Opportunities abound in the new year

Special to the HeraldJanuary 7, 2013 

The start of a new year is always an exciting time for me as I look at a fresh calendar with 365 days full of potential and purpose.

It's an exciting time for businesses and organizations, too, as new strategic plans are implemented along with newly set goals for growth and job creation.

At the Manatee Chamber we begin each year with one of our largest annual events. In a few weeks we will host our 50th Annual Dinner at the Polo Grill in Lakewood Ranch. More than 400 of our community's business leaders will gather to celebrate the accomplishments of the past year and look ahead to goals that will make 2013 a year full of progress. It's a night where old friends reconnect over shared priorities and new friends make connections that will help their business succeed.

The Manatee Chamber is committed to being a catalyst for good things - things that strengthen local businesses and make this community a great place to live and work. We achieve success thanks to more than 2,000 businesses that make an investment in us. We make things happen thanks to more than 400 business people who serve on 25 committees and task forces tackling issues such as health care, workforce development, education, infrastructure and regulation.

In my 30 years with the Manatee Chamber I have seen thousands of business people give of their time, talent and treasures to both build the foundation for a great community and grow our economy to support jobs and families. I've come to realize "If not the Chamber, then who? If not the Chamber, then how?"

Among these thousands of generous business people are a very special group of men and women who have served as chairmen of the Manatee Chamber. At our annual dinner we will thank John Horne, owner of the Anna Maria Oyster Bar restaurants, for his tremendous service in 2012. John makes an impact whenever and wherever he gets involved and the chamber is no exception. Thank you, John, for making 2012 such a success and so much fun!

We will also formally recognize Tom Seguin, owner of Suncoast Gems, as the Manatee Chamber's 2013 Chairman. Tom is bringing great enthusiasm and a focus on honing the message about why the chamber is such a valuable tool for both business and community success.

We're starting 2013 with another uptick in an important statistic, as reported through our most recent chamber membership survey: 97.1 percent of Manatee Chamber members believe that 2013 will bring neutral or, even better, positive economic growth locally. And 73.5 percent believe Manatee County and our cities are on the right track. Partnerships are critical to large-scale change and the Manatee Chamber will be a catalyst, convener and collaborator.

Some of the toughest issues facing local businesses are national or global in nature. But we have identified ways that the Manatee Chamber can make a difference on things such as health care, legislative issues, downtown redevelopment, our unique sports performance industries and more. We will bring the right people together to tackle challenges and produce lasting success stories.

Good things are happening every day in Manatee County and we'd love to hear from you about them. So, please pick up the phone, send us an email or, better yet, stop by our downtown Bradenton or Lakewood Ranch offices and tell us something great about your business or our community.

Robert P. Bartz, president of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, can be reached at 941-748-3411 or BobB@ManateeChamber.com.

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