Manatee Chamber Makes Room For Growth



Staff members at the Manatee Chamber of Commerce joked last week with everybody who came into the office to start loading what they could into cardboard. “Our rule is everybody who comes here has to pack a box,” says Jacki Dezelski, president and CEO of the Chamber. The organization needed to get everything stored for its first move since the 1960s.

The old Chamber building officially closed down for business at noon Wednesday. Chamber business starting Monday will move into the second floor of the Bank of the Ozarks building in downtown Bradenton, though many of the records that filled offices as recently as last week now remain packed up in city storage. For an organization that traces its roots back as far as 1889, there’s been an amazing amount of memorabilia—pictures from networking events decades ago, policy position papers for long-dead issues.

The move comes as the City of Bradenton undertakes a mixed-use project at the chamber’s current 10th Street home. A new four-story building will soon stand at 10th Street and 3rd Avenue West, bringing new commercial and retail space online in the burgeoning downtown business district. That type of commerce activation, of course, remains key to the mission for the Chamber, so this displacement seems a small price, Dezelski says. “For me it’s a big step forward,” she says.

Dezelski took over the chamber last year after the death of former Chamber CEO Bob Bartz, so the organization continues with a rebirth of all sorts right now. But the chamber leaders says this forward-looking move won’t be one that destroys the past. As staff find important historic items, the items get stored, or in the case of many documents, scanned into a computer. As officials organize the many pieces of work being unearthed in the moving process, a slow organization will take place even as the Chamber conducts business in the bank building. It’s entirely possible, Dezelski predicts, that the move back into a new facility on 10th Street will involve more disposal of detritus than the move out of the building, just because staff can take their time and make decisions on what found goods truly are unnecessary moving forward.

The Chamber will still host many of its regular meetings in its new space, and move other functions to an office in Lakewood Ranch or various other locales in the region. Officials have encouraged members to stop by the old office and sign the door, which will be kept to commemorate the business done in the old space. An open house will be held April 20 from noon to 6pm for visitors to see the Chamber’s temporary home at Bank of the Ozarks.

Pictured: Manatee Chamber of Commerce temporary office space.

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