Skip to main content
Business Observer Thursday, Jul. 20, 2006 16 years ago

40 Under 40 Winners Page 3

LaWaiian Jerrod LongSteven J. MasonAlexandra (Alex) MillerUri MinkoffAjit NairMegan NewmanKay NikookaryLindsey Michelle OwenJustin N. PowellJames C. Ray Jr.
by: Adam Hughes Staff Writer

40 Under 40 Winners Page 3


Jerrod Long


Company/Title: Abel Band Chartered/information and technology services manager.

Education: B.A., DePauw University, M.S. in Information Systems, Nova Southeastern University.

Professional achievements/honors: Pioneered an Internet fundraising campaign at the American Red Cross by creating a Web site that accepted donations; developed and taught a beginner and advanced technology training course at the American Red Cross; Successfully managed critical technology projects and all aspects of technology and communications at several organizations for over the last ten years. Created a 5-year technology plan for Abel Band Chartered designed to increase attorney production and cut costs from business processes.

Honors: Microsoft certified systems engineer; Microsoft certified professional; Microsoft certified systems administrator.

Mentor or business hero: My brother, Albert J. Long III.

Formula for success: Plan and envision success in everything that you do. Never stop learning and try to become a better person personally and professionally each day.

Hometown: Moss Point, Miss.

Place/Date of Birth: Pascagoula, Miss./March 15, 1976

First job: Data entry specialist at Put-nam County Hospital in Greencastle, Ind.

Years on Gulf Coast: 6

Motivation to come to Gulf Coast: Love - a romantic relationship. After being here, I have also fallen in love with the weather, the water, the fishing and the scenery.

Name one pressing issue affecting our region today:Affordable housing; Since I have been here, I have seen that the lack of affordable housing has caused this area to lose young business professionals because they simply cannot afford the cost of living. They eventually move to other areas where they can afford to live and work.

How would you solve it? First I would identify the problem to the local and state government officials and show them how this will eventually hurt this area economically and socially. After garnering their support, we could appeal to local homebuilders to make their homes more affordable. The local government could offer the local builders certain tax cuts and government aide to help them keep the costs down.

Marital Status/Family: Single.

Community Involvement: Volunteer with the Sarasota Military Academy, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, the Covered Bridge Homeowner's Association, the Police Athletic League and the Suncoast Youth Basketball League

Hours worked per week: 60.

Hobbies: Playing tennis, video games and gardening.

What's on your iPod? Slavonic Dance Song No. 2 by Dvorak, Roses by Kane West, You Don't Know My Name by Alicia Keys.

Name three things in your refrigerator: Plums, Fuji water, skinless chicken.

Book you can read more than once: Where the Red Fern Grows.

Books or magazines on your nightstand: Law Technology News, Time Magazine, PC Magazine.

Favorite Web sites: and

Best place outside Florida you've ever been to: Greenville, N.C.

What would you like to be doing more of? Traveling and spending more time with my family and friends.

What would you like to be doing less of? Spending weekends doing maintenance on the house.

If I had it to do all over again I would... I would have spent more time having fun at college because those are truly your best years.

Steven J. Mason


Company/Title: Hillsborough Association of Retarded Citizens- HARC / COO

Education: B.A., University of Virginia; M.B.A. Health Administration, Temple University.

Professional achievements/honors: For over 15 years, I have managed services that help people with developmental disabilities to live better lives. Enabled many individuals to break free of barriers limiting their ability to live life to the fullest, whatever that means to the person. Some of these barriers include institutionalization, societal prejudice, no access to services, lack of good social support systems, funding gaps and a failure of the person to believe in him or herself.

Mentor or business hero: Business Mentor is Richard Schultz, graduate school professor and leader in my field, who taught me that caring about others is where it all starts. My personal hero is Thomas Jefferson.

Formula for success: 20% ethics and tntegrity; 20% compassion;15% drive to do it better; 15% Innate ability; 15% energy and passion ; 15% details/follow-up

Hometown: Great Falls, Va.

Place/Date of Birth: Manhasset, N.Y. / Oct. 2, 1966

First job: Hotel Bellman while in high school. It taught me what customer service is all about.

Years on Gulf Coast: 2 years, 6 months.

Motivation to come to Gulf Coast: To work for a former mentor, live in a great place and build something great at HARC.

Name one pressing issue affecting our region today:Lack of public transportation

How would you solve it? Invest in a region-wide rail system. We need to accommodate increasing visitors, residents and workers whose age/disability and/or financial position makes other forms of transportation inaccessible. Other reasons include planned expansion as a recreation destination, retirement solution and business center, at a growth rate projected to overtake our highway expansion plans.

Marital Status/Family: Married 15 years; 4 children, ages 11, 9, 8, 6 (all girls, except the youngest).

Community Involvement: Board member, Health Care Advisory Board; Leadership Westshore Alumni Board of Directors; landscaping committee of the neighborhood association.

Hours worked per week: 104.09, roughly (4 kids, 5 pets, job with 24-hour responsibility, volunteer stuff, house, yard, etc..)

Hobbies: Fishing, reading, history, science/nature, bird-watching, music, gardening, writing and pizza. There is a list of many more hobbies that are on hold until my life permits time to enjoy them.

What's on your iPod? Billy Joel, Van Halen, Hans Zimmer, soundtrack composer

Name three things in your refrigerator: V8 (wife drinks it - yuck); 2 Gallons of Milk; Tupperware with leftovers from dinners past

Book you can read more than once: A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens - timeless.

Books or magazines on your nightstand: A massacre: History of the battle between Seminoles and Major Dade in1835; Abuse of Power; Transcriptions of the Nixon Tapes released in the 1990s

Favorite Web sites: – Great place to buy almost anything; – Fun site which has the real story on urban myths

Best place outside Florida you've ever been to: Nevis Island in the British West Indies.

What would you like to be doing more of? Fishing for giants off the Skyway Pier.

What would you like to be doing less of? Housecleaning

If I had it to do all over again I would...Worry less about what other people think is "cool."


(Alex) Miller


Company/Title: Mercedes Medical/CEO

Education: B.A. Psychology, University of Rhode Island

Professional achievements/honors: CEO of Mercedes Medical, Inc. an $18 million national medical distribution company that has been named to the Inc. 500 list of America's fastest growing privately held companies. Has vast experience in management, marketing, planning, strategy, cost containment and overall leadership. Has been with Mercedes Medical almost since its inception for over 12 years, and has held various roles within the company, including marketing manger, vice president of business development, sales manager, CFO, COO and finally CEO. Was paramount to the success and rapid growth of Mercedes and has a true love of business. Performed a corporate "turn around" that resulted in a profoundly successful outcome saving over 35 Sarasota jobs. 

Mentor or business hero: Carly Fiorina

Formula for success: First and foremost, respect: If you don't respect the people around you, they'll never respect you back; Empathy: Focus on finding out what motivates the person and deliver that with positive results; Goal setting: All of us need clearly written and defined goals to live and work by. Progress cannot be made without specific goals and benchmarks; Patience and tenacity: Success doesn't come overnight, it takes years to cultivate your strategy and business plan. My personal motto is "Never never never give up!"

Hometown: Sea Cliff, N.Y.

Place/Date of Birth: Garden City, N.Y./Aug. 20, 1973

First job: Making and selling chocolate lollipops to school mates in the third grade!

Years on Gulf Coast: 12

Motivation to come to Gulf Coast: Family

Name one pressing issue affecting our region today:Shortage of skilled and talented workers.

How would you solve it? Have Sarasota businesses, Chambers of Commerce, job placement Web sites and local government co-op advertising and marketing dollars to place ads in northern journals and newspapers with the intent on importing skilled workers from Northern states. Have one dedicated Web site, where all the participating companies can highlight their particular needs.

Marital Status/Family: Married, with 2 kids.

Community Involvement: On board of directors for Humane Society of Sarasota County. Member of various industry and community clubs. Also running for Hospital board of directors seat at SMHS (Central District, Seat #2).

Hours worked per week: Paid work: 40, Community work: 10.

Hobbies: Boating, tennis, shopping, traveling & gardening.

What's on your iPod? Sarah McLaughlin, Natalie Merchant and Dido.

Name three things in your refrigerator: Diet soda, juice boxes & pre-made meals from 1daygourmet.

Book you can read more than once: Freakanomics or the Mercedes Medical products catalog!

Books or magazines on your nightstand: If I had time to read for personal enjoyment I probably wouldn't make the 40 under 40 and be married and have 2 children under 5! But I read most business magazines. I especially like the new PINK for professional women and Fortune Small Business, Worth and of course, the Gulf Coast Business Review!

Favorite Web sites: ebay, Overstock (pretty heavy, I know).

Best place outside Florida you've ever been to: Fiji, New Zealand or China. can't choose.

What would you like to be doing more of? Traveling.

What would you like to be doing less of? Nothing, I have a good balance and don't do things I don't enjoy.

If I had it to do all over again I would...Change nothing. I'm very happy.

Uri Minkoff


Company/Title: Fortis Software/ founder and CEO

Education: Hubbard College

Professional achievements/honors: Teamed up with long-time friend, Paul McDaniel, to start Fortis Software in 2001; firm focuses on software consulting. On the board of three healthcare companies he founded, in addition to sitting on the board of directors of the Tampa Bay Technology Forum. Member of the CEO Council of Tampa Bay and was named a member of the "Who's Who" in Tampa Bay by the Tampa Bay Business Journal in 2003.

Mentor or business hero: Craig Jensen, Chairman of Diskeeper Corporation

Formula for success: Listen, observe, analyze and act

Hometown: San Diego, Calif.

Place/Date of Birth: San Diego, Calif./ July 25,1975

First job: Physical therapy

Years on Gulf Coast: 16

Motivation to come to Gulf Coast: with family.

Name one pressing issue affecting our region today:Lack of sufficient technology talent.

How would you solve it? Promoting the area as a region ripe with opportunity and use business, university, the arts and social groups to foster such.

Marital Status/Family: Married, with a son 9-month-old son.

Community Involvement: Say No to Drugs Holiday Race.

Hours worked per week: 60

Hobbies: films and triathlon.

What's on your iPod? Coldplay, U2, Keane.

Name three things in your refrigerator: Organic Eggs, soy milk and peanut butter.

Book you can read more than once: Problems of Work, by L. Ron Hubbard.

Books or magazines on your nightstand: GQ, Fortune, Wired.

Favorite Web sites:,

Best place outside Florida you've ever been to: Nantucket.

What would you like to be doing more of? Training.

What would you like to be doing less of? E-mails.

If I had it to do all over again I would... do it all over again.

Ajit Nair


Company/Title: ProV International, Inc./CEO

Education: B.A., Electronic Engineering, University of Mumbai; MBA, Utah State University.

Professional achievements/honors: Won the "Best MIS & IT Executive" award for the 2006 International Business Awards, sponsored by the Stevie Awards program and received a Certificate of Finalist Recognition for the "Best Executive" category in the 2006 American Business Awards sponsored by the same program; was a semi-finalist for the Entrepreneur of the Year award for the Florida program sponsored by Ernst & Young and was Tampa Bay Runner-Up for the 2006 Entrepreneur award sponsored by GCBR. In 2005, ProV International was named High Growth Company of the Year by IT Florida.

Mentor or business hero: I never really had a formal mentor, but I learned a lot from Jim Lynch. He co-founded ProV with me.

Formula for success To have clear in your mind that success is 99% effort and 1% luck. To think about these things when doing a business: Quality of service (whatever the service is), integrity and always think long-term.

Hometown: Tampa.

Place/Date of Birth: Mumbai, India/Feb. 19, 1969

First job: Sales of telecommunications systems for a firm in India.

Years on Gulf Coast: Three.

Motivation to come to Gulf Coast: Quality of life. The weather, the life goes at a slower pace here. The people are great here. They still have that small town charm even though Tampa is growing very quickly. Also, I see dolphins from my office window, which is relaxing and keeps me focused as well.

Name one pressing issue affecting our region today:Education level of the state of Florida is low compared to other states and their IT knowledge could be higher.

How would you solve it? Intensifying the school curriculums starting from elementary school all the way to the university level. Starting young is the key to get the minds of the young people accustomed to the hard work. In terms of IT, I would include a better curriculum for Information Technology in universities.

Marital Status/Family: Married, no children.

Community Involvement: Overseeing a major recruiting effort in Tampa and around Florida to recruit and employ recent M.S. and MBA graduates with a focus in IT as well as B.S. graduates for our training programs. Active in the Indus Entrepreneurs (TIE), a group of successful Indian entrepreneurs who focus on ideas to grow businesses and contribute back to their communities. ProV has been a contributor to the Centre for Women in Tampa, supporting abused and single woman with education and emergency programs.

Hours worked per week: 70 or so, including weekends.

Hobbies: I like to read a lot in my spare time. I am also a movie person, and I love to travel to different countries around the world.

What's on your iPod? I don't own an iPod. However, I do have a blackberry and in it I am always downloading international news to keep up with what's going on in the world.

Name three things in your refrigerator: water; mint tea; freshly squeezed orange juice from my back yard.

Book you can read more than once: Good To Great, by Jim Collins

Books or magazines on your nightstand: Computerworld; CIO; Wall Street.

Favorite Web sites: I honestly think ProV's Web site looks very good and it conveys a professional, innovative message of my company. Google, because I'm always doing research on it. My is a very advanced Web site for networking.

Best place outside Florida you've ever been to: Laos.

What would you like to be doing more of? I would like to travel more for pleasure as I am usually in business trips. But more so, I would like to be teaching or in conferences mentoring about business strategies or the knowledge I have about business.

What would you like to be doing less of? Perhaps eating the wrong foods. I would like to watch my health a little more, so it would be less of eating the wrong foods.

If I had it to do all over again I would... From a personal aspect, I would definitely spend more time with my family. Being a business owner and CEO demands a lot of sacrifice. Family and parents are very important so you should enjoy them and make them happy as much as possible.

Megan Newman


Company/Title: University of South Florida College of Business Administration/director of employer relations

Education: B.S. Accounting, University of Florida; MBA, University of South Florida

Professional achievements/honors: Vice president and board member of the MBA Career Services Council for two consecutive terms; board member of the Southeastern Association of Colleges and Employers and appointed chair of various committees; elected to the board and as secretary of CreativeTampaBay for two consecutive terms; selected as a mentor for Emerge Tampa, a leadership group for young professionals; co-created and chaired the Florida Graduate Business Consortium, a statewide group of 11 colleges and universities, for three years.

Mentor or business hero: Dr. Drema Howard, director of the University of South Florida Career Center. After many years in the career services industry, she still has the same drive and passion for success as when she began. She continues to develop new ideas and cares about each student and employer on an individual basis. Her ability to make the best of any situation is something I admire and am continuously working on both personally and professionally.

Formula for success: Having a passion for what you do and genuinely caring about your work. The people who contribute the most to organizations and are the most successful are those who are doing what they love.

Hometown: Hawthorne.

Place/Date of Birth: Titusville/Dec. 26, 1974

First job: First part-time job was an office assistant for All Seasons Aluminum in Gainesville.

Years on Gulf Coast: 7

Motivation to come to Gulf Coast: I came to Tampa to study at the University of South Florida and obtain an MBA degree. I chose USF because of the strong curriculum and course flexibility, but I also wanted to live in Tampa. I stayed here after I graduated because I love the atmosphere, including the climate and culture. I like the fact that there is so much to do here for people of all ages – arts, culture, beach, shopping, restaurants, dancing, etc. The gulf coast offers a lot of the amenities typical of big cities, but without the industrial feel.

Name one pressing issue affecting our region today:There seems to be a disconnect among different generations, both in and out of the workplace. We are seeing an increasing number of baby boomers remaining in the workplace after retirement, while young professionals are rising into management positions quicker than in years past. These groups have more in common than they realize, both professionally and socially.

How would you solve it? Create events that cater to mixed ages. Reach out to professional and social groups that distinguish themselves by age and encourage them to collaborate with groups of different age associations. Conduct journalistic reports that describe a "day in the life" and dispel myths and stereotypes associated with age. Encourage companies to implement activities and policies that encourage tolerance and diversity among different age groups.

Marital Status/Family: Single, never been married, no kids.

Community Involvement: Mainly within the animal rescue arena. I have volunteered with numerous local and national organizations and in 2002 co-founded No More Homeless Pets in Hillsborough County (NMHP-HC). A grassroots organization, our mission is to end pet overpopulation in our community.

Hours worked per week: 40-plus.

Hobbies: Playing the piano, animal rescue, competitive dancing.

What's on your iPod? Lynyrd Skynyrd: Gimme Three Steps; KT Tunstall: Black Horse and the Cherry Tree; Dexy's Midnight Runners: Come on Eileen.

Name three things in your refrigerator: Swiss cheese, orange wine, yogurt.

Book you can read more than once: I'm not an avid reader.

Books or magazines on your nightstand: Redbook magazine, Health magazine, A Woman God Can Lead

Favorite Web sites:;

Best place outside Florida you've ever been to: Italy.

What would you like to be doing more of? Dancing. I started doing it late in my life compared to other competitors, so I wish I had more time and money to catch up.

What would you like to be doing less of? Cleaning my apartment. Having as many pets as I do means constant upkeep.

If I had it to do all over again I would...Pursue passions and things I really enjoy earlier in life. I changed my college major a few times and ended up choosing a career that wasn't well suited for me. I enjoyed it, but not nearly as much as what I'm doing now. Eventually, I found something that doesn't feel like a chore to do every day. I wish I would have done some soul searching and discovered this at a younger age.

Kay Nikookary


Company/Title: WallStreet Athletic Club, First Pro Financial/president and CEO.

Education: B.S. in Marketing Management, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

Professional achievements/honors: Empire's Who's Who Award Recipient for the Tampa Bay Area; worked with C-Level Executives of Fortune 1000 Companies for 12 years, creating 2 new companies and executing them in a new geographic region. (I knew one person when I moved to Florida).

Mentor or business hero: Keith Duggan- My first professional boss who took me under his wings and taught me how people think, how they are motivated, to not judge and allow each and every person to be who they are in business and in personal relationships. He taught me to understand my counterpart in every interaction.

Formula for success: Don't stay around negative people. Make a conscious effort to be around people that are positive, outgoing, balanced, ambitious, and are ahead of where I am in life. Also, make sure to learn from everyone no matter how old they are or where they are in their life. Always reach for more while thanking God and enjoying today.

Hometown: Laguna Beach, Calif.

Place/Date of Birth: Tehran, Iran/ Jan. 9, 1969

First job: Enterprise Rent-A-Car

Years on Gulf Coast: 3

Motivation to come to Gulf Coast: To start a sport company. Florida is the haven of athletes, sports fans, and professional organizations that work and support athletes and sports.

Name one pressing issue affecting our region today:Growth in Florida. Tampa Bay Area even more, is like California about 20 years ago. We are growing and have the advantage to plan and manage our growth by looking at Orange County, Calif. and other places in the U.S. that have gone ahead of us on this road.

How would you solve it? Study other geographic regions that have gone through similar growth. We have the advantage of hindsight and can improve what they did right and avoid what they did wrong. Have a conscious plan as to what types of communities, businesses and infrastructure we want and execute on that plan. Mayor Pam Iorio has done a great job in planning the downtown Tampa area, despite slight problems. No project moves forward without hiccups.

Community Involvement: Board member of Keeping Dreams Alive, a Sports/Academic camp bringing inner city kids together with privileged kids, finding their common ground and creating an arena to form friendships while teaching academics; Founder of VAR-Verbal Abuse Recovery, which creates friendships and a place for woman of all cares and concerns to share their experiences, get renewed, refreshed, and refilled; member of IRC, the first Iranian non-profit to help recovering addicts within the confines of the Iranian community; member of the Young Republicans.

Hours worked per week: 80-100.

Hobbies: Water sports, chess, and reading non-fiction books. Used to be to watch sports – but that is work now and does not feel like a hobby any more.

What's on your iPod? Gospel, Contemporary Christian, 80s music, and books on tape.

Name three things in your refrigerator: Soda, beer, condiments

Book you can read more than once: Bible. I pray one hour every morning.

Books or magazines on your nightstand: CFO, Sports Business Journal, Blink, Bible; I love books and they are everywhere n my home, office and car. Lastly, my journal (I have an extensive journal of my life since 1989 -about 2 big boxes of papers and notebooks).

Favorite Web sites: (list two) ESPN, Wall Street Journal

Best place outside Florida you've ever been to: Spain, Costa Rica, Southern California, Boston, Iran, Paris.

What would you like to be doing more of? Traveling outside the U.S. We have a great history but the world has such a vast history. I love understanding people and their ways.

What would you like to be doing less of? Can't think of anything!

If I had it to do all over again I would Get a second degree. It seems to have a large impact on other people's first impressions and opens more doors than experience.


Michelle Owen


Company/Title: Stock Development/director of marketing & public relations

Education: B.A., Florida State University.

Professional achievements/honors:

Mentor or business hero: my father

Formula for success: Doing what you love, so it doesn't seem like work.

Hometown: Jupiter, Fla.

Place/Date of Birth: Miami, Fla. / July 4, 1980.

First job: Receptionist.

Years on Gulf Coast: 4

Motivation to come to Gulf Coast: Loved Naples!

Name one pressing issue affecting our region today:Affordable housing.

How would you solve it? I think the market is about to even out on its own.

Marital Status/Family: Single.

Community Involvement: Involved in numerous charity and community organizations, including the Tim & Tom Gullikson Foundation, the Lee Building Industry Association, the Economic Development Council of Collier County, R.C.M.A. and the Boys & Girls Club of Lee & Collier counties.

Hours worked per week: 50-60

Hobbies: shopping, traveling, reading, relaxing.

What's on your iPod? American Girl by Tom Petty, Grey's Anatomy Soundtrack and most recently added The Fray.

Name three things in your refrigerator: Wine, Silk Soy Milk and Hummus.

Book you can read more than once: Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell.

Books or magazines on your nightstand: Anything, by Janet Evanovich and People Magazine.

Favorite Web sites: eBay and Google

Best place outside Florida you've ever been to: Bahamas.

What would you like to be doing more of? Traveling.

What would you like to be doing less of? Laundry.

If I had it to do all over again I would...not change a thing!

Justin N. Powell


Company/Title: Palmer Ranch Holdings LTD/vice president

Education: M.S. Real Estate, University of Florida; B.S. International Business/Real Estate, Florida State University.

Professional achievements/honors: Going back to school for a master's degree was one of my best decisions; the day I received my diploma was one of my proudest. My current position at Palmer Ranch has been one of the most rewarding; I have had a chance to challenge myself on a daily basis. Managing 10,000-plus acres has forced me to learn every aspect of real estate

Mentor or business hero: My father. He never forced his will upon me, but always let me know that I could achieve anything.

Formula for success: When I was in college, I worked as a car valet at a private club in Tallahassee. It was always shocking to see how rude and arrogant people could be to others (especially the valets). Because of that valuable experience, no matter whom I deal with, regardless of their education or job, I have always made a point to treat people with respect. Combine that with a great deal of honesty and little bit of luck and that is my formula for success.

Hometown: St. Petersburg.

Place/Date of Birth: Oct. 6, 1978.

First job: Scooping ice-cream and making cookies and brownies at a little fudge shop on John's Pass boardwalk.

Years on Gulf Coast: My whole life, except for college.

Motivation to come to Gulf Coast: I think the reason I stay in the area is that no matter where I go, I would truly miss the cheap grouper sandwiches and the smell of the ocean.

Name one pressing issue affecting our region today:I have a 25 minute commute everyday to and from work, so the road issue is very close to my heart. Interstate 75 and U.S. 41 in Sarasota during the winter months are some of the worst in the area. You can only expand the existing roads so much, eventually new north-south roads are going to have to be built and public transportation is going to have to catch up.

How would you solve it? It seems like Orlando has had new interstate projects on-going for the past 10 years. Why does it seem that our area only gets one major road project every 10 years? It really comes down to funding from the state level; it doesn't seem that our area has been receiving its fair share.

Marital Status/Family: Married, three years this August, to a brilliant woman. We also have two stubborn dogs and a funny looking cat.

Community Involvement: Sarasota YPG and volunteered at a Mentor for the Pinellas County Doorways program.

Hours worked per week: 50

Hobbies: Jogging. Although I only jog so that I can indulge in my true hobby, eating.

What's on your iPod? Interpol, The Jayhawks, and a little Hall & Oates (something my wife is embarrassed about).

Name three things in your refrigerator: Lychee gelatin snacks, Pomegranate juice (I don't really like it but my wife does), and ham.

Book you can read more than once: The Hobbit

Books or magazines on your nightstand: Lies My Teacher Told Me, by James Loewen, Newsweek, and ESPN magazine.

Favorite Web sites: Google and

Best place outside Florida you've ever been to: Monterrosa, Italy, a small town on the Italian Riviera. The town was tiny, but it has everything you would ever need. If I could move there tomorrow, I think I would.

What would you like to be doing more of? Traveling!

What would you like to be doing less of? Yard work, it is never ending.

If I had it to do all over again I would... Have learned to play a musical instrument and probably not have wasted all my money in high school on car speaker equipment. Were subwoofers really that necessary?

James C. Ray Jr.


Company/Title: Fifth Third Bank/vice president

Education: B.B.A dual major, Accounting and Real Estate, University of Cincinnati.

Professional achievements/honors: Greatest professional achievement was serving my country in the U.S Army. Enlisting in the military after high school graduation is the single best decision I have made that has contributed to getting to where I am today. My military experience provided me with a great a sense of pride, honor, duty and loyalty toward our country. It also provided me with the opportunity to discover who I was, what I wanted out of life and how to accomplish those goals.

Mentor or business hero: Ronald Reagan

Formula for success: Take risks, recognize your weaknesses, work hard, lead by example, have a vision and be a dreamer. Additionally, have compassion and care for everyone you meet and work with and most importantly, recognize that you cannot achieve success alone.

Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio.

Place/Date of Birth: Cincinnati, Ohio/ Sept. 27, 1969

First job: pumping gas at my uncle's Sunoco Station.

Years on Gulf Coast: 4

Motivation to come to Gulf Coast: Quality of life

Name one pressing issue affecting our region today:Lack of Affordable workforce housing.

How would you solve it? The solution to this problem is multifaceted and very difficult. The first step is to establish an honest and committed effort on the parts of both the public and private sector. There needs to be an open acknowledgement of the problem and the entire community must embrace the fact that this is a problem and that the long term solutions will only come from the collective efforts of everyone. The public and private sectors must work together to solve this problem and its effects are detrimental to both sides. In order to maintain and continue the economic viability of this community, we must have a workforce that can afford to live in this community.

Marital Status/Family: Married, wife Reiko; son, 14, and daughter, 11.

Community Involvement: Collier County Jr. Deputies Board Member; president, Indigo Lakes Master HOA.

Hours worked per week: 60-plus.

Hobbies: Travel, Cooking, boating, scuba diving and fishing.

What's on your iPod? No Ipod, but if had one they would have songs by Kenny Chesney, Elton John and Rascal Flatts.

Name three things in your refrigerator: Impossible to narrow it down to three; I enjoy and do most of the cooking at home, it is my way of winding down after a long day at work.

Book you can read more than once: The Bible

Books or magazines on your nightstand: Angels and Demons and Digital Fortress, both by Dan Brown.

Favorite Web sites: and

Best place outside Florida you've ever been to: The mountains of western North Carolina.

What would you like to be doing more of? Traveling, boating and diving

What would you like to be doing less of? Not exercising.

If I had it to do all over again I would... I would have selected a different military occupational specialty. Flying apache helicopters would have been a lot more fun.

Related Stories