Four weeks ago the Manatee Chamber hosted a "hot topic" event for our Manatee Young Professionals members on the subject of housing, affordability, and preferences of millennials, generally people reaching young adulthood around the year 2000.
Several of Manatee County government's millennial and Gen X staff members made the presentation and then we facilitated a good deal of open discussion among our young professionals. Two weeks ago the Manatee County Commission hosted a workshop during which those same county staffers again presented this topic of "Millennial Housing." Several of our MYP members were there and gave public comment on the issue. And, let me tell you, those young county staffers were impressive.
The chamber has a number of goals for the coming year that focus attention on millennials and our young professionals. One of the most critical is encouraging and preparing them to be vocal, effective advocates on the issues that matter most to them. Housing -- its availability, affordability, amenities and location -- is at the top of the list.
Over the past several years, housing has emerged as a topic of great concern. We're hearing Manatee County lacks the types -- and price -- of housing options that appeal most to them. Unfortunately, the term "affordable housing" comes with inaccurate stereotypes. We believe to move the needle and encourage robust dialogue the term "millennial housing" is one that could be a rallying point. Addressing these needs will take leadership, creativity and maybe even some risk, but if we do not find a solution to incentivizing development, our community cannot emerge as an attractive place for millennials to put down roots.
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This year our MYP members have a unique opportunity to directly impact the future of our community as Manatee County goes through the process of updating its land development code and comprehensive plan. As has been said several times in recent chamber meetings, we need these young professionals engaged so that we're planning what our community should look like 20 or 30 years from now.
The Manatee Chamber is committed to offering new opportunities for engagement with our young professionals. We stand poised to partner with Realize Bradenton, if it is successful in its bid for a Knight Cities Challenge Grant on a major project aimed at millenni
als. We're enlisting more young professionals to join the Chamber's 25 committees including those focused on critical issues like transportation, infill redevelopment, natural resources, legislation and education. And, we're focused on creating new avenues to leadership and collaboration with seasoned business leaders and our young professional leaders.
My call to action for our business community is to get more of your millennial and Gen X employees involved with the Manatee Young Professionals and in leadership roles with other organizations. As was said at the County Commission workshop -- these young leaders are ready to step-up. If we do not provide those opportunities, there are other communities already doing so and we risk losing this critical demographic.
Bob Bartz, president Manatee Chamber of Commerce, can be reached at 941-748-3411 or by email at BobB@ManateeChamber.com