Ed Gilbert is the youngest-ever director of the Florida Division of Tourism and during his tenure expanded the organization’s reach and depth in marketing.
Gilbert was born in Hollywood, Calif., and spent most of his childhood in Norfolk, Va., receiving his degree in business at Old Dominion University. In 1979, he moved to Tallahassee, Fla., to head the Florida Division of Tourism under Governor Bob Graham.
In 1991, he created Gilbert Manjura Marketing, which became one of the ten largest advertising agencies in Central Florida. In 2009, he created Absolute Thinking, currently one of the top 12 largest public relations firms in Central Florida and the 22nd largest advertising agencies. He has served on the Visit Orlando Board for five years and chaired its Global Marketing Committee for two years.
Richard Gonzmart is the great-grandson of the founder of Ybor City’s Columbia Restaurant. Gonzmart began his career with high ideals that have continued as the business has grown. He studied tourism at the University of Denver School of Hotel and Restaurant Management and attended the Escuela de Turismo y Hosteleria in Madrid Spain.
Under Richard’s direction, The Columbia has expanded from two locations to seven: From the flagship Columbia in Ybor City and in Sarasota to St. Augustine, Sand Key on Clearwater Beach, Celebration, the Columbia Café on the Riverwalk in Tampa and the Columbia Restaurant Café at Tampa International Airport.
As the marketplace evolved, he ensured the business changed as well by securing state-of-the-art waste and water systems, adding specialty prepackaged foods and adjusting the menus to reflect the taste of his customers.
Richard was a guest teacher for Durant High School’s hospitality course for two years, and he also has lectured at both USF and UCF to students taking entry level courses on Hospitality. Richard has toured Canada as a representative of Florida and is a tireless ambassador for the city of Tampa and the state of Florida.
Thomas and Mina Edison
Thomas and Mina Edison are pioneers in southwest Florida tourism. This couple understood the power of Florida’s splendor. They were constantly promoting Florida by shipping oranges to their friends, making camping trips into the Everglades and nurturing the biggest collection of orchids in the state.
They initiated the Festival of Light parade in Fort Myers, now one of the largest lighted parades in the country.
As a parting souvenir, they donated the Edison Estate, a house that gives an average of $90 million to the southwest Florida region.