BY SHARON HILLSTROM

As I write this, a member of our Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation (EDC) team is in The Netherlands with Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development arm, meeting with Dutch companies about doing business in Manatee County.

He’ll follow that with a day of meetings with trade associations in Amsterdam, then move on to Germany for MEDICA, one of the world’s largest medical device trade shows. There he will meet with medical device companies, then return to Amsterdam for METS, the huge Marine Equipment Technology Show.

Like several other trade missions and conferences the Bradenton Area EDC participated in during the past year, this trip is about recruiting businesses and jobs to Manatee County.

From Los Angeles to Chicago, Taiwan to Paris, the EDC’s targeted business recruitment strategy shows companies that Manatee County is the business address for the South Tampa Bay Region. Our strategy challenges us to aggressively carry the Manatee County message to businesses — not wait for them to knock on our door.

Highlights in the past year have included relationship-building at the Aircraft Interiors Show in Germany, the International Air Show in Paris with partner Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, and two industry trade shows in Las Vegas: Pack Expo and the National Aviation Business Association.

Through those interactions and intensive follow up by our team, we develop qualified leads for corporate relocation. From there, our goal is to achieve a company visit. In the EDC’s 2018-19 fiscal year, five companies visited Manatee County to explore opportunities for locating their businesses here.

For instance, at the Paris Air Show, we met with 16 companies over three days and interacted with many more during exhibitor hours. We’re working with two companies that expressed interest in visiting Manatee County to investigate opportunities here.

Business recruitment is a long-term proposition, but it pays big dividends for our community. Since 2009, the EDC and our partners have assisted more than 150 businesses with expansions and relocations.

Those businesses are projected to add over 6,900 jobs while paying over $2 billion in wages from direct and indirect jobs. Equally important, they plan over $950 million in capital investment.

economic impact since 2009

Likewise, assisting established local businesses helps our community prosper. The growth of established businesses drives local job creation, wage growth, and consumer spending to further strengthen our local economy.

Helping Manatee County companies penetrate international markets is one of the many services we provide.

We work with Enterprise Florida and the U.S. Commercial Service of the Department of Commerce on trade missions that give local businesses an opportunity to promote their goods and services to businesses overseas. A key component of the trips is arranging in-person meetings for Manatee County businesses with targeted prospects.

For example, a local boat manufacturer met with prospects in Colombia. A company that refurbishes major equipment had meetings in Canada. And another Manatee County business met with prospects at a product show in the United Kingdom.

Participating in these trips also provides an unparalleled opportunity for business owners to build relationships with their peers from our region. Engaging in in-depth discussions while sharing the experience of foreign travel forges lasting bonds that pay dividends personally and in business.

Manatee County businesses that are interested in expanding their overseas markets may contact Max Stewart, the EDC’s global business development director, to receive information on opportunities in 2020. Let us help you grow. Max may be reached at maxs@bradentonareaedc.com.