April 26, 2018

Business Lobbyists

Florida Chamber of Commerce is a Business Heavyweight

The Florida COC is one of the most influential business groups in the state.

Amy Keller | 6/2/2011


[Photo: Ray Stanyard]

» Name: Mark Alan Wilson
» Title: President and CEO
» Age: 42
» Total Compensation
(2009): $331,480

» Family: Wilson's wife, Kim, his high school sweetheart, is a former public school teacher and substitute teacher. They have three children, ages 9,
11 and 14.

» Roots: Born in Illinois, Wilson had an archetypal Midwestern upbringing. His mother worked in the administrative offices of a local school, and his father was a store manager and later a buyer for Spurgeon's department store.

» Education: Bachelor's in business from the University
of Georgia

» Career Track: After college, Wilson worked briefly in restaurant management in Atlanta before returning to Illinois and taking a job with the U.S. Chamber's Midwestern office. "That's where I really fell in love with free enterprise and working on pro-business issues," he says. He worked there for two years before becoming vice president of the Chicagoland Chamber. He was recruited by the Florida Chamber in 1998 and ran its Tampa office until 2003, when he was promoted to executive vice president. Wilson also served as the first president of the Florida Justice Reform Institute, created by the Chamber in 2005 to fight for tort reform. He was named president and CEO of the Florida Chamber in 2008.

» Leadership: When Wilson arrived at the Florida Chamber in 1998, the organization was good at turning out white papers but wasn't aggressive in the lobbying or political arena. In 2003, the Florida Chamber consolidated its operations in Tallahassee and began working on a strategic plan organized around the "future of Florida." Wilson says the Chamber's board "made a decision that we were going to engage and take the responsibility of repositioning education and economic development and tax policy and quality of life — that these were important issues to the future of the business community." Under Wilson's leadership, the Chamber has aggressively pursued those goals, both through lobbying and by getting involved in campaigns and elections.

» Style: Energetic focus. "He really energized the Florida Chamber," says Allan Bense, former House Speaker and current chairman of the Chamber's board. "They began getting active in lobbying pro-business legislation in Tallahassee, and while clearly the Chamber's role is to help businesses and communities like that, by being able to influence things like tort reform and insurance reform and other pro-business matters ... they became players."

» Perspective: "The last four or five years I think that the Florida Chamber has grown by almost every metric because we're getting involved," Wilson says. "We're providing leadership, and we're providing direction to a state that really didn't have a compass heading."

Tags: Politics & Law, Business Services, Government/Politics & Law

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