Tara Poulton Joins Chamber on Policy, Workforce

Business Q & A

Tara Poulton has lived in the Sarasota-Manatee area since childhood and spent the past few years working in DeSoto County. Now she brings her skills to a new role as the Manatee County Chamber of Commerce’s Vice President, Public Policy & Workforce Partnership. SRQ caught up with her to discuss her new role.

What drew you to the Manatee Chamber?  This is one of the most respected chambers, not just locally but on a state and national level. It has been a National Chamber Of The Year, a four-time winner of Chamber of the Year  with the state chamber. It has been in our community 103 years, so what a huge opportunity when you think of all of its significant accomplishments.

You have worked in the public sector, most recently as Director of Economic Development & Tourism for DeSoto County, With your focus on policy, how do these experiences help in your new role? I spent 3 and a half years in DeSoto, which is a small and a fiscally constrained county. Before that I worked for the Southwest Florida Water Management District on fiscal policy. I was also heavily involved in an ex officio role with the Chamber. I think my skill set fits well in this role. Small business has always been important to me. What is good for the community is good for business, and what is good for business is good for community.

What role should the Manatee Chamber have on issues surrounding economic development, especially with advocacy on policy?  The Manatee Chamber has an excellent relationship with the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation already. They worked under one umbrella for many years. So there, the Chamber is already meeting the mark. When you think of 2020 and COVID-19, the Manatee Chamber didn’t miss a beat. I was getting multiple e-mails on everything about federal loans and assistance. That’s all economic development and it’s all what we were sharing in DeSoto as well. They worked incredibly closely with the county on CARES funding, and that too is economic development, which is also what I was doing within DeSoto County the last part of 2020.

How does the region bounce back from COVID this year and beyond?  Yes, obviously tourism took a hit in the past years, thinking of COVID and red tide. The reasons my parents moved here was because it was paradise. Florida is always going to be a place people want to visit. COVID is everywhere. It’s important for people to be able to come to Florida and that will continue. 


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