Buy Local Week

LocalQuotes4U Online Bid ToolA week or so ago, I posted an “event” on Facebook. This isn’t a normal event with people getting together and food being served. It’s an online marketing event to help promote our buy local initiatives and LocalQuotes4U in particular.

As we enter the holiday season, it’s important to remember how much buying local does for our community. According to a study by Florida TaxWatch, for every $100,000 Floridians spend online with out of state companies, we lose a local job. In 2008, Floridians spent more than $11 billion online and 112,000 jobs were lost.

A locally owned business is more likely to produce income, jobs, tax receipts and charitable donations for a community over several generations. Supporting local businesses preserves the economic diversity of our community and the unique character of our neighborhoods.

Please join us the week of December 1st as we shift our shopping local and promote the LocalQuotes4U Tool. This tool enables residents and organizations in our area to request bids on their products and services. It saves them time and money while supporting local businesses. If we all use this tool, it will help save and create jobs in our community.

Visit Buy Local Manatee on Facebook to stay “in the loop” on future buy local initiatives and events!

Germany and England Lead all Foreign Direct Investment in Tampa Bay

Much of my experience in economic development has been in working with companies that are headquartered outside of the United States.  Because of this I have been looking for trends that show which countries do the most business inside the Tampa Bay region.  Fortunately for me, the Tampa Bay Partnership just completed a study of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the region.  I thought it would be worth noting some of the findings of this in-depth study.

Key Findings

  • 394 companies with 824 locations in the Tampa Bay region
  • 34 nations
  • 18 industries
  • Over 37,000 employees
  • Total sales in excess of $13.6 billion

The top six identified investor nations and industry sectors are:

Investor Nations # of Companies
Germany 64
England 56
Canada 48
France 41
Japan 35
Switzerland 20
Industry Sector # of Companies
Manufacturing 105
Wholesale Trade 85
Retail Trade 41
Professional Services 32
Administration & Support 24
Finance & Insurance 23







My main thought is that I am not very surprised.  I was amazed to see how many people have relocated to Manatee County from Germany, England and Canada.  That fits right in to the top countries that also invest in business in this area.

Most importantly, according to the study, 94 foreign owned firms that are located here employ more than 100 workers each with some employing many more than that and a total of 37,000 employees come from FDI.  This is why we have to make a push to attract FDI.  We can create a lot of jobs with a strong and strategic FDI program.

If you are interested in reading the full FDI study here is the link:

The Wows Have It!

I just read online that there are more than 900,000 blog posts made every 24 hours. And I swear that my jaw dropped when I read that, too! I’m so glad that the blogging software has statistics so that I know how many people are reading our blog. Otherwise I’d start to wonder if you’re all off reading the other 899,999 posts.

Facebook has more than 300 million active users and 8 billion minutes are spent on Facebook worldwide each day. I don’t even have it in me to figure out how many hours that is! OK, yes I do. I think it’s 13.3 million hours. I’m literally in awe of that number.

Twitter had over 23 million unique visitors in the month of October. And that’s down 2%! I Tweet for the Chamber and I enjoy reading what other people are up to at any given time. I’ve found some great sites through Twitter, too.

Businesses that think they can ignore all this “social media stupidity” tend to get rude awakenings. The conversation will happen with or without you. You definitely don’t need to respond to every person with a Facebook account, but you need to keep your ear to the ground, and you need to know what’s happening with your customers and potential customers. Plus what they may be saying – or could be saying about your company!

I continue to be completely “wow’d” by social media and its growth. The Manatee Chamber sites continue to expand and it fascinates me to watch the numbers change each time I log in. Will members continue to be engaged in social media? I hope so… because it’s networking, entertainment, and information all in one!

Real Life 101 – Another Successful Year!

It’s hard to believe but Real Life 101 has come and gone!   There was a lot of scheduling and rescheduling, but thanks to nearly 100 awesome business volunteers, we covered all 105 eighth grade classes at 10 middle schools in Manatee County.  Real Life 101 is such a great opportunity to help develop the work ethic of our future workforce.  Here are some of the comments our volunteers shared about their experiences:

“Enjoyed all of it.  The experience was rewarding!”  SuAnne White, Tropicana Federal Credit Union

“It was an enjoyable experience.  I’d certainly do it again.”  Matt Ruch, Volunteer

“This was my first experience with Real Life 101.  I was a bit uneasy, but felt very comfortable with the students at the end.  It was a rewarding experience and I would do it again!”  Vera McGill, Superior Bank

“I enjoyed this.  The kids were great and really got into the activity.”  Ray Dweck, Northern Trust

“I had a wonderful group of gifted students that made some great observations regarding issues of accountability in fulfilling work orders.   Once they were done with their activity, we discussed feedback (giving and receiving) and communication skills.”  Bruce Willingham, LandMark Bank 

Not only did the volunteers have an enjoyable time, the students and their teachers had some great comments, too:

“Great Program.”  Teacher, Lincoln Middle School

 “I wasn’t sure what to expect at first…what a great program!  I support this effort 100 percent!”  Teacher, Braden River Middle School

 “Can we do this more than once a year?”  Eighth Grade Student, Buffalo Creek Middle School

So, with the storing of over 3,400 t-shirts, I bid a fond farewell to Real Life 101 and a huge THANK YOU to all our volunteers.  We could not accomplish such great programs without you!  (And thank you to student volunteer Logan Phillips for preparing all 3,400+ t-shirts for storage.)

BBC Scam Alert: Census Taker or Con Artist?

With the 2010 U.S. Census process beginning, the Chamber’s Better Business Council warns consumers to be cautious, so as not to become a victim of fraud or identity theft.

There have already been reports of some census related scams emerging, with people impersonating census workers to solicit funds and try to obtain personal information from unsuspecting consumers. 

Here are the facts: 

  • Legitimate census takers will wear a badge and carry a black canvas bag reading “U.S. Census Bureau”.  The badge is not a photo ID, so ask to see a driver’s license to validate his or her identity, and never invite anyone you don’t know into your home! 
  • Census workers will never solicit donations or any other types of payments. 
  • The census taker will be gathering information such as name, address, age, gender, race, and may ask for basic financial information such as salary range.  They will never ask for Social Security numbers, bank account information, or credit card accounts. 

Mailing of the official postage paid census questionnaires begins in mid-March 2010, and these surveys do not ask for a donation. Only those who have not responded to the second questionnaire will receive a follow up from the census bureau between April and July of 2010. The workers may contact consumers by telephone, mail or in person at home – but will never contact anyone by Email, so be on the lookout for Email scams impersonating the census, and never click on a link or open any attachments that are supposedly from the U.S. Census Bureau.


Port Dolphin Announcement – Signals Manatee County is serious about Economic Development

Recently it was announced that Manatee County and Governor Crist approved the plans of Port Dolphin Energy, LLC (a subsidiary of Norway based Höegh LNG AS), deep water port project which will provide a new source of natural gas to the state.  In this project, liquid natural gas (LNG) tankers arriving at the port would link up with a natural gas pipeline running from the offshore terminal to Port Manatee and then inland for four miles before interconnecting with the state’s natural gas pipeline grid.

If I was an outside company looking in at this deal in Manatee County I’d be impressed.  With any economic development deal, there are various concerns by the company and the community that need to be addressed before a project can go through.  Impressively, the company and local governments found common ground at each critical juncture of the early discussions.  What this demonstrates is Manatee County’s unique ability to secure a major project.  To someone who wishes to locate a business here, the ability to deliver on a project of this magnitude should tell you what you need to know regarding the business environment in Manatee County.  Not many communities have a project of this caliber on their resume.

Last Thursday night I attended a reception where Höegh was kind enough to thank the community for all of the progress that was being made on Port Dolphin.  The economic impact to the community over the life of the project will be substantial, an estimated $150 million and hundreds of jobs in construction and administration.

Website for Port Dolphin:

St. Pete Beach Abandons Local Experiment in Amendment 4

(Orlando, FL – November 5, 2009) Since beginning a 3-year experiment in Amendment 4-style rule, St. Pete Beach residents have seen endless lawsuits, higher taxes and widespread economic turmoil.[i] On Tuesday, the citizens of St. Pete Beach scaled back their local version of Amendment 4 so that only certain land use changes require a referendum. While Florida voters are set to soon decide the fate of Amendment 4 – a statewide Vote on Everything initiative – St. Pete Beach voters have chosen to rein in their own local experiment by a decisive 60-40 margin.

“St. Pete Beach residents are tired of voting on everything, especially issues that don’t even relate to development,” said Ward Friszolowski, former Mayor of St. Pete Beach. “This amendment doesn’t work. It has resulted in chaotic, confusing and expensive elections driven by sound bites rather than sound planning.”


  • November, 2006: St. Pete Beach narrowly adopts a local version of Amendment 4, requiring a referendum for all changes to the local comprehensive plan. Amendment 4 supporters promise that they just want to give “the people a right to vote.”
  • June, 2008: St. Pete Beach voters approve a new comprehensive plan at the ballot box.
  • June, 2008: After losing the election, Amendment 4 supporters in St. Pete Beach file a string of legal challenges to invalidate the will of the people.
  • September, 2008: Numerous administrative challenges are subsequently filed by Amendment 4 co-author and co-founder Ross Burnaman.
  • June, 2009: The St. Petersburg Times reports that St. Pete Beach has exhausted its legal budget months before the end of the fiscal year.[ii]
  • September, 2009: Amidst rising legal bills, St. Pete Beach raises taxes.[iii]
  • October, 2009: Court-ordered mediation collapses when Amendment 4 supporters refuse to join the City and the business community in supporting a compromise.[iv]

St. Pete Beach is proof positive that Amendment 4 is not designed to give the people a say on growth. It is designed to give anti-growth lawyers another legal avenue to stop commonsense progress, even when voters approve it. In St. Pete Beach, the taxpayers’ legal bills continue to mount. Unfortunately, there is no end in sight.

Floridians for Smarter Growth leads opposition to Amendment 4. To date, more than 170 organizations throughout Florida have opposed Amendment 4. More join the fight every day.

[i] St. Petersburg Times on September 22, 2009 (“St. Pete Beach tax rates goes up, but will it be felt?”): /1038346
[ii] St. Petersburg Times on June 1, 2009 (“St. Pete Beach’s legal costs bust budget”)
[iii] St. Petersburg Times on September 22, 2009 (“St. Pete Beach tax rates goes up, but will it be felt?”):
[iv] St. Petersburg Times on November 4, 2009 (“Mediator declares impasse in talks to end St Pete Beach development lawsuits”):


For more information go to:


Paid political advertisement – paid for and sponsored by Floridians for Smarter Growth, Inc., PO Box 532018 Orlando FL 32853.

A BBC Member in the News!

We at the Manatee Chamber’s Better Business Council (BBC) love nothing more than to see one of our members succeed!  So you can imagine my delight when I opened my email today to a notification that On a Shoestring, which has been a member of the BBC since 2007, racked up a prestigious accolade. Steve and Sharon Litschauer’s company was recognized by the Independent Runners of America as one of the 50 best running stores in America and the only one in the Tampa Bay and West Coast Florida area.

Wow. I knew that BBC members had high standards of ethics, which is why I love that part of my job of referring them to individuals who call the office. But to hear that a company I work with is so well thought of nationally is just about as good as it gets.

Congratulations, to Steve & Sharon!

Holiday Season Safety Tips

I attended the Sheriff’s Advisory Board meeting yesterday and a Crime Prevention Officer shared some good tips with us. With the Holiday season upon us, it was suggested that everyone put a loud whistle on your key ring and blow it if you are in danger. People are used to hearing car alarms going off all the time and no longer pay attention to them, but a whistle will get everyone’s attention.

Also when you approach your car after a shopping trip and there is a van parked next to your car, go around to the other side of the car to unload your packages. People have been known to jump out of vans and rob one of their packages and purses. Also do the same if you are putting your child in a car seat and get in the car, lock it and then secure your child.

I thought these were good tips to share. HAPPY Shopping!

How to be a Star Employee on Social Media

I came across this article via Twitter and, of course, it prompted a blog post!  The news is full of stories about people who were fired from or lost the opportunity for a job because of their behavior on social media sites.  Super cautious never hurt anybody, though.  I think it was Kevin McNulty with Netweave Social Networking (during his seminar for Chamber members earlier this year) who said, “If you wouldn’t feel comfortable putting it on a billboard while your mother was filming it for the news, don’t post it online.”

Post Work Stuff During Work Hours, Family and Friends After Work
Ever since email became prevalent, people have used it for personal needs during work hours. And it’s pretty hard to get caught.  The same is not true of social networking because of the time stamp.  It’s so easy to get engaged in conversations, photo viewing, and the like.  It’s a struggle to keep a strong work ethic with so much temptation at your fingertips, but it’s worth it in the long run.

Always be Positive About Your Work / Never Criticize Your Manager or Management
I was on Facebook the other night and saw a post from an old high school friend who lives in another state.  His status update was something to the effect of, “I’m so tired of working for the devil.  It may be time to decide if I should stay at this job of eight years just to draw a paycheck or if I should get out of this horrible place and be happy.”  I was shocked!  I’d read about such happenings but had never actually seen one so blatantly stated.  I peeked at his employer (couldn’t help myself, really) and then did a facebook search.  Not only does his company have a fan page, but at least a half dozen people who work there are on his friends list!  Any one of them could pass that on.

So consider this your friendly reminder.  Whatever is put on the Internet stays there for life!  And you may think privacy settings are protecting you, but there are definitely ways around them.