Welcome to Tampa 101!

On October 17, 2017 our Tampa Connection Class of 2017-18 participated in this year’s Tampa 101 program.  Our mission for this program was to encourage and inspire the next leaders of Tampa Bay to learn about Tampa’s past, present and future by presenting an engaging program.  Enjoy reading below on how we accomplished this mission!

Tampa 101 Agenda for the Day

We began the program at the JC Newman Cigar Factory where we had an authentic Cuban breakfast with food from La Segunda Bakery.  Bobby Newman, a 3rd generation owner spoke to us about the Factory’s history, Tampa’s history, the art of cigar making, building relationships with suppliers and distributors, and their long and successful partnership with the Fuente family.  The group toured the building to see firsthand how cigars are made, from the raw materials all the way to the finished and packaged product.  The group also learned about the heavy regulation and taxation faced by the industry; one person said, “I will no longer be angry about the fact that one cigar costs me $15!”

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Our next stop was to the Tampa History Museum.  The class enjoyed lunch from the Columbia Restaurant, and Richard Gonzmart gave a very inspirational and moving speech to the class.  Richard discussed topics that are important to make Tampa, and society, the best it can be, such as: the need to improve transportation, being proactive about your health, family, scholarships for students in need and then asking them to also do the same once they are in a position to do so, and honoring commitments and being humble.  After that, the class took a tour of the museum and learned more about the fascinating history of the indigenous people of Florida and their conflicts with European immigrants.

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From there we went to the Tampa Theater.  Jill Witecki, Director of Marketing & Community Relations, spoke to the class about all the wonderful things going on at this special landmark, which is Tampa’s only non-profit movie house and the first commercial building in Tampa to offer air conditioning.  She explained that though it is owned by the City of Tampa, the Tampa Theater Foundation runs it, and it obtains its funding from members, donors, corporate sponsors, and ticket and concession sales.  The building is currently undergoing its first major upgrade since 1976, which comes with a price tag upwards of $5m, and includes everything from repainting all the intricate plaster details on walls, columns and ceilings, replacing carpets, drapes and seating to allow for a more comfortable and authentic experience.  The Theater opens its doors upwards of 600 times a year and shows a wide variety of independent and classic films, small concerts, special events and tours.  Jill also entertained the class with ghost stories, because every historic theater has to have a ghost, and the Tampa Theater is no exception.

Our last stop was to the Florida Aquarium where the class learned about some of the wonderful programs it has to offer, as well as their commitment to being a leader in conservation and education.   Many people don’t realize that the Florida Aquarium is also a not-for-profit organization.  There are extensive expansion plans and it is located in a premier area for attractions in downtown Tampa, adding to the appeal of the Tampa Bay area for businesses, vacationers, and people looking to relocate to the area.

Our Focus on Leadership Development

We organized seating and tour groups so that class members would engage with members from other teams, and expand their network of personal and professional relationships.  Through stories shared by speakers, we illustrated how people in the area have taken ownership and pride in making this a wonderful place to live and visit.  We imparted that change is good and necessary, and each of us can step up in our own way to contribute, and that if we do, others will follow.

Our Focus on Non-Profit

The majority of the locations we visited were non-profit organizations.  It was inspiring to experience how successful the organizations can be when they are supported by the community, businesses, leaders, and volunteers and employees who are passionate about their mission.  Our ultimate goal is to expose class members to a variety of organizations in the area that can use our help, and that help can come in many forms, such as: patronage, donations, word of mouth advertising, volunteering, and more.

Fun Facts

The Architect of the Tampa Theater, John Eberson, felt that red was a terrible color to decorate a movie house with, yet today it is covered with red carpet, red curtains, and red seating.  Part of the restoration activities are to restore the original color scheme of gold carpet, blue curtains, and chocolate brown seating.

Our tour guide for the Tampa Theater has a special relationship with Tampa Connection since her husband is actually one of the class participants this year!

Richard Gonzmart has run many marathons, some of them to spend quality time with his daughter, and he is still planning to run even more.

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