Erika Spence: Business in the Park

Erika Spence

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Politics in the Park

The political season is upon us, as evident by a barrage of postcards piling up in mailboxes, yard signs lining the streets, and campaign workers waiving at major intersections. The Winter Park Chamber of Commerce recently hosted the 2014 Winter Park Political Mingle at the Rachel D. Murrah Civic Center. The event, presented by Bright House Networks, featured 25 candidates running in many of fall’s hottest races and a straw poll on a variety of races and issues.

One issue facing voters this fall is the renewal of the half-penny sales tax to benefit Orange County Public Schools. The Winter Park Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors recently issued a resolution in support of this ballot initiative citing the significant need for school construction and renovation. While several Winter Park area schools received upgrades under the current program, including Lakemont, Killarney, Aloma and Brookshire elementary schools, there are many other schools in need across the county, such as Winter Park Tech and Winter Park High School.

Voters can access several sites for information, including:

• Orange County Supervisor of Elections (ocfelections.com) – Update voter registration information, review sample ballots, request absentee ballots and more.

• Winter Park Chamber of Commerce (winterpark.org) – Review the Winter Park Political Mingle Straw Poll Results as well as a copy of the Board of Directors resolution in support of the half-penny sales tax.

• Change 4 Kids (change4kids.net) – Read news articles, research schools to be impacted by the tax and review results from the current sales tax, which is set to expire in 2015.

The Winter Park Chamber of Commerce does not endorse candidates for office, but appreciates the support of the candidates who participated in the Winter Park Political Mingle.

Back to school

The Winter Park Chamber of Commerce hosted two weeks of Youth Leaders this summer, an adaptation of Leadership Winter Park. The week-long sessions offer rising high school sophomores, juniors and seniors the opportunity to develop new leadership skills, explore career paths and learn more about our community. Two graduates from the program returned to the Chamber this summer as college interns. They spent the dog days of summer helping to plan, market and execute Youth Leaders, as well as a variety of other Chamber events and programs – thank you, Brandon Fattore and Bill Fray!

While the recent Youth Leaders graduates, Chamber interns and many others prepare for the upcoming school year, there is one thing to look forward to: tax-free weekend! Scheduled for Aug. 1 to 3, this is the perfect time to pick up school supplies, clothing, shoes and other items. Businesses can also take advantage of the savings on office supplies purchased during this time. Not in the market for school supplies? There are several local organizations that can make good use of items purchased at sale prices this time of year, including A Gift For Teaching (agiftforteaching.org).

Whatever your motive, make the most of your back-to-school shopping and spend your dollars locally. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance conducted one of several studies that found that money spent at local independent businesses generates a greater return in secondary spending than money spent at national chain stores. In one study in Maine, for each $100 spent, independent businesses generated $45 in secondary local spending compared to just $14 at a national retailer. For a list of local businesses, search the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce membership directory at winterpark.org or call 407-644-8281. As for what’s exempt, visit myflorida.com/dor

The value of great schools

As everyone heads back to school, the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce and city of Winter Park will host an Education Update breakfast on Thursday, Aug. 21, at the Winter Park Community Center. The event will explore, “Education & Economics: The Value of Great Schools,” with a panel discussion. Throughout the event, panelists will explore how quality educational opportunities help develop intellectual capital, inspire entrepreneurs, add economic value to our community and inspire a sense of civic pride. Reservations are required in advance at winterpark.org

Erika Spence is the senior director of marketing and communications at the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce.