Max Stewart brings a wealth of experience and knowledge into the newly created position of director of business development for the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation.
Before joining the Bradenton Area EDC this week, Stewart was a regional manager for international trade development for Enterprise Florida, the state’s public/private partnership for economic development.
He was responsible for an 11-county area from Citrus to Collier — including Manatee — and was charged with developing and supporting Florida manufacturing and service companies in their exports and increasing their international focus.
Stewart also spent 10 years as president and CEO of the World Affairs Council of Central Florida. There, he managed Central Florida’s foreign visitor development, government dignitary visits, and business and trade promotion.
“His experience with international trade development for Florida businesses aligns well with our efforts to assist local businesses in reaching the world with their goods and services,” Sharon Hillstrom, the EDC’s president and CEO, said in the news release announcing the hiring of Stewart.
“Selecting a seasoned professional like Max underscores that the Bradenton area is serious about helping local businesses grow while bringing new businesses and jobs to the residents of Manatee County,” Hillstrom said.
Stewart, who earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida, lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Deanna, and their 1-year-old son, Max Jr.
Stewart spoke with the Bradenton Herald as he settles into his new job:
What attracted you to this position?
We get to create a business development strategy, which is very exciting. I really liked the mindset of having a focus on key targeted industries which will be important to the growth of the community. Having already been in the region, I see the potential for a number of companies to grow exponentially larger and thus attracting other companies to the area.
What are your immediate goals as you settle into the new position?
It is very important for me to have an understanding of the existing companies in Manatee County. Initially, I will be meeting with them to gain an understanding of why they chose Manatee County as a business destination. The knowledge I gain will help me to develop a business recruitment strategy that showcases the strong business case for Manatee County as a business destination.
How do you plan to take the EDC’s business recruitment efforts to the next level?
We will be very proactive in promoting the area. We will be in the social space, knocking on doors, at major events, and telling the county’s story. We really want to make sure that companies across the globe understand what Manatee is about so we both make sure it is a good fit.
You joined Enterprise Florida in 2013 and spent almost four years there. How did that position prepare you for your new endeavor?
Having worked on the state side of the program being involved in working projects, you get the understanding of the project process. Also being a part of the international trade team, working closely with manufacturers in every sector, you know their needs pretty well from the beginning. Our work will also bring in companies that will want to be close to port access, so a background in understanding the importance of trading routes, foreign markets and international access is key.
What is your philosophy on bringing new businesses to Bradenton and Manatee County?
Quality is number one. We want the best investments for Manatee County with the best potential.