On Nov. 27, the Manatee Economic Development Corp. will present a bold outreach initiative to guide Manatee County in attracting and retaining companies, growing jobs and creating a more diverse local economy.
This initiative "bolts on" to a multi-year economic development strategy created in 2009 with broad community participation. To develop the outreach program, the EDC worked with Atlas Advertising, a Denver-based company with broad experience in economic development marketing and strong relationships among the experts who advise companies on facilities locations. In advance of next month's event, I asked Ben Wright, Atlas CEO, to share insights from his team's work.
Hillstrom: Your team conducted research with a number of different audiences. One key audience was corporate relocation consultants who advise business executives on facilities location decisions. These consultants have looked at scores of communities as potential locations for their clients. What were their views of Manatee County?
Wright: Though nearby communities, such as Tampa, are very much on the radar of corporate relocation and site consultants, Manatee County has historically been overlooked. Only a third of the consultants we interviewed were aware of Manatee County, compared to nearly two thirds for some of the most competitive markets we have seen.
Hillstrom: Did you, personally, experience any surprises when you visited Manatee County and conducted research with the various audiences?
Wright: We expected to see great beaches, great climate, to experience the IMG Academy that Andre Agassi described in his book "Open." We certainly have seen great beaches and climate, but were surprised to see the world destination that IMG has become, and surprised to see the substantial manufacturing and port infrastructure that the area can provide to business. And, Lakewood Ranch provides a newness to the community that is exciting.
Hillstrom: Did your research uncover any perceptions of Manatee County that point to important strengths that the EDC should take into account in its work?
Wright: Perhaps the most important strength is that there is some national name recognition for Bradenton. Economic development efforts will be able to build on that, and work alongside the Bradenton Area Convention & Visitors Bureau to grow the business brand for the area.
Hillstrom: Does it matter whether members of
the public attend the session in November when you will discuss your findings and recommendations? Why not just stand by and let the people already involved in the Manatee EDC run with it?
Wright: Economic development is truly a community enterprise that can only succeed with a fully engaged community, from business owners and government leaders, to educators and local residents. Our presentation will help concerned citizens learn how the EDC will move forward in working to diversify the local economy. Ultimately, everyone benefits when economic development efforts are successful. Communities that understand this collaborative dynamic will flourish.
The Nov. 27 event, "Charting the Course," will be held 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Bradenton Area Convention Center. The session also will include a keynote address from Florida Secretary of Commerce Gray Swoope. For registration details, please visit www.ManateeEDC.com or call 941-748-4842, ext. 126.
Sharon Hillstrom, president and chief executive officer of the Manatee Economic Development Corp., can be contacted at info@ManateeEDC.com or 941-748-4842, ext. 128.