LAKELAND – Ralph Allen recalled the time in the spring of 1986 when he was approached about sponsoring a new initiative of the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce.

“We were very appreciative of the invitation and proceeded with the planning of the event for early 1987,” said Allen, chairman of Allen & Company of Florida.

The event was the first Economic Forecast Breakfast, a yearly collaboration between Lakeland-based Allen & Company of Florida and the Lakeland Chamber. On Thursday, The Lakeland Center hosted the 30th edition of the forecast.

“The objective of the first breakfast was to give business owners and their senior management information to make better business decisions,” Allen said. “That’s the primary purpose today.”

To commemorate the event’s 30-year anniversary, Allen & Company commissioned a 10-minute video from Lakeland-based Indie Atlantic Films.

The video – which was shown in lieu of the traditional local and state forecast from Tony Villamil, co-founder of the Washington Economics Group in Coral Gables – featured input from 15 local and state influencers, including Villamil, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam and Lakeland City Manager Tony Delgado.

The participants reflected on the region’s evolution throughout the past three decades and offered optimistic views of its future.

“If you look at where we are today and where we are positioned to go in the future, Polk County is at the center of the I-4 corridor, which is really the fulcrum of the biggest swing state in the country,” Putnam said in the video.

“I hope we become a regional and significant entity,” Delgado added. “Believe in this community, give it a chance, take that second or third shot.

“Take what has been given to you from a historic perspective, which is a great foundation, and build on it.”

Brian Wesbury, a fixture at the Economic Forecast Breakfast for 25 years, served as the keynote speaker and was presented with a key to the city of Lakeland by Mayor Howard Wiggs. He is the chief economist for First Trust Advisors, an Illinois-based financial services firm.

“I believe the U.S. economy is going to do very well over the next couple of years,” Wesbury said. “And you, because you’re in Florida, are America on steroids. You get turbo-charged.”

He believes increased activity in the private sector – including record-high rates of “real business investment,” which is adjusted for inflation – is responsible for the current upswing.

“We have had massive entrepreneurship in the last eight years, and the government didn’t do any of it,” Wesbury said. “Please stop believing they create growth in the economy because what you’re doing when you buy into that stuff is you’re undermining your own efforts.”

Wesbury’s address focused on the impact President-elect Donald Trump will have on the national economy, particularly Trump’s vow to lessen the size and impact of government.”He learned how to build a business empire, he didn’t learn how to build a bureaucracy,” Wesbury said. “He’s going to build his business sense into a government that we all know gets out of control.

“I’m not an anarchist. I believe a smaller government helps the economy grow, not zero government.”

The Economic Forecast Breakfast concluded with a question-and-answer session. Given his optimistic forecast for 2017, Wesbury was asked whether anything keeps him up at night.

“There are always four threats to prosperity: tax hikes, spending and regulation, excessive Federal Reserve tightening, and trade wars,” Wesbury said. “I am worried about Donald Trump’s comments about putting a border tax on, which would cause a trade war.

“I believe that you want to woo companies to stay here, not punish them for leaving.”

-John Ceballos can be reached at or 863-802-7515.

Dedicated to the people of Lakeland, a community rich with talented, generous, civic spirited individuals that are making a difference everyday. Our future has never been brighter!

30th Annual Economic Forecast Trivia


  1. What is the record number of air traffic movements in one day at Lakeland Lindner Regional Airport during Sun N Fun? 600 (source:
  2. What lead guitarist from what band was nearly electrocuted during a concert at the Lakeland Center on December 12, 1976? Ace Frehley of KISS (source:
  3. Queen Beatrice honored what great warrior of the Crusades with swans, whose descendants hundreds of years later reside in Lakeland? Richard the Lion-Hearted (source:
  4. In what year did Queen Elizabeth donate a pair of swans to Lakeland? 1957 (source:
  5. The King of Rock and Roll performed at the Polk Theater in what year? 1956
  6. The Cleveland Indians held spring training in Lakeland from 1923-1927. True or False True
  7. The Ledger was founded in 1924. What was it’s original name?  The Lakeland Evening Ledger
  8. What local university did Francis Langford graduate from? Florida Southern
  9. What is the average SAT score of Florida Poly? 1745 (source:
  10. What building in Polk County was the first to have air conditioning? Polk Theater
  11. What local hotel known as ‘The Top of Florida’? The Terrace Hotel
  12. Who was originally housed in the building the Lakeland Area Chamber currently resides in? The Lakeland Public Library
  13. What anniversary is the Junior League celebrating in 2017? 80 years
  14. Joker Marchant Stadium was built for the Detroit Tigers in what year? 1966
  15. The Detroit Tigers Spring Training has been a part of the community since 1934 and holds the record of the longest relationship in MLB history. True or False? True
  16. How many times has Publix been recognized as a Fortune 100 Best Companies to work for? 19 consecutive years
  17. Watson Clinic initially opened in what building in downtown Lakeland? The Marble Arcade Building (source:
  18. The American Hospital Association recognized Lakeland Regional Health in 2016 for what? Most Wired Hospital
  19. The Silver Moon Drive in is celebrating 69 years in April of 2017. What was the original price of admission? $.35
  20. How many radio stations does Hall Communications own? 21 around the U.S.
  21. Saddle Creek has been owned by the same family since what year? 1966
  22. What was the name of the original business owned by The Ruthven’s? OK Tires (source:
  23. What U.S. President attended the grand opening of the Terrace Hotel? Grover Cleveland
  24. What was the name of Lakeland’s first jail? McDermott House after it’s first occupant.(source:
  1. One of the first 3 cities to be ‘lit’, in Florida, Lakeland Power and Light Company erected a light plant on the corner of what two streets back in 1891? (source:
  2. How many named lakes are there within the city limits of Lakeland? 38 (source:
  3. How many structures did Frank Lloyd Wright build in Lakeland, that collection is also known as, Child of the Sun? 12 structures (source:
  4. How many retail stores are in the Publix grocery chain? 1,077 (source:
  5. The monument in Munn Park is dedicated to who? Soldiers of the Confederacy (source:
  6. Who designed the Red Course at Streamsong Golf Resort? Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw (source: