Blake Dowling: Celebrating community wherever we can

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We should spend more time working on problems and celebrating community wherever we can.

The word “community” gets overused in our world, does it not?

One definition says it means “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals.”

A common attitude is one of my favorite parts of that definition: you don’t have to think alike or believe in the same things to have common attitudes or more simply, commonality. That distinction is obvious but things like political affiliation (or stance on vaccines) can put up a barrier to enjoying commonality pretty fast.

Agree? If not, we could argue about that on Twitter later.

One of my favorite spots to embrace commonality, conduct business, and to say thank you to those that work with our company is the annual Tallahassee Chamber of Conference Annual Community Conference. After a year off in 2020, the event was hosted this month in Amelia Island.

Networking at the Chamber Conference, enjoying the 100-degree weather with my cool new Tri-Eagle shades. Image via Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce.

If you follow the news in North Florida, you saw a local elected official recently bash the conference and those who attend calling them elitist and corrupt.

In my opinion, that’s a pretty shortsighted view and judgment.

I believe whoever wrote the piece was motivated by the recent FBI investigation into Tallahassee and the guilty verdict handed down to businessperson JT Burnette.

Name-calling, writing something nasty, and sitting on the bench is one approach.

Just as he was, I was also disappointed in the corruption in Tallahassee underneath everyone’s nose, we all have a black eye from it and will for years to come.

However, I have been going to that conference for 15 years, so I dove back in.

You know what I saw, just like in years past? An opportunity to step out of my normal routine and meet really cool people.

Shot the breeze with a young man at the Stearns Weaver booth about their firm; he told me he was wrapping up law school and was a first-time attendee.

Talked to my friend Brittany about her newborn baby and a cool video her team at Tri-Eagle sales did about veterans.

Talked to Antoine Wright from Big Bend Habitat for Humanity about being a guest on our podcast; talked to Stephanie at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital about a meal program for nurses working nonstop to help those in need.

I also talked to Monique from Second Harvest about the huge role they played last year (and always) fighting food insecurity in the community. These are a just a couple of examples; if you are up for it, you could have 300 conversations like that during the event.

Bonus, I even got the opportunity to give a chat on cybersecurity to a small group.

One thing I didn’t see was corruption: no pesky elitists, either.

What I saw was small-business owners, elected officials, and leaders of charities exchanging ideas and creating interest for their organizations and being part of their community.

There are bad apples and bad actors in every setting and every community, welcome to earth, it is up to us to weed them out (and Mike Sweets with the FBI, I guess) and I think JT and company have been weeded.

You know the last thing shocking I saw at the conference? My bar tab the first time. I was young, I bought drinks for everyone.

It was a shockingly awesome evening.

These days, however, it is in bed by 10 p.m. for me up at 6:30 a.m. and off to the races to be part of this community event. You don’t get the positives if you sit on the sidelines or if you sleep in. Would not have these opportunities to engage with these people in this manor in the normal course of the day, and as far as elitists (that sounds like a Karl Marx era word) there are some more successful than others in the room.

But you know what is cool about that?

Talking to a guy at the opening reception named “Ricardo” we were chatting about the weather and nothing terribly earth shattering, and someone said he was the President of Danfoss Turbocor, an economic powerhouse and huge employer in N. Florida. You would not have known it from talking to him as he was super nice (very non-elitist), laughing and sweating (as the reception was moved outdoors because of COVID-19 reasons).

I don’t think he would have taken my call if I would have called him out of the blue, but there you go, community networking in action, nice to meet you: Ricardo Schneider | FSU Office of Research.

Landus Anderson from Stearns Weaver and myself.

I would have skipped the conference if I had not been vaccinated as our health care system in Florida has its hands full with COVID-19 right now.

Got the shot, and for special events, I roll out. By doing I met new contacts, broadened my horizons, learned some things, and hang out with some good people. Thanks to those that we have the privilege of working with; hopefully, I met our next generation of clients.

People there were young and old, private sector, public sector, all backgrounds and it was pretty awesome.

It’s a good reminder that if you focus on the bad, it will consume you. But if you take the time to focus on some positives and work through the negative, it will help you get over community black eyes and move forward.

I’m aware that I’m dialing up hokeyness here, but it is from the heart.

The world needs more hokeyness and less bitterness. (We need more Star Wars films, too. How soon until Rogue Squadron?)

I believe in our community in Tallahassee (and the great state of Florida). To quote the one and only Homer Simpson, it really “grinds my gears” when someone attacks it, especially elected officials.

Cyber In-Security breakout session at the conference discussing all things cyber. Image via Jeanne Dowling.

While my situational awareness is enough to know that the world has problems galore, I am also very in tune with the fact we are blessed by living and do business where we do.

We should spend more time working on problems and celebrating community wherever we can.

Commonality and community are what make a place a home. Despite the overuse of the word, the community is too important to not wear it out.

The end.


Blake Dowling is the CEO of Aegis Business Technologies, host of the Biz & Tech podcast and the author of “Professionally Distanced.” You can pick up a copy at Midtown Reader in Tallahassee or online.

Blake Dowling

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. His technology columns are published by several organizations. Contact him at [email protected] or at

One comment

  • J.P. Perkins

    August 30, 2021 at 7:12 pm

    This is a whole lot cleaner than Jack Campbell’s unhinged and ethically scurrilous diatribe, but essentially the same message: pay no attention to the men and women behind the curtain (especially after a couple of them have been convicted for public corruption)

Comments are closed.


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