Katie Worthington Decker has been hired by the Lakeland Economic Development Council as its senior vice president, second in command to long-time President Steve Scruggs.
Decker, 38, has been a Polk County resident for most of the last 24 years and has long been involved in economic development work. She has been president and CEO of the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce since January 2014 and worked with the organization as a volunteer for seven years before that, including serving as founding chairwoman of the Winter Haven Young Professionals Group, which is now known as Endeavor Winter Haven.
On her LinkedIn profile, she describes herself as: “Business and Community Advocate. Marketing and Advertising Nerd. Political Junkie. Economic Developer. Pretty much a lover of all things that help to develop and promote a community to reach its highest potential.”
“We are excited to have someone with Katie’s background, experience, and reputation for excellence join our team at the LEDC,” said Scruggs, 59.
“I am looking forward to joining the team at the Lakeland Economic Development Council. I have been impressed over the years with the LEDC’s innovative and forward-focused approach to economic development and placemaking,” Decker said. “They’ve already got an incredible team and I am eager to learn a great deal from their depth and breadth of experience.”
LEDC is a nonprofit organization funded mostly by member businesses. Its work involves attracting new enterprises to Lakeland and advocating for business growth, with an emphasis on increasing high-skilled employment and encouraging entrepreneurism through its Catapult business incubator.
Scruggs said Decker will provide the organization with more depth on its team and help it to accomplish its goals, including promoting entrepreneurship, talent recruitment and retention and recruiting new industry to Lakeland.
The organization had an opening due to Lucia Forero, a former project manager, moving to California to be with her husband.
“It was not an easy decision as I have built so many friendships and collaborative relationships over this time and am incredibly thankful for the mentorship of so many,” Decker said;
During her tenure, the chamber advanced to become a 5-star accredited chamber by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the highest level, the news release said.
Decker also managed a capital campaign to preserve, transform, and modernize the Gene Leedy-designed chamber building, of which Phases 1 and 2 were completed before the pandemic, the release states. The chamber has more than 730 members.
“It has been the greatest honor to serve this organization as both a volunteer and an employee. I was determined to get involved and be a small part of creating an even better Winter Haven, building upon the investments and dedication of so many in the community,” Decker said in the news release.
“Our organization has accomplished so much over the last eight years, as we have built our chamber into one of the finest and healthiest in the state of Florida. [Decker’s] leadership and enthusiasm have been a key part of this,” said Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce Board Director Jennifer Fasking.
Decker currently lives in Winter Haven but plans to move to Lakeland. She originally moved with her family to Lakeland in 1997 as a teen after her father, Terry Worthington, became president of United Way of Central Florida.
After graduating from Santa Fe Catholic High School., she earned a degree in hospitality management from the University of South Florida in 2005, and then moved to Winter Haven in 2006.
More coverage: The Ledger