15 questions with Lakeland Economic Development Council VP of Business Development, Ashley Cheek

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This is a part of our Q+A series. Know someone we should interview? Nominate them here.

Profile: Ashley Cheek is a Lakeland native turned Lakeland expert. Her work with the LEDC serves Lakeland by bringing economic development + new businesses to the community. 

In an effort to learn about Lakeland’s development, we’re asking Ashley 15 questions. Read on to find out what she hopes for Lakeland’s future, how you can stay informed on city plans, and her desert island menu item.

Q: What’s your name, title, and 3-5 things you want people to know about you?

A: Ashley Cheek — VP, Business Development at the Lakeland Economic Development Council (LEDC)

My favorite way to decompress is going for a walk & listening to a podcast by Emily P. Freeman 
I love the beach, but prefer the mountains   
Favorite background music to work to: Page CXVI or Johnnyswim 
Last book I read: The Light in Hidden Places by Sharon Cameron 

Q: If you had to describe your position with the LEDC to a 5-year-old, what would you say?

A: Our job at the LEDC is to help make Lakeland a better place to work, live & play! We want to see businesses move here, expand here, and create new jobs. More jobs mean more opportunities for you and your family. Lakeland is growing and we are here to help.

Q: If you’re originally from Lakeland, why have you stayed here? If you’re not, what brought you here?

A: I was born + raised in Lakeland and after graduating high school, I promised myself I would never move back. I attended college in Birmingham, AL and prior to my senior year, I changed my mind and decided I would move home “just for the summer.” During that time, I was hired as an intern with the LEDC and helped run their Summer Leadership Program. 

This program opened my eyes to the wonderful leaders and opportunities here. I also happened to meet my husband and decided Lakeland wasn’t too bad after all.I officially moved back to Lakeland after college graduation, worked for Publix Real Estate for four years, and then transitioned back to the LEDC. 

Q: Convince a friend to move to Lakeland in 15 words or less.

A: Lakeland is a community with a heart of gold. Generous, thriving, and ready for opportunity!

Q: What do you hope Lakeland is like in 10 years? 20 years?

A: As you may have heard, the Lakeland/Winter Haven MSA was ranked as one of the fastest growing MSAs in the country. I can only imagine what this growth will mean for Lakeland’s future. I hope to see continued development, job opportunities, additional housing & multifamily options, revitalization of old spaces, and entrepreneurs opening new businesses. All of these add to our quality of life, and I believe the best is yet to come.

Q: You can only choose one local restaurant menu to bring with you to a deserted island — which one is it + why? 

A: Café Zuppina. It was one of the places that captured my heart in 2011 and is still my favorite restaurant today. If you haven’t been, make sure you order the feta rolls. 

 Q: Fill in the blank: The coolest person I’ve met in Lakeland is…

A: I have not officially met her, but one of my favorite leadership speakers to visit Lakeland is Carla Harris. 

Q: What are your tips for parking downtown on a weekend night?

A: My favorite place to snag a spot is in the new Heritage Plaza parking garage on Kentucky and Orange St.  

Q: #BeTheBroker: What building in Lakeland do you want to see revitalized + what would you do with it? 

A: There are several buildings in Downtown that we consider “zombie” buildings that have been sitting vacant for years. One that is currently for sale is 123 Kentucky Ave. N., located right on Munn Park. It would be fun to see this space revitalized into a restaurant or office concept.  

Q: Other than yourself, who would you consider to be the local expert about Lakeland? 

A: This is a tough one! Lakeland is filled with so many people who are passionate about promoting our amazing community. Shoutout to the girls at LAL who keep us informed on the daily! 

Q: What’s one company that hasn’t made its way to Lakeland yet that you’d like to see here?

A: An autonomous vehicle manufacturer. I think Lakeland has enough Tesla drivers to make that happen!

Q: If you could encourage readers to stay informed about one thing in Lakeland, what would it be and how would they stay in the know?  

A: Stay informed with what is happening in our local government – you can review City Commission Agendas here or County Commission Agendas here

Q: Can you tell us about a book, podcast, or movie that has influenced you professionally?

A: Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown. 

Q: What life advice or epiphany would you share with others that you’re thankful you learned?

A: I have always loved this quote from C.S. Lewis: “But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

Q: Fill in the blank: If I hadn’t gotten my current position with the LEDC, I would probably be…

A: working as a social worker in the medical field (my original post-grad goal was to pursue social work.

Question

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