Lakeland Chamber hands out Small Business of the Year award

Small Business of the Year
Mark Hulbert , president of Hulbert Homes , accepts the Scott Linder Award for Small Business of the Year during the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting at The Lakeland Center.

By John Ceballos
The Ledger
Published: Thursday, February 4, 2016 at 11:44 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 4, 2016 at 11:44 p.m.
LAKELAND — The up-and-down economy of the last decade has thrown many entrepreneurs for a loop, but Jerry Ross believes some order can be mined from the chaos.


2015: Peter Munson, lawyer
2014: Ford Heacock, Heacock Insurance Group
2013: Art Rowbotham, Hall Communications
2012: Jack Stephens, Lakeland Regional Medical Center
2011: Carol Jenkins Barnett
2010: Buddy Fletcher, former Lakeland mayor
2009: John Fitzwater, Community Foundation of Greater Lakeland
2008: Ralph C. Allen, Allen & Company
2007: Sarah McKay, McKay Enterprises
2006: Ralph Weeks, Quality Petroleum
2005: Gene Engle, Realtor
2004: Marty Higgenbotham, Higgenbotham Auctioneers
2003: George Harris, Citrus & Chemical Bank
2002: Bob Becker, Leisure Way
2001: Barney Barnett, Publix Super Markets
2000: Phil Dunne, Florida Tile
1999: Hunt Berryman, Sunco Carriers
1998: Chuck Bovay, Lanier Upshaw Inc.
1997: Tom W. Moore Jr., Universal Building Specialties
1996: Herb Todd, businessman
1995: Bill Loftin, Loftin Real Estate
1994: Joe P. Ruthven, developer
1993: George Trask, Florida Sheet Metal Inc.
1992: Duane McConnell, radio/cable executive
1991: D. Burke Kibler III, Holland & Knight law firm
1990: P. Scott Linder, Linder Industrial Machinery
1989: Dudley Towne, Watson Clinic
1988: E.E. Kelley Jr., Butter Krust Bakeries
1987: Thomas Bryant, lawyer, legislator
1986: Lanier Upshaw, insurance executive
1985: James Musso, beer distributor
1984: E. Snow Martin Sr., lawyer
1983: Charles Thrift, Florida Southern College
1982: Jere Annis, Watson Clinic
1981: Jimmie Sikes, Florida Tile

2014: The Lighting Hut
2013: Cipher Integrations Inc.
2012: Scott Orthodontic Associates
2011: John Locke Painting
2010: Troiano & Roberts PA
2009: Gulf Coast Avionics
2008: Folsom Construction
2007: Crown Printing
2006: Sleep Center
2005: Straughn Trout Architects
2004: Laundry Lady Coin Laundry
2003: Office Furniture Depot
2002: Jim Williams Fence Co.
2001: Green Construction Services
2000: Zimmermann Associates
1999: Lakeland Picture Framing
1998: Curry & Co. Plumbing
1997: Crisper’s Restaurant
1996: O’Quin Personnel
1995: Southside Cleaners
1994: Oxford Lumber Co.
1993: Polk Pump & Irrigation
1992: Allen & Company
1991: Higgenbotham Auctioneers
1990: Ad-Pro
1989: Dixie Signs
1988: Hauger-Bunch
1987: Florida Sheet Metal
1986: Fletcher Printing Co.
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Lakeland Chamber Annual Meeting
“The only constant is change, and things are always changing, including industries,” said Ross, executive director of the National Entrepreneur Center in Orlando. His presentation was titled “Creating Opportunity in Chaos,” and he cited Kodak failing to adjust to the popularity of digital cameras or the iPhone.

“That chaos can be an opportunity for people who are looking for one,” he said. “I became a much better entrepreneur by changing my perspective.”

Ross served as keynote speaker during the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Meeting on Thursday night, which kicked off with a tribute to Duane McConnell, affectionately known as “Mr. Lakeland” and the “Dean of Broadcasting.” McConnell died Wednesday at age 95.

There was also a highlight video of the Chamber’s accomplishments last year, which includes establishing a Polk County chapter of the national Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) program. The nine-member inaugural YEA! class from Polk was introduced by Miss Florida 2015, Mary Katherine Fechtel.

The annual meeting took place at The Lakeland Center and was attended by more than 700 members of the local business community.

“This was a year of transition for the Chamber,” said Kurt Elmhorst, 2015 chairman of the Chamber board. He cited the Chamber now referring to its members as “investors.”

In addition to Ross’s presentation, the annual meeting contained the “passing of the gavel” from Elmhorst to 2016 Chairman Mike McGee.

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