Thursday, March 2, 2023

Central Bank Expands Into Atlanta Market

 Congratulations to Central Bank for their expansion into the North Atlanta Market with a new branch in Suwanee, Georgia. Central Bank, a community bank headquartered in Tampa, Florida, has branches in Winter Park and St. Augustine. John Thompson, President and Chief Executive Officer of Central Bank, who is also from Jacksonville, told me that his board studied the Suwanee area and found it to be a great candidate for a community bank. His bank started in North Tampa in 2007 as a community bank and they have continued that strategy throughout Florida with great success. With so many banks focused totally on expansion, many are leaving the customers behind when it comes to service. John’s strategy is to identify a specific area in need of community banking and then make sure his bank is a fit for the community. Central Bank Vice President Darryl Workman will serve as Branch Manager and Sagar Patel will be the Atlanta/Georgia Market President. As with each Central Bank branch, the Suwanee bank will offer personal banking services for both individual accounts and for local small businesses. Central Bank is a Member of FDIC and an Equal Housing Lender. For more information, visit

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Langton Consulting Of Jacksonville Is Largest Grant Writing Firm in Florida

 At Robert Harris’ popular San Marco holiday party in December, I ran into Mike Langton who I haven’t seen in years. Lunching at what used to be the old Beach Road Chicken Dinner restaurant, I caught up with Mike, a former Florida State Legislator (1985-92). I was delighted to hear that over the years Mike has enjoyed success in the field of grant writing. His firm, Langton Consulting, is the oldest and largest grant writing firm in Florida. Just in the past 10 years, his firm has generated over one half billion dollars in grants for clients, who are mainly city and county governments. Plus, he just obtained a $51 million grant for a critical semiconductor plant for Osceola County. He also has obtained government grants for major corporations. While grant writing comprises most his business time, he also invests in real estate developments around the state, focusing on mix-use property in downtown locations. Mike and I became friends in the Jacksonville Jaycees, which was a tremendous civic and leadership organization at the time. Many of the city’s successful government and business leaders have come from that group. Mike was serving in Mayor Tanzler’s administration at the time, writing grants. Mike can be contacted at Mike is on the right in this “Lunch with Les” photo.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Jacksonville Sees Major Change In Hospitality Industry With Pozin Retirement

 A major change took place in the hospitality industry in Jacksonville this past year. Long-time leader and spokesman for the industry, Fred Pozin, sold his Ramada Inn property to private investors and retired from the business. Operating the motel for almost 40 years, Fred has left a big void, having served as President of the Visitor’s Bureau and the Hotel Association, along with being a member of the Hospitality Association and the Tourist & Development Council. Fred is known as an innovator in the industry with his operational skills, plus bringing in a unique entertainment venue, the Comedy Zone, to his property. Fred reports that the industry has undergone major changes, particularly with online technology, where third party sources are handling bookings. And even the location of properties are not that critical, now with access to mobile apps and GPS. Fred was working 70+ hours a week, and now he doesn’t have the stress of complying with government regulations, making payroll, managing his 80 – 100 employee workforce or making every customer happy. While Fred is taking a break from work, still spending time with Rotary, his synagogue and politics, he is searching for new challenges. He welcomes people to contact him at Fred is on the left in this “Lunch with Les” photo.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Ed Randall Joins Central Bank As SBA/ USDA Lender

 I had the opportunity to meet up with Ed Randall, the new Senior Vice President for the Florida-Georgia market for the SBA/USDA Lending team for Central Bank. I have interviewed many SBA lenders and I found Ed very different due to his easy-going attitude and his past business experience. He has an entrepreneurial background having worked and started businesses in industries that include freight, automotive, medical and construction. He has gone through the complicated process of applying for government loans for his own businesses, one time being declined 9 times before obtaining his loan. He changed his career to finance, moving to Florida with Wachovia Small Business Capital in 2008. Since then he has helped set up SBA departments at three local banks. Having dealt with SBA applications personally and with Central Bank offering loan amounts lower than most banks, Ed is positioned to help small businesses in Florida get access to capital that they otherwise couldn’t obtain. If you need help guiding through the SBA loan process, Ed can be reached at 904-239-7534 or Ed is on the right in this “Lunch with Les” photo.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Mayo Clinic Has A $2 Billion Annual Impact On Jacksonville

 At South Jax Rotary, we had the opportunity to hear an update about the expansion and advances at Mayo Clinic in Florida from Caroline Russell. Caroline is the Associate Administrator for the Department of Surgery, Surgical Specialities and the Department of Transplant at the Jacksonville campus. Mayo Clinic opened in Jacksonville in 1986 with 35 doctors and a staff of 145. The hospital currently has a staff of 8,506 including 1,184 physicians and is still growing. While people know the reputation of Mayo Clinic and the outstanding healthcare it offers the North Florida community, Caroline reports that the Jacksonville operation has an estimated economic impact of approximately $2B per year. This is an astounding asset for the city as it affects area employment, the need for suppliers and generating medical tourism services in our city. It also provides a business incubator through its Innovation Exchange that gathers healthcare entrepreneurs, startups and industry experts together to bring breakthrough innovations to market. Mayo Clinic has many great professionals, like Caroline, who can share more about Mayo Clinic offerings and resources. For more information, visit Caroline is on the right in this “Lunch with Les” photo. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Baker Design Build Is One Of The Top Contractors In Northeast Florida

 At our Rotary luncheon the other day, I was able to talk to fellow club member Tamara Baker about her very successful business, Baker Design Build. She is the owner of a company that provides engineering, design and construction services to federal, municipal, transportation, commercial and private business clients. While her firm mainly handles contracts $5 million and under, she does take on a few projects each year in the $5 – 15 million range. I asked her what sets her apart from her competition and she explained that she has the in-house capability of handling entire projects from start to finish. But also many large local contractors use her services because of her design/build versatility and she is also a rare source as a qualified minority contractor. About 90% of her work is in Northeast Florida with 10% taking her around the Southeast. Expertise in the various design/build disciplines, dependability and a proven track record of over 19 years has resulted in Tamara heading one of the most successful contracting companies in Jacksonville. Check out her website at or you can contact her at (904) 356-8520 or Tamara is on the left in this “Lunch with Les” photo.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Lawrence Datz Recognized As One Of Top Divorce Lawyers

 I had the opportunity to meet with one of the top legal minds in family law, specifically with high asset divorces. That was with my friend Lawrence Datz, who practices in Northeast Florida but also handles referrals from all over the country. Lawrence has an impressive list of credentials ranging from Divorce Attorney of the Year in Jacksonville several times to being a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML). While the average lay person doesn’t know the importance of being a Fellow of AAML, it is a distinction that only 1,650 attorneys in the country hold. But what impresses me the most about Lawrence is his level-headed business approach to divorce. He takes one of the worst times in peoples’ lives, and not only makes it more tolerable but works hard for a successful conclusion. He’s a very personable guy who understands the emotions involved while addressing issues ranging from asset allocation to retirement concerns to tax implications. He pointed out to me that there are so many factors involved in a marriage dissolution that you need to be a detailed person and you need experience. Lawrence has been at it for over 30 years and has the accolades to prove his success record. For more about Lawrence’s law practice, visit Lawrence is on the left in this “Lunch with Les” photo.