Editor’s Notebook

Photography by Rebecca Baxter By Susan Burns February 28, 2010

The Manatee Tiger

I attended Manatee Tiger Bay’s very first meeting on Feb. 4, and it was immediately apparent that the organizers had a hit on their hands. A long line of businesspeople and Manatee movers and shakers queued up at the entrance to Mattison’s on the Bradenton waterfront, and dozens of people who showed up without a reservation were turned away.

The topic was “Manatee Means Business,” and I came away thinking that this county absolutely does.

Manatee County is going after companies in the aerospace, agricultural technology, clean energy, high-tech, maritime and sports performance industries, according to Tiger Bay panelist Eric Basinger of the Economic Development Council. And they’re doing it aggressively. This month Basinger is going to Panama with a team of Manatee business and government leaders, taking the first steps to open up doors to trade and shipping to Port Manatee once the Panama Canal expansion is complete.

The audience response was wholeheartedly behind this aggressive campaign, and from what I could tell, most members were interested in how to hurry up the process. If I owned a business and was considering relocating or expanding, Manatee County’s welcoming, business-friendly attitude would go a long way in convincing me about where my company should be.

And if you want to do business in Manatee County, read our Power Players story, page 18, for the county’s 25 most influential people. Writer Molly McCartney talked to every Manatee County insider she could think of who would give her names and a frank assessment of each person’s power quotient. And in case you’re wondering, we haven’t forgotten Sarasota. We’ll be doing a power list for this county in our October 2010 issue. If you want to submit a name, e-mail me at [email protected]

And a final note: I voted for renewing the one-mill Sarasota school tax in 2006, even though I had reservations. At the time we were swimming in millions of dollars from exploding property values, and I was also concerned that former Superintendent Gary Norris’ Next Generation plan was overly ambitious and pushing pricey technology like smart boards in every classroom. This year, I’ve listened to the arguments on both sides, and I will pencil in the “yes” bubble once again when I get to the polls.

Most compelling for me was the judgment of the school district’s financial advisory committee, which concluded the school board used the revenues from the 2006 referendum wisely.

Some people think the advisory committee was packed with school board cronies. Dan DeLeo, a business litigation attorney on the committee, says nothing could be further from the truth: “We were not a left-leaning group. Most of us are conservative and have less interest in politics than in business. We were all unanimously satisfied with how these monies were utilized.”

There’s very little that is as important as a good education. Vote yes.

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