No one knows what the future holds, but as we look toward 2013, we can’t help but be optimistic.
The East County and surrounding community — and nation at large — will be dealing with some significant challenges in the year ahead, for sure.
But on a local level, in particular, it seems that we’re at least making progress.
The East County Observer has compiled some in-depth stories on topics we think will be of significance to our readers as we look ahead into 2013: the local economy, county government, sports tourism real estate and schools.
Many business owners may be looking forward with hesitation as they wait out the outcome of federal tax changes (as of press time Dec. 21), but they also seem to be excited about 2013, assuming those federal issues are resolved favorably toward businesses.
The area’s unemployment has dipped from 10.4% to 8.2% compared to the same time last year. Additionally, the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation reports more than a dozen businesses — bringing more than 1,500 jobs — are either committed to expanding or locating in Manatee County in coming year or so.
The Manatee County Board of County Commissioners has two new faces — Vanessa Baugh and Betsy Benac.
Board Chairman Larry Bustle says the two women are helping to create a “let’s work together to get things fixed” attitude, as the board readies to tackle tough issues, such as how the county will grow, taxes, pay for Manatee County Sheriff’s Office employees and morale of the county’s emergency medical services employees, among others.
Local sports officials have big plans for 2013, with plans for larger events that will generate larger economic impacts in the area. When you combine estimated economic impact totals from sports commissions for Sarasota and Manatee counties in 2012, it’s estimated sports tourism in the two-county area generated more than $82 million in direct economic impact.
Officials say 2013 will be even more significant, because they are hosting more national and international competitions.
Home prices in Manatee County appear to be on the rise, because fewer distressed properties are available on the market for purchase.
The Manatee Association of REALTORS reports new listings and home closings also are on the rise, and homebuilders continue to see strong sales of new homes throughout the East County community and region.
Under the helm of interim Superintendent David Gayler, the Manatee County School Board seems to be taking major steps toward openness and accountability and with wrapping its arms around a multi-million-dollar deficit that seems to keep growing, as new information is released.
The district is searching for a new permanent superintendent as it grapples with its budget woes, as well. These items, plus curriculum, vocational education and other issues, will be at the forefront in 2013.
Contact Pam Eubanks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Members and guests of the Lakewood Ranch Women’s Club ventured Dec. 4 to Orlando, to view holiday decorations at the Grand Floridian and to have lunch at Downtown Disney.
The Play Readers of the Asolo Repertory Theatre Guild were in fine form as they entertained at the Art Association of Palm-Aire’s opening winter luncheon with “Fractured Fairy Tales.”
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Seven Manatee County elementary schools competed in the countywide Technology Student Association catapult competition Nov. 16, at Southeast High School. Students built the catapults on-site.