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City Commissioner Considers Funding Minority and Other Startups

Go Fields

The Lakeland Chamber of Commerce hopes to help minorities and other potential start-ups open shops in the city, and is seeking federal funding to lure the already established minority business associations into town. We are asking the City Board to approve up to $800,000 in American Relief Plan Act funds for

But the Chamber of Commerce may end up competing for funding with another city favorite, the Mayors Arts Council.

“The reason we are here today is because the Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber Foundation have created a much more robust business ecosystem that allows our business to access the same services and resources as our competitors, Tampa and Orlando. Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Amy Wiggins told city commissioners at a meeting Monday morning.

Wiggins is joined by James Randolph and Albert Lee of the Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation, founded 35 years ago to help minority business owners in Tampa, and Fabian Yepes, vice president of Prospera USA, founded 30 years ago. I brought Helping Hispanic business owners in Central Florida.

Services offered by both groups include seminars on starting and maintaining a business, links to funding sources, and even grants.

Former Lakeland mayor Gow Fields, who helped steer the formal request, recalled a time when both the Chamber of Commerce and the city council didn’t look like they do now.

Former mayor Gou Fields speaks at a city committee meeting on Monday.

“I first served on the board of the Chamber of Commerce in the late ’80s and early ’90s. It’s a different Chamber as long as it’s engaging and inclusive,” Fields said. “When I first joined the board, there was still the North Lakeland Merchants Association. I didn’t believe it, so I had to do a lot of work to make the incremental changes to the chamber.”

George Jenkins

Fields said the Board of Directors of the Chamber Foundation wants to use the money and money from the city or county in a way that Publix Super Markets founder George Jenkins feels would like to do so. said. In 1973, Jenkins donated his $500,000 to form the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce Foundation, a non-profit organization separate from the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce. We are currently in the process of transitioning from private to public.

“Today we had the opportunity to bring the original vision he had to a new level of life,” Fields said.

Fields said he was chairman of the Minority Business Development Division of the Central Florida Development Council in 1989. After that, he tried to partner with his BBIC in Tampa.