The LEDC High Skill Investors group consists of 22 member companies. The LEDC created a separately funded initiative in 2003 to focus on creating High Skill, High Wage jobs to improve Lakeland’s Quality of Life. The High Skill Initiative is focused on recruiting and retaining companies that focus on enabling technologies which support High Skill, High Wage employees and manufacture complex research- oriented products.
The High-Skill Initiative works to accomplish these goals through Higher Education and Economic Development Partnerships, facilitating development of High-Skill Infrastructure (including a research university), Marketing, Incentives, City Visits, YLakeland Campaign, Summer Leadership Program, and Catapult, a place where entrepreneurs can go to grow.
Brian Philpot, AgAmerica
AgAmerica is a Florida-based lender specializing in the valuation of land. Brian and his team have purchased, repositioned and sold more than 330,000 acres of real estate since its inception. Brian received his B.S. in Finance, cum laude with honors in investments from Florida State University. He earned a Juris Doctorate, cum laude, University of Florida College of Law.
Wesley Beck, Aspyre Properties
Wesley Beck is President of Aspyre Properties, a private equity firm focused on investments in a variety of industries and industrial development. He also serves as CEO of Advanced Concept Innovations, a medical device company and was formerly a founding partner in Florida Flavors, a specialty manufacturer of flavors and fragrances. Wesley is past chair of the LEDC High Skill Committee.
Sharon Smoley, Charter Communications/Spectrum
Sharon Smoley recently assumed the role of State Director – Government Affairs, Florida for Charter Communications. Joining Charter Communications in September of 2016, Sharon leads a team whose responsibilities include local and state government relations strategies in the State of Florida. Prior to joining Charter, Sharon served as the Manager of Government Relations for Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts where she was responsible for the company’s government relations strategy in Central Florida. A professional with a broad depth of experience in national and international affairs, she also supported WDPR’s worldwide Industry Relations efforts.
Jay Chastain, Chastain-Skillman, Inc.
Jay Chastain was recently named the President of Chastain-Skillman, Inc. Jay is the third generation to assume the role of President as he carries on the tradition of his grandfather Roy Chastain, who founded the firm 65 years ago. Like his father, Jim, Jay was a fixture around the office during his teen years and learned much about the firm’s operations and computer systems from an early age. Under Jay’s leadership the firm went through a complete rebranding and implementation of a state-of-the-art IT system. Jay received his Bachelors in Business Administration from the University of Florida and is a proud Gator. In addition to his involvement with the firm, Jay is an active in the Leadership Lakeland Alumni Association, United Way, Leadership Winter Haven.
Mayor Howard Wiggs, City of Lakeland
Howard is the co-owner of Bagley Advertising. He is the Chairman of the Utility Committee and Airport Advisory Board. He also involved in several civic and community organizations. He has a Marketing degree from Florida Southern College and is a graduate of Florida School of Banking and is a Rotarian. He was elected Mayor in November 2013.
Tony Delgado, City Manager, City of Lakeland
More than 250,000 people live in the Lakeland urban area. The City of Lakeland owns Lakeland Electric, Lakeland’s Airport, the Civic Center, and employs over 2,600. Tony began work with the City of Lakeland in January 1997 as Assistant Director for The Lakeland Center. He became Assistant City Manager in November 2000 and was appointed City Manager in January 2016. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Parks & Community/Commercial Recreation from Southern Illinois University. Tony has been active in the community including serving on the boards of: Central Florida Speech and Hearing, the United Way, VISTE, and Interact Alliance. He is a graduate of Leadership Lakeland XVIII and Leadership Polk Class II.
Dr. Anne Kerr, Florida Southern College
Dr. Anne Kerr became the seventeenth president of Florida Southern College in June 2004. Prior to her presidency, Dr. Kerr held several distinguished positions in higher education administration, including vice president at the University of Richmond, vice president at Rollins College, and dean of the Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins. Dr. Kerr holds a Ph.D. and M.S. from The Florida State University and a B.A. from Mercer University. She is active in numerous arts and civic organizations and serves on the boards of SunTrust Bank, Mid-Florida; EarthLinked Technologies, Inc.; the Polk Museum of Art; and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
Dr. Randy Avent, Florida Polytechnic University
Dr. Randy K. Avent is the founding president of Florida Polytechnic University, the newest of the state’s 12 public universities and the only polytechnic university in the State University System of Florida. As Florida Polytechnic University’s inaugural president, Dr. Avent is responsible for the development and operation of the university and is committed to strategically developing Florida Poly as a research and jobs university, an agent for growth and a beacon for the economy.
David Hallock, GrayRobinson
David focuses his legal practice on corporate and business transactions including general corporate and business representation, mergers and acquisitions, real estate, tax, health care law, banking and wealth protection planning. Founded in 1970, GrayRobinson is a full-service law firm providing legal assistance across the state of Florida, with nearly 300 attorneys and 12 offices.
Rebecca McDonnell, Keiser University
Rebecca McDonnell serves as Campus President of Keiser University’s Lakeland campus. She is a 1996 graduate of the University of Georgia and earned her graduate degree in English from Florida State University. Ms. McDonnell joined Keiser’s Melbourne Campus in 2001 as their Industry Relations Coordinator. In 2002, Rebecca relocated to Lakeland as the Director of Student Services and became Campus President in 2004. She has helped grow the campus from 240 students to over 1400.
Steve Scruggs, Lakeland Economic Development Council
The Lakeland Economic Development Council (LEDC) is a private, non-profit organization with 135 member companies. The LEDC’s primary role is to create jobs by attracting new industry and helping local industry expand in the Lakeland area. Steve has been with the LEDC since 1987.
Joel Ivy, Lakeland Electric
Joel has a 30-year career path that includes climbing utility poles to managing multi-hundred million dollar operations with start-ups, investor owned and publicly owned utilities. Past experience includes his tenure as Chief Operating Officer at Visible Light Solar Technologies and Vice President of New Mexico Operations for Public Service Company of New Mexico, an investor owned utility with almost 500,000 customers. He most recently oversaw the Energy Department for Imperial Irrigation District, a vertically integrated public electric utility located in El Centro, California. Ivy graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering.
Dr. Elaine Thompson, Lakeland Regional Health
Elaine joined Lakeland Regional Health in 2010 and immediately began the process to create a strategic vision centered on medical staff collaboration and performance, and patient safety improvements. Her initiatives include a multi-disciplinary performance improvement garnering international attention for the largest single site Emergency Department in Florida, and digitization of the Medical Center using a single electronic health records system. Elaine’s fierce passion for patient and community wellbeing leads her to work tirelessly with community, legislative and business leaders, and physicians to improve health services. She has been named each year since 2012 to Becker’s Hospital Review “Top 100 Non-Profit Hospital CEOs to Know”, “130 Women Healthcare Leaders to Know” and “130 Nonprofit Hospital and Health System CEOs to Know” annual national recognition lists.
Karen Turner, Lockheed Martin
Lockheed Martin is a global security company that employs approximately 126,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The Lakeland facility is primarily engaged in supporting the corporation through the operation of core financial services functions. Karen Turner is a Multi-Functional Finance Senior Manager for Lockheed Martin. She has a diverse background in various staff and management positions and has held positions of progressive responsibilities in domestic and international accounting and finance. She has a BS degree in Accounting from Alabama A &M University and a MBA from The Johns Hopkins University.
Brad Lunz, The Lunz Group
The Lunz Group is a client oriented Architectural and Interior Design firm headquartered in Lakeland. Founded in 1987 by Edward Lunz on the simple principle of listening and a holistic approach to design, the firm provides a final product that incorporates the individual client’s vision and operational needs in a space that combines efficiency and economy with creativity and value. Maintaining the focus on personal, professional and timely service to each of his clients, as President of The Lunz Group, Brad Lunz sustains this tradition started by his father.
Steve Moseley, MIDFLORIDA
As one of the top credit unions in the state, MIDFLORIDA provides a wide range of banking products and services, as well as over 40 convenient branch locations throughout Central Florida from coast to coast. MIDFLORIDA is headquartered in Downtown Lakeland. MIDFLORIDA offers retail banking, commercial banking services, mortgage loans, direct consumer financing at auto dealerships, retail investment services, realty services, and insurance services to over 200,000 existing members. Steve is Executive Vice President & President of MIDFLORIDA Financial Services. He oversees all branch retail operations, finance related functions, IT, mortgage operations, and realty services. Steve obtained his undergraduate degree from Stetson University and his MBA from Florida Southern College.
George Lindsey, Polk County Government
Since his 2012 election to the commission, Lindsey has worked to attract new employers and remove barriers to the expansion of existing businesses in Polk County. He also is working to increase partnerships between the county and municipalities on matters such as planning, water supply and parks. He was elected chairman in 2014. Lindsey is also president and broker of Lindsey Realty & Development Corporation. He is an Honor Flight 15 guardian, University of Florida sports fan, and a Harley Davidson enthusiast.
Jim Freeman, Polk County Government
County Manager Jim Freeman began his career with Polk County in 1989 as the director of information technology and helped usher the county into a new digital era. He served as administrative services director and deputy county manager before he was appointed county manager in 2010. Freeman executes the Board of County Commissioners policy direction. With the exception of the county attorney’s office, Freeman appoints and manages all of the county’s nearly 2,000 employees. Freeman, an Atlanta native, graduated in 1994 from St. Leo University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
Dr. Angela Garcia Falconetti, Polk State College
Polk State College is one of 28 public institutions in Florida that offer associate degrees as well as career and workforce training programs. In addition to being a comprehensive community college, Polk State is authorized to offer baccalaureate degrees to meet local and regional workforce needs. Dr. Angela M. Garcia Falconetti became Polk State College’s fifth president in 2017, bringing extensive experience in higher education, with particular expertise in student success, economic development, institutional research and effectiveness, and resource development.
Jeff Chamberlain, Publix Super Markets, Inc.
Publix, a Fortune 100 company, is headquartered in Lakeland with over 3 million sq. ft. of space including office, manufacturing and distribution and is Florida’s largest private employer. Jeff serves as Vice President of Real Estate where he is responsible for the entire real estate department, as well as the strategy required to successfully grow Publix Super Markets through new stores, new markets and acquisition. Jeff served as the 2011-2012 LEDC Chairman and is the 2015-2016 LEDC High Skill Chairman.
Mark Cabrera, Saddle Creek Logistics
Saddle Creek Logistics is a third-party logistics company headquartered in Lakeland offering integrated logistics services including warehousing, transportation, packaging and fulfillment. Currently, Saddle Creek has 28 warehouse locations across the country totaling more than 14 million square feet. In his role as Senior VP/CFO, Mark directs the Finance and HR functions, and serves as the chief strategy officer.
Dr. Kent Ingle, Southeastern University
Dr. Kent Ingle has served as the president of Southeastern University since 2011. During his tenure, SEU has seen significant change including: implementation of a shared governance model, dozens of new academic and athletic programs and a dramatic increase in enrollment. Additionally, multiple building projects have been completed including the new 120,000 square foot Live/Learn building, which houses students, classroom space and a full food court. Dr. Ingle is passionate about preparing students for Christ-centered leadership and service. Before SEU, he served as dean of the College of Ministry at Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington. He holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri.
Jason Witty, Southern Glazer's Wine & Spirits of America
SGWS has 653,000 sq ft distribution center in Lakeland with over 400 employees. Jason Witty is the Vice President of Operations for the State of Florida. Jason started with Southern Wine & Spirits of New Mexico in 2002, as the Information Technology Manager. In 2005 he and his family moved to Florida, to take the Director of Information Technology role. During this time he was fortunate to work on many large scale projects alongside the Florida Operations team as well as BSG/SCM. These projects included the development and rollout of Sapphire V4, Lakeland Warehouse construction and the Customer Service Consolidation within the state. In 2011 he became Sr. Director of Operations for the state of Florida responsible for the Logistics and Warehouse personnel and operations.