Business Columns & Blogs

Focus on Manatee: Here’s how Manatee Chamber is approaching milestone with eye on future

This summer, the Manatee Chamber celebrates its 130th birthday, having started with the founding of the Bradenton Board of Trade in 1889.

While the name has evolved over the years — including the adoption of the name Manatee Chamber of Commerce and a focus on county-wide priorities through the merging of four Chambers, including Bradenton and Palmetto — the case for an effective, business-led organization to influence community trajectory has stood the test of time.

Leaders continue to rally around the Chamber’s leadership in representing the business voice to unify an expanding community and serving businesses of all sizes, types and locations.

The original mission of the Board of Trade was strikingly similar to what our mission is today: Build a positive business environment while enhancing our community’s quality of life.

Advocacy by the Chamber amplifies the voice of business, which has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in investment into our community.

Over 130 years, countless connections have been made between businesses and new customers and clients to support bottom line growth and encourage “think local” initiatives.

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Jacki Dezelski is the president of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber programs have influenced generations of local students with a focus on careers and soft skills. We have supported tens of thousands of businesses through sharing and directing resources that help them and their employees grow.

The Chamber shares information about our slice of paradise with visitors and new residents including those who have moved businesses to our region — from Parrish to Palmetto, Lakewood Ranch to Bradenton, Ellenton to the islands, South County to Myakka and many points between and beyond.

Our community has seen tremendous growth and it is likely that the leaders who saw the power in collaboration through starting the Board of Trade could not have imagined today’s business community and environment.

Three founding goals of the Board were to guarantee daily steamboat mail service, a telegraph line to Tampa and telephone connection for our community within a year, and a faint hope of a railroad transportation to some point on the river.

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An historic photo of the Bradenton Chamber. Photo courtesy of Manatee Chamber of Commerce

One of the Board’s first official advocacy actions in 1889 was a request to Congress to dredge the channel of the mouth of the Manatee River to move freight. In 1895 the organization was reorganized and renamed as the Manatee County Board of Trade, recognizing that a unified voice across the area carried great weight.

While the specifics are different, these original goals are similar to the legislative and policy positions the Chamber has today. We voice priorities related to infrastructure, workforce development, health care, education, economic development, natural resources and more.

We have a 130-year history of business men and women giving generously of their time, talent, and investment to thank for the progress we have experienced and continue to strive for today.

Most importantly, we approach this milestone anniversary with an eye to the future.

On Monday, the Chamber is moving into new space for our Bradenton operations in the city’s new mixed-use parking garage project.

We are thrilled to welcome you into our new offices and invite you to experience how the Manatee Chamber — through our Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch offices — is the face of the business community in the greater Manatee County area.

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The Manatee Chamber of Commerce as seen in 1993. Photo courtesy of Manatee Chamber of Commerce

One of our top questions is, “How can we help you, your business and your employees?”

We hope you’ll stop in and let us know.

Jacki Dezelski is the president of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce and can be reached at or 941-748-3411.

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The Manatee Chamber of Commerce’s downtown Bradenton building before being demolished to make way for its new home. Photo courtesy of Manatee Chamber of Commerce

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