Chamber’s D.C. Fly-In

Everywhere in Washington, D.C. I was reminded of the phrase E Pluribus Unum. It was on the great Seal of the United States and was long time considered the de facto motto from 1782 until 1956, according to Wikipedia.

When the Manatee Chamber’s delegation went to Washington to visit our national leaders recently, this phrase became embedded in my thinking – as we started our first day with a tour of the Capitol. It is on the buildings, coins, seals and sculptures. Throughout the two days, E Pluribus Unum stuck with me like a tune I couldn’t get off my mind.

Out of the many – emerges one.  Originally, it meant our original 13 colonies and the emergence of our nation. In more modern times, it has taken on an universal appeal of unity, commonality, assimilation .. even racial, cultural and religious meanings. Moreover, it reminded me of our great state, our organization, our mission, our trip – in a general sense.

We are a diversity of our many members .That, as a Chamber, is arguably our biggest strength; the melting pot of mostly small businesses as well as active large corporations, a diverse group of native Manatee Countians as well as an in migration of members/residents and leaders, gatekeepers and followers. Those that are humble and those that are arrogant. .. the list goes on and on.

That (diversity) can also be our biggest weakness as a country, county, state and a chamber of commerce. For example, if we did not have a specific mission and objective(s) when we went to D.C. or to Tallahassee (where we go annually), we most likely would be unsuccessful.  Every one of the six members who travelled to D.C. had a specific topic/responsibility. If any one of them had diverted and talked about an issue that was not on our Business Agenda, it would have weakened our purpose. I thank them for their unity of purpose and leadership and vision. When we were in D.C., we spoke out for the residents and the tourists, the islanders and the mainlanders, those with health care and those without.  Out of the many, emerges one.

If you want to learn more about the D.C. trip and our meetings while there, read the October article and view the pictures in the Current magazine.  Also, in the months ahead you can follow our 2013 Business Agenda for Tallahassee, Fl. and in Washington, D.C.

This is a most important election year. You are encouraged to be inspired and to learn more about the many issues and elections facing our community.  Become involved in crafting and carrying out your Chamber’s voice. We are definitely a mix of different cultures and individuals and want to retain our distinct identity. Help us E Pluribus Unum in Manatee County!ImageImage

New Brand Revealed for Manatee County as a Destination

The Bradenton Area Convention & Visitors Bureau unveiled its new brand this morning. Attendees at the event received BACVB Ambassador pins and were encouraged to find ways to develop continuity through cross promotion and marketing.

I was fortunate to be in the audience this morning as the Bradenton Area Convention & Visitors Bureau unveiled its new brand for Manatee County as a tourism destination. Looking around the room, there were community leaders from every corner of the County and many places in between – Anna Maria Island, Lakewood Ranch, Palmetto, Bradenton, Longboat Key and more. Elliott Falcione and his team did a great job explaining the comprehensive, data-driven research that went into this brand development and giving visual examples of how it will be delivered through new marketing, advertising, etc. The Manatee Chamber’s two office – in Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch – are official Tourist Information Centers in partnership with the BACVB and Manatee County. We see tens of thousands of people in our two lobbies every year and look forward to finding new ways to support Manatee County and its six cities as destinations for visitors. Tourism = New Dollars Coming into the Community = Jobs.

Manatee Chamber Proud to be a Sponsor and a Place-Maker: Sustainable & Authentic Florida Conference – October 17- 19

While having lunch at the Sandbar restaurant on a beautiful summer day on Anna Maria island, owner Ed Chiles and I discussed the upcoming October 17-19 Sustainable and Authentic Florida Conference.  Immediately, I was attracted to the idea and offered for the Manatee Chamber’s hand in support, being a sponsor (with the Chamber board approval later forthcoming) and in promoting the event.  Ed was honored this first time Conference was coming to Coastal Manatee County because Anna Maria was such a place of character and been able to thrive in times of economic downturn.  I was encouraged by (our Chamber) the fact that we had something in common with Anna Maria and although we have seen harder times and a drop in membership, we recently received the distinction by the Tampa Bay Business Journal as the largest Chamber (in terms of membership) in Tampa Bay.

 The Manatee Chamber’s involvement over the years in so many quality issues in our community also made us a good match for such a Conference.  Where do we begin to tell the story of the Manatee Chamber and it’s origins?  All the way back to 1889 and the then Bradenton Board of Trade. Some of the “place-making” history is as follows;  

  — to name a few signature events – the Board of Trade (nearly 10 years later) helped in the securing of the first railroad to our community,

  — then in 1926 advocated ambitiously for the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to be constructed,

  — not confined to development for development’s sake but more for development of “community” –

 —  e.g. in the early 1990’s the Chamber recommended to Manatee County to establish “livable roadways” whereby up to 5% of construction is earmarked for livability factors such as landscaping, bike paths/sidewalks and aesthetics,

  — in 2010, the Manatee Chamber created a Green Initiative in which corporate energy efficiencies were recognized to reduce dependency on foreign oil and job creation/retention.

Realizing right of way costs were increasing and the ability to pay for roadways are very limited – for example, there has not been an increase in the federal gas tax since the Ronald Reagan era, the Chamber has investigated other measures such as safety and intersection improvements such as light synchronization or intelligent transportation systems (ITS). In 2003, we were able to garner $27 million (out of a total $50 million) to go toward hundreds of intersections in Manatee County.  This will ultimately improve roadway efficiencies by between 18-24%.  A sound investment .. and your Chamber was in the leadership on the funding of this initiative – advocating in Tallahassee.  Chris Mead, Senior Vice President with the American Chamber of Commerce Executives and authoring The Magicians of Main Street: The Story of America’s Chambers of Commerce, stated, “ Transportation remained a focus of chambers of commerce in the early 20th century, as it had been in their earliest days.” Such is certainly true in Manatee County and our Chamber throughout it’s existence. The Transportation Committee retains a very strong identity in our organization.  Whether it is getting from point “a”  to point “b” or merely handing over a map at the front desk, what could be more important in place-making genre?

 According to Bob Bartz, President of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce for 30 years;  “Place-making is a centerpiece of our organization”.  Most recently, he continued, the Manatee Chamber has worked successfully in support of a medical residency program to recruit more physicians to our underserved area and in helping to provide an equitable funding formula for our technical institute ($4 million over two years at MTI). These two initiatives over the last two years will improve our community  greatly in job training/placement and physician recruitment.  These accomplishments are all about place-making.

 In 2014, the Manatee Chamber of Commerce will celebrate their 125th anniversary. The tradition of  .. “business people cooperating for the good of the community”  is a legacy to be proud about. Likewise, go to and sign up for a conference to also be remembered through the ages.


From Member to Membership Representative!

My journey started with the Manatee Chamber of Commerce back in 2004 when I decided to open my own business.  Jacki recommended I go to the Manatee Chamber and sign up for the FREE first time business owner course!  Best thing I could have done as I began to write my business plan and watch my dream come to life.  The doors of The Monogram Market opened in September 2004 and I do not think I could have done it without the help of Wayne and the small business advisors program at the Chamber.  He met with me as often as I would like before I opened, and then continued to keep up with me even until the end when I decided to close the doors of my business.


After opening, I was soon approached by a member volunteer to join the Manatee Chamber of Commerce to help get my business name out to the community, network, and be apart of the Manatee Young Professionals.  Again, best thing I could have done as a small business owner.  All I had to do was show up to events, and the Chamber took care of the rest as far as planning and getting others there!  I did a ribbon cutting with Marie and Jacki, and that many more customers came through my door!  The monthly publication “The Current” kept me in the loop of all of the monthly events the Chamber put on and it was fun looking at all the pictures of events!  The Monogram Market was even a finalist for Small Business of the Year….what an honor!


The last year of my membership with the Manatee Chamber changed as I shut down the doors to the retail side of my business and did everything out of my home!   It was not a full time job and I still wanted to be involved.  Luckily, I ran into Jacki at a holiday party and asked her if there where any jobs openings at the Chamber??   She got me in touch with Marie and my journey began as membership representative.    Talk about learning so much more about an organization!!!  As a member, you have no idea how many benefits, seminars, programs, etc. that the #1 Chamber in the Nation offers to its members!  I am still learning everyday what we do and how we can help business owners succeed.  I believe being a former business owner gives me an edge working with business owners now.  I understand the blood, sweat, tears, and finances you put into your own business!  I also understand and truly believe in membership with the Manatee Chamber of Commerce!  Being a member was a great experience but working here is even better.  No day is the same, the people I work with are the best, and I love being in the know!  Stop by and see how the Manatee Chamber can help you like it has helped me in so many ways! 

Chamber Preferred Business Directory and Newcomer’s & Visitor’s Guide

Have you seen the Chamber’s business directory for 2012?

It’s “beautiful” to quote a member who recently took time to look it over. It’s not by accident that we strive to improve this publication each year. I have had this project under my management since 2006. I love seeing the finished project each year when we package it into envelopes and mail it to our members. Did you know that the entire Chamber staff has a hand in mailing these to our members each year? It is officially called the “annual stuffing party” where all Chamber staff stops work for the morning and stuffs the directories into envelopes to be mailed to our members. During this process we enjoy watching a movie chosen by Carey Miller, our Office Administrator and snacks of course… the staff LOVES to share home recipes of goodies whenever possible with each other.

The process it takes to choose a printer for this magazine is well thought out and takes a great deal of time and research. It is a Chamber specialty company and is searched for locally (especially locally) and nationally!  They have to have a sales team that will come to our area and meet with our members, they need an art department to design and write the guide and all the ads that are purchased by our members – which is included in the price of the ad, and they need to print the final book. That sounds pretty simple, but I assure you, the devil is in the details. The printing portion is offered to all our local print members that can print and perfect bind the finished product (perfect bound is the tricky part).

The most recent company that was chosen is SouthComm Publishing. Betty Revis, who is our sales person from SouthComm is living in Manatee for 2 months to complete the sales for the ads. I can’t imagine having a job where you have to relocate yourself for your job for 8 to 10 weeks at a time, but she does it! (And she does a great job of it too!) My hat is off to her for running from one end of the county to another meeting with members. Like today for instance, she was soaked from the downpour of rain going from University Parkway to Longboat Key, what a gal!

If you haven’t taken a few minutes to look over this year’s directory, I encourage you to do so, it’s a gem! You will find a wealth of information about Manatee, area cities, history, schools, a new hotel guide (this is sweet!) and beautiful photos of the area along with our member listings in the directory portion and much much more.

Many Chambers across the country charge money for these magazines to their members, that’s crazy talk! We offer it free to everyone, visitors who call and want info about the area, members who want many copies to give out at their locations to their clients and everyone in between. 

Stop by either of our Chamber offices in downtown Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch if you can’t put your hand on it at your office. Be sure and take some with you, they are great for visiting family and friends who want to know all about the area and our magnificent Chamber!


Reflections on a Dozen Years

Those of you who are my friend on Facebook are probably aware that I recently hit my twelve year anniversary with the Manatee Chamber. Wow!  I thought it might be fun to reflect on some of the changes we’ve experienced since 2000.

  • Social Media. Yeah, that’s the big one for me so I’m giving it top billing. Twelve years ago Facebook was nothing to us and now we have more than 3,000 fans on our page. It is such a great way to interact with members!  Twitter and LinkedIn are good communication tools as well, although I’m more of a Facebook fan.
  • Staff. There are lots of people still here – Bob Bartz, Jacki Dezelski, Neil Spirtas and Joni Korzen were all around when I bounced onto the scene. Lisa Reeder arrived just a few months after me.  But the majority – Kim Dalglish, Reba Parrish, Jahna Leinhauser, etc. – came onboard at later dates. I don’t know how the Powers That Be find such amazing people, but they do so consistently!
  • Chamber of the Year. We won our first Florida Chamber of the Year Award just six months into my tenure. Food, parties, and accolades – I just knew I was going to love this job!  Two more Florida Chamber of the Year Awards and the inaugural National Chamber of the Year were to come.
  • Members. We hit some bumps in the road due to the economy, but our membership is higher than it was then and we’ve added some great members!  I count most of them as friends because you’re not going to meet a better bunch of people anywhere.
  • Lakewood Ranch Office. My predecessor hadn’t quit… instead, she headed out to the ComCenter on State Road 70 to open our first mid-County office. Which later grew to become our Lakewood Ranch Office at the McClure Center.
  • That little calendar we used to have on our website became it’s own site and grew to include events from throughout our area. It’s an invaluable tool (and if you’re not posting your events on there free of charge, you should be).
  • Manatee Young Professionals. I sure was a young professional when I started, since I was just 27 years old!  Ours is the longest-running young professionals organization in the South Tampa Bay Area and it is awesome if I do say so myself.  Yours truly helped choose the domain name Short and to the point!
  • Green Certification / Sustainable Manatee. What was that twelve years ago? Our green initiative back then was choosing the golf tournament shirt color.  Now our local businesses are saving the environment through dedication to eco-friendly products and programs! And we have an electric car charging station right outside my office window. Spiffy!

I could go on and on about how our Manatee Chamber has continued to grow and expand, adding programs and initiatives. But my post is already pretty long, so I’ll just sign off by telling you this is a great organization to work for and the businesses that are members are the best. I enjoy working with each and every one of you!

Why local businesses count.

I was told once that a local retailer (not here) started to put fliers in their customer’s bags that showed how much of each dollar spent in their store that stayed in the community. They compared the number to their national chain competition. The results were astounding – $100 spent at local retailers retains almost $67 or 67% as opposed to national chains where $43 stays local – or in other words 25% of money spent in local stores stays in the local economy.

Why does all of this matter? In this day and age, large big-box corporations are becoming more prevalent in communities such as ours. And where they have their place, they are also crowding out some of the long-established local retailers. This is not a bash on the big-box stores, but a call to action to save our local retailers, and here are just a few reasons why:

  • Local retailers hire locally. Most big-box stores do hire locally, but also bring in a certain percentage of workers that either commute from other areas or relocate.
  • Local retailers buy goods locally. Most of the big-box stores are trending towards local purchases for produce and other goods, however their market share is still lower than local retailers.
  • Local retailers contract local services through well-established relationships whereas big-box national retailers will contract with national contractors who are not necessarily based in the local community.
  • Local retailers are usually members of the local Chamber of Commerce and immersed in the business community. Big-box retailers sometimes join chambers, but most of the time corporate policies prohibit local involvement.

Why does this all matter? Well if a local retailer were to have a 10% increase in profits, most of that money would then circulate its way back into the community allowing for more growth and prosperity.

Here is what you can do to help:

  1. Look at local retailers when you are looking to buy goods and services. The Manatee Chamber of Commerce maintains a detailed membership directory to assist you in this endeavor and provides tools such as the Local Quotes 4 U which gives anyone access to solicit proposals from Chamber Members.
  2. Ask your retailer where their goods are sourced from. In this area of the country, we are blessed with agriculture and manufacturing that is local and more diversified than you think.
  3. Split your money between the big-box retailers and the local retailers. You will find that you may pay more at the local retailer, but the quality and customer service as well as the savings on fuel will outweigh the savings at the big-box retailer.
  4. Encourage others to adopt the above practices or to look through the Chamber directory for local business contacts.
  5. Encourage businesses that are not members of their local Chamber to join. According to a Shapiro Group study, 63% of those polled would buy from a Chamber member over a non-member based on their investment in their own community.

If most everyone in Manatee County took just $10 a week and spent it at their favorite retailer, we could have an initial economic impact of well over $1 million dollars per week adding up to over $50 million per year. And that is money that stays in our community.

Manatee Chamber Makes Media Exposure for Businesses Easier than Ever

(Manatee County, FL) –   What better way to help area businesses than by assisting them in getting the word out about their products, services, events, new hires, and more?  In 2006, the Manatee Chamber of Commerce became the first Chamber in the country to offer an online Press Release Submission Tool free of charge to its members.  It was an immediate success, particularly with smaller members with little to no marketing staff.

And now it’s even better!  The online tool has been improved to offer additional information and functionality, including: the contact names at each media to whom press releases are sent, a field to individualize the subject line of each release, and the ability to print mailing labels and follow up on your electronically submitted information with a hard copy.

How does it work?

  • Members of the Manatee Chamber receive a unique login to access the Press Release Submission Tool
  • Fill in contact information and press release
  • Attach photos and documents (optional)
  • Select media to whom the release should be sent
  • Click submit

“In today’s fast world and faster news cycle, it’s more important than ever to get your information into the hands of the media,” stated Manatee Chamber President Bob Bartz. “The Manatee Chamber’s Press Release Tool reaches more than 90 media representatives in the Tampa Bay area. In addition to newspapers, television, radio, and magazines, releases are sent to blogs and electronic news outlets. More than 80 million individuals get their news online every day and major media outlets get a significant percentage of their stories from local media outlets.  We believe in helping local businesses promote their good news.”

For more information on the Manatee Chamber of Commerce Press Release Submission Tool, contact Carey Miller at 941-748-3411.

The Manatee Chamber of Commerce Announces “Cash Mob Manatee” Event Saturday, March 24 at Main Street Bazaar

(Bradenton, FL) –
You’ve heard of “flash mobs,” but have you heard of a “cash mob?” The Manatee Chamber of Commerce will be promoting Manatee County’s first “Cash Mob Manatee” for Saturday, March 24 from 3:00pm to 5:00pm at Main Street Bazaar (8111 Lakewood Main Street, #J101 in Lakewood Ranch). The entire community is encouraged to participate!

What is Cash Mob Manatee? A fun, fast-paced and concentrated shopping event designed to draw more awareness, visibility, and shoppers to locally-owned businesses.

How does a “cash mob” work? We start by getting the word out to everyone who is interested in supporting our local businesses that there is a “cash mob” event happening on a specific date at a specific time. Shoppers then show up during the designated time frame at the featured business and buy something. There are three rules: spend a little cash at the business, meet people you didn’t know, and have fun!

How was Main Street Bazaar chosen as the first “Cash Mob Manatee” location? It was drawn from a list of retail businesses that are local members of the Manatee Chamber.

“Encouraging consumers to spending their money locally couldn’t be more important than in this time of economic recovery,” stated Manatee Chamber President Bob Bartz. “Shopping in the Manatee County region saves jobs, preserves our local flavor, and reduces environmental impact and transportation costs. According to a Michigan State University study, 73% of dollars spent at local businesses stays in the community. Small local businesses are the largest employers nationally and create two out of every three new jobs. It’s critical that we support these small businesses.”

The Manatee Chamber plans to host additional “Cash Mob Manatee” events in the future. For more information, contact Carey Miller at 941-748-3411.

Small Firms = Big Targets for Hackers

Hackers are starting to move away from “big scores” that are harder to accomplish, and are moving on to smaller and ultimately easier and more profitable thefts from small and medium-sized businesses, whose generally lax to non-existent security systems make for easy and quick money.

In physics, there’s a concept called ‘the path of least resistance’. The meaning is plain enough objects that move in a system take the path where they will encounter the least challenges and hurdles in order to quickly move to wherever they are going.

Apparently, the same principle applies to hackers nowadays. Instead of targeting larger firms for that big ‘score’, hackers are now considering it more feasible and much easier to victimize smaller firms and companies, even for a much smaller amount of money.

Why is that? First, smaller companies generally have much more vulnerable IT systems. Security is minimal or average at best, and the hackers don’t get as much heat or attention when compared to trying to breach the much more complicated, state-of-the-art security systems of bigger firms and businesses. Take a small newsstand business in Chicago: cyberthieves were able to install a Trojan in the cash registers which sent swiped credit card numbers to Russia. When the jig was discovered, Mastercard subsequently demanded an investigation – at the expense of the business owner – and the proprietor had to shell out a hefty $22,000.(i)

A survey in the United States reveals that more than half of small or medium-sized businesses believed that they ran no risk of being victimized by hackers, and less than half of the respondents had security systems in place.(ii) That looks like a path of least resistance, as far as hackers are concerned.

The loss of a few thousand bucks may not be much for a big business, but it can make a significant dent on the profits and sustainability of smaller organizations. And in the case of implanted viruses that steal credit card information, your reputation can also take a big hit. So if you want your business to stay truly safe before it’s too late, please contact us so we can discuss options and blueprints to make your business secure.

References: (i) and (ii)

Published with permission from Source.

Article contributed by:
David Spire, President
United Systems Computer Group