Hello blog readers, 

Yesterday was the last day of SLP, but when good things come to an end I’ve always reminded myself to not “cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” It’s been a pleasure to learn from and with y’all this summer and I will always look back fondly on the time I’ve spent with the LEDC.

Now moving on from the sappy stuff – let’s get to the recap.  

We kicked the day off with some breakfast sandwiches from La Imperial Bakery and a City Commission pitch activity led by AJ Jaffer. Each team was given an aspect of life in Lakeland, from the dating scene to the homeless problem, and they were challenged to come up with a realistic plan to solve their assigned problem. Once the project was dreamt up, the groups had to answer questions to flush out the details. They answered questions like “who would be opposed,” “who would this benefit,” and “how would it be funded?” The activity forced the participants to zero in on what’s important to them and made them realize that there are a lot of important questions you have to answer before a dream becomes a reality. 

After our early morning brainstorm session, the participants piled into a tour bus à la middle school field trip and made their way to Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits. There we heard about how the largest wine and spirits distributor in America conducts business. We heard about the process of receiving trucks full of alcohol, labeling them for their final locations, and then shipping them out. Sounds simple enough right? Wrong. I was amazed by everything that went into the process. Whether it’s the hard work and precision required by the night shift, or the innovation and automation on display with their conveyor and shelving system, every aspect of the Southern Glazer’s 1,090,000 square feet is a logistics masterclass. We had some SLPers who were dialed into the Publix warehousing scene, so we got the opportunity to compare notes and hear about how other large companies tackle similar problems. 

From Southern Glazer’s we got back on the bus and drove to Lakeland Linder International Airport (LAL) where we heard from Adam Lunn, the Assistant Airport Director. He told us that LAL impacts the Lakeland Economy by $1.5 billion, and exactly how that number comes to be. Most of us knew that Amazon is a big contributor to the airport’s operations, but we didn’t realize that they only account for 7% of daily operations. There are flight schools, fuel farms, mechanic shops, a customs center, and private hangers. All of these businesses contribute to Lakeland’s economy. Adam also spoke to us a bit about how LAL could compete for commercial travel airline opportunities, and what that might look like for the airport, the city, and Polk County as a whole. The admin side of running the airport was fascinating. I didn’t realize how many revenue streams and projects the airport juggled every day, and just what sort of outlook and growth they have in store.  

After Adam’s presentation, we got back on our tour bus and drove the 18+ miles of taxiways. Adam pointed out development projects and told us a bit more about how the airport competes for big contracts like the NOAA Hurricane Hunters HQ. We stopped at Draken International’s hanger and got up close and personal with the fighter jets they’re repairing for air combat drills with the US Armed Forces. Before we got back on the bus, we got to hear a bit about the history and business behind the “private airforce” and how they work with the military to prepare our troops for combat.  

Our next stop was the Florida Air Museum on Sun N’ Fun’s campus. There, we heard from the executive director of the Aerospace Center for Excellence, Eric Crump. He highlighted the industry’s lack of young talent, and what the museum does to tackle that. Aside from field trips to the museum, they also provide STEM programing and education for children. Their goal is to connect young people interested in the aerospace field with people who can help support them on the path to success.  

Once our tour was over it was time to make our way back to Catapult for our final leadership talk of SLP. We heard from Nyrka Riskin, a personal branding and career coach focusing on producing effective leaders. Nyrka emphasized self-advocacy and confidence in the workplace, as well as personal branding consistency. To start developing that, she led the participants through engaging exercises focused on pinpointing exactly how they wanted to be perceived by their peers and supervisors. Then, through group discussions, the participants compared how they wanted to be viewed with how others actually saw them. For some, this was confirmation that their “personal brand” is consistent with their beliefs about themselves. For others, it was a wakeup call.  

After Nyrka’s personal branding crash course, it was finally time for the Summer Leadership Program graduation ceremony. The participant’s supervisors filed in through the door, and after a brief period of mixing and mingling Sarah started her presentation. She called everyone’s names, the participants took a group photo, and just like that it was over. 

Five weeks of leadership speakers, tours of Lakeland staples, group activities, and social events flew by. It was a pleasure to be with you documenting the whole thing along the way.  

Signing off,  


SLP Intern