Lakeland Area Companies Win Industry Honors

Two Lakeland, Fla.-Area Companies Win Industry Honors.Mobility Specialists

Article from:
The Ledger (Lakeland, FL)
Article date:
November 2, 2002
More results for:
east polk gold cup industry awards 2002

Byline: Kevin Bouffard

Nov. 2–WINTER HAVEN, Fla.–A rapidly growing home medical services company based in Auburndale and a Winter Haven newspaper received Gold Cup of Industry awards Friday from the East Polk Committee of 100.

About 250 people at the committee’s annual meeting and awards luncheon also heard from Judy Genshaft, president of the University of South Florida, regarding the USF Lakeland campus’s role in the area’s economic development.

Health Care Diagnostics Inc. of Auburndale won the Gold Cup for small business while The News Chief, one of Winter Haven’s oldest companies, won in the large business category.

Officials from both companies expressed surprise at receiving the recognition.

“Never let it be said that people in East Polk can’t keep a secret,” said Wayne Ezell, the publisher of The News Chief. “This is one big surprise.”

The recognition marked the second outstanding business award The News Chief received in less than two months. The Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce honored The News Chief Publishing Group at its annual meeting Sept. 17.

William “Butch” Vanderpool, 43, the president and chief executive officer at Health Care, founded the company in 1996, he said. At the time the company employed four people, including Vanderpool, in a 1,500-square-foot office in Auburndale.

Health Care now operates from a 15,000-square-foot facility at 610 Magnolia Ave. and employs 70 people, Vanderpool said. It also has offices in Sebring and Lecanto.

Health Care sells health care equipment for the home, including respiratory therapy, wheelchairs and beds.

In 1997, Vanderpool started two subsidiary companies, HCD Infusion Care Inc. and HCD Sleep Disorders Lab. HCD Infusion supplies intravenous (IV) medical supplies and services in the home.

The companies had $6.3 million in sales last year and is on track for more than $8 million this year, Vanderpool said. Its growth plan calls for $20 million in annual sales in five years.

Before starting his company, Vanderpool said, he worked in sales for Illinois-based Homedco, a national home health care supplier that merged with a British company in 1995 to form Apria Healthcare Group of Lake Forest, Calif.

“I felt a smaller guy could provide better services,” he said. “I felt that was going to be the direction in the industry.”

The News Chief published its first edition, then called The Florida Chief, on Oct. 28, 1911. Publisher M.M. “Dad” Lee wrote of his first impressions of Winter Haven then: “hogs and cattle running through the streets,” most buildings made of wood and sheet iron and the streets without sidewalks “like sand trails with a few stretches of clay here and there.”

Today, The News Chief publishes a daily newspaper with about 10,500 average circulation across East Polk, including Winter Haven, Haines City and Lake Wales. It also does commercial printing, including six local weekly shoppers, the Florida Catholic weekly newspaper and the Oracle, the USF daily newspaper.

The publishing group has assets of more than $6 million and employs 80 people full time and 38 people part time. The company is owned by Morris Communication Corp. of Augusta, Ga., which publishes 30 newspapers, including the Times-Union in Jacksonville.

The Gold Cup awards recognize East Polk businesses that excel in growth, capital investment and community involvement. Professional and civic leadership is also a criterion.

Genshaft gave the luncheon keynote speech, which focused on the role of the USF Lakeland campus in the university’s growth and local economic development.

The Lakeland campus is the home of the university’s information technology program, part of the College of Engineering, which has courses in design, operations and research of computers and other high tech information systems, Genshaft said.

That’s a key program in the university’s focus on research in biotechnology and life sciences, she said. USF has a medical school and the state’s only College of Public Health.

The medical and information technology programs work together as a “high tech incubator” developing new medical devices, such as biosensors that can be implanted in the body and monitor functions such as blood sugar and pressure and heart rate, Genshaft said.

“The Lakeland campus matches the economic strategies this region needs,” she said. “We know this region is on the move. It’s the next hot spot.”

The Lakeland campus offers 25 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, she said. Enrollment there has grown 82 percent during the past three years.

“We will continue to add programs just as quickly as the state provides the resources,” Genshaft said. “Stay tuned. We’re on our way.”

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(c) 2002, The Ledger, Lakeland, Fla. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.