Building Talent and Boosting Business in 2018

New Year


The new year, like the opening of a business into any new market, brings with it challenges and opportunities. So what are the priorities of the business community in Sarasota and Manatee counties?

Kevin Cooper, president of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, sees talent development in a tight labor market and affordable housing as top issues to tackle in 2018. “I lose young professionals because they do need to start at entry level jobs and build their way up, and we're having trouble with housing affordability,” he tells SRQ, “and then we're having trouble attracting people to come to the area, because cost of living is relatively flat across a number of lines except for housing.”

Sharon Hillstrom, president and CEO of the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation, says her organization will focus this year on building talent, something identified as a community need during industry roundtables in 2017. “We will place emphasis on creating internship collaboratives for each targeted industry sector,” she says. “Our partnerships with CareerSource Suncoast and education will be essential. The Cross College Alliance, which includes the colleges and universities in our region, will also provide important support for this effort.”

The EDC will also focus on global opportunities for business development, and the organization will continue seeking to attract successful companies to the area. But she’d also like to see entrepreneurship continue to flourish in the region. “Startups can be terrific job generators, and they tend to stay where they are launched,” she says. “The EDC will continue to provide concierge style assistance to start ups by connecting them to important resources in the region to support their endeavors.”

Cooper also hopes businesses look past the high of a growing economy and toward “how the community, families and businesses are preparing for when the current economic momentum slows.” He’ll also be focused on civic engagement in the coming year.

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