In every industry, local businesses need banks that can adapt along with them. They need Relationship Managers that understand their unique needs and believe in them as they grow.

People standing next to a plane

Lakeland’s SUN ‘n FUN is an icon in the city. It hosts one of the largest aviation events in the country, the SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo, and launched the Aerospace Center for Excellence which has emerged as a Nationally recognized leader in STEM-related and aerospace education through its various learning centers, outreach programs, summer camps and scholarships aimed at preparing students for tomorrow’s aerospace challenges. 

Despite a 47-year history, SUN ‘n FUN faced significant financial distress in 2011. The organization was in trouble, and it depended on getting a line of credit in order to prosper. Bank of Central Florida provided one, maintaining faith the local organization would flourish. 

John “Lites” Leenhouts sought to revamp and reestablish  SUN ‘n FUN as a global success. When Lites met banker Dave Brown 11 years ago, they set up a line of credit and the transformation began.

“We hung in there with ‘em,” said Dave, referring to Bank of Central Florida’s decision to support SUN ‘n FUN when all hope seemed lost. Dave and Lites maintained an amicable business relationship connected by the love of aviation. 

Since teaming up with Bank of Central Florida, Lites has achieved unprecedented success and taken SUN ‘n FUN and the Aerospace Center for Excellence to new heights. He’s improved the Expo Campus, created a world-class event venue, established Aerospace Center for Excellence and recently opened the world’s first purposely built Aerospace based, hands-on, STEM Learning Labs, the Ramus SkyLab Innovation Center. For the past 10 years, he has been transforming the organization into a powerhouse for aerospace achievement with the help of Bank of Central Florida. 

Now, SUN ‘n FUN works directly with Relationship Manager Nicole Irby to manage and build upon their success.

SUN ‘n FUN and the Aerospace Center for Excellence has paved the way forward for aspiring pilots, airframe mechanics, and Aerospace Business Professionals. That’s what happens when innovation is encouraged and community banks stand beside local businesses. With the right team of bankers, entrepreneurship flourishes and community thrives.