Rich Marulanda, Executive Director, Head of Internal and Client Communications, The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC) Strawberry Fields Forever Often times, many of us go about our busy days waking up early, sitting in traffic, attending business meetings and trying to balance work and personal life without giving thought to the many natural and beautiful resources we have right here in our own backyards. We can easily take for granted that there is a whole different world 30 minutes (if we are lucky) east of Downtown Tampa—a world where more than 11,000 acres of fields are blooming with fruits and vegetables, the next generation of farmers are tending to their prized livestock and a simple smile and a handshake are rooted with integrity, pride and wholesomeness. Did you know that Hillsborough County produces about 15 percent of the nation’s strawberries and virtually all the berries grown during the winter? According to Tiffany Dale, Director of Member Services and Community Relations, Florida Strawberry Growers Association, this commodity has an economic impact on our community exceeding $700 million. The 20 million flats of strawberries produced each year, if placed end to end, would extend from Plant City to Seattle and back again. Now, that is impressive! On March 9, the Leadership Tampa Class of 2016 got an insider's look at our community’s agriculture assets and Port Tampa Bay. Led by Program Day Chairs Tino Provenzano, Environmental Manager - Bartow, Mosaic, Alex Walter, Managing Partner, Walson Ventures, LLC, and John T. Thorington, Jr., Vice President of Government Affairs and Board Coordination, Port Tampa Bay, the day’s activities began at the director’s lounge at the famous Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City, which has a proud 130-year history and brings together more than 2,500 volunteers for the annual event. After a tour of the festival grounds and meeting with Future Farmers of America students, our class, comprised of Tampa area business leaders, feasted on ‘Carnival Cuisine’ and heard from Florida cattleman Dusty Holley, Director of Field Services, Florida Cattlemen’s Association, and Kenneth Parker, Executive Director, Florida Strawberry Growers Association. During lunch we learned that Florida’s cattle industry is the 15th largest in the United States and that cattle ranchers have a significant impact on Florida’s interstate economy, providing both jobs as well as beef across the country and right here in the state of Florida. Dusty and Ken were gracious with their time and gave us insights into these community jewels that are often overlooked. I’m not sure about you, but I often go through my daily routine on autopilot, not acknowledging that we do indeed live in paradise among one of our greatest assets—the waters of Tampa Bay. While we may spend hours enjoying the recreation the tides have to offer, did you know that our port has a multibillion dollar economic impact on the local economy? Paul Anderson, President and CEO, Port Tampa Bay, shared his thoughts on what it takes to be a leader today and some very impressive data about our port—a $15 billion economic impact on our community, providing more than 80,000 jobs. Paul offered his vision for Port Tampa Bay—a 5,000 acre port—explaining that Tampa has the largest ship repairing facility in the southeastern United States, and is well-positioned for continued growth and international shipping expansion. Rounding out our day on the waters of Tampa Bay, John Thorington, gave us a tour of the port aboard the Bay Spirit II, which is docked at the Florida Aquarium. As we cruised the calm waters, watched dolphins frolic in our wake, while the sun cascaded beyond the city’s sky scrapers, we were reminded that Tampa has many hidden jewels. And, today, we were lucky enough to learn more about them. On behalf of the Leadership Tampa Class of 2016, I invite you to uncover a new Tampa jewel and share your experience with us. We look forward to hearing from you.