25 People to Watch

By Hannah Wallace June 30, 2009

This issue of Biz941 spotlights 25 people you’ll want to keep an eye on. It’s our annual People to Watch compilation (page 14), and the smart, enterprising individuals you’ll meet on these pages are exactly the type of people we want here. Most have nothing to do with our typical economic engines of real estate and tourism, and close to half are true entrepreneurs—risk-taking go-getters who have great ideas and have launched them right here in Sarasota and Manatee.

We discovered, for example, that a big-time serial entrepreneur—the guy who developed PowerPoint!—has been living in Sarasota quietly for quite some time and is now embarking on another audacious product. We’ve got a homegrown Manatee High School grad whose very cool product is revolutionizing the global audio market. And then there’s the guy who knows exactly what to do with all that used chicken fat and vegetable oil from restaurants.  

These people are bringing jobs and money into the local economy, and this is good news for our region and for everyone interested in diversifying the economy. It might be worthwhile for economic development officials to get together with these entrepreneurs and find out what attracted them to this region in the first place—and what they need to stay here. Do they need affordable, flexible work spaces? Young, talented tech-savvy workers? More flights out of SRQ? A comprehensive directory of regional vendors? Many of them are seasoned entrepreneurs, with a wealth of knowledge about what environment makes companies thrive.

When we honor our winners and our People to Watch alums at the The Ritz-Carlton Members Beach Club this month, we’ll have a huge collection of talent, energy and fresh thinking in one place. A smart person should tap into this elite club.

And speaking of talent, in “Good Sports” (page 30), we showcase six brand-new sports programs that are bringing top-notch athletes and millions of dollars to Sarasota and Manatee. We may still be in limbo about Ed Smith Stadium, but these programs will do plenty to power up the economy—and not just for a few months of spring training, either. 

We also spoke to syndicated national financial columnist Lauren Rudd, who lives on Siesta Key. He told us there’s been a major change in how smart money invests in the market. Reading what he has to say (page 26) is a good investment of your time. 

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