Alex Sink’s resume is lengthy.
She was Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, ran for governor in a tightly contested race with Rick Scott and was Bank of America’s Florida president for seven years.
That just scratches the surface of Sink’s life in the private sector, government, education and nonprofits.
She has extensive involvement on boards for such organizations as United Way Suncoast, Leadership Florida, Take Stock in Children, Hillsborough Education Foundation and the Nature Conservancy Florida Chapter.
She served for 25 years as a trustee at Wake Forest University and is now a life trustee, and she serves as board chair of Tampa Bay Wave, a tech startup accelerator.
The wide-ranging list of organizations she’s helped to shape, or guide or lead goes on and on.
Her list of accolades for her contributions is lengthy, too, and recently, she added another one.
The North Tampa Bay Chamber honored Sink with its Women’s Distinguished Leadership Award for 2021.
The chamber had planned to honor Sink as the 2020 recipient of the award, but those plans were thwarted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead of having a big celebration, as planned, the event was called off and the chamber shifted gears.
The organization still is holding its breakfast meetings remotely, via Zoom, but it wanted to honor Sink, just the same.
So, the award was delivered to Sink, and she showed it off to chamber members via Zoom.
“Haven’t we all had quite a year behind us?” Sink said, via Zoom.
She went on to talk about the importance of chambers to their communities, explaining her involvement in chamber work goes back four decades — with experiences in Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville and Tallahassee.
“Florida is a state of small businesses. We’re not a big Fortune 500-state,” said Sink, who served on the board of Enterprise Florida twice, once as a banking executive, and again as the CFO of the state.
“I let my voice be heard, especially when I was the CFO. We were going through the Great Recession,” she said.
Historically, Enterprise Florida had been set up to recruit large corporations to move to Florida, she said.
But, she said what was missing was how Florida would support the growth of existing small businesses.
“Florida is a state of entrepreneurs.
“Just look around you, in North Tampa, the many, many small business owners that have struggled to survive in this past year,” Sink said.
“I’m sure the rest of you, like me, sat down and pivoted and said: ‘How can I support my small businesses?’ I learned how to do takeout and order on the internet,” she said.
She even switched over to workout sessions with her personal trainer, via Zoom, to keep them both safe. It’s worked out so well, she plans to keep it that way.
“We all have had to reinvent ourselves,” Sink said.
She also noted that government has been responding through the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loans.
Without that kind of help, she said, “many, many, many of our small businesses and people would not have survived through the last year.
Chamber work is important
The chamber plays an important role, in representing and advocating for businesses, and their communities, Sink said.
For instance, infrastructure in a growing area is essential.
“You’ve got to keep advocating for roads,” she said, noting that traffic is already busy on Interstate 75, going north and south — and the pandemic hasn’t yet ended.
Good schools are essential, too.
“People are not going to move to your community unless you have a strong, good, public school system.
“I believe in charter schools. I believe in private schools. I believe in choice. But, at the end of the day, 85% to 90% of our kids are going to public schools and that’s what people are going to think about.”
Parks and green spaces are other important ingredients, when it comes to quality of life, she said.
“I hope that is a piece of what you’ve been working on,” she said, noting that the pandemic has attracted people to hiking trails and parks.
“I have never seen so many families outside, in my whole life,” she said, noting she recently spent time hiking a trail.
She also touched on the reason for her recognition, using it to talk about the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion.
“Women have been more severely impacted by this pandemic than any other group of people because we’re the caretakers,” Sink said, noting many have had to drop out of the workplace to take care of children.
She encouraged those listening to do what they can to support women in the workplace.
“Many of you know that I’m a third generation Asian American,” Sink continued.
“The thing that happened in Atlanta really brought to the fore, issues around Asian Americans. “Also, obviously, we’re in a big trial this week, so we’re thinking about issues around Black Americans,” she said, referring to the trial of Derek Chauvin, relating to the death of George Floyd.
With those as a backdrop, Sink encouraged the chamber crowd to do their part to become more aware of how they can be involved in what they can do to build better connections in the community.
Sink put it this way: “I have a little teacher in me, and I always like to lay down the gauntlet and give everybody an assignment, so my assignment for this audience would be: Look around your community. I’m sure you have Asian-owned businesses. I’m sure you have Black-owned businesses. Go talk to the people who own those businesses and kind of understand more of what they face, each and every day, and figure out how you can support your minority-owned businesses, and really practice diversity, equity and inclusion in all that you do.”
Published April 21, 2021