Bright developments in Manatee County's economy build on the progress made over last year. With the county unemployment rate continuing to fall in 2013 -- down to 6.2 percent in November, the most recent figure -- an optimistic outlook for this year and beyond is warranted.
Just a handful of breaking news over the past month:
Air Products Port Manatee plans a grand dedication ceremony on Jan. 9 for its new high-tech manufacturing plant by the port.
The Allenton, Pa., company's new plant will build massive liquefied natural gas heat exchangers, and 53 workers have been hired with another 40 expected over this year.
Holmes Beach-based Air and Energy, a home contractor that offers electrical, air conditioning, plumbing and other installation and repair services, is expanding into downtown Bradenton this year.
The home-grown company bought a two-acre site with a large warehouse, more than double the size of its current island location. While the number of new jobs has not been projected at this time, the company did note that it has been adding three to four employees annually the past few years.
IRISS, which manufactures industrial-grade infrared windows, plans to expand its Lakewood Ranch plant and add 25 jobs over the next three years.
Missouri-based O'Reilly Auto Parts plans to build a hub store and warehouse in Bradenton, opening this coming summer. The chain's hub stores are larger than the others, and the warehouse will allow further expansion into this market.
Ryder Bikes opened a new location in University Park, the third after first opening in Bradenton in 1972.
Bayside Pet Spa, which pampers dogs with therapeutic mud baths, massages and more, also opened in University Park.
We're scratching the surface here. Numerous new restaurants have opened, and a batch of big housing developments are on the drawing board.
There are plenty of reasons for optimism for more progress in the economy.