Tower’s Legacy Will Lift You Up ….




Here’s a special lift for your spirits on this rainy day. Let Bok Tower Gardens inspire you with this short video. Four minutes of breathtaking beauty.

Click here.

Posted in Observations, Tourism | Leave a comment

CenterState Bank to Acquire First Southern Bancorp

CenterStateBLogoTagHorizDAVENPORT, FL., January 29, 2014 – CenterState Banks, Inc. (NASDAQ –  GS: CSFL) announced today the signing of a definitive merger agreement under which CenterState will acquire First Southern Bancorp, Inc. the parent company of First Southern Bank. Upon completion of the holding company merger, First Southern Bank will be merged with and into CenterState Bank of Florida, NA.

First Southern Bank, which is headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida, currently operates 17 banking locations in the Orlando, Jacksonville, and West Palm Beach-Fort Lauderdale MSAs. As of December 31, 2013, First Southern reported assets of $1.1 billion, loans of $635 million and deposits of $883 million. ”First Southern Bank is a complementary fit into our company as we have a significant presence in Jacksonville and Orlando”, said Ernie Pinner, Chairman, President, & CEO of CenterState Banks, Inc. “First Southern also provides a natural further extension of our Gulfstream Business Bank acquisition into the attractive markets of both Palm Beach and Broward counties.”

Upon completion of the acquisition, the combined company will have approximately $4.0 billion in assets, $2.5 billion in loans and $3.4 billion in deposits. This transaction represents a strategic and financially attractive combination of both companies’ shareholders with day?one tangible book value accretion and significant earnings per share accretion. After the completion of this transaction, CenterState will be one of the largest Florida- based community banks. “First Southern Bank leverages our existing in-market leadership and infrastructure in these strategic Florida markets,” said John Corbett, President & CEO of CenterState Bank of Florida. “We are pleased to welcome First Southern’s customers and employees to CenterState. “

The merger agreement has been unanimously approved by the boards of directors of each company.The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of 2014 and is subject to customary conditions, including both regulatory approvals and shareholder approval by both CenterState and First Southern shareholders. Subject to the terms of the merger agreement, First Southern shareholders will receive .30 shares of CenterState’s common stock and $3.00 in cash for each share of First Southern’s common stock, which equates to a deal value of $6.00 per share based on CSFL’s closing stock price on January 29, 2014 of $10.00. Based on CSFL’s closing stock price on January 29, 2014 of $10.00, the aggregate deal value is $189.5 million.


Posted in Financial Industry, General Announcements | 2 Comments

Tasty and Tasteful! Banker’s Cup/Taste of Winter Haven 2014

Here is your special invitation to a kaleidoscope of tastes from Winter Haven’s favorite restaurants and the tasteful presentation of awards honoring selfless dedication to our community. Join us February 20 for Banker’s Cup/Taste of Winter Haven 2014.  Participating restaurants are listed following the invitation …

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 Participating Restaurants:

Arabella’s Ristorante
Cam’s Catering
Chalet Suzanne
Chick Fil A Winter Haven
Chef Boy R G’s
Gourmet Goodies Bake Shop
PenGeo, Inc./KFC
Rick’s Barbecue
Seasoned Stone
Terrie Lobb Catering

and Richard’s Fine Coffees

Register online here.

Download RSVP form here.

Watch your mail for printed invitations.

Deadline for Banker’s Cup Nominations is Friday, January 31 at 4 p.m. in the Chamber Lobby or

Mail to:

Banker’s Cup Selection Committee, PO Box 1420, Winter Haven, FL, 33882-1420

Posted in Chamber Events, Dining, General Announcements | Leave a comment

Economic “Lift” Just Around the Corner …

Evansville Western Railway’s Integrated Rail Terminal begins operational shakedown.

Electric Cranes 95' tall will move freight to and from rail cars.

Electric Cranes 95′ tall will move freight to and from rail cars.

The approach to the new terminal is impressively long, lighted and landscaped to perfection in what used to be the hay fields of Winter Haven’s Wastewater Treatment Plant #3 south of the city. The vast size of the staging pavement, and freight transfer concourse makes a silent statement to the volume of economic activity that will grow from this first stage of the CSX subsidiary’s Integrated Logistics Center (ILC).  Three 95′ electric cranes move virtually silently on tracks alongside seven CSX rail spurs that will hold freight to be transferred at the facility. The sheer size of the cranes and staging area dwarf several small service buildings that will serve the workers at the facility.

It’s practice or “shake down” time as employees learn exactly how to carefully and efficiently move containerized goods to and from double-stacked rail cars. And the first word in their dictionary is “safety.” Transfer of this completed Phase 1 from construction to Evansville Western’s onsite agent CSX Transportation officially occurs Monday, January 27.

Soon, later this spring, the long-awaited intermodal center will come to life and eventually grow to serve a projected 8 million sq. ft. of warehouse, industrial and office space in the adjacent business park. Highway 60 improvements are in place, parkway connecting plans are being finalized and soon will begin to move.

Seven years in the making, the Evansville Western/CSX ILC is coming to life with a long term impact limited only by the imagination.

Freight staging concourse with electric cranes at right. (January 24, 2014

Freight staging concourse with electric cranes at right. (January 24, 2014)

Posted in City of Winter Haven, CSX - Winter Haven, Economic Development, Evansville Western Railway, Transportation | 2 Comments

Six/Ten Announces “Raingarden Apartments”

Six-Ten Logo- Revised for LLCSix/Ten, LLC,  announced today the official groundbreaking of a 9-unit apartment project in downtown Winter Haven. The project will be the first new residential project in the downtown area in more than 25 years. The apartments will be located on a now vacant lot at the corner of Avenue A and Second Street, SW. A brief groundbreaking ceremony will be held on the site at 10:30 a.m., Monday, January 27, 2014.

“The Raingarden” apartments have been designed by Max W. Strang, of Max Strang Architecture, with offices in Miami and Telluride. Mr. Strang is an award-winning architect, recently honored with the 2013 Silver Medal for Design, its highest honor, by the Miami chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Strang is a native of Winter Haven.

“Promoting downtown living and the revitalization of the neighborhoods around the downtown core is a primary goal of Six/Ten’s”, said Kerry Wilson, the President of the Company. “These apartments will not only epitomize the modernist movement of which Max Strang is a rising star, but will harmonize with Winter Haven’s amazing collection of Gene Leedy architecture.”

The apartments will each consist of approximately 1,800 square feet of living space, with a private courtyard and enclosed two-car garage. Their location is within easy walking distance of Winter Haven’s downtown amenities, restaurants and retail locations. Renderings of the project will be available at the groundbreaking.

Everett R. Whitehead & Son, Inc., will construct the project expected to be completed during the fourth quarter of 2014.

Six/Ten, LLC is a real estate, leasing and diversified investment company.


Posted in Downtown, Economic Development, General Announcements, Real Estate | 19 Comments

Worthington Named To Lead Chamber

Katie Worthington has accepted an offer and been hired as chief executive of the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce effective March 1, 2014. Steve Crisman and Greg Littleton, cochairmen of the Search Committee to hire an executive, made the announcement this morning.

Katie Worthington

Katie Worthington

Worthington is currently the media and account director for the integrated marketing strategy firm, Clark/Nikdel/Powell, in Winter Haven where her clients include Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing, the Central Florida Development Council, Enterprise Florida and Fantasy of Flight among others. She has previously held positions with Bond Clinic as their director of Reception, Customer Service and Public Relations and SunTrust Bank as a business banker. 

A 2005 graduate of the University of Central Florida she majored in Hospitality Management and graduated as valedictorian of her class. She has previously been heavily involved with the Winter Haven Chamber having founded its Young Professionals Group and served as its first chairwoman. She also organized the Polk Emerging Leaders Awards in 2011 and 2012. She served as president of the Winter Haven Chamber Foundation from 2010-12 and on the Chamber Board of Directors from 2012 to the present. In addition to her commitment to the Winter Haven community, she has been involved with Polk County organizations such as Polk Vision and the Leadership Polk program, the Polk Education Foundation Stepping Out for Education event, the Humane Society of Polk County and the United Way of Central Florida. 

Of her new responsibilities she says, “I cannot think of a more exciting and pivotal time in the future of Winter Haven’s economic and community development. I am incredibly honored to be able to serve the chamber members and the community who have provided me with so many opportunities over the last decade.” 

In addition to Crisman and Littleton the Search Committee included Howard Beckert, Eileen Holden, Ed.D., Bonnie Parker, Cindy Price and Seretha Tinsley. The Committee began a national search in September 2013 ultimately narrowing the field to six who were interviewed online and the field finally narrowed to two. Worthington’s knowledge of the Winter Haven community and her familiarity with the Chamber coupled with her vision for the Chamber’s future were the deciding factors.

Chamber President Steve Crisman added, “We are certainly excited about the future of the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce.  We believe Katie is the right leader at the right time for the Chamber and our community.”

The Chamber will host a “Welcome and Farewell” reception for Katie and retiring executive Bob Gernert on Friday afternoon, February 28. All members are invited to stop by for the meet and greet and refreshments.


Posted in Chamber Events, General Announcements | 32 Comments

Beware of Business Awards for Purchase …

The Chamber received a “news release” this morning naming a now defunct Winter Haven Hotel “near Cypress Gardens” as selected a “Winter Haven’s Finest for 2013.”  The email displays the header below and states the “Winter Haven Awards Committee” made the selection. To “claim your prize” a series of plaques/crystal statues are available from $79.99 to $199.99 (claimed to be best value.)

The Chamber is not aware of any such “Winter Haven Awards Committee” and advises caution for any such awards notification suggesting you need to purchase the recognition.

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Posted in Potential Scam | Leave a comment

Flat-Iron Project May Transform Two Downtown Blocks

With an eye toward social, environmental and economic synergies, the Tom Wolfe Company, LLC is designing a sustainable mixed-use building complex that would occupy the former site of the Hill Building, a short section of Avenue A, SW and the city parking lot just to the north. The project’s conceptual plans call for first floor commerce/retail with and emphasis on pedestrian friendly walkways and alleys, outdoor dining and a building with a design that looks like you are viewing the front from any perspective. The second floor would feature parking for both public use and eleven condos planned for the fourth floor. The third floor would house professional office space.

Flat Iron Building as viewed from SE

Flat-Iron Building as viewed from SE

Each floor represents about 22,000 useable square feet. The condominiums would average 1550 square feet and the fourth floor would also feature an outdoor garden patio area for the condominium owners as well as private rental. The second floor parking area coupled to first floor on-street parking would actually increase parking in the two block area from a current 41 spaces to 75.

The project is much further along than just napkin sketches with city and tenant outreach occurring in tandem. Partners Jeff Donalson and Kevin Woolf are also in negotiations with investors.

One more great opportunity for downtown retail, restaurant, office and residential. The 2013 Main Street Annual Meeting featured a leading national expert on downtowns who gave Winter Haven high marks with the exception of residential space. This is one more project that addresses that opportunity.

Street view of Flat Iron Project

Street view of Flat-Iron Project

Flat-Iron Project Concept Specs

Ground Floor – Restaurant, Retail

  • Total Footprint = 29,032 SF
  • Total Rentable = 21,790 SF
  • Restaurant (5,500 – 7,000 SF)
  • Storefront Retail, Café (2– 3,000 SF)
  • Total New Street Parking Stalls = 16
  • Tenant Custom Build-Out

Second Floor – Parking Garage

  • Total Footprint = 25,407 SF
  • Total Covered Parking Stalls = 59

Third Floor – Luxury Office Space

  • Total Footprint = 26,779 SF
  • Total Rentable = 22,539 SF
  • Tenant Custom Build-Out

Fourth Floor – Condominiums

  • Total Footprint = 26,779 SF
  • 11 Condominiums Planned
  • Average Condo Size = 1,550 SF
  • Open Patio for Private Use (4,000+ SF)

For further information contact the Tom Wolf Company, LLC:  (863-287-6873)


Posted in City of Winter Haven, Commercial Developments, Dining, Downtown, Economic Development, General Announcements, Main Street Winter Haven, Small Business Opportunity | 7 Comments

Shop Haven Small Businesses this Saturday and Beyond!

SB Header

As you and your family embark on the holiday gift-giving season this coming weekend is sure to be a busy time. The Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce encourages you to make time in your shopping travels to visit small, locally-owned businesses — especially on Saturday, November 30. You’ll find signinteresting one-of-a-kind items for that special hard-to-buy-for friend, great bargains and friendly folks just waiting to serve you. And the money you spend at a locally owned store stays in our economy — and that’s good for everyone!  More than 80 percent of our members are small businesses. Help make their Christmas and that of their employees bright!

From our national retailers to our Mom and Pop stores … we wish you a successful Holiday season in the Chain of Lakes City!

Posted in City of Winter Haven, General Announcements, Shopping | Leave a comment

Christmas Boat Parade – December 7

Surprises for 2013!

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Parade Rules and Regulations Here!

The Chamber would like to express our sincere thanks to the City of Winter Haven, Winter Haven Police Department, Polk County Sheriff’s Department, and  Lake Region Lakes Management District for their contributions to making this 26th Annual Christmas Boat Parade a success. We also appreciate our prize sponsors including Frank and Manny’s Harborside, Old Man Frank’s Oyster Bar and Marine Supply of Winter Haven.



Posted in Chain of Lakes, Chamber Events, City of Winter Haven, Uncategorized | Leave a comment