Focus on Manatee: It's time to reflect on what makes our community great

December 16, 2013 

"I'm dreaming of a white Christmas…" The Bing Crosby classic is a favorite of mine this time of year, particularly since I am blessed to call Florida my "home" and the "white" I experience is the beautiful sand on Anna Maria Island! And, while I hate to see the havoc this past month's frigid weather is causing to most everyone north of us, the silver lining is that our hoteliers, restaurants and retailers often benefit by increased tourism as our winter visitors come earlier. It will make the last month of 2013 a good wrap-up as we look with hope and determination to the coming new year.

Overall, 2013 has been a good year for the business community and our Manatee Chamber member companies have shared some important insights with us. A whopping 77 percent of the 540 local business people who completed a Chamber survey for us in September predict at least moderate growth in the coming year. Forty-two percent anticipate increasing their workforce -- with only 2 percent planning a decrease. These are great statistics that give me confidence that 2014 is going to be an even stronger year than 2013 has been.

It is also going to be a special year for us as the Chamber celebrates the 125th anniversary of the beginning of what is now the Manatee Chamber of Commerce. The Manatee County Board of Trade, founded in 1889, was the springboard for business leaders to come together to tackle tough issues. Over our 125 year history, the Manatee Chamber - under all of its previous names and structures - has played a key role in many of the most important decisions our community has made. We'll have a year's worth of recognition and remembrance starting at our annual dinner on Feb. 6. At that event we will highlight our past chairmen of the board sharing special moments and accomplishments from the years they led our organization. We could not undertake this special history project without the expertise of Manatee Educational Television - thank you METV!

Speaking of thanks, this is the perfect time of year to express your appreciation to the hundreds of non profit, charitable organizations that provide critical services to those in need in our community. As has become all too clear,

need knows no boundaries. The people these non-profits help are our neighbors, our co-workers, and us personally. We encourage your year-end support of these organizations and their critical missions.

Finally, the holidays are a time to reflect upon the things most important to us. My list includes strong family relationships, good health, supportive networks of friends, and the ability to contribute through meaningful work. I am blessed that Manatee County is my home for all of these things. Also, I am thankful for the countless fellow citizens who work hard to ensure that, regardless of what you're dreaming of this holiday season, we all play a part in making Manatee County the best play to work, live and play. Cue Mr. Crosby …

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

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