(Orlando, Fla.) — i4 Business magazine will recognize 11 innovative and influential individuals in Central Florida on Thursday, December 10, at the virtual 2020 Business Leaders of the Year Awards and in a special edition published in December. The honorees were selected from more than 85 community nominations.
“Choosing just 11 people to honor was extremely challenging this year because so many were deserving of special recognition,” said Diane Sears, editor and publisher of i4 Business. “The pandemic has forced our local leaders to step up and be inventive in the way they operate their organizations, retain employees, help the community, and keep a positive outlook. Their stories are fascinating. We’re excited about telling their stories, and we’ll feature additional nominees in the magazine throughout the coming year.”
The key honoree for 2020 is Bev Seay, whose leadership at the University of Central Florida (UCF) since being elected chair of the board of trustees in July 2019 has guided both the institution and the community around it. In addition to chairing the search for a new university president, she initiated a crisis management task force that has been integral to UCF’s approach to COVID-19, and she implemented a new format for board meetings to better tackle the questions brought about by a tumultuous year.
Also honored as 2020 Business Leaders of the Year are:
THE ARTS – Garry Jones, president of Full Sail University. Under Jones’ leadership, Full Sail has navigated the COVID-19 crisis through a transition to fully virtual learning for more than 5,000 students and has partnered with other institutions to create and reinforce support and safety measures. Jones serves on boards that include the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, The Nature Conservancy and the Greater Orlando Sports Commission. His work as a champion of the arts and technology has been influential in the university’s role as a talent pipeline.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT – Alex Martins, CEO of the Orlando Magic National Basketball Association franchise. Martins championed the region’s economic development through projects including the future sports entertainment district in downtown Orlando and, most recently, the NBA’s decision to continue its season safely at Disney’s Wide World of Sports in what will forever be known as “The Bubble.” He serves on boards including the UCF board of trustees, the Governor’s Council of the Orlando Economic Partnership, and the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force.
EDUCATION/WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT – Sandra Fatmi-Hall, executive director and founder of the United Foundation of Central Florida Inc. Since founding the organization seven years ago, Fatmi-Hall has been serving Pine Hills and the surrounding community with a focus on education and opportunity. The programs she has put into place focus on a holistic approach to success and include after-school mentoring for students, a college scholarship initiative, and a food distribution plan that has fed more than 70,000 people since July 1, 2020.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP – Lourdes Mola, CEO of Lourdes Mola Solutions. Mola is dedicated to the success of business leaders across Central Florida. That extends to her work fostering the talent pipeline, which included bringing one of the largest STEM conferences to Central Florida for two consecutive years. She is known for her talent integrating her love of giving back into her work advising her corporate clients, which has included successful partnerships with Heart of Florida United Way, Feeding America, Second Harvest and so many more.
HEALTH AND WELLNESS – Tony Jenkins, Central Florida market president of Florida Blue. Jenkins leads a nine-county area, creating business and marketing plans, and providing strategic guidance to Florida Blue affiliates. Under his leadership and even through many changes in the health insurance market, Florida Blue has experienced record growth, in part because of his bringing a new call center to Seminole County, which more than tripled the company’s workforce and expanded its reach to those in need of healthcare.
INDUSTRY – Jason Eichenholz, chief technology officer of Luminar Technologies Inc. From autonomous vehicles to early cancer detection, the company’s innovations have proven to be groundbreaking both in Central Florida and around the world. Luminar, the autonomous transportation company he co-founded, recently announced plans to go public, unlocking even more opportunities in manufacturing and technology. The UCF alumni’s work has helped to position Central Florida and the university on the cutting edge of industry and technology.
NONPROFIT/GOVERNMENT – Pamela Landwirth, president and CEO of Give Kids The World. Since 1992, the nonprofit has granted the wishes of critically ill children and their families. When COVID-19 forced the closure of the Village, Landwirth took action to continue their work in whatever ways they could, including providing the use of its property to other nonprofits, all while preparing for a reopening. Under her guidance, the nonprofit has been named one of the top 20 charities in the U.S. by Charity Navigator and has more than doubled in size.
PROFESSIONAL SERVICES – Sarah Grafton, vice president at Grafton Wealth Management. Grafton leads the business development team and serves as the firm’s direct line to the community through her nonprofit work, which includes the Winter Park Historical Society, Runway to Hope and the Rollins College Hamilton Holt School board of directors. Grafton is best known for fostering opportunity for others, particularly women, through her work with the Fellowship of Women Leaders, which she founded, and as a mentor to young people.
SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT – Alex Leitao, CEO of Orlando City Soccer Club. Leitao has overseen both sports and business initiatives, including the CONCACAF 2020 Champions League matches, the 2019 Major League Soccer (MLS) All Star Game held in Orlando, and the attraction of other internationally sought-after soccer matches to Orlando. Most recently, he proposed the “Disney Bubble” for MLS, leading to the MLS is Back Tournament at ESPN Wide World of Sports. These efforts and others have bolstered the sports industry as well as Central Florida.
TOURISM – Christopher Jaskiewicz, president and CEO of ICON Park on International Drive. Jaskiewicz has helped build ICON Park’s reputation as one of the must-see spots for Central Florida visitors. He has procured deals with key partners and restaurants, facilitated the Orlando Entertainment District and formed a management council. When the pandemic hit his industry hard, he partnered with the Orange County advisory board to help create protocols.
The awards event will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Dec. 10, 2020, via Zoom. Limited sponsorship opportunities are still available. For information, contact Editor and Publisher Diane Sears at firstname.lastname@example.org. For additional information or to register for the event, click here.
ABOUT i4 BUSINESS MAGAZINE
i4 Business, founded in 2013, connects the community’s leaders by covering the people, projects and priorities shaping Central Florida. The print, digital and video editions of the magazine promote the spirit of progress by sharing timely, relevant stories that are uplifting, inspiring and educational.