"I'm dreaming of a white Christmas!" OK, maybe not for us, but often snow in the North means a quick influx of visitors in the South.
The trend in tourism's impact over the past three years has been very positive for Manatee County. Figures show an increase of more than 180,000 additional annual visitors from 2009 through 2011 and the news from our chamber member businesses is that 2012 has been extremely strong as well. This is one item on my long list of things for which to be thankful.
Those winter visitors flock to Manatee County for "Chamber of Commerce weather" and a community rich in amenities. They provide a huge benefit to local businesses and the employees whose jobs depend on tourism and seasonal resident spending by pouring more than $764 million into our local economy (a 2011 statistic.) If you meet someone who is visiting, please say "thank you!" and invite them to come back again soon.
The attributes that bring visitors to Manatee County from all over the world are many of the same reasons that you and I love to call our slice of paradise "home." At the chamber, we're constantly working to ensure we have a high quality of life coupled with a strong business environment -- a combination that has to be tied together for our community to be vibrant.
Another benefit to our local economy and job creation is for each of us to intentionally "buy local." Being intentional and consistent in shopping local, particularly at this time of year, can make a huge impact on our businesses.
Please use the Manatee Chamber as a way to find businesses that offer the products and services you are seeking. Stop by our downtown Bradenton or Lakewood Ranch office, use our website and online business directory at www.ManateeChamber.com, call us for a referral or send a request via email.
This is also the time of year when a multitude of nonprofit organizationss go into overdrive trying to make things a little bit better for those who are struggling on our community, particularly our children. Whether it's a clothing or food drive, a toy collection, counseling services, veterans support effort or any one of our hundreds of Manatee County nonprofits, the chamber encourages your year-end support of these organizations and their critical missions.
Finally, this time of year inspires us to reflect upon the things most important to us. Your list, like
mine, probably startswith close family relationships, good health, the ability to contribute through meaningfulwork, a supportive network of friends and a beautiful community to call home.
I am thankful that my home is in Manatee County and for the countless fellow citizens who work hard to make it a slice of paradise year-round.
Happy holidays and best wishes for a healthy, prosperous new year!
Robert P. Bartz, president of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, can be reached at 941-748-3411 or BobB@ManateeChamber.com.