Chamber Advocacy Update – August 28, 2014


This is the first of a three-part series looking at key ways Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare is moving regional healthcare advances forward.  Today’s focus is on neurosciences.

Tallahassee Memorial is making a number of significant advances to meet the need for complex neurovascular services in our region. Patients in our community can now receive treatment for a wider range of neurovascular conditions and can benefit from leading-edge procedures that allow brain surgery to be performed through an incision to the groin rather than an opening in the skull.

With the opening of a brand new neurovascular suite and Neurological Intermediate Care Unit, as well as the addition of two endovascular neurosurgeons, TMH became the first and only center in the area to provide endovascular intervention for acute stroke and offer treatment for intracranial aneurysms and arteriovenous malformations (AVM). Since its inception, over 360 patients have received care in the neurovascular lab.

“This endovascular suite is one-of-a-kind and the only of its kind in our region,” says neurovascular surgeon Matthew Lawson, MD, who joined the TMH team and Tallahassee Neurological Clinic/Neurosurgery in 2012. “These minimally invasive procedures mean that recovery time is much quicker than traditional surgery and patients often have superior outcomes.”

Previously, patients in the region who presented with these conditions or other cerebrovascular emergencies required transport to Jacksonville, Gainesville, or Tampa. Often these patients were life-flighted out of the area and required extended hospital stays away from home.

“Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare chose to invest in manpower and equipment to bring these highly specialized services to North Florida. It is rare to find a facility that is interested in investing in a very sick population but that is exactly what they did,” states neurovascular surgeon Adam Oliver, M.D.


The EDC, an affiliate program of the Chamber, as seeking your help in completing an Existing Employer Survey to gather economic data and key data baselines about industry activity, staffing plans, barriers to success as well as talent and training needs. This data will allow the EDC to better allocate resources to those areas where our local businesses need assistance or see opportunities for a more robust local economy and generate a top-tier quality of life within our community.

Access EDC Existing Employer Survey

This survey, and your participation in it, is essential to our ability to grow our economic base, including the expansion of existing industries and the recruitment of new ones. We are proud to collaborate closely with our partners in this communitywide survey with the goal of implementing key priorities to enhance our region.

We hope everyone will take the time to complete it and give us your feedback so our community can better support your business by anticipating changing economic priorities as well as ensuring our region remains competitive.


By Ben Pingree, Chamber VP of Business Retention/Expansion & Public Policy

For many decades in Tallahassee, across market sectors where effective government meets a vibrant economy, civic and business leaders have been increasingly focused on what assets and resources – when both protected and leveraged —best generate a top-tier quality of life within our community.

Where can we best expend our limited public resources to most effectively protect our shared environment while also training top talent and creating dynamic new jobs? How can we most fairly set those public parameters (rules, laws) while also best stimulating private industry to grow organically? How can we maintain what we love about our city, while welcoming what we want to be in the next generation?

In recent years, we haven’t limited our perspective to looking at only those best practices toward reducing negative environmental impacts. We have also looked to insure that our vitality is supported by stimulating private enterprise, expanding higher education and supporting multi-purpose public and private amenities. These better paint the pillars of the full spectrum of a truly “sustainable” community.

There are a large number of recently developed assets in Tallahassee, both in the public and private sectors, worthy of focus when addressing sustainability in our marketplace.

Two that come to mind are Independent Green Technologies and YGRENE. Independent Green Technologies (, a green-focused company, quickly partnered with TCC, local utilities and a series of public, private and non-profit partners to expand solar use and reduce the carbon footprint across our community.

Leon County government this past year approved a bond issuance that, over the years ahead, will finance tens of millions of dollars for projects that retrofit the participating businesses across our community.

As managed by the private company appointed by the county, YGRENE, it is anticipated that this initiative will save businesses extensive funds allocated for energy consumption while also benefitting the environment. More information can be found HERE.

However, there is one key tool that has been effectively implemented since 1989 that has leveraged tens of millions in grants, has been supported over 30 percent by visitors to Tallahassee — not local residents — while generating just short of $1 billion for key local infrastructure projects.

That tool has been the effective Local Option “Penny” Sales Tax (sometimes referred to as the “Blueprint Penny”). Authorized by the state legislature for local approval, and historically restricted to non-operating expenses such as capital infrastructure projects (such as transportation, stormwater, environmental, etc.), this resource — and the projects it has funded — has truly transformed Tallahassee. It has enabled the steady, sustainable growth of new and expanding local businesses while also improving core mechanisms to protect the environment and expand our quality of life.

Moreover, it has been guided by a highly inclusive, multi-year and citizen-led process that has become the example for other communities to follow. The following are merely a few examples of tangible projects that this revenue stream has funded since 1989:

  • Widening of Capital Circle
  • Development of Blair Stone Road
  • Improvements to North Thomasville Road, Mahan Drive and other key arterial corridors
  • Renovation and improvement of Cascades Park
  • Improvements to Franklin Boulevard
  • Sidewalk construction
  • Stormwater and greenspace construction
  • Public safety facility improvements (like the new Joint Dispatch Center)

This Local Option Penny Tax, last approved by voters in November 2000, is set to expire in 2019. Our local governments have worked inclusively toward placing the next extension for this key funding tool before Leon County voters during this year’s general election.

If approved by the voters this fall, the penny tax extension will further provide our community with significant resources for key infrastructure projects from 2019 through 2039. A comprehensive list of what key projects could be funded can be found at

Clearly if one agrees that a key to a community’s sustainability and vibrancy is to nurture and protect environmental integrity while stimulating a strong private sector, the extension of the Local Option Penny Sales Tax warrants your consideration and action at the ballot.

At last week’s Annual Community Conference, a pair of resolutions supporting this tax extension were on the agenda for approval — and were approved — by the boards of the Chamber and the Economic Development Council.

The support for these resolutions is also founded, in part, by a recent analysis conducted by Florida State University’s Center for Economic Forecasting & Analysis that projected the anticipated revenues of $756 million from this tax (from 2019-2039) for sustainable infrastructure projects would have an estimated positive impact on our local economy of $1.2 billion and result in the creation of 8,338 new jobs during that time.

In summary, there is much that is occurring to insure that our community (both civic and business) emerges as an economically vibrant, environmentally responsible, and sustainable leader of our State and Region.  The Chamber and the EDC, my dual employers, serve as our community’s leading voice for both our a) businesses and b) our business community, respectively.  We have been thoroughly engaged in all of the above issues (and beyond) and shall remain so as our community crafts and implements its future plans for economic excellence.  We encourage your getting informed, involved, and participatory in the organic and purposeful development of a truly “Sustainable” Tallahassee!


While in office for just six months in his new role as Chief of Police for Tallahassee, Chief Michael DeLeo quickly focused upon gun violence as a well-defined problem demanding thorough attention and a broad-based approach to combat and improve upon in our shared community (recent data showing that the per-capita rate of gun violence in Tallahassee is second only to Miami in the State of Florida).  With the backing of City’s appointed and elected leadership, Chief DeLeo helped form a Community Leadership Council on Gun Violence that has been holding a series of meetings over the past few weeks and is quickly gaining momentum toward identifying resolutions.  Comprised of a wide range of subject matter experts, citizens, law enforcement professionals, neighborhood representatives, church officials and the like, the Chamber’s Business Advocacy Committee Chairman, Reggie Bouthillier, and business owner (and Chamber board member) Gloria Pugh, were also asked to participate and lend a voice to business’ concerns related to this problem.

The Committee, which recently and unanimously named Chief DeLeo as its Chairman, has already made great strides in agreeing upon the details of the issue, informing the community about what the challenge (and opportunity) is, in framing the debate of how solutions may be applied and handling the important aspect of public perception about how the community can work together to improve crime rates.  Said Chief DeLeo recently about this topic, “If we stay in our own comfort zones, in our own bubbles, we’re not going to get anywhere.  We’ve got to pop the bubbles.”  The Committee is widely seen as the first community-wide approach to fully vet and pinpoint the issues that lead to higher crime rates so that they, in turn may be addressed while expanding and improving law enforcement activities to mitigate crime outcomes.

According to Reggie Bouthillier, the Council will help identify solutions and initiatives as part of a comprehensive community plan to address gun violence and will include business, social, educational, neighborhood, religious, and criminal justice perspectives.  The Council will work over the course of the next year to develop this plan and potential solutions, and once adopted, assist in implementing the plan.  Reggie is asking our members to provide input and perspectives and will be providing updates as this initiative develops.  Reggie has also emphasized the need for our business community to prioritize and get involved in this initiative since our community quality of life is directly tied to whether there will be a positive environmental for our businesses and economy to grow and expand. “We can no longer stand idle as community in the face of rising crime and gun violence.  It is simply unacceptable that we would be compared to Miami statistically in terms of gun violence.  We have to get to the bottom of this and be prepared as a community to make the necessary changes to reduce crime and gun violence in Tallahassee.”

It is anticipated that the work of the committee will continue through the fall and toward a comprehensive plan to address this matter during the months ahead.  At a recent Committee meeting, the Assistant City Manager committed to investigating options for also hiring a private consultant to assist the committee in their work.  The Business Advocacy Committee and Chamber staff will continue to monitor and advocate for this issue into the fall, with further and regular updates being provided as progress is made.


The FSBDC Network recently released the 2013 Economic Impact Data for each of its twelve regions.  The FSBDC at Florida A&M University, which covers an eight county region in the Panhandle, has generated impressive impact, according to the report conducted by the Haas Center at the University of West Florida.  During 2013, the FSBDC at Florida A&M University delivered 3,366 professional consulting hours to 287 entrepreneurs and small business owners.  The consulting services offered at the center include: Strategic Market Research, Market Expansion and Revenue Growth, Business and Strategic Plan Development, Access to Capital and Loan Packaging Assistance, Financial Analysis and Assessment, Accounting, Feasibility Analysis and Start-Up Assistance.

“The landscape of Small Business is very dynamic and in order for our center to meet the needs of our business community, we have to constantly adapt and enhance our service offerings.  Business owners and entrepreneurs find themselves in the position where they have to do more with less.  They are seeking ways to operate more efficiently,” explains Keith Bowers, the Regional Director.  “Our focus over the past two years has been on providing services geared more towards Small to Medium Sized Enterprises (businesses in existence for more than 5 years with annual revenues exceeding $500,000).  Our philosophy is that we need to provide as much assistance as we can to those businesses with the greatest potential to create jobs and increase sales revenue in our local economy.

The Haas Center report indicates that last year, the FSBDC at Florida A&M University, through its engagement with small business owners, assisted in the creation and retention of 800 jobs.  The report also indicated that the center’s clients attributed an increase in sales of almost $106 million to the efforts and involvement with Certified Business Consultants at the center.

A former banker, Keith Bowers has worked in economic development for more than twenty years and understands the importance of access to capital for small businesses.  “One of the most valuable services we offer is the assistance we provide in the area of financial management and loan packaging assistance.  Having the adequate financial resources is truly life or death for small businesses owners and entrepreneurs.” In that regard last year the center assisted its clients in obtaining $2.2 million in capital investments.  “Our goal for 2014 is to double the amount of capital investment obtained in 2013. We are meeting with financial institutions on a regular basis to learn more about their products and services for small businesses and what we can do to better facilitate the lending and investment activities.”

Access to opportunities is just as important as access to capital for small businesses.  We are gaining traction through the Contracts and Procurement services we offer to small businesses.”  According to the Haas Center report, the FSBDC at Florida A&M University assisted local contractors in obtaining $7.8 million dollars in government and private contracts in 2013.

All of the services offered through the center are at no cost to their clients.  The center is funded in part by the Small Business Administration, Florida A&M University and the Florida Legislature.  For more information on the services available, Keith can be reached by email at: or by calling 561-2392.


We thank you for joining the Business Advocacy Committee and the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce in supporting business vitality across our community and region.

Please engage with us to share your thoughts on how we can further improve and ensure we’re covering the issues and providing information that’s important to you and your business.


Reggie L. Bouthillier, Chair