Imagine a bright, sunny day in Lake Wales. Imagine walking down Park Avenue along brick streets and under the shade of blossoming trees. Imagine crossing the road without having to watch your step over curbs or halting for speeding cars. Imagine having lunch outside at a sidewalk cafe before perusing the nearby stores and boutiques.
870,505 children in Florida live in poverty. Of those children, 26 percent live in Polk County. These statistics are grimmer when you focus on Lake Wales. In the three zip codes that encompass the city limits, the childhood poverty rate is much higher, ranging from 29.9 percent in 33880 to 43.8 percent in 33859.
Saying we are living through uncertain times might be an understatement, but it is no less true. For employers and employees alike, their financial future remains most uncertain as safer, at-home measures have halted many small businesses and kept people from returning to work.
Every Tuesday, I host a call with the city leaders, both in the private and public sector, where we discuss the various happenings and developments in the city limits. The main takeaway from our latest meeting was that Lake Wales has always been a place that helps its businesses in its good times and its bad, and you can definitely see it during this time.
How’s everyone doing? We hope you are all staying safe, either staying busy working from home or spending quality time with family.
Though our main office and visitor center is closed, the Lake Wales Chamber of Commerce remains fully operational. We are keeping busy serving our community from the safety of our homes. I myself have been busy working splitting my time between working at my Chamber office and working in my home office while spending time with my family.
Whether you are looking for a new or used car, truck, or SUV, you’ll be sure to find exactly what you are looking for at the brand new Dyer Kia showroom in Lake Wales.
Downtowns are the heart of a town. To devote time, money, energy and dedication to a city’s downtown is to embrace its essence. Therefore, it was with great enthusiasm that we at the Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council asked the city and the business community to fully endorse the Lake Wales Connected plan to revitalize downtown and the Northwest.
If you’ve been keeping an eye on economic trends lately, you may have noticed that Florida has been shining bright on the national and international stage. Our state’s profile has skyrocketed thanks to a growing number of companies that are confirming the state’s potential and strategic advantage in the aviation and aerospace industries.
And Lake Wales is no exception to this success.
This month, a significant agreement was forged between Polk State College and Florida Polytechnic University. The arrangement establishes the first academic pathway for students to go from Polk State to the state’s only STEM-dedicated institution.
This is the type of proactive, forward momentum that advances Polk education and builds our profile as a region with competitive, adaptable graduates and a workforce trained for the latest trends in employment.
I like to think of myself as an optimist. This is especially true in this column space, where I share the progress and victories of the Lake Wales Area Economic Development Council. And while the drive for success and forward momentum are important, I’m also a firm believer in the basics. Revisiting the fundamentals that have helped shape our growth can remind us how far we’ve come and how we’ve done it.
A recent article in Business Facilities called Florida an “economic super-state,” praising the way our state “excels at getting people, products and services anywhere.” The article went on to mention Polk County in particular the Intermodal Logistics Center in Winter Haven and the miles of railroad that far outnumber those in any other county throughout the state.
I’ve said it often and focused on it previously in this column space, but it bears repeating: Economic development — successful and robust economic development — really is a team effort. It’s a fact borne out weekly.
Though the EDC arm of the Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council is tasked with primary responsibility for local economic development efforts, our work has the help and support of dozens of government agencies, utilities, business and community leaders, research centers, public and private organizations, already operational business enterprises, and other EDCs and chambers of commerce.
In and around Lake Wales, the city’s downtown area and the Main Street program associated with it have a lot of cheerleaders. If there were a competition for head cheerleader, we at the Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council would think that the Chamber-EDC would be among the top contenders.
If we at the Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council were to survey people who travel through and around greater Lake Wales, I think we would be hard pressed to find even a fraction of them pleased with driving conditions here. If we were to narrow down the survey to a discussion only about U.S. Highway 27, the area’s major north-south route, the fraction of pleased motorists likely would be even smaller.
Bullish is the still the word — and the outlook — for the U.S. economy, and its net positive trickle-down effects at the state, regional, and local levels can’t be ignored.
That’s the viewpoint from Jeffrey D. Saut, the chief investment strategist for Raymond James Financial, Inc., and the company’s managing director of equity research.
The dawning of any new year, as we’re seeing now for 2019, naturally brings on a period of personal, professional, and organizational reflection about and evaluation of the year fading away. As we at the Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council look back on 2018, we’re pleased to report that it’s been a very good year — a great year, in fact — for local business expansion and economic development. It began with a bang and ending with great fanfare. In between were smaller-scale successes and seed sowing that will reap great economic benefits for years to come.
With Christmas less than a month away, it’s highly likely that Santa Claus is already checking his list twice. You would have to think that jolly old St. Nick must get an early start on this list because the number of people around the world keeps rising every year. How does Santa do it?!
As we approach the season of thanksgiving and the Thanksgiving Day holiday, I would like to share that the team and I here at the Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council are grateful for so many things — both personal and professional. On the professional side, I would be remiss if didn’t send a huge “Thank you!” to a very special group — the EDC’s 17 investor-partners.
Creating a diverse, thriving, and expanding business environment doesn’t happen in a vacuum. By mandate and mission, the Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council take the point in economic development efforts locally. That point, however, is small when compared with the broad group of agencies and organizations (and the many hundreds of people employed by them) that assist the Chamber-EDC in some way on an almost daily basis.
When the Lake Wales Economic Development Council takes its presentations on the road, or when the Chamber of Commerce-EDC team fields phone calls at the office, oftentimes we’re talking with people — potential business investors — who know little to nothing about greater Lake Wales. After telling these folks or confirming for them where we are in beautiful Central Florida, what usually follows for us is a series of questions — queries that help our new contacts size up Lake Wales’ chances of being the best place to build or expand a business.