Leadership Tampa Class of 2014 Unveils New Deck for the Alpha House

img_4953The Leadership Tampa Class of 2014 unveiled a new outdoor maternity deck for the Alpha House of Tampa Bay on Friday, July 18, 2014.  The new deck consists of a brand new structure complete with astro turf and grass, multiple sitting areas with various lounge chairs, and a covered pergola space. The class raised over $20,000, including $2,500 from Leadership Tampa Alumni to refurbish the space.

Alpha House is a non-profit 501(c) organization that was founded in 1981 to serve pregnant women in crisis and their families.  Their mission is to offer homeless and pregnant women safe housing and the tools they need to become self-sufficient and effective responsible parents.  They serve women of all ages, races and backgrounds by providing safe housing, parenting classes, counseling, life skills, vocational training, and assistance and spiritual support.

Lunch and Learn at Metropolitan Ministries

Andy Peluso, Connect Committee Member

On Wednesday, July 9th, Metropolitan Ministries hosted Emerge Tampa Bay for a lunch program at its facility in Tampa Heights.  President and CEO Tim Marks, members of the board of directors, and members of the Metropolitan Ministries staff attended the event.  The lunch was followed by directed tours of the Metropolitan Ministries property.

Along with several other young professionals, I was first treated to an excellent presentation on the history and mission of Tampa Bay’s premier nonprofit organization.  Metropolitan Ministries was formed in 1972 when 13 downtown churches—each of a different denomination—joined together to care for homeless families and hungry people.  In the last 40 years, the organization has prepared over 25 million hot meals and provided more than 400,000 safe haven shelter nights to those in need.

We learned about other ways in which the organization serves the homeless through its many programs tailored to subparts of the overall mission.  For instance, Metropolitan Ministries works to alleviate suffering by assisting families with water and electricity bills.  The organization promotes dignity through a GED program, which has enrolled over 190 persons.  Metropolitan Ministries instills self-sufficiency through programs such as its transformational “Uplift U,” which is a residential program for homeless families that helps renew each family’s sprit and rebuild their future.

We also learned about the future of Metropolitan Ministries.  In August 2013, the organization finished construction on 52 new apartment units.  The organization now houses approximately 100 families on its property at any given time.  Metropolitan Ministries is constructing a chapel, gym, and youth enrichment center, and, along with Hillsborough County, developing a New Metropolitan Ministries Partnership School.

Deana Robinson highlighted the lunch with a powerful story about how Metropolitan Ministries guided her and her family through their journey out of homelessness.  Inspired by the organization, Deana Robinson is now the organization’s Volunteer Coordinator.

There are many ways to get involved.  The organization has service opportunities ranging from work in the food pantry to participation in reading and mentoring programs.  There is also an Ambassadors Program, which is designed for young professionals who want to learn and contribute in ways in addition to volunteering.  Activities of an ambassador include fundraising, partner seeking, and other committee work.

Metropolitan Ministries has upcoming events of note.  The organization is putting on a Celebrity Bowl-A-Thon on Saturday, August 23rd at the Pin Chasers on North Armenia.  Also, Metropolitan Ministries is partnering with Leadership Tampa Alumni to present a free employment boot camp, which will teach job search and other related skills to the Ministries’ residents on Friday, October 26th.
Special thanks to our hosts at Metropolitan Ministries, as well as Jordan Miller, Catlin Layton, and the rest of the Connect Committee for organizing the lunch program!

Tampa Chamber Announces 2014 Political Hob Nob Results

Close to 500 attendees had an opportunity to cast their ballot at the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 Political Hob Nob held this evening at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, including 44 candidates for office. The event was sponsored by AAA Auto Club Group, Adams and Reese LLP, Tampa General Hospital and Tucker Hall, media sponsor Tampa Bay Times and venue sponsor Tampa Bay Times Forum.

A straw poll vote was conducted by the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office. Attendees could vote at computer stations or on their smartphones using a personalized code.  The results are as follows, including only those candidates who received votes:

United States Representative District 15

Name Party Votes
Dennis A. Ross Republican 174 (73.42%)
Alan M Cohn Democrat 63 (26.58%)
Total Votes: 237

United States Representative District 17

Name Party Votes
Tom Rooney Republican 169 (73.8%)
Will Bronson Democrat 60 (26.2%)
Total Votes: 229


Name Party Votes
Rick Scott Republican 150 (60.73%)
Charlie Crist Democrat 68 (27.53%)
Nan H. Rich Democrat 13 (5.26%)
Adrian Wyllie Libertarian Party of Florida 9 (3.64%)
Yinka Abosede Adeshina Republican 5 (2.02%)
Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder Republican 2 (0.81%)
Total Votes: 247

Attorney General

Name Party Votes
Pam Bondi Republican 172 (71.67%)
George Sheldon Democrat 50 (20.83%)
Perry E. Thurston Democrat 13 (5.42%)
Bill Wohlsifer Libertarian Party of Florida 5 (2.08%)
Total Votes: 240

Chief Financial Officer

Name Party Votes
Jeff Atwater Republican 180 (76.6%)
William “Will” Rankin Democrat 55 (23.4%)
Total Votes: 235

Commissioner of Agriculture

Name Party Votes
Adam Putnam Republican 195 (82.63%)
Thaddeus Thad Hamilton Democrat 41 (17.37%)
Total Votes: 236

State Senator District 22

Name Party Votes
Jeff Brandes Republican 166 (72.81%)
Judithanne McLauchlan Democrat 62 (27.19%)
Total Votes: 228

State Representative District 59

Name Party Votes
Ross Spano Republican 176 (75.21%)
Donna Lee Fore Democrat 58 (24.79%)
Total Votes: 234

State Representative District 61

Name Party Votes
Edwin “Ed” Narain Democrat 82 (47.4%)
Sean Shaw Democrat 53 (30.64%)
Sharon Carter Democrat 20 (11.56%)
Tatiana M. Denson Democrat 18 (10.4%)
Total Votes: 173

State Representative District 63

Name Party Votes
Shawn Harrison Republican 146 (66.36%)
Mark Danish Democrat 74 (33.64%)
Total Votes: 220

State Representative District 64

Name Party Votes
James Grant Republican 131 (65.17%)
Miriam Steinberg Republican 70 (34.83%)
Total Votes: 201

State Representative District 70

Name Party Votes
Darryl E. Rouson Democrat 105 (58.33%)
Philip Garrett No Party Affiliation 75 (41.67%)
Total Votes: 180

Board of County Commissioners District 2

Name Party Votes
Victor Crist Republican 178 (76.72%)
Elizabeth Belcher Democrat 54 (23.28%)
Total Votes: 232

Board of County Commissioners District 4

Name Party Votes
Rick Cochran Republican 88 (40.37%)
Janet Dougherty Republican 65 (29.82%)
Stacy White Republican 65 (29.82%)
Total Votes: 218

Board of County Commissioners District 7

Name Party Votes
Al Higginbotham Republican 115 (47.52%)
Tim Schock Republican 58 (23.97%)
Mark Nash Democrat 30 (12.4%)
Patricia ‘Pat’ Kemp Democrat 21 (8.68%)
Robin A. Lester Republican 11 (4.55%)
Don Kruse Republican 7 (2.89%)
Total Votes: 242

Circuit Judge, 13th Judicial Circuit Group 8

Name Party Votes
Barbara Twine Thomas n/a 123 (49%)
Carl C. Hinson n/a 74 (29.48%)
John Dingfelder n/a 54 (21.51%)
Total Votes: 251

Circuit Judge, 13th Judicial Circuit Group 19

Name Party Votes
Michael Scionti n/a 195 (84.05%)
Michael John Brannigan n/a 37 (15.95%)
Total Votes: 232

Circuit Judge, 13th Judicial Circuit Group 20

Name Party Votes
Laura Ward n/a 152 (69.09%)
Karen Stanley n/a 68 (30.91%)
Total Votes: 220

Circuit Judge, 13th Judicial Circuit Group 34

Name Party Votes
Robert Bauman n/a 142 (60.17%)
Melissa “Missy” Polo n/a 69 (29.24%)
Constance Daniels n/a 25 (10.59%)
Total Votes: 236

County Court Judge Group 12

Name Party Votes
Chris Nash n/a 149 (73.76%)
Norman S. Cannella n/a 53 (26.24%)
Total Votes: 202

School Board Member District 2

Name Party Votes
Michelle Popp Shimberg n/a 118 (60.82%)
Sally A Harris n/a 40 (20.62%)
Michael Weston n/a 36 (18.56%)
Total Votes: 194

School Board Member District 4

Name Party Votes
Melissa Snively n/a 107 (51.94%)
Terry Kemple n/a 70 (33.98%)
Dee Prether n/a 29 (14.08%)
Total Votes: 206

School Board Member District 6

Name Party Votes
Dipa Shah n/a 101 (41.91%)
Dr. Stacy Hahn n/a 41 (17.01%)
April Griffin n/a 39 (16.18%)
Paula Meckley n/a 36 (14.94%)
Lee Sierra n/a 14 (5.81%)
Randy Toler n/a 7 (2.9%)
Alison McGillivray Fernandez n/a 3 (1.24%)
Asher D. Edelson n/a 0 (0%)
Total Votes: 241




Chamber announces finalists for 2014 Small Business of the Year Awards

The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce announced the finalists for the 2014 Small Business of the Year Awards, presented by Bay Cities Bank & Warren Averett CPAs and Advisors to be held on Friday, September 19 at the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. These awards highlight the impact of small business on the community and celebrate the achievements of the best of the best in Tampa Bay.

Small business awards will be presented in three categories based on the number of employees, with a fourth category specifically for startup companies. Companies are evaluated on operational management, community involvement and ethical business practices. An award will also be presented to the Outstanding Small Business Leader of the Year. The finalists for these five awards include:


StartupeBoats Tampa

Envista Health, LLC

Shooter’s World


5-20 Employees:

Nitro Mobile Solutions

Sparxoo LLC

Surgi-Care Center for Horses, Inc.

The Mack Center for Facial & Eyelid Cosmetic Surgery

Vertical Integration, Inc.


21-50 Employees:

Awnclean USA, Inc.

Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc.


Tudi Mechanical Systems of Tampa, Inc.

VoltAir Consulting Engineers, Inc.


51-250 Employees: Convergence Consulting Group

Joffrey’s Coffee & Tea Company

MicroLumen, Inc.

Pilot Bank

Wittenberg Weiner Consulting, LLC


Outstanding Leader:

Dr. Madelyn Butler, The Woman’s Group

David Capece, Sparxoo LLC

Fred Lay, Construction Services, Inc. of Tampa

Melissa Snively, State Farm Insurance Agency

Lauren Weiner, Wittenberg Weiner Consulting, LLC

The winners will be announced at the event on September 19.  For more details on the Small Business of the Year Awards, please visit www.tampachamber.com.

The Emerge Transit Town Hall was a Success! Now what?

Justin Laden, Emerge Tampa Bay Voice Committee Member

Until this week, I never thought small talk could make me reexamine my political goals.

On Wednesday June 25th, Emerge Tampa Bay hosted the third annual “Unfiltered” town hall event at the University of Tampa’s Vaughn center. This year, the topic was expanding transportation throughout the Tampa Bay area. Along with more than a dozen other young professionals, I volunteered to help plan and implement the event to advocate for improved local transportation.

At the conclusion of the town hall, the panelists all agreed that concerned citizens should contact their representatives and express their support for expanded transportation. However, less than twenty-four hours later, a bit of routine small talk made me reexamine this advice. It began when I was asked a simple question by an older local business owner in South Tampa, “what have you been up to?”

I started talking about my computer security career. Then on a whim, I launched into a description of the town hall, and Emerge’s advocacy for transportation.

“That’s great,” he responded, “I think we need that.”

I was taken aback. Call me ageist, but I assumed that only young people or the economically disadvantaged were pro-transit.

“I’m glad you think so,” I replied. We’re also interested in expanding services like Uber and Lyft.” I was running on fumes here. Would this man of means and owner of a fine automobile give a second thought to smartphone based transit options?

Again, I was surprised. “Normally, I drive, but when I need a cab, I would love the opportunity to use either,” he said.

Due to this conversation, I’d like to offer a corollary to Wednesday’s panelists’ advice: in addition to contacting our elected officials, we need to speak with our friends and neighbors about this important issue. Merely conversing with one or two politicians is not enough. Yes, transportation—and the implicit question of how to fund it—can be a contentious topic, but expanding transportation is important enough to our community that we should risk the occasional disagreement to promote the issue. More importantly, the benefits of better transportation for everyone in our community can be explained by anyone in our community.

If you are committed to advocating for improved transportation, remember how to discuss any issue—frame your comments with the listener’s interests in mind. If a friend is a business owner, mention that expanding transportation will broaden her labor pool. If you know a recruiter, remind him that modern transit systems are a minimum requirement for many talented professionals, and a reason that Tampa loses so many of them to rival cities. If you have a relative who operates a retail shop, explain the potential business and foot traffic she will gain. And everyone, yes everyone, could use more transportation options during rush hour traffic and a safe ride home after a night out on the town.

Please contact your representatives, but don’t stop there. Follow up and speak with those with whom you interact on a daily basis. You will be surprised by the connections you will make and the generation gaps you will narrow. I joined Emerge with the express intent to work on Tampa policy events like the town hall, and to meet other young professionals. Little did I expect that Emerge’s policy goals would resonate with other segments of the Tampa bay community.

New Florida Chamber Survey Shows Florida’s Small Businesses are Optimistic

With Florida’s economic recovery continuing to outpace the nation, small businesses reported higher company sales and increased optimism in a new Florida Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index Survey released today. The survey, conducted in conjunction with the Florida Small Business Development Center Network (SBDC), shows 43 percent of small businesses reporting higher company sales compared to this time last year.
Speaking today at the Florida SBDC Network Annual Conference in Tampa, Florida Chamber President and CEO Mark Wilson said, “Four out of five new jobs in Florida will be created by small businesses, which is why the Florida Chamber is focused on creating opportunities like increasing Florida-origin exports and lowering the cost of doing business with issues such as lawsuit abuse reform. The Small Business Survey helps us monitor the health of the important role small businesses play in Florida’s economy.”

The Florida Chamber’s Small Business Index Survey shows:

  • Top Issue Facing Small Businesses: Tied between access to capital and economic uncertainty, with both receiving 24 percent of the vote.
  • Access To Capital: Increased by 12 percent compared to the same time period last year.
  • Economic Uncertainty: Decreased by 10 percent compared to the same time period last year.
  • Sales Increased: 43 percent of businesses surveyed reported higher company sales compared to the same time period last year, with only 1-in-4 businesses reporting lower sales.
  • Optimism Increased: 58 percent expect the economy to improve over the next year, up three percent from 2013. Additionally, two-thirds (67 percent) of respondents expect the economy to improve in the next three years, up six percent from 2013.

“Our state officials are interested to know what issues, challenges and barriers our businesses face,” said Michael W. Myhre, Florida SBDC Network State Director. “Knowing these could lead to better policy—helping us grow our state’s most valuable resource: small business.”

The Florida Chamber’s Small Business Index Survey was conducted electronically May 12 through May 23, 2014.

Emerge Tampa Bay to host transportation panel with local policy makers

UNFILTERED Town Hall to provide an open forum for young professionals to hear and be heard about transportation issues in Tampa.

Tampa, Fla. (June 18, 2014) – Multi-modal transportation on the agenda – High-speed ferry gets funds – HART board to restructure –Detours on I-275 abound – Crackdown on ridesharing. Recently, local headlines have been abuzz with transit. As the momentum builds, Emerge Tampa Bay is hosting its third town hall, UNFILTERED, to help young professionals decipher the headlines and advance the local transportation agenda.

The town hall will be held on Wednesday, June 25, at the University of Tampa’s Vaughn Center, the presenting sponsor of the event. In addition to covering the latest developments on the local transportation agenda, the event will give attendees a platform to ban together, pose dynamic questions, civically engage and effect change.

“Our intent with UNFILTERED is to foster a meaningful conversation that really hits on the complexities of our transportation issues,” said Emerge Tampa Bay Chair Brian Seel. “I think our young professionals need answers to their tough questions so that they can channel their voices into action.”

UNFILTERED will bring young professionals and community members together for an evening focused on asking state and local leaders tough questions about the future of the area, including short and long‐term planning around many contentious issues. During the event, attendees will also be given the opportunity to address concerns, provide feedback and help improve the Tampa Bay region for all who live, work and play here.

This year Adam Smith, an award-winning Political Editor for the Tampa Bay Times, will moderate the open forum discussion. Town Hall panelists include Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner, Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch and HART Interim Chief Executive Officer, Katharine Eagan.

UNFILTERED is not the only policy-driven event Emerge has planned for 2014. The organization has a public policy committee, speaker series, workshops and civic projects lined up for young professionals to allow them to be a voice in the community on issues surrounding transportation, urbanization and entrepreneurship. The community can stay up to date with opportunities for young professionals by joining the discussion on Twitter @EmergeTampaBay and by using #EmergeYP.

Registration is $25 for Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and Emerge Tampa Bay Members, $30 for non-members, and $35 at the door. Registration includes appetizers and drinks. Those interested, may register at Events.TampaChamber.com.

About Emerge Tampa Bay

Emerge Tampa Bay is the premier young professionals organization in Tampa. A program of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, it is designed for emerging leaders, ages 2135. In an effort to enhance the greater Tampa area, Emerge strives to support, cultivate and attract young professionals by providing access to business resources, educational opportunities and community partnerships. Visit http://www.emergetampabay.org for more information, or contact the Emerge Tampa Bay Program Manager Catlin Layton at (813) 2769448 or clayton@tampachamber.com.

About the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce

The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce is committed to serving our members and enhancing our community by building business success. The Chamber provides a greater return on investment and involvement by providing innovative leadership, inside access, influential advocacy and increased opportunities.