Last Thursday night at the Chamber Annual Dinner marked the day that I officially passed the gavel to the new 2014 Chairman of the Board of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, Rae Dowling. I have to say it made me a little sad thinking that I won’t be involved in every meeting and committee our Chamber has and at the same time it is a little bit of a relief. I can feel good about the direction the Chamber is going with Rae at the helm and Bob, Neil, Kim, Jacki and staff behind her. We are still the largest Chamber in the Tampa Bay area and for good reason.
Every single day, your Chamber’s board, its committees, volunteers and staff work diligently to strengthen your business and our community. Do you know what the most important thing is? It’s the members. Each and every one of our members and their success are at the heart of what the Manatee Chamber does every single day.
The work that was accomplished last year was totally awesome. In 2013 we launched the new CEO Roundtable program. It’s a way that local business owners, CEOs and top-level managers can come together to serve as a sounding board for one another. We also traveled to Tallahassee and Washington DC to represent the business community and the residents of Manatee County! We achieved a more than 80% success rate in advocating our priorities to our elected officials. We also hosted our Governor, Rick Scott, Florida CFO Jeff Atwater, the Speaker of the House Will Weatherford and two US Congressmen, Vern Buchanan and his friend, Bill Schuster, the head of the Transportation Committee, at events designed to bring the voice of Manatee County businesses to the top decision makers in all levels of government.
This past year also saw the launch of our newest signature awards program with the Champions of Healthcare Awards. This program was a huge success in its first year. The event was absolutely packed as we brought positive attention and recognition to the great work being done in Manatee County in the area of healthcare.
This year marks 125 years since our Chamber began. We had presentations from many of our past Chairmen telling us what they remember as the most significant things that happened during their year. For my year I think of what our Chamber and Community has accomplished with our Downtown. The Riverwalk had just opened when I took over and it has turned out to be a world class waterfront park. The events Realize Bradenton has organized have really put Bradenton on the map. The renovation and opening of the Pink Palace/Historic Hampton Inn downtown has made an immeasurable difference to the gateway to our city. The work the EDC is doing in branding Bradenton as a Premier Sports Training destination is coming to fruition and the work of the CVB on landing the 2017 World Soccer Championship at Benderson Aquatic Park will have a tremendous effect on our local economy for the foreseeable future.
For me to have been even slightly involved in seeing those things through has truly been a privilege and an honor. I love this community and I believe this truly is the best place to live, work and play in Florida. And now I will go back to serving my friends and clients with their jewelry needs at Suncoast Gems and I hope to see you all there.
All my best,