This week our country celebrates Independence Day and I, like you, will enjoy the fireworks, a parade and hot dogs on the grill. I also will take time to reflect on the courage, wisdom and vision of our Founding Fathers in creating this great nation and the freedoms we enjoy.
It is estimated that in July 1776 there were 2.5 million people living in our newly independent nation. Today our population is almost 314 million. Add to that the most recent economic census indicating that there are more than 27 million firms in the U.S. and you realize that size often brings complexity and diversity, which is one of our greatest strengths. It also poses challenges.
Navigating the forums for discussion of what is best for our community can be a challenge. Thankfully, business leaders, through their time and financial support, have chosen the Manatee Chamber as a convener and collaborator. I often say that the Manatee Chamber runs two "organizations" simultaneously. One side of the chamber delivers the tremendous -- and most familiar -- benefit of connecting businesses to customers and to each other. These connections support the growth of local businesses that results in new jobs and higher disposable income for employees. It also means they can better support local community needs.
Four local businesses were recently recognized with the prestigious Small Business of the Year Award for these types of accomplishments. Congratulations to Susan Humphreys Certified Quickbooks ProAdvisor, Hornback Chiropractic and Wellness, IRISS and Gateway Bank.
The other side of the Manatee Chamber uses the talents and vision of business leaders to address critical community issues. Some priorities areas in which the chamber is actively engaged are legislative advocacy, health care, workforce development, green/sustainability, "buy local" to support local businesses and jobs, leadership development, transportation, and the development of all of the downtown areas in our county, to name a few. We are blessed to live in a country where we have the opportunity to have a voice and to live in a community where so many people embrace that opportunity!
And, I can't let Independence Day pass without this reminder -- please do not forget to
register to vote and then get out there and exercise that right! The deadline for registering to be able to vote in or change your party affiliation for the Aug. 14 primary election is July 16. Did you know that some local races will be decided in the primary, not the Nov. 6 general election? If you need information, please visit www.votemanatee.com. So this week, celebrate our great country -- with all of its complexity and diversity!
Bob Bartz, president of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, can be reached at 941-748-3411 or BobB@ManateeChamber.com.