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Bradenton DDA director hired to lead Suncoast Community Capital

BRADENTON — The man charged with leading the revitalization of downtown Bradenton is leaving his post with the city but keeping his mission to spur area development.

Mike Kennedy has resigned as executive director of the Downtown Development Authority to become the executive director at Suncoast Community Capital, a fledgling nonprofit focused on small business development in low-income areas.

Kennedy, 35, said his Christian faith and desire to help underserved residents played key roles in his decision to join Suncoast Community Capital.

Before taking the DDA job in July 2006, Kennedy led the local Habitat for Humanity chapter. He remains a Habitat board member.

“I think the best way to put it is I just felt led to get back to working on behalf of people looking for more opportunity. I decided to follow that leading,” Kennedy said.

“The work we do at the Downtown Development Authority, which is good work for the community, is more place-based, and rightfully so. I was intrigued by this opportunity because it’s focused on empowering people.”

Kennedy will leave the DDA on Jan. 27 and begin his new post Jan. 31.

Kennedy’s new position comes with a considerable cut in pay. He makes $72,100 in salary, plus a $4,800 annual car allowance, as the DDA executive director. The Suncoast post pays $45,000.

Suncoast Community Capital is based in Bradenton at 302 Manatee Ave. E. Its mission is to create economic opportunities in underserved and economically distressed areas of Manatee and Sarasota counties.

Kennedy served on the Suncoast board of directors until the executive director position was posted. He requested a leave of absence from the board during the hiring process and resigned after accepting the position.

“He just has a tremendous background of experience and expertise in the type of economic development and business development that we’re focused on,” Suncoast board member Dr. John Else said. “He has a tremendous number of contacts in the community.”

In October, Suncoast and the Manatee Community Action Agency received a three-year federal grant of $317,500 to provide microenterprise services to low-income residents of Manatee County.

Else said Suncoast has made five loans of between $2,000 and $3,000 to small businesses.

Kennedy came to Bradenton in 1999 as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ director of Florida operations. He left that position in 2004 to get a master of business administration at the University of Florida before taking the Habitat for Humanity job.

He said the DDA’s role in creating the Realize Bradenton campaign and the plans for Riverwalk revitalization are among his top accomplishments with the city.