New leadership promises exposure for Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance in 2015

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- The Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance is celebrating its 10th anniversary and the fact the organization has grown in the past decade to more than 500 companies and 2,000 individual members.

"If you think the last 10 have been exciting, you haven't seen anything yet," said David Fink as he was passed the gavel signifying the beginning of his one-year term as 2015 chairman of the LWRBA Board.

More than 220 people filled the Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club for the organization's annual membership luncheon Wednesday afternoon. The event celebrated the achievements of the past year, acknowledged outgoing directors and welcomed new board members, including some who volunteered to serve again.

The alliance, created in response to rapid growth in the Lakewood Ranch area, moved in 2014 to new headquarters in the MGA Insurance Group office building.

It experienced some milestones under Executive Director Heather Kasten and her team, according to 2014 past Chairwoman Annette Gueli.

The alliance advocates for area businesses and nonprofits that enhance business relationships through networking, community involvement and professional development.

Calling Lakewood Ranch one of the most exciting regions in the country to live, Fink said he's committed to helping membership reap more benefits.

"To me, the alliance boils down to relationships and friendships, and friends helping friends succeed. We're committed to making your membership a success but you need to get involved to succeed as well. There's a lot of power in this room. Let's aspire to create success for

one another. I'd rather do business with a friend," said Fink, whose University Park financial planning firm, Rogan & Associates, has been an alliance member for nearly six years.

Fink announced several new initiatives, including more direct outreach to Lakewood Ranch and surrounding areas, more business-to-business exposure and free member promotions, flexible sponsorship programs and a new online resource center where members can retrieve answers to business question any time of day.

Craig Cerreta, a real estate agent with Premier Sotheby's International Realty in Lakewood Ranch and a founding member of the alliance, was honored with the 2014 Chairman's Award.

"When we started, it was about helping everyone as individuals achieve success. If you want to get the most out of the alliance, get involved, join a committee and let people get to know you," Cerreta said.

New member Dr. Matthew Baker, who recently opened Baker Orthodontics in Sarasota with his wife, Brooke Baker, said member participation is encouraging.

"We live in Lakewood Ranch and we want to become a part of the local community so this has been a bright spot for us so far," to which Brooke added: "You can feel the energy in this organization. It's awesome to be around."

Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHerald.