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Community of Leaders Inspires Chairman

Published: Wednesday, February 4, 2015 at 10:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 4, 2015 at 10:45 p.m.
LAKELAND | If Kurt Elmhorst had a label, it might read: Made in Wisconsin, shaped in Lakeland.

Elmhorst, 48, is a financial planner and adviser with Allen & Company, and serves as chairman this year for the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce. It’s a fitting role for someone who has always thought highly of the city’s business community and volunteer spirit.

“It’s my contention that Lakeland is a special place because of the values that George Jen­- kins pushed at Publix and in the community through his giving spirit,” Elmhorst said. “This place is unique, and that giving culture — giving of yourself and your time and your resources — has taken over Lakeland, and that’s what has made it so special. It was a tremendous influence on me.”

Elmhorst grew up in a dairy farming family in a rural patch of Central Wisconsin. The family relocated to Lakeland when he was 10, seeking an affordable place to live in the sunshine with more options for education and work.

Elmhorst, the youngest of four siblings, played basketball at Evangel Christian School (now closed) and graduated from Florida Southern College in 1990 with a degree in communications. At one time, he thought he might follow in the footsteps of his brother Rick, an anchor and reporter with Bay News 9.

“It turned out that just wasn’t how I was built,” Elmhorst said. “I took my first business class and I figured out that is how my brain works, and it all made sense very quickly.”
Elmhorst earned his master of business administration degree from FSC in 2002. He joined Allen & Company the following year after a long stretch with SunTrust Bank.

Elmhorst and his wife, Kimberly, have two children and take pride in community service — she’s the chair­woman-elect for Lakeland Vision and serves on the leadership council for the GiveWell Community Foun­dation. In addition to his role at the chamber, Kurt is incoming president of the Estate Planning Council of Polk County and a past president of the downtown Lakeland Kiwanis Club.

The Elmhorsts are active members of First Presbyterian Church, and the family are devoted fans of FSC basketball.

“Kurt is just outstanding all the way around — a great family man and community servant,” said Hunt Berryman, a family friend, business­- man and Polk County School Board member.

“I think he’s not only good on his feet and a good communicator, but he’s a great listener, too,” Berryman added. “He’s a great champion of the business community and our entrepreneurs.”

Elmhorst said working for Allen & Company — the old­-est investment firm based in Florida — also has helped mold him into the person he is today.

“It’s the best career move and the last career move that I will make,” he said. “We have a special culture here. … One of our core values is to make Lakeland a better place.”