BusinessForce Insider's Briefings

BusinessForce Insider’s Briefings are not fundraisers, but instead are an opportunity for the region’s business and community leaders to meet with and hear from Florida’s top political leaders and decision-makers on key public policy issues in a private setting.

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July 12, 2017 
BusinessForce Hosts Special Election Candidate Debate –
For Florida House, District 44

Last Wednesday, BusinessForce, the political action arm of the Orlando Economic Partnership, and the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida co-hosted a special election candidate debate for the Florida House, District 44. BusinessForce’s objective was to ask the candidates directly, their policy solutions to the economic and community issues that are most important to this district and the entire Central Florida region. Also, the debate was recorded live, on Facebook at Fox 35 News, and received over 6,700 views.

As reported by Scott Powers from Florida Politics, “The four Republicans fighting to win the Aug. 15 primary for the empty seat in Florida’s House District 44 began defining their differences in their second major debate, Wednesday night.” Those candidates included Dr. Usha Jain; John Newstreet, Bobby Olszewski, and Bruno Portigliatti. Each of these candidates qualified to run in a special election to fill a Florida House seat that was vacated by the newly appointed appeal court judge Rep. Eric Eisnaugle.

During the hour long debate, each of the candidates took turns fielding questions from each of the moderators which included Robert Agrusa, executivedirector of BusinessForce and Tiger Bay Club board member; Paul Owens, a 25 year, well respected media veteran and the current opinions editor at the Orlando Sentinel; and Ryan Elijah, news anchor for Fox 35 WOFL and a host of several previous political debates in our community.

The topics included a myriad of issues facing this diverse district including K-12 education, higher education, economic incentives and diversification, tourism marketing, healthcare, affordable housing, growth management, workers’ compensation reform, and medical marijuana. Additionally, it included an opportunity for each of the candidates to expound on their backgrounds in both the private and public sector.

For complete press coverage and to watch the candidate debate in its entirety, please see the links below:

HD 44 special election Republicans distinguish themselves on self-portrayals
Florida Politics

Fox 35 WOFL Facebook Live

May 23, 2017 
BusinessForce Insider's Briefing –
Post Legislative Session Wrap-Up Breakfast

Several members of the Central Florida Legislative Delegation including Senator David Simmons (R-District 9), State Representative Kamia Brown (D-District 45) and State Representative Rene “Coach P” Plasencia (R-District 50) were our special guests at the BusinessForce Insider’s Briefing and Post Legislative Session Wrap-Up on Tuesday, May 23, 2017.

This invitation-only breakfast was hosted by the BusinessForce Board of Directors and it was the first Insider’s Briefing of 2017. With business and community leaders in attendance, the Post Legislative Session Wrap-Up was a unique opportunity to hear firsthand from our elected legislators about the 2017 legislative session, the decisions that were made during the session, and how those decisions will impact our local business community. Topics included the budget, economic development, tourism, education, workers' compensation insurance, medical marijuana, gambling, transportation, and tax cuts.

Senator David Simmons, who currently serves as the Chairman of the PreK-12 Education Appropriations Subcommittee and is the longest serving member of the Central Florida Legislative Delegation, discussed a variety of important issues that were resolved this session including a statewide regulatory framework for the use of ride-sharing companies, such as Uber and Lyft. This new statewide framework will protect consumers by requiring these companies to carry larger insurance policies, conduct local and national criminal background checks on drivers and allow for innovation through safe and reliable transportation options.

Additionally, he shared the legislature’s commitment to finding a resolution that addresses the rising workers compensation rates and touted our regional budget priorities that were included within the final budget, such as the funding for ICMAR/BRIDG and the UCF/Valencia Downtown Campus.

Furthermore, Representative Rene “Coach P” Plasencia expounded on HB 7109, the $180 million tax cut package that was ultimately signed by Governor Scott last Thursday. This bill takes a major step toward addressing much-needed targeted tax reforms, including a reduction in the business rent tax – saving job creators approximately $61 million, continuing the three-day back to school day "sales tax holiday," creating a three-day "disaster preparedness" sales tax and doubling in the R&D tax credit which encourages research, economic growth and development for Florida’s innovators. Moreover, he explained the potential impacts of the two constitutional amendments, regarding property tax assessments, which the Legislature placed on the ballot next November.

Finally, Representative Kamia Brown reflected upon her first session as a freshman member of the Florida Legislature while highlighting her legislative successes and what she hopes to accomplish moving forward. In addition, she conveyed her support for both economic development and tourism in the State of Florida, after voting no on HB 9 and HB 7005, which would have taken away the state's role in economic development by eliminating Enterprise Florida and crippled Visit Florida’s ability to market tourism of our state.

To learn more about BusinessForce, the political action arm of the Orlando Economic Partnership, and how you can become more involved, please visit or contact

About BusinessForce
Affecting positive change in the Central Florida Region requires strong “Regional Public Policy Advocacy” – an important division for the Orlando Economic Partnership.  BusinessForce, our “Political-Action-Arm,” is making a positive difference by sharing important regional conversations, encouraging and supporting candidates for public office, and helping to guide civic, political and business leaders about the future. 

The Orlando Economic Partnership is a new entity formed from the merger of the Central Florida Partnership and the Orlando Economic Development Commission. The vision of the organization is to provide the region with a durable competitive advantage in global competition for quality jobs, economic growth, broad-based prosperity and a sustainable quality of life.

December 13, 2016
BusinessForce Insider's Briefing –
A Tribute of Thanks – Celebrating a Legacy of Central Florida Leadership

On December 13, 2016, BusinessForce, the political action arm of the Central Florida Partnership, welcomed former Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner and former Florida Speaker of the House Steve Crisafulli at its final Insider’s Briefing luncheon of 2016.

The invitation-only luncheon was hosted by the BusinessForce Board of Directors, to say thank you and to honor both Andy and Steve for their tireless dedication, leadership and service throughout their legislative careers and, in particular, over the past two years as the leaders of their respective legislative chambers.

Craig Swygert, Chair of BusinessForce and the President of the Central Florida Markets at Clear Channel Outdoor, led as the Master of Ceremonies as he introduced all of our special guests, who delivered first-hand accounts of their legislative accomplishments and expressed personal testimonies about the outstanding and genuine character of both of the honored guests including: John C. Hitt, Ph.D., President of the University of Central Florida; The Honorable Bryan Nelson, Vice-Mayor and Orange County Commissioner, District 2; and The Honorable Tom Goodson, State Representative, District 51.

In addition, Larry McIntyre, Chair of BusinessVoice of the Space Coast, gave a personal introduction of the first honored guest, the Honorable Steve Crisafulli, as the November election marked the end of his final term in the Florida House of Representatives. Crisafulli was first elected in 2008 and served as the House Speaker, the first from Brevard County, from 2014-2016.

House Speaker Crisafulli gave a thoughtful and selfless reflection on his tenure in the Florida House of Representatives while highlighting all of the major issues and accomplishments he confronted including: a comprehensive water policy bill that addresses our state’s water quality and supply challenges in a statewide manner through the use of scientifically sound, responsible solutions; legislation that completes the restoration of the Everglades; the allocation of over $80 million to help clean up the Indian River Lagoon and $50 million to restore our springs. Lastly, he discussed the importance of expanding and retaining the MS&T facilities in our region, which will continue to foster job creation and economic growth in the Central Florida Research Park.

Furthermore, Roger Chapin, a member of the BusinessForce Board of Directors and Vice President of Public Affairs for Mears Transportation Group, gave a heartfelt and moving introduction of our second honored guest, the Honorable Andy Gardiner, on his legacy after twenty years of legislative service in both the Florida House and the Florida Senate, including the last two years as the President of the Senate.  Prior to his service in the Senate, Andy served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2000-2008 and as a legislative aide to State Representative Allen Trovillion.

Senate President Gardiner humbly reflected on the profound and positive impacts that an array of legislation, that he was able to usher in throughout his term, will have upon our community including:  providing a path to economic independence for people with "unique abilities;" expanding scholarships for students with disabilities; promoting employment and creating university and college programs for students to graduate with a meaningful degree; and the funding for a proposed downtown Orlando expansion by the University of Central Florida and Valencia College.

In conclusion, Craig Swygert and Robert Agrusa, Executive Director of BusinessForce, acknowledged and honored Mike Ketchum with the “Central Florida Statesman’s Award” in celebration of his retirement after 17 great years of service with the Central Florida Partnership, Orlando Inc., and BusinessForce.

We are thankful for your support of BusinessForce and for joining us to express our sincere gratitude to Andy, Steve and Mike for their remarkable legacy of service and leadership to our community. We will all be forever grateful!

For more photos, click here.

April 8, 2016
BusinessForce Insider's Briefing –
Orange County Commission Candidate Debates for Districts 1, 3 & 5

Last Friday, BusinessForce, the political action arm of the Central Florida Partnership, hosted its first-ever debate for the Orange County Commission candidates running for District 1, District 3, and District 5 at the Orlando Museum of Art. “BusinessForce’s objective is to impact the future formation of good economic and business related public policy within our community,” said Craig Swygert, Chair of BusinessForce.

The invited candidates faced off in half-hour debates, one for each of the three contested Orange County Commission seats, fielding questions that are relevant to the business community. As reported by political commentator Frank Torres, “The Orlando Sentinel Opinions Editor and BusinessForce Executive Director Robert Agrusa left no questions unanswered, getting the candidates on the record on several tough issues for the first time in the campaign."

In District 1, Winter Garden Commissioner Bobby Olszewski faced off against Project Development Manager Betsy VanderLey, and the issues that were debated included economic diversification, tourist development taxes, growth management and both candidates backgrounds in the private and public sector.

Next, incumbent District 3 Commissioner Pete Clarke, faced a challenge from retired Orlando police officer Bill Moore, and many of the questions included revisions to the County Charter, minimum wage, budget priorities and a vision for the future of Orange County.

Incumbent District 5 Commissioner Ted Edwards sparred with two challengers: Gregory Eisenberg, a property manager with a for-profit company that provides off-campus housing for University of Central Florida students; and Tim McKinney, the CEO of United Global Outreach and a Bithlo Community Advocate. The topics included a myriad of issues facing this diverse district including affordable housing, growth management, homelessness, economic diversification and local wage and benefit mandates on private businesses.

BusinessForce will release video clips of the exchanges on its social media platforms - on Facebook at and on Twitter at @CFLBizForce and press coverage of the event is included below:

Orange candidates joust, jab at debate
Orlando Sentinel

Here are 11 take-aways from the BusinessForce Orange County Commission Debates

Orlando Political Observer

Orange County Commission candidates' debates offer heat but few business differences
Florida Politics (blog)

Olszewski and VanderLey spar over Boyd at BusinessForce County Commission Debate
Orlando Political Observer

Bill Moore and Pete Clark discuss vision for District 3 at BusinessForce County Commission Debate
Orlando Political Observer

Ted Edwards vs. Timothy McKinney war continues at BusinessForce County Commission Debate
Orlando Political Observer

For more photos, click here

December 10, 2015
BusinessForce Insider's Briefing –
Announcing Early Endorsements for Cortes, Miller and Plasencia from BusinessForce

Following a comprehensive and deliberative candidate selection process, BusinessForce, announced its candidate endorsements for three key legislative races in Central Florida at the December 10th “Insider’s Briefing” reception.  The invitation only reception was hosted by the BusinessForce Board of Directors and sponsored by AT&T, Bright House Networks, and Clear Channel Outdoor and hosted by Universal Orlando Resort.

Bob Cortes (R-District 30), Mike Miller (R-District 47), and Rene “Coach P” Plasencia (R-District 50) all have received early support and endorsement from BusinessForce, the political action arm of the Central Florida Partnership.  Also, in attendance was Representative Eric Eisnaugle (R-District 44) who was our special guest to introduce the three endorsed candidates.

Eric was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives on November 4, 2008 and during his time in the Florida House, Eric has focused on the economy, fiscal responsibility, getting tough on crime, accountability and ethics in government, and judicial issues, and is considered an extremely influential voice and advocate for the Central Florida community in Tallahassee.

“As a businessman himself, Bob Cortes knows what it takes to start and run a successful business,” said Craig Swygert, BusinessForce Chair and President of the Orlando Division of Clear Channel Outdoor.  “He will fight to cut onerous regulations, making the needs of small businesses a priority, and getting government out of the way of Florida's job-creators and Central Florida’s hard working families.”

“In addition, Mike Miller will work hard to strengthen working families, the backbone of our community, by promoting higher paying jobs, ensuring high standards and accountability in our schools, and fighting to end poverty by supporting policies that grow our economy and opportunities in our community,” continued Swygert.

“Finally, Rene “Coach P” Plasencia will continue to encourage economic diversification in Central Florida by ensuring that Florida’s colleges and universities are preparing a highly trained workforce for our emerging high-tech economy and helping to secure our shared future here in Central Florida,” concluded Swygert.

“All three are clear choices when it comes to providing a strong unified voice and advocating for Central Florida businesses,” said Chris Stewart, Director of State Government Affairs for the American Resort Development Association and Chairman of the BusinessForce Legislative Committee.  “These endorsements send a strong signal to our region's business community on which legislative candidates are best equipped for this upcoming election year and are worthy of the support of the entire business community as they seek to serve our region in Tallahassee.  We are confident that each will advance policies that support our free enterprise system.”

For more photos,
click here

November 18, 2015
BusinessForce Insider's Briefing –
Orange County Mayor Jacobs Highlights Significant Progress

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs was the special guest speaker at the Nov. 18th BusinessForce Insider's Briefing luncheon. The invitation-only luncheon was hosted by the BusinessForce Board of Directors and sponsored by AT&T, Bright House Networks, and Clear Channel Outdoor. BusinessForce Chairman, Craig Swygert, Clear Channel Outdoor, introduced our special guest. 

Re-elected without opposition to a second term in office in 2014, Mayor Jacobs began by discussing her countywide successes since taking office in 2010, her commitment to tackling the tough issues head on, and the importance of setting our differences aside and focusing on our common goal of making this community one of the best places in the world to live, work and raise a family.

Home to more than 1.2 million residents, Mayor Jacobs highlighted numerous accomplishments over the years in Orange County including our world-class international airport, the second largest convention center in the U.S., and several outstanding public venues including the Amway Center, the newly rebuilt Orlando Citrus Bowl, the spectacular new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and soon-to-be completed Major League Soccer Stadium for the Orlando City Soccer Club.

Additionally, Mayor Jacobs talked about her recent efforts and position to join with the Central Florida Partnership to advance two of its top regional priorities – reducing homelessness and promoting the region’s Modeling, Simulation and Training Industry – while continuing her focus on maintaining Orange County’s reputation as the world’s top tourist and leisure destination with more than 62 million visitors annually. Finally, she discussed her new branding campaign, “Orlando. You Don’t Know the Half of It,” designed to publicize the region’s workforce and exciting business sector capabilities along with a world class quality of life for our residents.

For more photos, click here

July 29, 2015
BusinessForce Endorses Dyer Re-Election –
Announcement Made at Insider's Briefing

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, who is seeking an unprecedented fourth term as Mayor, has been endorsed for re-election by BusinessForce, the political action arm of the Central Florida Partnership.  The endorsement, which was unanimously approved recently by the BusinessForce Board of Directors, was announced by BusinessForce Chair Craig Swygert on July 29th at a special BusinessForce “Insider’s Briefing.” The private invitation-only luncheon was sponsored by AT&T and Clear Channel Outdoor and hosted by the BusinessForce Board of Directors.

In introducing the Mayor, Swygert praised Dyer’s many accomplishments over his 12 year tenure in City Hall which he stated have “literally put Orlando on the global map” and cited his bold leadership in reducing crime, creating high wage jobs, making SunRail and making major league soccer a reality along with building the downtown venues.

Dyer began his remarks by sharing he often tells his fellow mayors he is the “happiest mayor in America” and is currently “riding on a high” because partisan differences have been put aside in the City Beautiful allowing it to move forward with “partnerships and collaboration better than anyone else.”  He went on to indicate he was most proud of the Citrus Bowl opening in just 10 months and revealed for the BusinessForce audience how the critical private funding for the new downtown soccer stadium actually came about.With Senate President Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando) as a special BusinessForce guest in the audience, Dyer saluted his leadership during the last legislative session in pursuing the downtown UCF campus and the Osceola advanced manufacturing center.  Although the projects were unfortunately later vetoed by Gov. Scott, Dyer was optimistic “a way will be found to get them done.”  Dyer concluded his luncheon remarks by underscoring the importance of the $10 billion that will be spent on major local transportation infrastructure improvements and the business community uniting on strategies to end chronic homelessness in the Orlando area.

Florida CFO Atwater Speaks

Florida's Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater appeared at the Oct. 16 BusinessForce Insider's Briefing hosted by the BusinessForce Board of Directors and sponsored by AT&T along with supporting sponsors Duke Energy, Clear Channel Outdoor, Bright House Networks, CenturyLink, and Publix Super Markets.

Stetson Stetson
Stetson Stetson

Atwater, who has served on Florida's Cabinet since being elected CFO in 2010 and is currently seeking re-election to the post, began his luncheon address by praising the Central Florida region as one of Florida's leading "economic engines" and touted its importance in Florida's recovery and in keeping its economy strong.

Aided by a dramatic PowerPoint to illustrate his presentation, Atwater reviewed several critical public policy decisions Florida made between 2004 and 2012 which resulted in Florida not experiencing the devastating financial crises many other states faced during that period. According to Atwater, the critical policy decisions on taxing and spending made by Florida's leaders during that period attracted capital rather than drove it away and have now made Florida's gross domestic product (GDP) the fourth largest in the U.S and the 19th largest in the world.

Turning to education, the Chief Financial Officer pointed to extensive research which indicated that how Florida is deploying its dollars in educational spending is making a difference and he refuted those who maintain "spending more will get us more." To back it up, Atwater pointed to Florida's impressive 4th grade reading scores and indicated that while Florida is 38th in spending it is 8th in test scores and contrasted it with other states that spend much more but whose test scores are much lower.

In a question and answer session following his address, Atwater fielded a range of questions from luncheon attendees which included the controversial medical marijuana referendum and the planned All Aboard Florida train. Atwater indicated his opposition to medical marijuana citing the potential for many unintended consequences, including higher workmen's compensation costs to businesses. On the proposed train, Atwater noted the serious opposition to it on the Treasure Coast but expressed his hope that all parties could be brought together to successfully work through the areas of concern.

Stetson Stetson

Prior to Atwater's luncheon appearance, Central Florida Partnership President Jacob Stuart provided him with a private briefing on the work to date on "Sources of Capital," one of the top regional priorities of the Partnership, and encouraged Atwater's participation in a Regional Leadership Forum on the topic slated for early 2015.

Pre-Primary Luncheon Rally

With the Aug. 26th primary election just days away and early voting already underway, BusinessForce, the political action arm of the Central Florida Partnership, held a pre-primary election luncheon rally on Aug. 15th showcasing several of its endorsed candidates in several "high priority, must win- races" that will appear on the primary ballot. The special luncheon was hosted by the BusinessForce Board of Directors and sponsored by AT&T, along with supporting sponsors Bright House Networks, Clear Channel Outdoor, CenturyLink, Duke Energy and Publix Super Markets.

Regional Leadership Forum Regional Leadership Forum
Regional Leadership Forum Regional Leadership Forum
Click here to view more photos.

On hand for the luncheon rally were BusinessForce-endorsed candidates Sen. Geraldine Thompson (D-Orlando), Rep. Eric Eisnaugle (R-Gotha), Rep. Tom Goodson (R-Titusville), Rep. Bryan Nelson (R-Apopka) and Orange County Commissioner Jennifer Thompson. Following the luncheon, the candidates were invited to the stage by BusinessForce Chair Linda Landman Gonzalez of the Orlando Magic for a wide ranging panel discussion on the status of their races and the important issues arising in their campaigns.

Thompson is seeking re-election to a second term and faces a former senator in the Democratic primary before tackling a Republican candidate to be selected in the Republican primary. The senator indicated she was encouraged by the breadth of her support and reported frequently hearing from her constituents that they now feel someone is actually representing them in Tallahassee. She attributed her success in representing them to the relationships she has established enabling her as a member of the minority party to work across party lines.

Eisnaugle, who returned to the legislature in a spring special election after a two year absence, will take on GOP primary opponent and then an independent candidate in the general election for the southwest Orange County seat. Representing a very conservative district, Eisnaugle reported his constituents "want smaller government and to be left alone by government." Widely seen as a possible future speaker of the House, Eisnaugle indicated that for now the key to that possibility would be first maintaining a Republican majority and then winning the support of fellow house members elected in his class.

Goodson also faces a Republican primary opponent as his only obstacle in his re-election quest for the seat which covers east Orange and northern Brevard Counties. Named a Distinguished Advocate in the 2014 legislative session by the Florida Chamber, Goodson discussed his key role in warding off damaging amendments and steering to passage the mammoth Dept. of Transportation bill. He also provided his insights on the leadership style of his Brevard County colleague, Central Florida Legislative Delegation Chair and House Speaker-designate Steve Crisafulli.

Nelson, who is term limited in his legislative seat, is campaigning to succeed retiring Orange County Commissioner Fred Brummer in the northwest Orange County-based commission seat and will face four opponents in the Aug. 26th primary. In his quest for the seat Nelson reported he has knocked on 12,000 doors in the diverse district and learned improving infrastructure in the district were uppermost on voters' minds with completion of the Wekiva Parkway and funding for additional Lynx buses and the Orange Blossom Express frequently mentioned. A key goal for him while serving on the Orange County Commission will be "to protect tourism at all costs."

Running hard for re-election to her southeast-based Orange County Commission seat, Thompson has attracted two opponents in the primary. Already Thompson has made 10,000 personal calls to voters to tout her top accomplishments in her first term. Among those she cited were much needed parks and recreational opportunities along with nurturing Innovation Way and the High-tech Corridor. Looking ahead to a second commission term, Thompson indicated a top priority would be identifying a dedicated funding source for SunRail and other transportation needs.

Concluding the program BusinessForce President Mike Ketchum recounted the yearlong 2014 BusinessForce endorsement process to identify the best men and women to serve in important state and local offices and stressed the importance to the business community of supporting the entire slate of BusinessForce slate of endorsed candidates at the Aug 26th primary and in the Nov. 4th general election.

"Let's Find Waste and Undo It" says Cong. Dan Webster

Home from our nation's capital for a scheduled District Work Period, Cong. Daniel Webster (R-Winter Garden) appeared before BusinessForce, the political action arm of the Central Florida Partnership, at its Feb. 24th "Insider's Briefing" The private luncheon was hosted by the BusinessForce Board of Directors and sponsored by AT&T, along with supporting sponsors Duke Energy, Clear Channel Outdoor, Bright House Networks, Century Link and Publix Supermarkets.

The two term Winter Garden congressman began his luncheon remarks by indicating he serves in two primary roles: first, going to Washington and vote on legislation and second, serve the people here in the community. Webster termed the community service rendered by congressional staff in his local district offices as "aggressive" in helping individuals navigate through the "difficult" federal government.

Pictured Above (L - R): Marva Brown Johnson, Bright House Networks; Troy L. McNichols, AT&T, Inc; Cong. Daniel Webster, U.S. House of Representatives; Linda Landman Gonzalez, Chair, BusinessForce, Orlando Magic; Craig Swygert, Chair-Elect, BusinessForce, Clear Channel Outdoor; and Melanie H. Becker, CenturyLink. Click here to view more photos.

While in Washington, the congressman indicated he has been recently spending considerable time on passing the "Water Bill" with 6 of its 23 projects located in Florida. The important legislation will fund key dredging projects in certain Florida ports and encourage additional port traffic from the widened Panama Canal.

Throughout his political career Webster indicated he has prided himself on adhering to important principles. One of them is to root out waste in government which he indicated is often "rewarded" with no real incentive to save money. "We don't have to always spend what is appropriated to us. I want to find waste and undo it,' said Webster who cited numerous examples of congressional waste and contrasted it with the return by his congressional office to the federal treasury of over $1.2 million in unspent office appropriations recently.

During the question and answer period following his remarks Webster touted a tax reform bill to be shortly introduced designed to close certain tax loopholes and lower tax rates along with a measure to replace Obamacare. Webster stated attempts to address the troubled health plan had previously been "forbidden territory" due to the President's steadfast refusal to get help from Congress in ironing out its many problem areas. The congressman also shared the results of his ongoing efforts with Cong. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Ft. Lauderdale), who also serves as Chair of the Democratic national Committee, to find areas of bipartisan agreement on legislation.

Bondi Talks Medical Marijuana

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi made her first appearance before BusinessForce, the political action arm of the Central Florida Partnership, at its Jan. 27th "Insider's Briefing" The private luncheon was hosted by the BusinessForce Board of Directors and sponsored by AT&T, along with supporting sponsors Duke Energy, Clear Channel Outdoor, Bright House Networks, Century Link and Publix Supermarkets.

Click here for more photos.

With the Florida Supreme Court just having given its final approval for placement of the controversial Medical Marijuana legalization question on the November general election ballot, Bondi wasted no time in attacking the proposed constitutional amendment. Still maintaining its wording was misleading and deceptive as strongly held in an opinion by three of the seven Florida Supreme Court justices, Bondi charged its consequences would open the door to legalization of marijuana and could even permit minors to obtain marijuana without their parent's knowledge. Now that the matter is up to the voters, Bondi strongly encouraged voters "read the full amendment in order to understand the impact it could have on Floridians."

During the reminder of her luncheon remarks before the audience of business and community leaders Bondi reflected on her career as Hillsborough County prosecutor in the State Attorney's office prior to being elected Florida Attorney General and the state's chief legal officer in 2010. She went on to discuss a number of important initiatives her office has undertaken to "keep Florida safe." Among those she cited was a new initiative, in partnership with the business community and with its prototype here in Orange County, to halt human trafficking in Florida where it ranks third in the nation. Bondi predicted further legislation during the 2014 legislative session on curtailing human trafficking and sexual predators. The Attorney General also pointed to the enhanced monitoring through a call center of the increasing "business to business" scams oftentimes designed to fund drug and gang activity. The Attorney General also reviewed the strong actions her office is taking to address pill mills, the spread of synthetic drugs, Medicaid fraud and ensuring proper compensation is obtained from the BP oil spill in 2010.

To learn more about BusinessForce and how you can become involved visit or contact

Record Crowd Hears Mayor Jacobs

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs was the special guest speaker at the Nov. 22nd BusinessForce "Insider's Briefing" luncheon with a record-setting crowd on hand to hear from Jacobs who was formally endorsed last week for re-election in 2014 by BusinessForce, the political action arm of the Central Florida Partnership. The invitation only luncheon was hosted by BusinessForce and sponsored by AT&T, along with supporting sponsors Bright House Networks, Duke Energy, Clear Channel Outdoor, CenturyLink and Publix Supermarkets. Also recognized in the audience and on hand during the luncheon was Orange County Commissioner Jennifer Thompson who was similarly endorsed by BusinessForce for re-election last week and 2014 Florida Senate President-designate Sen. Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando).

Before a SOLD OUT lunch crowd of over 140, the largest attendance to date of any BusinessForce Insider's Briefing, BusinessForce Chair Linda Landman Gonzalez announced the endorsement of Mayor Jacobs and Commissioner Thompson.

Top left: (l to r) Michael L. Ketchum, President, BusinessForce; Linda Landman Gonzalez, Chair, BusinessForce; Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs; Jacob V. Stuart, President, Central Florida Partnership; Senator Andy Gardiner; and Jefferey Q. Jonasen. Bottom left: Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs speaks to a packed house at the BusinessForce Insider's Briefing. Right: Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs. Click here to view more photos from this event.

In her remarks to the BusinessForce audience following her introduction by BusinessForce Chair Linda Landman Gonzalez of the Orlando Magic, Jacobs recalled that following her 2010 election she entered the Mayor's office with real anticipation over not being able to meet the county's needs due to the significantly declining revenues from a struggling economy but observed things actually turned out much better over time. She attributed this to several factors: the Orange County Commission being non-partisan, a strong county culture of partnership and the efforts of, an initiative of the Central Florida Partnership. She also singled out for praise her colleagues on the Orange County Commission who she strongly engaged in her governance efforts by changing the way the board interacted and encouraging and empowering them to have a full debate as public policy is being made for the county.

The audience also learned her desire for empowerment also extended to her personal staff with the Mayor stating, "I don't need yes men" and indicating she valued highly the diversity of opinion among her "young, energetic and diverse staff."

The Orange County Mayor showed the "human side' of being Orange County's top elected official by regaling her audience with several humorous recollections of some "behind the scenes" mayoral experiences shared by her and her staff. She also revealed the high value she places on the strong relationship with her "husband and four grown kids."

In concluding her remarks, Jacobs foresaw an even brighter future and termed the last three years for Orange County "phenomenal years" that have made us "the "envy of the state." She cited as evidence the thriving tourism and the "incredible partnerships" that have led to making SunRail, Medical City and Major League Soccer a reality along with the planning for the completion of the Wekiva Parkway, Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center and the Citrus Bowl renovation.

To learn more about BusinessForce and how you can become involved visit or contact

House Speaker Designate Crisafulli

Future Florida House Speaker Rep. Steve Crisafulli (R-Merritt Island) and current Chairman of the Central Florida Legislative Delegation made his first BusinessForce "Insider's Briefing" appearance on July 18th before a packed room of BusinessForce investors and their invited business and community leader guests. The invitation only luncheon which officially kicked off the 2013-14 "Insider's Briefing" series was hosted by BusinessForce, the political action arm of the Central Florida Partnership, and was sponsored by AT&T along with supporting sponsors Bright House Networks, Clear Channel Outdoor, Duke Energy, Century Link and Publix Supermarkets.

Click here to view more photos from this event.

Introduced by BusinessForce Chair Linda Landman Gonzalez, Crisafulli began his remarks by saluting the distinguished legislative service of House Majority Leader Rep. Steve Precourt (R-Orlando) who was present and has been a valued mentor to Crisafulli as he prepares to become House Speaker in 2014. The future House Speaker also provided insights on the daily challenges of properly balancing his family and agricultural business interests with the pressures of public service and his desire as a legislator to "bring real life experiences" particularly to governmental regulatory agencies which he stated are often "an impediment" to economic development.

Crisafulli, a staunch advocate for regionalism, focused on two major regional themes during his appearance – space and the port – both of which are embraced by the Central Florida Partnership as top regional priorities.

Reflecting on the loss of 18,000 space industry jobs since 2008 and a county unemployment rate that once topped 12%, Crisafulli saw potential opportunities for Brevard County in a 150,000 acre wildlife refuge at the Kennedy Space Center and a new space center. With respect to the port at Port Canaveral, Crisafulli characterized the impact of the cruise industry as "huge" for Brevard County by mentioning the "day stops" for cruise ships as the "new big thing" which is increasingly boosting tourism and driving the local economy and the possibility in the future for acquiring yet more cargo shipping.

With his strong family roots in agriculture, Crisafulli called it "still the foundation of Florida's economy" and emphasized the importance of formulating a state water policy to ensure the industry remains viable in the future.

Touching on the current Tallahassee political climate, Crisafulli telegraphed he was not a fan of the "R and D politics" prevalent in Tallahassee and would work to encourage the avoidance of highly partisan politics during his tenure as House Speaker.

As the Chairman of the Central Florida Legislative Delegation, Crisafulli will convene and host its annual meeting on Nov. 19th at a site to be announced shortly in Brevard County. Watch Every Monday in the coming weeks for further details on the meeting.

BusinessForce Boosts House Candidates In Top Priority Races

BusinessForce, the political action arm of the Central Florida Partnership, hosted a special BusinessForce "Insider's Briefing" luncheon on Oct. 25 th boosting the legislative candidacies of Dr. Bob Brooks, Marco Pena and Rep. Scott Plakon. All are seeking seats in the Central Florida Legislative Delegation in newly drawn, highly competitive districts that have been targeted by BusinessForce as "high priority, must win" races in 2012.

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Introducing and presenting the three candidates to BusinessForce members and their invited guests was BusinessForce Chair Jay Galbraith who praised the qualifications and credentials of each to hold public office. Each candidate expressed their gratitude for the outpouring of strong support for their campaigns from the business community and then provided an update on the current status and outlook for their respective races which are among the tightest and most hotly contested in the state.

BusinessForce President Mike Ketchum concluded the luncheon by stressing the importance of electing the three candidates in order to keep our legislative delegation a pro-business one and encouraged those present to redouble their efforts in the community between now and Election Day to insure that Brooks, Pena and Plakon are elected. He went on to remind attendees of their opponent's position on the proposed paid sick leave mandate in Orange County vehemently opposed by the Central Florida Partnership and the business community stating, "Their opponents, who are being supported by Occupy Orlando leaders and their paid sick leave advocate allies, either supported this costly new governmental mandate or supported holding a vote on the proposed referendum despite its containing ballot language which the referendum proponents openly admitted was inaccurate, misleading and deceptive."

"I Get Things Done In Washington," Mica Tells BusinessForce

Stepping off the campaign trail from his grueling Aug. 14th Republican primary battle with Congresswoman Sandy Adams (R-Oviedo), Cong. John Mica (R-Winter Park) was the special guest speaker at the July 16th BusinessForce "Insider's Briefing" luncheon presented by host sponsor AT&T along with supporting sponsors Bright House Networks, Duke Energy Corporation, Century Link and Publix Super Markets.

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The powerful Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, accompanied by two key committee staffers, began his remarks to BusinessForce investors and their invited guests by recounting that his initial ambition was to go to Congress "to be a leader" and to "think in terms of the nation, not the district." He recognized early on it would be necessary to for him to become a committee chair to get things done and in order to do so, Mica revealed that he had to successfully overcome the initial opposition of current House Speaker John Boehner.

Once assuming the committee chairmanship, Mica discovered he had "inherited a mess" during his efforts to reauthorize the FAA and went on to share the "hardball politics" he played with Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) to expose a $3,720 subsidy per ticket for certain Nevada airports which forced the U.S. Senate to compromise on the FAA legislation. More recently, Mica has steered to passage a bipartisan Transportation Bill re-authorization which had not been accomplished since 2005.

Looking ahead, the veteran congressman foresaw opportunities for the region to become a center for air traffic control and to improve our infrastructure to better support the needs of our tourism industry. He was excited about the possibility pursuing of rail connections to Orlando International Airport and the recent proposal by Florida East Coast Railroad to connect Miami with an Orlando high speed rail route. With respect to the region's growing modeling and simulation industry where upcoming federal budget cuts could severely threaten its future, Mica strongly urged business leaders to organize now to save what we have and even seek ways to expand it.

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Cong. Mack Tells BusinessForce "I Want To Be Your Partner In Washington"

Cong. Connie Mack (R-Ft. Myers), the front running candidate in the Aug. 14th Republican Primary for the U. S. Senate nomination to take on veteran Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in the November general election was the special guest at the May 30th BusinessForce "Insider's Briefing" luncheon presented by host sponsor AT&T and supporting sponsors Progress Energy, Bright House Networks, Century Link and Publix Super Markets.

Taking direct aim at an "out of control" Washington that seeks "to divide us, not unite us" and the burdensome regulations that often plague businesses, Mack charged we have a "federal government that doesn't believe in you" and oftentimes "destroys what we are trying to save or protect." As an example, he cited the 31 permits and fees a boatyard in his congressional district recently faced in order to expand. Also cited by Mack as detriments to the business climate were the passage of Obamacare and the Dodd-Frank financial industry regulation. He went on to call for their repeal and asked his audience of BusinessForce members and their invited guests to "judge me on what I can repeal because I want to bring government, laws and regulations back to the people. I want to be your partner in Washington."

The Ft. Myers congressman took to task both the Republican and Democratic Parties on their continuing failure to solve the deficit problem by blasting Senate Democrats for not passing a budget in 3 years and House Republicans for passing a budget that does not come into balance for 28 years. "We can do better," he said calling the huge federal deficit "a national security problem." He went on to tout as a remedy the "One Cent Solution" plan which would largely require the government to cut one cent out of every dollar of its total spending each year for 6 years. Mack added, "Right now we are on the road to Greece. I want us on the road to prosperity instead."

Turning to his upcoming campaign against Nelson, Mack revealed he was encouraged by his running evenly in current polls against the two term incumbent who has held various public offices in Florida 36 of the last 40 years. He criticized Nelson's recent priority of controlling pythons in the Everglades along with his key votes supporting several controversial Obama Administration initiatives and indicated he would defend himself against the expected Nelson attacks against him on social security and Medicare by asking him "What is your plan to save social security and Medicare?"

Cong. Adams Calls Washington "Broken"

The freshman congressman, who was first elected in the 2010 Republican sweep by ousting incumbent Cong. Suzanne Kosmas (D-New Smyrna Beach), called her first 18 months in office "interesting" and confirmed for her audience of BusinessForce investors and their guests that "Washington is broken - it's true."  Adams described President Obama as having been "in a full re-election mode" throughout her term in office and only interested in playing partisan politics with legislation.  As evidence, she cited White House opposition to her leadership on re-enacting the "Violence Against Women Act."

The inability of the U. S. Senate to pass a budget in over three years also came under fire by Adams who praised the efforts of the U. S. House to not only pass a real budget addressing the deficit and entitlements but approve as well numerous measures to get the economy back on track and create jobs only to see them die in the Senate.

Cong. Adams went on to report on the 24 Town Hall meetings she has held in her congressional district since taking office.  During these meetings she has emphasized the need for Congress "to make the hard decisions" to solve the looming fiscal crisis facing the United States before it heads down the same road as other countries.  "We got put in this situation by both parties but the question now is how will we go forward?" Adams said and urged as the solution "changing the people who are in charge of how Washington works."

Commenting on her grueling Aug. 14th Republican primary campaign which already has drawn national attention and pits her against veteran Cong. John Mica (R-Winter Park) in the new Congressional District 7, Adams called it the "unnecessary primary."  Brandishing a map of the new district, she cited figures showing she currently represents over 50% of the district she has chosen to run in while Mica currently represents 72% of new Congressional District 6 where he could have chosen to run.  She categorically denied rumors that she would bow out of the race stating "I have to do what is right" and it would be wrong to run somewhere "just to have a seat in Congress."

During the question and answer period Adams responded to an inquiry on the status of the new Veterans Hospital at Lake Nona which has been plagued by what she called a "disconnect and little oversight by the VA."  Adams predicted an opening by the end of 2013.

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Batchelor, Perez Mix It Up

Two of the state's premier political strategists and commentators, Democrat Dick Batchelor and Republican Tico Perez, took the stage on April 13th as BusinessForce, the political action arm of the Central Florida Partnership, kicked off its 2012 series of "Insider's Briefings" hosted by AT&T along with supporting sponsors Progress Energy, Bright House Networks, Century Link and Publix Super Markets.

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Dick Batchelor

Tico Perez

Batchelor, a former state legislator from Orlando, heads the Dick Batchelor Management Group, a business consulting firm, while Perez is a local attorney and the founder of Edge Public Affairs. Both are highly respected community leaders and political observers who are often sought out for their political expertise and regularly appear as political commentators in the local media.

Both speakers began their special election year appearance by taking a close look at the upcoming presidential election with Batchelor maintaining the outcome of the U. S. Supreme Court decision on Obamacare, Romney's weakness in the GOP base as well as with the female vote would be key factors on whether Pres. Obama is re-elected. He also suggested possible events in Iran or further gas price increases could be key additional factors. Perez saw the race as one that will be overshadowed by themes and messages and stated "Obama can't win but the Republicans could lose." He panned Obama's 2008 campaign slogan of "Yes, We Can" by charging it now had become "Why We Couldn't." With respect to Obamacare, Perez confidently predicted it "would fall before the Supreme Court."

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There was also some speculation over Romney's Vice Presidential pick with Perez suggesting Sen. Marco Rubio and Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno as leading contenders and Batchelor clearly hoping for Newt Gingrich.

Turning to state politics and with the upcoming 2014 governor's race just ahead, Batchelor saw as potential Democratic candidates 2010 nominee Alex Sink, current party chair Rod Smith, former Gov. Charlie Crist and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. He added that should Gov. Scott's poll numbers remain weak, Chief Financial Office Jeff Atwater, Attorney General Pam Bondi or Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam may jump in the race on the Republican side. Perez countered that Scott's poll numbers were on the uptick and potential opponents would be deterred by Scott's considerable financial resources.

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With the favorite to become Senate President in 2014, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando) sitting in the BusinessForce audience, Perez and Batchelor agreed on the importance of having a "hometown" Senate President who "understands community issues."

Both speakers offered their perspectives on the controversial creation of a 12th state university by separating the USF Polytech campus in Lakeland from USF and also on potential university student tuition hikes. On school funding issues, strong differences emerged with Batchelor criticizing what he characterized as deep cuts to education and Perez lauding the $1 billion increase in educational funding this legislative session while maintaining the cuts were really nothing more than a decrease in the rate of spending growth.

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Sen. Gardiner Previews Legislative Session

Florida Senate Majority Leader Sen. Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando) was the special guest at the Dec. 2nd BusinessForce "Insider's Briefing" luncheon presented by host sponsor AT&T and supporting sponsors Progress Energy, Bright House Networks and Tucker Hall.

With the 2012 legislative session kicking off on January 10th, Gardiner focused during his remarks on the three "mega-issues" which will likely dominate the upcoming session - redistricting, gambling and the state budget.

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Florida Senate Majority Leader Sen. Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando)
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Redistricting required every 10 years is always a contentious process among legislators and Gardiner expects this year it will be no exception. He predicted congressional redistricting will be the most difficult to accomplish while the Senate and House will likely accept the redistricting proposals of the other body. He added there is a strong likelihood of lawsuits by those who feel the requirements of Amendments 5 and 6 to the Florida Constitution which were approved in 2010 by Florida voters were not followed.

Regarding prospects for the proposed expansion of gambling in Florida, the powerful Majority Leader, who is a staunch gambling opponent and will oppose the proposed legislation, foresaw "a 50% chance of its passage."

Upon their arrival in Tallahassee, Gardiner reported legislators will face a budget shortfall in excess of $2 billion dollars as the Florida economy continues to struggle in the midst of a brutal recession. In view of that, he went on to project Central Florida will come out of the recession earlier and stronger than other areas in the state.

In a wide ranging question and answer period following his prepared remarks, the Orlando Republican fielded questions on such topics as closing the internet tax loophole, immigration, space and further pension reform.

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BusinessForce is the political action arm of the Orlando Economic Partnership. The focus of this line of business is to affect positive change in Central Florida through regional public policy advocacy; BusinessForce helps guide regional leaders by encouraging and supporting candidates for public office who, as public officials, will embrace free enterprise and sound business principles.

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