Commerce, Giving Both Saw Growth in 2014

Year In Review

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING WEDNESDAY DEC 31, 2014

Whether through strides in helping the homeless or success in the expansion of numerous area businesses, Southwest Florida leaders in business and philanthropy say 2014 proved a banner year. 

Roxie Jerde, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, noted record-breaking efforts locally in raising funds to help regional charity efforts. More than $2.1 million was raised through the Season of Sharing, she said, helping more than 2,800 stay in homes. “Knowing it takes $8,000 for a homeless family to get back in their homes, not only is this a tremendous economic savings for our community, more importantly the stress on a family is reduced and the psychological ‘savings’ are priceless,” she said. Education strides were made in the Campaign for Grade Level Reading and through the Ascend Network. That all came before the opening of Patriot Plaza, an effort of The Patterson Foundation, and the rallying of community support around the Bayfront 20:20 visioning process.

Johnette Isham, executive director of Realize Bradenton, noted local institutions like the South Florida Museum and Southeastern Guide Dogs earned regional recogonition throughout Tampa Bay for strides forward this year. The 24-Hour Giving Challenge raised another $3.1 in local donations, greater performance than any other community in America, Isham noted. She also said regional collaboration between businesses was on the rise in 2014.

Sharon Hillstrom, CEO of the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation, said the pace of business expansion this eyar was encouraging. "When companies hire employees and invest in facilities and equipment, they are demonstrating confidence that their sales will continue to grow,” she said. Bright House Networks, RND Automation, Rock Creek Pharmaceuticals, Star2Star Communications and Verde GSE all announced plans to expand jobs or capital investment.

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