Manatee Chamber documents 125 years of success in video

February 17, 2014 

Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality

-- Warren G. Bennis

Two weeks ago, the Manatee Chamber debuted a video filmed and edited by the great folks at METV. It captures some of the 125-year history of our organization as shared by past chairmen of the board. We've received rave reviews (Oscar time!) that fall into two general categories - 1) "Wow, the leadership of the chamber has made a huge impact on our community." and 2) "Wow, I had no idea the chamber has been involved in issues like that!"

In his video segment, Bob Blalock talked about the hard work put in during his year as chairman to make sure the Sunshine Skyway was rebuilt. Did you know that some folks in the Tampa Bay region were lobbying against the bridge being rebuilt? I cannot even imagine the negative economic repercussions of that.

Fred Langford shared stories about the process leaders in our community went through to form the Manatee Chamber of Commerce by combining the Bradenton and Palmetto chambers with support from businesses all around Manatee County. Dick Turner share a story that also stressed the importance of everyone working together when during his year Manatee County, with the help of chamber leaders, successfully recruited the Siemens Corporation to Palmetto.

Dan Miller and Cliff Walters both mentioned keeping the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton as topics that came up during their years as board chairmen. Spring training and the Pirates' year-round operations are a huge economic engine for Manatee County, and the chamber has played a leadership role in helping the city and county keep them here.

John Rice shared the strong stance the chamber took on helping Manatee Memorial create a residency program that will help us attract and retain young doctors in Manatee County. It's business leaders' work on quality of life issues like health care and education that quickly prove false the criticism that business people only care about their own profit.

Frank Buskirk, Ed Volger and Carolyn Keller all mentioned issues related to major decisions positively impacting our community's infrastructure, including The Accord, tax initiatives designed to help infrastructure and transportation. Jack Miller and Ron Allen touched on major accomplishments in education and workforce

development while Greg Bustle, Mike Carter, and Mac Carraway shared things the chamber took on to support our local economy and economic development. Stu Gregory and Hugh McGuire shared efforts the chamber undertook to ensure our local elected officials knew the positions the business community had on important issues and stressed the importance of a large, unified business voice. Byron Shinn, Tom Danahy and Jerry Neff shared high points when our local business community was recognized through the Manatee Chamber's receipt of state and national awards.

Added to this is the role the chamber takes in helping our business community stay abreast of change and new technology. Susan Scott and Bob Turner shared advances the chamber made through new facilities and new online technology, including becoming one of the first chambers in the country to have a website. This online presence helps attract visitors, residents and new businesses to our community. Jan Smith and John Harllee mentioned the staff leadership at the Manatee Chamber and its importance to organizational success. Bill Sedgeman and Ron Forney cited two programs the chamber has created -- Leadership Manatee and BAND (Business Against Narcotics and Drugs) to positively impact Manatee County. To round it out, John Horne, Chris Pennewill and Rich Pierro shared humorous looks at how leadership can be fun through creating a culture that opens the door to involvement.

And, these items cover just 28 years of the Manatee Chamber's 125-year history (under its current and former names). As we experience it, leadership is the result of passionate business people coming together to build a vision, develop a plan, and execute for success. We see it every day as business leaders respond to new challenges and invest in solutions. Make no mistake -- it would be easier in the short-term to leave things status quo, but that's not leadership.

Thank you to the thousands of men and women in our community who have made a difference through their leadership in our organization!

Bob Bartz, president of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, can be reached at

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