Six months into his post, Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance President and CEO Dom DiMaio checks in with LWR Life about his intentions to boost the support organization’s already thriving efforts.
In the 14 years that Dominic DiMaio has lived in the area, he has made his mark not only in his role as division CEO - Central Florida at Synovus Bank but also as a board member for State College of Florida Sarasota-Manatee and multiple nonprofits. He also served most recently as the chair of the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp., a role he relinquished when he accepted his new position as the president and CEO of the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance, which has seen a 15% membership increase since he took the helm in May. Like many Florida transplants, it was the beauty and opportunity of the area that lead DiMaio, his wife of 26 years, Rita, and their three children to plant their roots.
Before we dive into business, tell us what brought you to Lakewood Ranch.
Prior to moving to Lakewood Ranch, I came from the Philadelphia suburbs. I was working for more than 30 years in banking finance, primarily on the commercial side. I was doing some work on the East Coast of Florida, and I was introduced to a man at Synovus. Around 2004 or 2005, he was telling me that Lakewood Ranch was the future of the market. I came to interview, and he took me to Siesta Key. I literally took a bag of sand home and asked my wife if this is where we want to live. We ended up in the River Club.
And I understand you’re moving?
We’ve made settlement in a community called Savanna; it’s a brand-new village concept. We went to a wine and cheese night and probably met 20 couples, and we haven’t even moved there yet. They have yoga programs and social programs, a bourbon night and a cigar night — all within the community center. That’s why we’re moving, and this is why I think Lakewood Ranch is winning.
So in your position at LWRBA, what do you see as your primary purpose?
My primary focus is revenue. My job ultimately is to make sure I’m talking to mid- and top-level members who are also sponsors to make sure they are getting reward for their dollars spent. Also attracting new sponsors. So it’s retaining sponsor dollars, growing sponsor dollars and growing membership.
Beyond that, focusing on the community side. I believe in economic development. So connection through the community through economic development, Sarasota and Manatee, and the colleges, the workforce and nonprofit groups we support. I’m making sure we’re talking to the community and understanding what it needs and helping to deliver back some of that programming.
How does LWRBA differ from similar organizations?
Other member organizations have a dividing line. When you talk about a chamber, there’s Sarasota, Bradenton, Venice, maybe South Venice. We’re regional. Yes, we carry the Lakewood Ranch name, and we’ll continue to bring everything back to The Ranch. But our focus is to connect Lakewood Ranch to the community and the community to Lakewood Ranch. We’re out telling everyone: We want to help you grow, and it doesn’t matter where your business is.
What is LWRBA’s geographic reach?
Venice to Bradenton, and we have a few members in St. Pete and Tampa. My office was in St. Pete for 10 years. Every month, I’m talking to businesses that I know are doing business down here, trying to get them to understand how involvement in the LWRBA would impact their business on the south side of their region.
What are the benefits for a business to join the Business Alliance?
Primarily, our focus is to help businesses grow. If you’re a new business coming into the area, we help you get engaged and grow. If you’re an existing business, how do we help you pick up that supplemental business? We do it through connection and education in a couple different ways. It’s not always providing a speaker who’s going to teach you something. Sometimes it’s providing knowledge of what’s happening in your market that you may not have known.
Another really important area is our Young Leaders Alliance. For any member who has an employee who is under 40 years old, they’re free to join YLA and attend most Business Alliance events. My belief is that we should be helping to build a future, which is where we struggle as an economy locally. We want them getting to know one another, so they can do business together as they grow up in their respective industries and have fun while they’re doing it.
What are some of the growing areas of business in Lakewood Ranch?
When I moved here, there was very little commercial business within Lakewood Ranch. Even some of the doctors and the places you needed to go weren’t here the way they needed to be. But look at the past five years. Lakewood Ranch Medical has done two or three expansions. Intercoastal Medical Group, which was in a small little office, has built a whole new building. Then you have Sarasota Memorial coming in with medical centers. Suncoast Blood Bank is moving their headquarters to Lakewood Ranch and 360 Orthopedic is moving their headquarters to Lakewood Ranch.
Now that you’ve got six months or so under your belt, how’s it going?
My focus for the first six months was really making sure that I engaged with the team. I think they’re feeling comfortable that I’m not going to come in and make it 100% different. But I do come with the approach of saying: “We did things great — why? And what can we do different?” For example, we had a program called “Executive Briefings.” But the people in the seats were not executives. They were senior level, sometimes, but not executives. They are people trying to gain knowledge to get better. So, we’re changing it to be called “LWRBA Leads.”
What does the Business Alliance have in store for 2020?
We’re a member-run organization. The committees have a lot to do here. I’m pushing my programming committee to the next level. My focus will be: How do we take what we’ve delivered really well over the years and make it a little bit better, a little bit more informative and more fun when it should be fun?