Editor's Notebook

Photography by Rebecca Baxter By Susan Burns February 1, 2011

Biz941 and La Guía magazines are proud to honor six extraordinary people and businesses that embrace ethnic and racial diversity in our communities with our new Unity Awards. Some of our winners represent diversity themselves, since they come from a different racial and ethnic background than the majority population. And all our winners have worked to integrate people from all walks of life and origins into Sarasota and Manatee, making this a richer, more interesting place to live and do business. You’ll find their stories, starting on page 18, inspiring.

These days, welcoming people with varied backgrounds is more than a moral imperative; it’s an economic necessity. The latest census numbers show our nation is becoming more multicultural; by 2050, if not earlier, minorities are expected to become the majority in the United States. Sarasota and Manatee, far more homogenous than most areas of the country, are seeing this shift as well; and businesses and communities who learn how to welcome and integrate new people will be stronger than their competitors.

Tropicana, our winner in the large company category, has a strong diversity program. And Lillian Elliott, in charge of quality assurance at Tropicana in Bradenton, is a perfect example of why embracing diversity is important. An African-American woman who came out of college at a time when there were few female—or male—black role models in corporate America, Elliott was hired by PepsiCo, which owns Tropicana. She says the company’s diversity program helped her hit the ground running. Other employees welcomed Elliott and mentored her, she remembers. They told her everything from where the best schools for her kids were to how to succeed in their corporate culture.

“Without people helping me, I would not be sitting here,” she says. Today she’s involved in the company’s diversity programs in Bradenton and around the country. These programs make Tropicana a stronger company, she says. “I can bring my whole self to work. I don’t have to pretend to fit some mold,” she says. “I can be more successful and creative and give more to the company because of that. We all bring something special, and that’s what diversity is all about.”

Celebrate The Unity Awards. Please join us in celebrating the winners of the 2011 Unity Awards. Our luncheon celebration will be held 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Feb. 24 at Michael’s On East. Our keynote speaker is Gabriela Alejandra Frías, a business anchor for CNN en Espanol and host of En Efectivo, the network’s personal finance show. Tickets are $30. For reservations, please visit

And we’re celebrating our new look!

We’ve updated our logo, making it stronger and more modern. We’re excited about our new face, and we hope you are, too.

Do you have news? Send to [email protected].

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