Max Stewart, 39 – Business Observer

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This year's 40 Under 40 celebrates business community rockstars — and the people who helped them get there. Read about the other 2021 winners here.
Max Stewart
Director of Global Business Development, Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation
Age: 39
Max Stewart has always been one to step up when others are in need. This is evidenced clearly in his career. Every time a position needed to be filled, Stewart has been there, at the ready. 
When he was first starting out, an $800,000 world affairs nonprofit in Orlando sought someone to fill the president and CEO position. The opportunity dropped in his lap. “They needed someone to run it,” he says. So he stepped up. 
Stewart stayed in that role for 10 years before going to work for Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development department. Some five years later, Stewart received a call from his mentor Sharon Hillstrom, the Bradenton Area EDC CEO, regarding a position opening. And that’s how he came to oversee global business development for the EDC, in January 2017.
Stewart has since led the team in working with small- and medium-sized businesses relocating to Manatee County. The team has brought in 10 companies and four startups in the past eight months alone, which added more than 650 jobs and some $250 million in capital investment to the area.
Stewart now leads efforts to look into new target sectors, capitalizing on Florida's boom in attracting new residents from other states. “There’s a floodgate of companies looking for new opportunities,” he says. “And they’re looking in this area.” 
Building strong relationships has been key to Stewart’s career — something he’s learned from Hillstrom. Really, he says, it boils down to being able to trust others to get their part done. The toughest aspect of his job is having patience. “You want to see something come to fruition quickly,” he says. “Waiting on it is the hardest part.” 
Name: Maxwell Stewart
Age: 39
City of Residence: Bradenton
Employer: Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation
Title: Director of Global Business Development
Birthplace: Ohio
Years in the area: 9
Marital Status/Children: Married, wife is Deanna we have two kids
Alma Mater/Degree: UCF – Political Science
What community group or organization are you most involved with? RIP Medical Debt – nonprofit that works to pay off medical debt for individuals
What's the weirdest job you've ever had? I was a character model for a trade show, I stood at a podium for 7 hours a day so people could test camera lenses and video quality.
What's your top tip for being productive? Music on door closed, don't look at social media….unless your job is social media
If you could have a side hustle, what would it be? Aircraft ferry pilot
What's your favorite off-hours activity? Fishing with my son
Have you gone to the movies in 2021? If yes, what did you see? Not yet
What's the top item on your bucket list? Scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef
What's your favorite podcast? My First Million
Where is your happy place? Backyard in the garden
Describe yourself in three words: Driven, Competitive, Sarcastic
Who is your mentor for your career and why? Sharon Hillstrom, President and CEO at the EDC. She brought me in to "work hard and come up with new ideas" and it has paid off. I love this job.
What are the biggest lessons you have learned from your mentor? 
1. Building Relationships is probably the most important skill you can have. In order to get things done you need trusting and trusted strong relationships in the community.
2. Even though it's a great idea did you think through the communication and implementation.
3. Chocolate is a great ice breaker, everyone needs some chocolate.
View the discussion thread.
Want to stay current on the major players in area business? Looking for a one-of-a-kind resource for networking, marketing and research on the Gulf Coast? It’s inside this year’s Big Book of Business.


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