Open your newspaper, read your Twitter feed, turn on the television, scan postings on Facebook or talk to your friends (we all still talk to one another, right?) and you are probably overwhelmed at the amount of information coming your way and wondering how you can affect change on issues important to you. Businesses are no different. Business people are looking for reliable, effective ways to engage on issues, receive accurate information, collaborate with peers and make an impact.
One critical role the Manatee Chamber plays is involving business leaders on important issues. We bring together accurate information, engaged people and a vision for the strongest Manatee County possible. It's a role that most people do not think of when it comes to the chamber. Sure, they know us as a networking organization and we certainly have a multitude of success programs addressing that. But most people do not realize that a large portion of our resources are devoted to convening the best and brightest business minds to work on critical business and community issues. We take a deliberate, comprehensive approach to studying issues in-depth. I like to say, "If not the chamber, then who?"
We have more than 430 business leaders serving on 25-plus committees and task forces. These groups are working on issues like education, transportation, natural resources, legislative advocacy, healthcare, leadership development and many more. A few recent efforts are:
n Successfully advocating for a medical residency program to be established in Manatee County to help meet the challenge of a physician shortage.
n Successfully advocating on changes to the technical school funding formula resulting in approximately $2 million more coming to Manatee Technical Institute each of the past two years.
n Successfully avoiding a raid on the State Transportation Trust Fund to protect critical infrastructure funds.
n Successfully advocating for the acceleration of road improvements on US 301 from DeSoto Road south to 12th Street.
n Successfully advocating for the installation of day boat docks in downtown Bradenton.
n Recognizing 18 businesses as Certified Green Businesses that support sustainability best practices designed to protect natural resources and conserve energy.
n Launching a finan
cial literacy program in all six Manatee County high schools to help young people start off on the right track with regards to their finances.
n Hosting several state leaders to give Manatee County businesses the opportunity to share our needs and ideas with decision-makers.
This list just scratches the surface on the impact the efforts of business leaders, through the Manatee Chamber, are having in our community.
If not the chamber, then who would be working on these? Businesses can sometimes get a bad rap for only being concerned about the bottom line. But, I have been in this community for 30 years and I can tell you without hesitation that business people know that the health of their business depends upon the quality of life within our community and, importantly, the reverse is true. Business leaders are collectively giving thousands of hours of their time each year to chamber efforts that address issues important to businesses, residents and visitors, alike. If you'd like to get involved, please let us know.
"If not the chamber, then who?"
Bob Bartz, president of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, can be reached at 941-748-3411 or BobB@ManateeChamber.com.