Business Columns & Blogs

Focus on Manatee: It’s crucial to involve young professionals in planning for the future

A big part of fostering leadership — in a community or in an organization — is creating opportunity for voices to be heard. A big part of showing leadership is a willingness to use that voice for something bigger than yourself.

On Friday, our community celebrated the inaugural Manatee Young Professionals MVP Awards to honor young professionals in the Manatee County region for demonstrating excellence in their careers, leadership development and advocacy.

We also honored employers in Manatee County who have implemented creative and intentional initiatives to attract and retain young talent to our region.

It was an uplifting and inspirational celebration and we were so proud to recognize 32 nominees and these MYP MVP award winners:

MYP MVP Award: Eleni Sokos, Sokos Social.

MVP Non-Profit/Government Award: Simone Peterson, Manatee County Government.

MVP Entrepreneur Award: Rich Knowles, enrich Bistro.

MVP Business Award: Ann Breitinger, Blalock Walters, PA.

MVP Employer Award: Manatee County Government.

Much of the dialogue at the event centered on the importance of looking beyond yourself for opportunities to make an impact. There was an obvious commitment to elevating the profile of young people who are seeking to influence progress in our area.

Jacki Dezelski-mug.jpg
Jacki Dezelski is the president of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce.

These are not just the leaders of tomorrow — they are a critical voice today. We encourage all organizations to involve young professionals in planning for the future.

The Manatee Chamber is a conduit for business voices to be heard on important issues impacted by legislation and policy. The 2020 Florida Legislative Session will begin on Jan. 14, 2020. In preparation, the Chamber has developed state priorities to guide our advocacy for the business community. We’ll start that 2020 advocacy in earnest in a few weeks when we are in Tallahassee.

We will hit the halls of the state capitol to meet with key agency heads, lawmakers and legislative staff during their committee week. Our state platform covers a number of issues that affect our business climate and our quality of life.

Several highlights of top priorities include:

Urge the use of all of Florida’s housing trust funds (Sadowski Act) to be used solely for housing programs.

Support of continued focus on legislation related to improved water quality.

Support of funding and expedited replacement of the DeSoto Bridge and consideration of all alternatives that will facilitate improved north/south capacity on the U.S. 41 corridor.

Support of funding the construction phase of the Anna Maria and Cortez Bridge projects including a ‘bus-on-shoulder’ lane for emergency vehicles and future transit alternatives.

Support of increased funding and/or enabling legislation for expanded access to long-term and acute behavioral health treatment focused on addiction, mental health, and suicide prevention, including funding to address the mental health crisis occurring at the VPK through high school levels.

Support of legislation to improve access to quality early learning, accountability measures for school readiness, including Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten readiness, and support for grade-level reading.

Support of funding for all Florida’s Public Technical College/Centers Workforce Education Programs at a minimum equitable funding level of 100% of the state model as developed and approved by the State FLDOE Workforce Education Funding Committee.

Support of bonding Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) funds to construct education facilities that expand access to workforce education, including the SCF Parrish Center Phase 1 and the USF-SM Academic STEM Facility.

Support of legislation that would reduce the Commercial Lease Tax (Business Rent Tax) over time, including usage of sales tax on internet sales (if passed) to accelerate the reduction.

Support of Enterprise Florida to proactively market the state as a business destination and incentivize corporations to relocate to Florida.

Support of Visit Florida to ensure the state is a premier destination for visitors nationally and internationally.

Our advocacy efforts are built on 130 years of business leaders willing to add their voice to consensus issues through the Chamber. Earlier this year, during the 2019 session, we saw a number of successes thanks to the leadership of our elected officials.

Our state lawmakers were attentive to our local priorities, including water quality, where $25 million was appropriated to address red tide and blue-green algae and $3 million of recurring funding for six years was committed for red tide research to Mote Marine Laboratory.

Our lawmakers also showed continued support for our post-secondary institutions. Workforce programming is essential to our region’s ability to develop a highly skilled talent pipeline.

Specifically, operational support for USF Sarasota Manatee, State College of Florida, and Manatee Technical College were a focus along with increased funding for performance-based industry certifications for technical colleges and capital funding for SCF’s nursing center and science laboratory.

Thank you to our state Senators and House of Representatives members for their dedicated service and commitment to our community. The Manatee Chamber amplifies the voice of 2,000 businesses in our region and we will continually monitor our priorities as bills make their way through the process.

We will stress the importance of policies that strengthen our business environment and enhance our quality of life.

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

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