By Michelle Caceres

The Valrico/FishHawk Chamber of Commerce hosted two community insight speakers at its monthly general assembly breakfast at River Hills Country Club recently.

Todd E. Cross, PhD, son of recently deceased FishHawk Ranch visionary developer Glen Cross, shared narratives regarding the challenges his father faced and overcame during the development of FishHawk Ranch.

“When my dad first purchased the more than 4,500 acres of land in the late 1980’s he looked forward and saw a community,” Cross said.

FishHawk Ranch was not immune to its share of challenges. The recently passed Growth Management Act of 1985 gave the government power to require developers to take into consideration the impact of projects on the community and the environment.

Salty crooner Jimmy Buffet and The Sierra Club walked the property and found three gopher turtles and demanded that hundreds of acres be set aside for preserving the animals. He said his father was already planning for plenty of natural space, and in the end more than 1,000 acres was undeveloped.

“There was a picture in Forbes magazine in 1989 of my dad holding up a gopher turtle,” said Cross who hopes his dad is not only remembered by his business savvy, but also his character.

“He always worried about those he worked with and made sure they got paid first.”

Cross, who counsels individuals and teaches at Bell Shoals Baptist Church as well as other non-profit organizations, is also involved in Ready4Work, a nationally recognized program assisting ex-offenders with re-entry into the community and workforce, effectively leading clients toward a productive life.

The second guest speaker at the meeting was Ani Hudgens, the creator of the Miss Buckle-Up Princess Seatbelt Safety Program. Hudgens, who was involved a life-threatening automobile accident in 2010, goes into schools and talks to students about the importance of wearing a seatbelt at all times.

She also assisted in the passage of legislation that, beginning January 1, requires all children under the age of five to be safely restrained in a booster seat when riding in a vehicle.

In addition to the monthly breakfast, the chamber also hosts other regularly scheduled events that help promote growth and improvement to home-based, store-front and virtual businesses based in the area.

Membership is $150 per year for businesses and $75 per year for non-profit organizations.

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MIchelle Caceres has been writing for the Osprey Observer for seventeen years. She enjoys writing human interest pieces about inspiring members of the community who are working to better our community. She lives in FishHawk Ranch with her husband and recently became an empty-nester. When not writing, Michelle is serving her church community, reading and enjoying Florida's weather.