BY SHARON HILLSTROM
Leadership. Funding. Customer loyalty. Dedicated workers. Whether a business pursuing profit or a non-profit addressing community needs, what is the essential ingredient for delivering results?
As I review our progress at the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp. (EDC) in advance of our annual meeting next month, I believe that ingredient is our strategic plan. And as I look around the community at other organizations with a track record of tangible results, I see a similar dedication to forging and following a plan based on solid research, creative ideas and the ability to flex the plan as conditions change.
Think of it as strategic planning and doing.
One example is Realize Bradenton, the organization charged with creating a sense of place in downtown Bradenton. From the Riverwalk, Blues Festival and Farmers’ Market to the non-profit’s work with Millennial and Gen Z generations, the plan-driven team, its donors and volunteers are delivering results with support from city government.
The Manatee Community Foundation also is strong on strategic planning and doing. Thoughtful, deep dives into community concerns are behind the foundation’s initiatives on caring for foster children, paving a path to higher education for young people, and more.
Another example is the Manatee Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Planning Retreat and Leadership Conference. I attend each September to report on the EDC’s work and seek ways to collaborate on mutual priorities. Through that relationship, we have advanced our work on attracting and retaining young talent for the region’s workforce as various organizations tackle different aspects of the challenge.
This collaborative approach is a key philosophy of the EDC’s strategic plan. Competing for turf is counter-productive to strategic planning and doing. The EDC doesn’t expect to lead every effort. Instead, we look for ways to foster positive results, no matter which organization takes the lead.
At a recent EDC board of directors meeting, we focused that collaborative approach on Manatee District Schools in a conversation with district superintendent Cynthia Saunders and new director of strategic planning Kevin Chapman. After a presentation from Saunders, our board members discussed key questions in small groups to contribute the business community’s perspective on the future of our public schools.
Through the session Chapman and Saunders gained a full plate of food for thought, and the EDC leadership gained a greater understanding of the positives and challenges facing our schools. We hope the district’s strategic plan will become a living roadmap toward success, just as ours continues to be.
Strategic planning and doing are defining qualities of the 2019 recipient of the EDC’s top honor, the Rick Fawley Economic Development Award of Distinction. At our Annual Update reception next month, we will confer the award on Rex Jensen, president and CEO of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, the holding company behind the award-winning Lakewood Ranch community.
Dynamic and expansive, Jensen’s strategic vision has been undeniably successful in creating a place where people want to live, work and play. Join us in honoring him and learn more about the EDC’s progress on strategic initiatives on Thursday, November 7, 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Feld Entertainment in Palmetto. Registration is open at BradentonAreaEDC.com/Events.