By Noelle H. Lowery
Every community needs strong leadership, especially from the business professionals serving it.
Enter the local chamber of commerce. Every year all over the country, these business organizations spearhead educational programs to help develop and inspire business owners and professionals in their communities to take more active leadership roles locally. In Florida, the statewide program — Leadership Florida — was founded in 1982, and leadership programs exist on municipal and county levels throughout the Sunshine State.
Since 2002, the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce has sponsored its own program dubbed Leadership Marco. A series of 10 experience-based educational sessions, Leadership Marco provides future and current business and community leaders with a broad understanding of Marco Island, its history, its government, its economy and its ecology with practical and in depth discussion on these issues.
At its heart, Leadership Marco helps develop a network of informed citizens prepared to assume leadership roles in the island community, providing leadership-minded individuals with the opportunity to experience the community from public, business and individual perspectives; to develop interest in the future of Marco Island; and to create an environment to inspire community leadership.
It is a forum to identify, enlighten and engage current and future leaders to improve the quality of life in the Marco Island community by broadening community perspectives; building leadership skills; creating working relationships among class members; providing for personal growth and development and encouraging and developing a network of community contacts.
The benefits of Leadership Marco do not end with the January graduation ceremony. Program alumni work each year to raise funds for college scholarships for local high school students. Leadership Marco sponsors three major fundraising events annually — the Paddle Challenge, Wet Paint Live and the Souper Bowl — to aid in the effort. In 2013, Leadership Marco alumni raised $15,000 for their scholarship program.
The 2014 Leadership Marco class consists of 14 business leaders from Marco Island and Naples. From July to December, this group will participate in educational sessions all over Collier County. These sessions are conducted by local professionals who volunteer to share their knowledge and expertise in their respective fields. The topics include:
• Team building
• Marco Island History (Marco Island Historical Museum)
• Media Day
• Hospitality and Tourism
• Education/Parks and Recreation
• Law Enforcement
• Culture and Real Estate
• Health Care and Fire/Rescue
• Agriculture and the Environment
• Government, Transportation and Infrastructure
For those interested in participating in Leadership Marco 2015, the application process will begin in March 2014. Contact the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce at 239-394-7549 or visit www.marcoislandchamber.org for more information.