New year brings excitement, fresh outlook

If you're like me, a new year brings excitement, a fresh outlook and quite a bit of energy to get things started. There also can be trepidation if the goals you've set are ones that, by design, will stretch and challenge you. Those are the best kind, right? In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day I find that this quote from Dr. King offers a great perspective which recognizes that we all can do something that contributes to progress:

"If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward." -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Following up on last week's prediction by Dr. Hank Fishkind that 2015 will be a strong year economically for Manatee County I'm excited about areas that the Manatee Chamber's board of directors has chosen to focus renewed resources and attention. By bringing strong leadership to the table we're committed to moving the needle on issues that impact local businesses and our community.

One of those areas is engaging local young professionals in becoming more effective advocates. As an example, just a few days ago we hosted a discussion with our Manatee Young Professionals members and Manatee County government on the issue of workforce housing. We've been hearing from the Millenials and even Gen X members that Manatee County does not yet have the right mix of housing options -- type, price, location -- to meet the desires of their demographics. This is a really critical issue to positioning Manatee County for the future workforce -- and leadership -- of our community. I am excited about the rich conversations and new ideas that young professionals will bring to the table at the Chamber this year.

We also are strategizing on access to technology. It touches so many facets of community success from educational achievement to attracting talent to recruiting new businesses. We're hoping to identify new opportunities that will enhance our community's brand and help close the technology gap.

We'll also focus and advocate on priorities related to workforce development. We want to support initiatives that improve educational outcomes and enhance the skill levels of our future and current workforce. There are strong partnerships already in place that link businesses with our schools so we're starting from a great position to take some of these efforts to the next level. We're

working on ideas for increased internship opportunities as well as new ways to bring business and educational leaders together in collaborative ways.

These are just a few of the areas that the Manatee Chamber has identified for the coming year. As we look at 2014 with a rearview mirror I am confident that the foundation Manatee County has built upon the leadership of local businesses is strong. With so many indicators pointing in a positive direction, I predict that 2015 will be another year of growth and progress. Let's get started!

Bob Bartz, president of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, can be reached at BobB@ManateeChamber.com or 941-748-3411.