To me, downtown Bradenton is a special place. It is the heart of Manatee County and the location of my employer, Manatee Memorial Hospital.
Increasingly, it is also a cultural and entertainment destination for both residents and tourists.
I have a unique perspective on downtown’s evolution.
As a life-long resident, the board chair of Realize Bradenton Inc. and a board member of the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority and the Manatee County Tourist Development Council, I appreciate both the challenges and the opportunities we face.
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I also understand the power of connecting arts, culture and heritage to economic and physical development as a key to the success of our downtown.
Bradenton’s citizens made it clear they wanted to revitalize the downtown area; thousands participated in two major planning efforts (Downtown by Design and Realize Bradenton) over the last few years to determine the best course of action.
We are now executing those citizen-driven recommendations in cooperation with elected officials, civic leaders, non-profit organizations and local businesses. We are witnessing the momentum of our cultural development efforts with Bradenton’s designation as one of the Top 25 Small Cities for the Arts by American Style magazine last month.
The facts speak for themselves.
A 2009 economic study conducted by Americans for the Arts and coordinated by the Manatee Chamber Foundation provides compelling evidence that the nonprofit arts and culture are a $29.5 million industry in Manatee County — one that supports 441 full-time equivalent jobs and generates $1.9 million in local and state government revenue.
In addition, statewide data reveals that Florida’s nonprofit arts and culture industry generated $3.1 billion in economic activity in 2008, including:
n 88,236 full time equivalent jobs.
n $2.057 billion in resident household income.
n $196 million in local government revenue.
n $249 million in state government revenue.
Bradenton, with its valuable cultural assets, has the opportunity for even greater results as we pursue Realize Bradenton’s 10-year cultural master plan.
The full plan and information on the studies that led to it can be viewed in the “About Us” section of www.RealizeBradenton.com.
Public art is one of Realize Bradenton’s six major strategies to create a great downtown for living, working, playing and staying.
The first step of the Public Art program is the gateway project in the Village of the Arts, funded by taxpayers within the DDA’s 14th Street district.
The sculpture will serve as a landmark that signifies the presence of an artsdestination and beckons drivers to turn in and visit this nationally recognized artists community, which attracts thousands of visitors each year, bothdomestic and international.
I look forward to the completion of this project, and to more public art — distinctive banners on Old Main Street, murals created by both children and adults, and sculptures that lead visitors along the Riverwalk to downtown Bradenton.
Art means more business for downtown, and a strong downtown means a strong Bradenton.
Vernon DeSear, is vice president of marketing and business development at Manatee Memorial Hospital