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

Acting Chief Charlie Bird promoted to Police Chief

(January 5, 2015) Winter Haven City Manager Deric C. Feacher announced today Acting Police Chief Charlie Bird will be promoted to Police Chief for the City of Winter Haven.

 Chief BirdCaptain Bird has served the Winter Haven Police Department since 1990 when he began his law enforcement career as a Police Officer I. Within the Department he has been promoted to Police Officer II, Detective I, Detective II, Sergeant, Lieutenant and, in 2004, he was promoted to Captain. He was elevated to Acting Police Chief September 5, 2014 earning $94,369.60 when previous Police Chief Gary Hester resigned to take the position of Assistant County Manager for Polk County.

 Since that time Bird has demonstrated strong professionalism, leadership and communication skills necessary to continue the Police Department’s focus as a trusted agency engaged in positive partnerships. He is looking forward to continuing his service with the City of Winter Haven in this capacity as we thrive for excellence in law enforcement. City Manager Deric C. Feacher states, “Police Chief Charlie Bird has demonstrated high ethical standards and continues to work with an exceptional team dedicated to the community. He is well respected and a true asset to local law enforcement making him an excellent choice as the Police Chief of Winter Haven.”  

 A formal swearing-in ceremony will be announced in the next few days from the Winter Haven Police Department.


Written by: Donna Sheehan Communication/Marketing Division Director, 863 291-5600

Congratulations to Chief Bird!

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Call for Nominations – Banker’s Cup/Citizen of the Year

The Chairman of the Board of the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce, Greg Littleton, opens the nominations for the 2015 Banker’s Cup/Citizen of the Year Awards! The awards will be given on May 19, 2015 at Polk State College with the event beginning at 6 PM (SAVE THE DATE!).

Frequently asked questions:

What is the Banker’s Cup Award?

No, it’s not for bankers, but it was given to citizens by bankers, hence the name.  Our banking community carries on that tradition today by strongly supporting the awards ceremony today! The Banker’s Cup Award is considered Winter Haven’s highest honor as it recognizes a citizen who has made a significant impact/contribution over a number of years or through a single project. Here’s a bit of history for you:

The Winter Haven Clearing House Association presented the first Banker’s Cup Award in 1923 at the Chamber’s annual banquet. It was established to recognize the person who had made the most significant contributions to the community through years of service or a single noteworthy project.

Any living resident of the Winter Haven area is eligible for the Banker’s Cup. Individuals may be nominated by another person, a civic or business organization. The Chamber Board Chairman appoints a selection committee whose members remain anonymous. Nominations are presented to the Selection Committee, which then evaluates each nominee independently.

One outstanding citizen was honored each year from 1923 until 1965. At that time it was decided to honor two people: both an outstanding man and woman. No awards were presented during the war years 1943-1945.

How do I nominate an individual?

Easy. Just fill out the nomination form here or email your nomination to or drop it off at the chamber from 9 AM – 4 PM Monday through Friday at 401 Ave B NW, Winter Haven, 33881. All nominations must be received by February 15, 2015 at 4 PM.

Once it is submitted, the Selection Committee will contact you if they need more information or have any other questions.

What should I think about when nominating an individual?

  • This award is intended to honor persons dedicated to making Winter Haven better for their having lived here.
  • Consider the range of activities and the involvement of the person you nominate and their positive impact on our community.
  • Neither age nor occupation should be a factor. Every living resident of Winter Haven of exemplary character, is a potential candidate.
  • Social standing is not relevant; respect and integrity are.
  • Traditionally an award is voted by the Selection Committee for both a woman and a man, if worthy candidates are presented.
  • Activities should be considered only if they were truly for the community good. For example, work done for one’s personal hobby would be given less importance than work volunteered to serve the needs of others.
  • It is not a popularity contest. The number of letters received is never a deciding factor; one sincere, well-documented letter may be enough.
  • It is appropriate to honor person for freely-given service over a period of years.

The question is, “Who has made the most positive impact on making the Winter Haven area a better place to live?”

IMG_8433WinnersWinnersWho are the past winners of the Banker’s Cup?

Winners(e-mail)Check out the Past Banker’s Cup Winners from 1923-2014.

Ok, now you are ready to nominate. Just fill out the nomination form here or email your nomination to or drop it off at the chamber from 9 AM – 4 PM Monday through Friday at 401 Ave B NW, Winter Haven, 33881. All nominations must be received by February 15, 2015 at 4 PM.

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2014 Boat Parade Winners!

The hulls were deck, the lakes were a glow, the crowds were cheering . . . and the results are in!


Judges Awards:


#1 – Chain Life/Millers Marine’s Sleigh Ride ($100 grand prize)

IMG_4358 IMG_4357

#2 – Missy Hill & John Ortega’s Frozen ($50, 2nd Place)


#3 – Mark LaForest’s Candy Land ($25, 3rd place)


Wildest Most Creative – Gordy Anderson’s Skiing Snowman ($100) (unfortunately we didn’t get a good picture of this one, so if you have one of this boat please send to




Posted in Chamber Events | 1 Comment

Love Winter Haven T-Shirts

Put some Winter Haven pride on your holiday shopping list. Add this limited edition Love Winter Haven T-Shirt in the gift mix.

The t-shirts come in gray and blue in both men’s and women’s sizes (Small – Medium – Large – XL – XXL). Small – XL are $20 and XXL is $25. *Please note that women’s sizes run small.

The shirts will be on sale at Carols in The Park (Dec. 6 & 7, 2014) and in the chamber lobby beginning Monday, Dec. 8th.

You can reserve yours in advance by sending an e-mail with your name, address, phone, size, quantity and color choice and we will have it ready for pick up in the chamber lobby (open 9 AM – 4 PM Monday – Friday).


All 4 T-Shirts

If it helps, copy and paste this in your email window:





Sizes (S, M, L, XL, XXL):




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The Ledger Transitions to New Owners

As published on 

Halifax Media Group, Owner of The Ledger, Acquired by New Media Investment Group


Published: Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 4:59 p.m.    Last Modified: Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 4:59 p.m.

Halifax Media Group, owner of The Ledger and 35 other newspapers and affiliated web sites, has agreed to be acquired by New Media Investment Group Inc.

 New Media, a publicly traded company, said it will pay $280 million in cash for Halifax, subject to adjustments. The deal is anticipated to close in the first quarter of 2015. 

 “This is a very exciting day for our company,” Michael E. Reed, New Media’s president and CEO, said in announcing the acquisition today. “Halifax Media is one of the premier, locally oriented media companies in the United States.”

 Michael Redding, who as CEO rapidly built Halifax over the past four years, said, “By combining New Media’s geographic footprint with Halifax Media’s Southeast reach it will be a powerhouse in the industry.”

Halifax newspapers, including 24 dailies primarily in the Southeast, have total daily circulation of approximately 635,000 and 752,000 on Sundays. Combined digital traffic amounts to more than 80 million page views a month. The company has nearly 3,000 employees. 

New Media is one of the largest publishers of locally based print and online media in the U.S with 450 community publications and over 370 related web sites. New Media has been actively acquiring newspapers, having spent approximately $430 million on local media assets in little over one year, including the Halifax deal. Last year, it added the Dow Jones Local Media Group of eight dailies and 15 weeklies to its lineup and acquired the Providence Journal earlier this year.

“Halifax’s publications are all well-established, leading providers of local news in the communities they serve,” said New Media’s Reed. “Additionally, the acquisition further diversifies New Media’s business from both a geographic and customer standpoint. These markets also present a tremendous opportunity for New Media to expand its digital businesses, Propel and BestRide, as these markets expand our footprint of small and mid-size businesses we will be able to reach.”

Read the full story at

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United Way of Central Florida President Terry Worthington Takes Position with United Way of Florida

664338_10203518424586329_1292368945_oThe United Way of Central Florida announced today the departure of President Terry Worthington. Worthington has accepted the position of Executive Vice President, United Way of Florida. In this role, Worthington will share 28 years of United Way experience with Florida’s 32 local United Ways.

Ted Granger, President of the United Way of Florida commented that, “Terry is universally respected by people throughout the world-wide United Way network. He has built strong relationships with donors, community leaders and social service organizations on a foundation of honesty and unparalleled integrity. He will be an invaluable asset to our organization and to our State.”

Worthington began his career at United Way of Central Florida in 1987 as a Campaign Associate. He was quickly promoted to Campaign Director and then to Vice President of Campaign. He continued his career as Associate Executive Director at the United Way of the Virginia Peninsula and the United Way of Middle Tennessee as Vice President of Resource Development. In 1996, after a nationwide search, Worthington was selected as President of the United Way of Central Florida.

During his 28 year career, Worthington was directly responsible for raising nearly a quarter billion dollars. His tenure as President has seen the Central Florida Campaign grow from $5 million to $9 million dollars, providing funding to over 100 programs. Beyond fund raising, the United Way of Central Florida emphasizes a focus on social service programs and partnerships that make a measurable difference in the lives of local people.

In 2014, the United Way of Central Florida earned a 97.2 rating on United Way Worldwide’s Business Performance Index, placing it near the top of the 1,400 United Ways Worldwide. The organization is recognized as a Four Star (highest ranking) Non-Profit by Charity Navigator.

On his departure Worthington states, “It has been an honor to serve Polk, Hardee and Highlands Counties for the last 18 years. I am proud of what the volunteers and staff working together have been able to accomplish. We are a grassroots organization funded by hard working individuals that come together to make an impact in our communities.”

While United Way of Florida is headquartered in Tallahassee, Worthington will serve the State from Central Florida.

- From the Press Release 


If I may take a moment of personal privilege, I want to thank him for instilling in me the importance of caring about your neighbors, your community, complete strangers and just about any person that touches your life. You taught us that it’s our privilege and our duty to leave this earth better than when we arrived. The Polk, Hardee and Highlands County communities are better because of your hard work, your staff and all that the United Way of Central Florida does to improve the education, income and health of this wonderful place we call home. Lived United. Good luck on this next chapter, Dad. 


Posted in Member News | 9 Comments