Manatee Chamber’s agenda is making a better community

Successful communities are dynamic places. They are responsive to change and allow their policies to evolve in order to shepherd progress. This is a big part why the Manatee Chamber has a strong focus on robust advocacy. Our ongoing efforts cover numerous quality of life issues that correlate to the strength of our business environment – and vice versa.

Today there are several policy issues that are top of mind and ripe for change in the coming months. These include Manatee County Government’s revisions to the County Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code and updates to the County and municipal noise ordinances. As a result of the invaluable talent and time put forth by our Chamber members, in concert with the leadership of our elected leaders, the Chamber has been effectively pushing for change.

Seven years ago, the Chamber’s Urban Infill and Revitalization Committee presented recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners with a particular focus on the challenges for quality infill and redevelopment under the existing land development code. Since then our committee continues to work on these important revitalization issues and recently made a policy recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners. We are pleased that the Commissioners are choosing to update the County Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code along our urban corridors. The proposed revisions will create a more urban-focused code for these areas, rather than the existing suburban model, in order to encourage infill and revitalization along the following key corridors: Tamiami Trail/14th Street, Cortez Road, 15th Street East, First Street, State Road 70, and Manatee Avenue.

We strongly believe this will contribute to the retention of our current and future workforce by creating economic opportunities and lifestyle choices through a diverse mix of housing options, infrastructure, multi-model transportation, social and business opportunities.

Additionally, with the guidance of the Chamber’s Downtown Redevelopment Committee and our Manatee Young Professionals members, the Chamber heard the voice of more than 500 business members regarding policy changes to our local noise ordinances to promote a more dynamic downtown core. The Chamber and our local governments have long been strong partners in encouraging redevelopment and revitalization in our urban core. We’ve had tremendous success across the County bringing in new businesses, shops, breweries, restaurants, and numerous outdoor amenities along our riverfront and in key urban centers.

However, our existing municipal and county noise ordinances are not conducive to a vibrant night-life within our commercial and entertainment districts. The Chamber is advocating for ordinance revisions that will create a healthy balance of both vibrancy and right to quiet enjoyment. We believe that in order to have successful revitalization within our commercial areas, we need a noise ordinance that is more progressive and urban-oriented to encourage the growth of businesses that enhance our urban core.

In these and other policy decisions, we believe it is essential for our businesses to be represented and that our collective voice be heard in order to strengthen our economic environment. The Manatee Chamber will continue to prioritize this through strong advocacy for positive policy changes that will encourage continued business growth and enhance our quality of life.

Robert P. Bartz is president of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce.