Member News 12/10-12/16

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Member News 12/3-12/9

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  • Bradley adds Somadina Nwokolo to their Tampa team as a Government Enforcement and Investigations Associate.
  • Hard Rock International unveils groundbreaking Playersedge program to change casino culture; Hard Rock International and the Seminole Tribe of Florida donated $40,000 to Operation HeartF.E.L.T.
  • Meals on Wheels Tampa is participating in the 2019 Share the Love event.

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LT’20 Education Day

By Tate Kubler, EY

Throughout Tampa, we are witnessing transformational change with the presence of cranes in downtown and other infrastructure projects spreading to the north, south, east and west. Established businesses are moving to the region and local entrepreneurs are establishing their own presence through creative new ventures. There are so many who are contributing to the thriving economy of Tampa and our community’s educators might have the greatest and longest-lasting impact of them all. The Leadership Tampa Class of 2020 (LT’20) had the opportunity to spend the day with Tampa’s great educators; those who are responsible for refueling the economy and facilitating the learning that is the foundation for Tampa’s sustained growth.

Education Day was organized by Mark Colvenbach, Director in the Office of Career Services at the University of Tampa.  It was held on November 20, 2019, and showcased the amazing and wide-ranging educational opportunities that residents of Tampa have at their fingertips.  As leaders in the community, it was an education for the LT20 class on how the various institutions and systems operate with the same objectives to facilitate learning and skills development for students who will ultimately contribute to the Tampa Bay economy.

To prepare for Education Day, each member of the LT20 class spent a full day, shadowing teachers in an elementary, middle or high school in Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS).  The experience taught the class firsthand that the teachers of Hillsborough County Public Schools are heroes to their students and are truly making an impact on the lives, and families, of the students in the classroom. Quite honestly, they were heroes in the eyes of the LT20 class as well, as many in the LT20 class were amazed at the teachers’ abilities to control the focus of the classroom, their commitment to extracurricular education (e.g. teaching debate) and above all else their passion for the students.  As the author of this article, I personally got the opportunity to spend the day with Marie Smith and Lee Gaspar at Sickles High School.  These two amazing teachers truly care for the students who walk through their doors each day, and it was evident not only in how they taught their students but in how their students respected them. There is no doubt that these teachers give it their very best each day to educate the students who sit in their classrooms. Today’s teacher not only has to come prepared to equip students with the skills necessary to grow intellectually, but they also have to come prepared to handle today’s classroom distractions, which are many.

For perspective on the activities of Education Day, Jeff Eakins, HCPS Superintendent spoke to the LT20 class sharing that HCPS sees itself as the economic driver of the Tampa community.  That is in fact reality considering Hillsborough County Schools has 217,000 students, just became the 7th largest school district in the United States and expects the growth trend to continue with 3,000 to 5,000 new students enrolling each year.  It was fascinating to hear how the leader of such a large school system manages that commitment to community growth.  Mr. Eakins said that to meet the needs of the current student population the HCPS needs to be nimble and provide more choice options, and in doing so HCPS must create pathways that meet students’ needs and local business needs.  Following that concept, we learned that HCPS is not simply classrooms teaching kindergarten through 12th grade anymore.  HCPS has evolved to include 4,000 pre-K students, a VPK program associated with Head Start, 4 technical colleges to serve members in the skills-based workforce, and virtual programs that are increasing exponentially to align with the shifting landscape.  As important as the evolution in learning delivery or student reach, HCPS has established community partnerships with the families in the neighborhoods surrounding the schools.  Schooling does not end when a student reaches 18 or 19 years of age nor does it end when the last bell rings and that has been recognized by HCPS.  Community outreach programs have been established at many schools, such as on-campus food pantries to ensure families and their students have the ability to eat dinner, or adult programs designed to meet the needs of those living within the community.  This additional shift in the reach of public education has also found its way into the Hillsborough County Jail and into Tampa General Hospital.  This broader, unrestricted access to public education is establishing a much greater foundation for the future workforce of Tampa.

The other aspect of Mr. Eakins’s conversation with the LT20 class was around HCPS’s strategic plan.  It was explained that upon his hiring as Superintendent a five-year plan was established that focused on improving graduation rates. An analogy to a 4×100 relay was used to explain how long a student spends in HCPS, and HCPS measures itself on how a student finishes.  Over the past five years, HCPS went from 10,500 graduates in 2013 to over 14,000 in 2018 representing an 85.8% graduation rate, an outstanding accomplishment given the size of the student population.  After achieving a positive trend in the graduation rates, Mr. Eakins and the school board learned that there is a correlation between on-level preparation in 3rd-grade students and high school graduation rates.  As a result, the next strategic plan is focused on being very deliberate around teaching the foundational skills taught in pre-K, elementary and middle schools.  It is this linkage that has HCPS focused on improving the learning readiness of students entering kindergarten, as well as improving the on-level reading percentage for third graders from the current 50% level to 80%. The foundational skills learned in the early education years have been determined to be critical to the future success of Tampa’s workforce and education level of the Tampa community and HCPS is focused on making improvements in those areas.

Mr. Eakins spoke to the LT20 class after the first stop of the day; however, his words were important to frame Education Day and what was observed.

During the morning of Education Day, the LT20 class arrived at Academy Prep Center of Tampa, which is a non-profit, private middle school for economically disadvantaged students in Tampa.  It is dedicated to educating students by providing an academically challenging, enriching and structured environment followed by 8 years of support and guidance through high school and into college.  We had the opportunity to hear from L’Tanya C. Evans, Head of School, as well as certain members of her staff. What makes the Academy Prep Center succeed is a combination of the students attending school for 11 hours a day for 11 months coupled with graduate support services through high school and into the student’s preparation for college.  The school is predicated on developing the middle school mind and establishing the foundation for high school and college success.  Ms. Evans believes the middle school student is susceptible to impression and can be taught the skills and learning necessary to go on to be successful. In fact, many students arrive at Academy Prep below level and by the end of their first year at the school are above level.  The LT20 class visited the classrooms and it was evident that a high degree of learning was taking place.  All students were in uniforms and were completely engaged in the curriculum.  In one classroom, eighth-grade girls who were writing sentences with an abstract noun, stood when the LT20 class entered the room, shook hands with everyone and one-by-one introduced themselves to the members of the LT20 class.  This was completely unplanned and showed their preparedness for high school and life beyond the classroom walls.


In the auditorium of Academy Prep are pennants that show all of the high schools that graduates have attended, with many of the pennants being from the most prestigious private schools in Tampa and in other cities.  It is a testament to the educators and counselors at Academy Prep who support the students and help them secure need-based scholarships in the hopes that they continue and become community leaders.  As is a focus of Mr. Eakins, foundational skills are key to high school graduation and 98% of Academy Prep alumni graduate from high school and approximately 87% go on to college, while 9% serve in the armed forces. Academy Prep of Tampa is a place where educators are making an impact.

The next stop on Education Day was Carter G. Woodson K-8 School to which the LT20 class was hosted by Ovett Wilson, Principal.  At the school, the LT20 class heard from Jeff Eakins followed by Mr. Wilson.  Carter G. Woodson was an important stop because it showcased how HCPS is evolving to meet the needs of the community and the students of the school. Carter G. Woodson had previously been Cahoon Elementary (grades K-5) and Van Buren Middle School (grades 6-8) but was combined under the stewardship of Mr. Wilson and renamed as Carter G. Woodson for the 2018-2019 school year. This is an example of a community-focused school where pre-K classes are now offered; adult programs occur each month and there is a clothing closet and food pantry on-campus; both of which are accessible to the families of the school.  Mr. Wilson shared his 1-2-4 philosophy where everything operates around the student.  His teaching staff is determined to help the students achieve their potential sharing with them that, regardless of their background or situation, greatness is within them.  Another example of where educators are making an impact and HCPS is evolving to allow for the greatest impact.

After visiting Carter G. Woodson, the LT20 class headed to East Hillsborough County to Strawberry Crest High School in Dover, FL which was named in the Top 50 most beautiful campuses.  Upon arrival the junior ROTC regiment, in full uniform, greeted the LT20 class providing direction and answering questions as we found our way to the media center.  After entering the doors, full restaurant-style seating was prepared for the LT20 class, hosted by the school’s Culinary Arts Students under the direction of Chef Paul Bonano. Lunch was prepared from scratch by the culinary students and served using their culinary skills which ranged from baking to restaurant management including front of the house management.


It was only fitting that their delicious meal was finished off with strawberry shortcake.  While having lunch, a more humbling conversation over school safety and security was had with John Newman, Chief of Security for HCPS.  Mr. Newman explained that following the February 2018 school shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, Florida became the only state under legislative mandate requiring school systems to implement measures to secure school campuses. Mr. Newman shared a disturbing video, Inside Building 12, that in schematic display showed the gunman and students’ movements during the incident that day.  He explained that a lot has been learned from that event and HCPS is paving the way when it comes to acting upon what was learned.  In response, Mr. Newman explained that schools have always had good plans and basic training, but a cultural change had to happen for action to be taken.  In response, every HCPS school began target hardening (e.g., establishing single entry points for visitors) and began a cultural change to ensure every teacher or member of staff had the ability to identify a threat, communicate a threat and mitigate a threat.  To do so, the teachers needed the tools.  Teachers were not hired to provide security, but they do need to have the ability to communicate when something is happening.  This was a critical lesson learned from the February 2018 incident and in response, HCPS invested in the Centegix security platform, which allows all employees of HCPS to call for help at any time and anywhere on a Hillsborough County Schools property. It is a system that allows HCPS staff members to initiate an alert quickly and reliably anywhere on a school campus, inside or outside the building.  The system identifies where the call is being made to allow for timely security response, as well as provides for preventative access controls to take effect such as automatic door locks.  In addition, every school in HCPS now has an armed police officer that is trained in active shooter situations further hardening the schools.

While security is one way to address the issue, the other path is through mental health awareness.  HCPS has adopted the Sandy Hook Promise and is actively focused on prevention, awareness, and inclusivity with regards to mental health matters.  It is clear that with such a tragedy HCPS is serious about the safety of its students and is being a leader in that regard.

After lunch concluded, the LT20 class headed across the Hillsborough River to the University of Tampa for a prestigious panel of university and college presidents.  The participants included Dr. Ronal Vaughn, President of The University of Tampa; Dr. Jeffrey Senese, President of Saint Leo University; and Dr. Kenneth Atwater, President of Hillsborough Community College.


Each of the presidents had interesting viewpoints as their schools are each uniquely different and serve different populations.  For example, UT is a talent importer to Tampa with 50% of its student population enrolling from out of state, with a large majority remaining in Tampa after graduation. Saint Leo has the goal of being more known and connected with the Tampa business environment as it has 25,000 students spread across 33 locations.  It was evident from the dialogue that universities and HCC are developing workforce-ready talent and are working hard to keep their graduates local so that Tampa can be the beneficiary of the economic impact.

The final stop for Education Day was at the Allied Health Building on the Dale Mabry Campus of Hillsborough Community College.  The Allied Health Building is a recent addition to the campus designed specifically to develop the skills of health providers and lab scientists operating in the health arena.  The building is state of the art with collaboration spaces and high-tech equipment used in simulation labs to train students in real-life medical situations.  In the Med Lab, the LT20 class learned about blood schmears and how a laboratory scientist can determine what disease is in the blood ultimately helping a doctor recommend a treatment.  In the EMS Lab, the LT20 class learned that when performing CPR, one should no longer perform mouth to mouth immediately and instead perform 30 chest compressions to the tune of Stayin Alive. Lastly, in the Sim Lab there are 8 simulation rooms with real-life mannequins that have given names, blink, have mannequin babies and are cared for almost as if they were human.   The LT20 class had to react to the mannequin, Apollo, and his medical emergency.  The LT20 class performed a tracheotomy on Apollo to get his airway cleared so he could breathe again.  It was such an incredible experience because HCC is facilitating the hands-on development training that is necessary to support the technical trades workforce.


In conclusion, Tampa is thriving on the underlying foundation of its education system across all levels.  It was evident that Tampa’s educational institutions are lead by passionate leaders who want to make an impact on students and their families. Mr. Eakins indicated that one of the first questions businesses ask when they are looking to relocate to Tampa is “How are the schools?”  It is with pride that Tampa can affirmatively say the schools are great and consistently improving across all levels from the pre-schools to public and private grade schools to the colleges and universities in the area. Without the commitment to education, Tampa’s economy would not be refueling every year.  The strength of the education system in Tampa was on full display during Education Day and it would be negligent to not extend a thank you to all of the educators and staff members who serve Tampa’s students each and every day.  You are heroes to your students and are making a real impact on Tampa today and into the future!

Member News 11/26-12/2

Member News

  • Delotto‘s Melanie Rodriguez is retiring and Jennifer Epps will be serving as a Director of Sales and Marketing.
  • Outback Steakhouse is offering $10 gift cards with every $50 holiday gift card purchase.
  • Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP lawyer, Chris Cavaliere, presented an employment law update to the paralegal association of Florida; Shumaker adds Brian J. Hart to litigation and community associations practice groups.

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LT’20 Media Day

By Rob Kane, Sparxoo

With so much focus and attention on the media in today’s world, the Leadership Tampa Class of 2020 continued on their immersive syllabus throughout Tampa Bay recently, visiting iHeartMedia, the Tampa Bay Times Printing Plant and 10News WTSP. The class’s goal in visiting these organizations was to gain a deeper understanding of how and why some stories are deemed newsworthy, while others are less frequently covered.

iheartmediaPanel discussion with iHeartMedia Market President, Chris Soechtig.


After LT’20 was welcomed by the day’s sponsor, Kerry O’Reilly (LT’15) of The Tampa Bay Times, the class was treated to a panel discussion of senior media executives from iHeartMedia, including Market President, Chris Soechtig.

 The iHeartMedia team articulated how iHeart is much more than just radio. iHeartMedia has the largest combined reach of any radio and television outlet in the U.S., reaching over 250 million listeners per month and is the #1 commercial podcaster in the country.

The panel discussion also uncovered two common underlying themes repeated throughout the day, which is that media is changing faster than ever and that there is a constant battle for consumer’s attention.

iHeartMedia and others are highly reliant on advertising dollars to continue to fund and expand programming. Tommy Chuck, SVP of Programming at iHeartMedia summarized it best by saying there are constant discussions internally and with on-air talent to ensure that advertising is aligned with the iHeart brand and the values of the person delivering the message.

Tampa Bay Times Printing Press

 The next stop saw LT’20 visiting the Tampa Bay Times Printing Press. Executive Vice President and GM, Joe DeLuca kicked off the session by reframing the challenges that the newspaper industry is currently facing. “Local news and information is our product and the printed newspaper is just one delivery mechanism”, said DeLuca.

timesPrinting Press at The Tampa Bay Times Printing Press Facility

After touring the once buzzing printing facility, it was clear that the speed of change in the digital era has forced the newspaper industry to adapt and evolve in order to meet the demands of today’s consumer.

The innovation highlight of the Tampa Bay Times visit was when Bruce Faulmann, VP of Sales & Marketing, introduced the LT’20 class to the latest on-premise advertising solution from the Times. The solution replaces traditional static posters in businesses with modern televisions that can sense when consumers are watching and engaging with the advertisements, even making assessments on the consumer’s reactions from smiling to indifference.

10News WTSP

The final stop of the day was with 10News WTSP, where the LT’20 class was exposed to what it is like to be in front and behind the cameras of a large, local television production.

Kari Jacobs, President & GM of 10News WTSP spoke to the advancements in local news and how tools such as social media and real-time analytics dictate what is broadcasted, today more than ever before.

wtspLT’20 Class Chair, Lance Lansrud, on the set Great Day Live at 10News WTSP

It was here at 10News where the LT’20 class had the greatest opportunity of the day to ask the tough questions regarding objectivity in the media. What ensued was an engaging and professional conversation where the 10News staff shared their perspectives around the sensationalizing of stories and the difference between the national and local landscapes.

Overall, the day was educational and engaging with the LT’20 class coming away with a deeper appreciation of the difficult decisions that go into selecting what is seen and heard within our Tampa Bay region and nationally.

Member News 11/19-11/25

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Tampa Bay Vipers, Josh Bullock

Last Friday, the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce hosted a Circle of Influence event for our top tier members at the University Club of Tampa. Josh Bullock, President of the Tampa Bay Vipers, spoke to the group about the XFL and the Vipers.

The inaugural XFL season is set to kick off in February of 2020. The entire XFL is viewed as a compliment to the NFL and is giving men who love playing football another opportunity to extend or start their professional football careers. The season will be ten weeks long and every single game will be nationally televised through agreements with ESPN, Fox and ABC. The games will be played every weekend starting after the Superbowl, two on Saturday and two on Sunday. There are 8 teams, 4 in the East division (New York, Washington D.C., St. Louis, and Tampa Bay) and 4 in the West (Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Seattle). Each team drafted 70 men about three weeks ago and the Vipers are slated to start practicing on December 3rd in Plant City.

The XFL was created around one signature concept and mission: the love of football. In getting the league off the ground, one of the main goals is to ensure that the games are fun, affordable and accessible to all fans. They want to give fans a voice and a say in building this league. The XFL is taking the traditional game of football and re-imagining it, making sure that the game is fast-paced and exciting and eliminating a lot of the downtime that’s experienced in the NFL. For example, the replay limit is capped at 60 seconds and they are currently working with officials to only throw the flag when the penalty hurts the play. The overall rules of the game will differ slightly from the NFL; they have not been officially revealed yet but are planning to formally announce them in just a few weeks.

Fan engagement is a big part of the XFL’s overall mission and focus during this first season. They are really leaning into the opportunities that new technology provides for engaging with fans during the game, being able to chat with fans in-game via mobile devices, featuring fans on the big screen and more. Fans are already engaged even before the season has begun. Most notably, a rivalry has already been created between the Vipers and the St. Louis Battlehawks. Which echoes the point that Josh made, the core of this league is fun. They are striving to be the league and the teams that fill the football void in the NFL’s off season.

Another major focus is community impact and partnering with the community. Once practice begins, a big part of getting to know the team will be getting to know the specific causes that each player is passionate about and helping them get plugged into that part of the community and tell their story.

The players in this league are similar to the playing level and caliber of the NFL players. The players were scouted by evaluating talent that wasn’t currently on NFL rosters and players that didn’t quite make the cut for the NFL. The ten week season is broken down into five weeks on the road, five weeks at home, and two weeks of playoff games with the final championship game taking place on April 26th (location to be announced in early January). There will initially be some recognizable faces, Vipers head coach Marc Trestman and head coaches of some of the other teams: Bob Stoops, June Jones, Jim Zorn, Jonathan Hayes. The Vipers have also drafted Plant High School’s Aaron Murray and USF’s Quinton Flowers.

The XFL is committed to the physical and mental health of their players. Ensuring that the players receive more extensive physicals before they arrive and getting to know the players in a deeper and more intimate way. The medical staff will be comparable to any NFL team and will be paying close attention to injuries and making sure the players have access to first class healthcare. There will be a big focus on building relationships, providing leadership, and meeting the players where they are in their walk of life. Josh emphasized the importance of getting to know one another well enough to recognize if and when there’s an issue and how to address it.

While there is no official partnership between the NFL and the XFL, Josh is hopeful that as the XFL grows that may change. The NFL wants the XFL to succeed and the XFL recognizes that it’s a compliment to the NFL, not a competition. They will never replace the NFL and that isn’t their goal. They anticipate having an annual draft each year to replenish their talent, possibly in September or October. The XFL still needs to sell itself to players, pushing the benefits of improving skill and increasing attractiveness for future possibilities with the NFL.  The referees are recruited similarly to the players, coming from college teams and big bowl games. They will have male and female refs, with 6 female referees currently contracted to play in the 2020 season.

Since Florida is such a big college football state, the XFL anticipates helping some of the college football players by providing them with a place to play, learn and grow. Providing leadership skills, connecting them with the community and helping them work towards whatever their ultimate goal may be. The XFL provides a platform for players just out of college to be showcased. All players receive a base salary, their housing and living expenses covered during the season, and bonuses if they are on the active roster and on the winning team.

The XFL is committed to safe and fair play. They intend to create a standard of where player behavior needs to be and that will be unified across all eight teams. They fully expect their players to be good citizens, good teammates, and good leaders. Their behavior will be a direct reflection of the league and their team.

Currently, the XFL has a whole does not have any national sponsorships or partnerships. As a league, they will be deciding and evaluating the fan base and exposure first before inviting other people and companies in. There may possibly be a few national partnerships in place once the season starts but it will most likely be more of a focus in the coming seasons once the XFL itself is more established.

I think it’s safe to say that Tampa Bay was a great choice for an XFL team and this community is excited to welcome another team to the Tampa Bay sports family. To learn more about the Vipers head to

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