By John Ceballos
The Ledger
Published: Thursday, August 18, 2016 at 12:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 18, 2016 at 12:06 p.m.
LAKELAND — The mood was more festive than usual during CareerSource Polk’s annual meeting Thursday morning.

SCOTT WHEELER/THE LEDGER

Facts
… And the winners are …
SMALL BUSINESSES (one to 50 employees)

BrightVolt; Central Florida Regional Planning Council; Certain Teed Machine Works; Clark, Campbell, Lancaster & Munson, P.A.; Clark Environmental, Inc.; Clark/Nikdel/Powell; Florida United Methodist Foundation; Heacock Insurance Group; Lunz Prebor Fowler Architects; OMS Group, Inc.; Spherion Staffing.

MEDIUM BUSINESSES (51 to 250 employees)

A-C-T Environmental & Infrastructure, Inc.; Allen & Company of Florida, Inc.; Citizens Bank & Trust; CutraleCitrus Juices USA, Inc.; Ferguson Enterprises; Florida Presbyterian Homes, Inc.; Mizkan America, Inc.; The Estates at Carpenters.

LARGE BUSINESSES (251 employees and up)

Florida’s Natural Growers; Sykes Enterprises Inc.; Walmart Distribution Center 6071.

WORKFORCE INCENTIVE AWARD winners

Brandi Alexander, Bridget Ashley, Scott Bennett, Steve Cason, Deborah Davidson, Karen Dias, Marisa Emanuel, Chandra Feacher, Todd Glidewell, Wilie Graham, Lori Halula-Eyer, Alicia Kennedy, Robindra Ramnauth, Lucy Irene Smith, Evangeline Scharf, Geoffrey Stoff, Daniel Walker, Tinisha Walker, Pamela Westbrook, Haley Williams.
On top of once again recognizing the county’s Best Places to Work, the event doubled as a celebration of CareerSource Polk’s 20th anniversary.

“This community has graciously embraced the workforce development system over the last 20 years,” said Stacy Campbell-Domineck, president and CEO of CareerSource Polk, during her keynote address. “From low joblessness to seemingly insurmountable spikes in unemployment, we have seen the pendulum swing back and forth, and yet here we stand.”

CareerSource Polk — formerly Polk Works — was established in 1996 and is a nonprofit that oversees federal funds dedicated to establishing a skilled workforce. According to its 2015-16 annual report, 69,670 customers accessed CareerSource Polk’s career service centers.

In 2003, the organization began handing out its Best Places to Work Awards, which recognize businesses that offer a healthy work-life balance and a variety of incentives, perks and training opportunities for its employees.

In addition to the Best Places to Work Awards, Career Source Polk also doled out several individual honors.

n Gary Clark of the Polk County Veterans Council and CPS Investment Advisors received the Hammer Award, which recognizes CareerSource Polk board members for contributing their personal time to the organization’s initiatives.

n John Small of Polk County Public Schools won the Workforce Champion Award for his contribution to workforce and economic development initiatives.

n Katrina Lunsford, 2015-16 board chairwoman for CareerSource Polk, picked up the Larry Miller Award for her “overwhelming commitment to workforce development.”

“We’ve done so much for Polk County, my somewhat big brain cannot contain it,” Lunsford said. She proceeded to rattle off some of CareerSource Polk’s achievements, including helping put the county’s residents back to work, upgrading the skills of Polk’s workforce, and creating summer jobs for the county’s youth.

Lunsford is also the namesake of the new Katrina Lunsford Workforce Incentive Award, which offers financial encouragement to Polk residents who have demonstrated a commitment to pursuing a career through CareerSource Polk’s workforce system.

A total of $20,000 was distributed to 20 recipients as part of the Workforce Incentive Award.

One of those recipients was Bridget Ashley of Lakeland. Ashley is working at the Zephyrhills Correctional Institute through MHM Services, which provides health and medical services and personnel for government agencies.

“They paid for my schooling at Ridge Career Center,” said Ashley, who completed the school’s licensed practical nursing (LPN) program. “After I got the job and couldn’t get scrubs, I picked up a voucher from them and they paid for them.

“Sometimes I felt very overwhelmed, but they are always very encouraging.”

— John Ceballos can be reached at john.ceballos@theledger.com or 863-802-7515.

I’m in the doghouse. If one writes for the purpose of publication, one writes to a deadline. In my case, that deadline was about a week ago. As I said, I’m in the doghouse; you won’t be surprised to find out that it is a familiar place given my self-indulgent (and self-proclaimed) witticisms.
So to get out of the doghouse and into the paper (once again), I looked back to last month’s column to see where we left off. I suggested you stay strong and stay with your plan (i.e. in the market as much as you can tolerate being in the market), and thirty days later I am about to injure myself with self-supplied pats on the back.
But alas, I once had a colleague that often reminded me (and all who need such) never to confuse luck with brilliance. Point made, although my belief in Calvinism and my similarly-minded friends shudder at the word “luck”.
But let’s talk about “luck” for a while, or Providence, if you prefer. Regardless of what you call it, it is that which is beyond our control or prediction, and influences much of what comes in life.
As I write to you today, I am watching the Olympics most evenings. I love the Olympics, both the summer and winter games. I haven’t a clue what (de)motivates those people who say “nah, I’m not watching, I couldn’t care less.”
It is great entertainment and high drama for me. And I am always struck by the recurring thought that these young (generally) people train to levels I can’t image for a decade or more for a chance to attain that one shining moment that comes around once each four years.
And sometimes, often times for many we don’t hear about, injuries, politics, financial abilities, family crises, and yes, “luck”, derail those dreams. “How do they do it?” I ask. “How do they keep going?”
Clearly the athletes can’t only live for the chance at an Olympic medal; there are many rewards along the way: both the competitions and the success found in participating in the struggle.
One of the comments from prospective clients that frustrates me is, “I don’t want any risk.” Uh…not possible. We can identify risk, minimize risk, mitigate risk, avoid risk, but we can’t eliminate it. Is there any area of life where you have no risk?
I often encourage people to think of their finances as a river, as opposed to a stagnant pond. A river flows, it waxes and wanes, we can damn up a portion for use later, but we can’t hold it back completely. There are times of drought and time of flooding. Before I go on too long, I will admit that no one ever gets the analogy, but I stubbornly persist.
My point today, and yes I do have one (again), is to encourage you to enjoy the journey, and not fixate on the destination. You have educated yourself in your profession, you have worked hard, raised a family, built a home, given back to the community, and who knows what else?
You’re an Olympian. Take a bow, and then get back in the pool for some laps.

Published: Sunday, August 7, 2016 at 8:07 p.m.

When Keith Albritton isn’t fulfilling his role as president and chief executive officer at Allen & Company in Lakeland, he’s probably outside.

For him, the perfect day might go like this: “Definitely somewhere outdoors with family and friends enjoying nature,” he wrote in an email. “It could be hunting, or fishing with my kids, maybe at the beach or even in the mountains. Anna Maria Island is one of our favorite places.”

The father of four teenagers, which comes with challenges but is a “true gift,” Albritton said he enjoys his hometown, a place he described as “wonderful.”

“I love the many childhood memories I have of growing up here, and now, even more meaningful raising my family here,” he said. “It’s a community filled with generosity and leaders with great vision. For me, it’s a joyful opportunity to be in the position to give back to our community.”

The wannabe guitarist would love to play in the praise band at Christ Community Presbyterian Church, where he is a Sunday worship leader and home fellowship group leader.

He’s also held many roles in the community, from serving on the executive committee of the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce and the board of the Salvation Army to chairing the 2015 Polk Heart and Stroke Ball. A graduate of Leadership Lakeland, he also supports the Imperial Symphony Orchestra, among other things.

Albritton earned a bachelor of science in finance from the University of Florida, where he played golf on a team that won two national championships. He started work as a financial adviser at Allen & Company in 1996, and now serves on the firm’s executive committee and board of directors.

Named one of the Orlando Business Journal’s “Top 40 Under 40 Business Leaders in Central Florida” in 1999, Albritton, 46, shared some thoughts for The Ledger’s “Five Questions” feature.

Q. Allen & Company is one of the oldest investment firms in Polk County. What attracted you to the company?

A. Allen & Company of Florida Inc. is the oldest investment firm domiciled in the state of Florida and we are certainly proud of this heritage. The firm captured my attention for a couple of reasons. Initially, I was attracted to our firm due to eight decades of reputation founded in character and integrity. That statement is as true today as it was for me in the beginning. And, I value working for a privately held company with a leadership team that is ingrained in the community.

Q. What does Allen & Company offer that people can’t find at other similar firms? 

A. A couple of things come to mind. First of all, we are an ESOP company (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) and all of our tenured associates are owners of the firm. This ownership mentality is a competitive advantage in serving our clients, our fellow associates and our communities. Secondly, our partnership with one of the largest financial services companies in the country allows us to provide the broad range of products and services offered by others while maintaining our independence. Being independently owned allows us to remain client focused at all times, providing a best-of- both-worlds experience for our clients and associates.

Q. What’s your take on the stock market today?

A. The most important long-term factor for the equity market is corporate earnings. In the near term, the global uncertainly and election cycles could cause higher levels of volatility, but earnings are the story. Corporate earnings have been in a modest decline the past 12 months or so, but are projected to improve over the coming several quarters. Historically, this is the primary engine that moves the market higher over the long term.

Q. Allen & Company is geared toward retirement investing. What advice do you give young people who walk into your office?

A. We are truly geared toward comprehensive financial planning, and retirement investing is certainly a big part of this. The key factors that determine long-term retirement success for a young person perhaps in their 20s or early 30s is their ability to save and stay out of debt. These two long-term principles have stood the test of time and market. I would suggest a savings rate of 10 percent as a minimum. In recapping, spend less than you make, save and then invest the difference wisely over a period of decades. This is not without challenges, but simple at its very essence.

Q. What’s the most important part of your job, day in and day out?

A. My most important activity daily is modeling our four Core Values: 1) Treat one another with dignity and respect. 2) Strive to find a better way. 3) Maintain the highest levels of integrity. 4) Make a profound and positive difference. These values are the foundation of our culture and I subscribe that maintaining our culture is the most significant role I serve. For an employee-owned firm like ours, culture is even more important than strategy.