In 1977, the Citrus industry was thriving and carrying the banner for the state of Florida as they marketed to the world, Florida Orange Juice and “the Sunshine State.” The industry’s need to find a solution for efficient and economical workers’ compensation insurance was a top priority. Under the auspices of the Florida Citrus Packers (a trade association representing the ‘fresh market’ segment of the industry), a study committee was commissioned to research options to address this challenge.
The outcome of the committee’s efforts was the recommendation to start-up a group self-insurance fund to meet the workers’ compensation insurance needs for citrus packers and those associated with the industry. The Fund would be based on the model successfully used by other business and industry sectors in the state.
“These innovative, Florida business leaders went into action and charted a path to solve the challenge of finding effective and reasonable workers’ compensation insurance by forming the Citrus Self-Insurers Fund (CSIF),” stated FCBI CEO, Debra Cerre-Ruedisili. “The ongoing success of the Fund has fulfilled their vision.”
Edgar S. Beeland, Chairman – (Affiliation – Winter Haven Citrus Growers Association)
R.V. ‘Red’ Phillips, Secretary – (Affiliation – Haines City Citrus Growers Association)
Wilbur E. Barnes – (Affiliation – Dundee Citrus Growers Association)
Copeland D. Newbern – (Affiliation – Newbern Groves)
Frank E. Sullivan, III – (Affiliation – Sullivan/Victory Groves)
“As a third-generation citrus grower, I watched as my father served the industry in a multitude of ways. His involvement as a founder of this Fund was just one example of the many vertically integrated services these early pioneers championed to solve a challenge in the variety of different businesses they were involved in building, said John Minton, Board Member and 42 Year FCBI policy holder. Their tenacity and internal fortitude to create a life for their families and the next generation are the foundation of Florida’s economy.”
In its early years, the Fund filled an important need for the citrus industry by providing access to this mandated insurance product while other carriers were fleeing the marketplace. With the discovery of citrus canker in Florida in the early 80’s, in combination with a series of three devastating freezes (in ’83, ’85, and ’89), the dynamic structure and broad-based foundation of the Florida citrus industry was unalterably changed. Many of the companies that represented the base of the Fund’s membership are no longer in business.
CSIF had a solid dividend history year-to-year for its participants. The market was growing more challenging, however, and in the mid-’90s as more and more of the traditional self-insurance funds in Florida converted to insurance companies with the ability to offer non-assessable products, the Fund was witnessing an erosion of its base of business. CSIF was looking for an opportunity for an additional premium and the ability to expand to other industries.
In 1999, the Fund changed its name to the Florida Citrus, Business & Industries Fund (“FCBI”) and expanded its underwriting guidelines to encompass a broader range of general business; including retail establishments, the construction industry, service industry businesses and others.
While the Fund’s demise was predicted by many because of the Board’s decision several decades earlier to continue operations in Florida as a group fund (rather than seeking to convert or closing down the fund); FCBI has not only survived but has successfully grown its membership, built strong premiums, maintained a strong surplus and paid good dividends in a very competitive marketplace.
“As the construction industry in Florida continued to flourish and expand its need for the various size contracting companies to fulfill the demand in the workforce, the opportunity for these smaller core construction firms that met the thorough underwriting standards of the Fund was a win for both the companies and the Fund,” said Jeff Jennings, FCBI board member reacting on the expansion of the Fund’s client base.
In April of 2018, FCBI moved to bring all their marketing and underwriting functions in house. The expanding FCBI team offered decades of experience in the Florida workers’ compensation insurance industry, and have successfully utilized the strong reputation of the FCBI Fund’s 42-year history to expand and grow the base of agents and policyholders.
“Our companies, Riverfront Packing Co. and Gulfstream Harvesting, have been working with FCBI for over 30 years. We have always been extremely well served by them. They have great financial stability and a focus on providing the best coverage and service in the industry,” said Dan Richey, Managing Partner, Riverfront Packing Co. “They make the effort to understand our industry and stand by us at all times.”
A pioneering spirit, independence, and commitment to success; along with a can-do attitude, have been the hallmark of the Florida citrus industry for well over a century.
These same characteristics drove the development of the Fund; and, through tenacity and dedication to individuals in the workplace, the Fund has flourished and protected many thousands of Florida citizens.
“The business operations of the FCBI Fund stand solid on the strong foundation built by our founders, and we continue into the future with great excitement and anticipation of broadening our reach while we continue to protect individuals in the workplace throughout the state of Florida,” said Gap Kovach, former FCBI Board Chairman.
Front L to R: John Minton – Vice Chairman, Dan Richey – Chairman
Back L to R: Jeff Jennings – Trustee, Sam Oswald – Chief Financial Officer, Debra Ruedisili – Chief Executive Officer,
Gap Kovach – Immediate Chairman, Jim Emerson – Trustee