Manatee chamber plans for the future with upcoming retreat

October 1, 2012 

Here at the Manatee Chamber, we've been spending the past several months preparing for our annual planning retreat and leadership conference, surveying our board and membership, vetting topics, securing speakers and collaborating with our facilitator. The work has brought to mind some of the questions that seem to surround leadership: Aren't the problems too big? Won't someone else handle these issues? What difference can I make? Does anyone even care? The answers, thankfully, are most often found by looking to our own community for solutions.

The past several years have put extraordinary stresses on every resident and every business, but our best days are still ahead of us as they always have been in difficult times. I am proud to work for an organization that traces its beginnings here in Manatee County back to 125 years ago. Over the course of more than a century, the Manatee Chamber of Commerce has convened community leaders to address critical issues -- issues that affect businesses and the quality of life enjoyed by residents and visitors, alike.

This coming weekend, more than 100 local leaders will spend two days of their own time -- on their own dime -- charting the course for new initiatives for the Manatee Chamber. Our mission continues to be one that creates a positive business environment while supporting our community's quality of life. Our focus recognizes the fact that the success of local businesses equals the success of our community, and vice versa.

We will focus on the theme of "Building Economic Prosperity." Business and community leaders will cover topics ranging from the impact of Port Manatee to branding Manatee County; economic development to creativity; healthcare to downtown redevelopment; and many topics in between. This retreat will allow committed individuals to develop esprit de corps, foster communications, unify around common goals and build upon chamber assets to support businesses.

Recent successes resulting from this type of chamber collaboration include the Manatee County Healthcare Study, creation of the Manatee Young Professionals, new business-friendly policies through local government, afocus on "buy local" promotions, expanded business training, to name a few. This weekend's agenda will providenew opportunities for

chamber leaders to answer age-old questions:

n Aren't the problems too big? If we can't tackle the whole thing at once then we will bite off a manageable piece and get chewing!

n Won't someone else handle these issues? We are that someone.

n What difference can I make? "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." -- Margaret Mead

n Does anyone even care? We care. We live here. We work here. We play here.

Building upon a chamber tradition 125 years in the making, the future is bright and businesses will lead the way for an even better Manatee County.

Bob Bartz, president of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, can be reached at 941-748-3411 or

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