To make a difference in public policy, a candidate for elected office must start somewhere.

Those seeking to wage a winning campaign can get a head start at the Central Florida Political Leadership Institute (PLI), which begins accepting applications this week for the 2017 Public Policy Class.

PLI is a three-day bipartisan seminar to help future Central Florida leaders by offering training to potential candidates before they decide to run for public office. The 2017 Political Leadership Institute sessions will run Thursday, Sept. 21 through Saturday, Sept. 23, at the GuideWell Innovation Center in Lake Nona Medical City.

Since its launch in 2008, 17 PLI graduates have gone on to serve in various public offices throughout the seven-county Central Florida region: Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole and Volusia counties.

Members get to interact with prominent local, state and national experts on a range of public policy topics: government, media, campaigning, fundraising, grassroots, polling and data targeting and ethics.

Afterward, students use their learned political skills through community participation, leadership activities, while committing to volunteer on a local campaign and attend local networking events.

“Today, we are seeing many new faces who are entering the political arena without a track record or knowledge of how to run a successful campaign,” said BusinessForce Chair Craig Swygert, who leads the PLI effort. “The Central Florida Political Leadership Institute was designed to address these concerns, while identifying and encouraging new pro-business leaders, within the seven-county Central Florida region, who may emerge outside of the normal political party channels,”

“PLI trains our future officeholders, regardless of political affiliation, on how to campaign, while teaching leadership skills for effective governing and educating participants on critical public policy issues affecting our community,” added Swygert, who also serves as President of Central Florida Markets for Clear Channel Outdoor.

PLI seminars are sponsored by AT&T, BusinessForce, Clear Channel Outdoor and the Orlando Economic Partnership. The GuideWell Innovation Center is at 6555 Sanger Rd in Orlando.

There is no cost to apply or attend; application deadline is Friday, June 30. Interested candidates can learn more and apply at www.cflpli.org.

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