Strong Building Important to Community

Guest Correspondence


While it's hard to say goodbye to 2016, we can look forward to a new year, new leadership, new opportunities and new challenges. Each year is what you make of it, and I for one want to make 2017 one to remember.

There are so many exciting events and initiatives to look forward to in 2017. The first being the 65th annual installation and awards dinner for the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange on Feb. 1. We will say goodbye to recent chairman Paul Stehle, co-owner of Climatic Conditioning Co., and welcome incoming chairman Kevin Hicks, CEO of Gator Grading & Paving. We will also have the opportunity to hear from Senator Wilton Simpson, the Senate Majority leader and future Senate president (2020-22) on his various committee assignments, including education, tourism and economic development, among other topics.

In 2016, Sarasota County adopted an updated Comp Plan, which is something to be proud of and beneficial for the future of the community. This year, Sarasota County will be looking into the Unified Development Code and land development regulations—a process that will take place over the next 18 months. I encourage business and community leaders to get involved as the County reviews these regulations.

Soon, a search for a new Manatee County Administrator will begin to replace Ed Hunzeker. These are big shoes to fill. It will be important to identify the right person for the position that will continue his good work. I hope the business community pays attention as this process unfolds.

Another major upcoming milestone is the City of Sarasota Commissioner election this March 14. This will be an exciting time for Sarasota, the second largest city and the urban center in Sarasota County, and a time for our voices to be heard.

Of course, strengthening the Sarasota County community through the business community and in collaboration with the Sarasota Coalition of Business Associations (COBA) is a top priority. It’s an umbrella organization that allows business organizations like The Argus Foundation, The Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County, Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance, home builders and others to speak with one voice with a unified focus on the issues important to the business community in Sarasota County. Collaboration is key to successful community building. We may not always agree, but it's important to keep the lines of communication open and keep talking to each other openly, honestly and positively.

A strong building industry is important to any community because of the economic benefits and the number of jobs that the industry helps create. These hardworking men and women that fill these jobs are a part of the fabric of this community—working, playing and living here. This is an industry that gives back to its community regularly and significantly.

As we embark on 2017, the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange looks forward to providing guidance when needed, operating under our philosophy of working with others and helping our members succeed and grow—professionally and personally. This success has become the foundation for the continued development of our organization, and we aim to make it a success for the cities and counties we love.

Mary Dougherty-Slapp is executive diretcor of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange.

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