From the CEO

Solid research, creative ideas, good partnerships drive Bradenton Area EDC | Indicators

By Sharon Hillstrom -

Special to the Herald-Tribune

January 1, 2024

As I review our progress at the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp., I believe the positive results we deliver for the Manatee County community flow from our deeply intentional strategic plan, which will continue to drive our work in 2024.

The Bradenton Area EDC, a private nonprofit entity, is recognized by the state of Florida as the lead economic development organization for the Bradenton area’s nine communities located on the south side of Tampa Bay. We have forged and followed a strategy based on solid research, creative ideas, and collaborative partnerships. We are an innovative and nimble organization that can flex the plan in response to local, state and national trends.

All of our work is directed toward delivering return on investment – or ROI – to our private sector investors and public partners, which in turn benefits the community as a whole. How do we deliver ROI? By attracting and retaining high-wage jobs for area residents and connecting established businesses to the resources they need to prosper.

High-wage jobs expand the tax base, increase local spending and grow the economic pie, which ultimately provides local businesses with more opportunities to increase their market share. And even if a company’s customer base is located outside of our local market, economic development in Manatee County generates benefits to employees and families residing here.

As the tax base expands, local governments can provide the services and infrastructure that are vital in making Manatee County an even better place to live, work and play.

From generating awareness to closing deals, the EDC’s approach to the business recruitment role of economic development is about quality, not quantity. We target companies and sectors that are a good fit for Manatee County. Targeted outreach begins with generating awareness about the Bradenton area as a business location. We reach thousands of potential prospects through our social media platforms, website, and a growing catalog of videos. In-person meetings at key trade shows, direct mail to qualified prospects and persistent follow-up help us develop a pipeline of potential relocations.

Hundreds of direct interactions with local established businesses help us identify companies ripe for expansion. Our long-term relationships with established businesses also reveal the most effective ways we can assist businesses with the resources they need to flourish.

Ultimately, the EDC’s strategy is designed to deliver economic impact for our community. Since 2009, the Bradenton Area EDC and its partners have assisted more than 200 businesses with expansions and relocations. These companies are projected to deliver more than 9,200 jobs and over $2 billion in wages from direct and indirect jobs through 2028. Equally important, they plan to make capital investments exceeding $1.5 billion.

Looking ahead into 2024, we will continue our work to grow the aviation sector in Manatee County. Just as we pioneered an intentional and successful focus on the sports performance industry, we are leading the way on Florida’s West Coast in creating a robust aviation ecosystem.

In addition to working directly with businesses to grow and diversify the local economy, we collaborate on initiatives that underpin the economy. We will continue our successful partnerships with educational institutions to foster a workforce ready to support the needs of local businesses. And we will continue working with the private sector to help address the need for affordable housing to accommodate employees.

Whether the EDC takes the lead or one of our many partners steps up to champion an initiative, at the end of the day we simply want to get the job done. And we have unique relationships in our diverse network to bring vital resources to the table.

On behalf of our leadership and team, we wish you a healthy and successful 2024. To learn more about our work and impact, please visit and check out our Monthly Minute-ish video updates and topical videos at

Sharon Hillstrom is president and chief executive officer of the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp. ( She may be contacted at or 941-803-9036.

Contact Lauren

Lauren Kratsch

Lauren Kratsch

Senior Director Business Relations

Assistance for Local Companies Seeking to Export

Getting started and overcoming obstacles – The EDC’s partnership with the U.S. Commercial Service will help your business start off on the right foot. If you already are frustrated by previous attempts to export, the EDC and its partners will help you get on track.

Expanding your markets – Working with Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development agency, we assist local businesses connect with state-sponsored trade missions to foreign countries. Looking to ship by sea? The EDC experts at Port Manatee provide advice and access to global business relationships.

Grants and financing – Federal and state programs may be available to help reduce the cost of exporting your goods or services.

Assistance for Foreign-Based Companies

Our sophisticated approach to business recruitment is underpinned by our innate desire to provide essential services to companies entering the U.S. market. Because fostering a diverse business climate and community is important to our mission, we believe no question or ask is too big or too small. Below is a quick snapshot of the services and assets.