An outsiders perspective on this cross town rivalry and whether or not I think it matters.
When I first moved to Florida (March, 2004) I thought I was moving to Sarasota. Turns out I was really moving to Bradenton and almost immediately I discovered that calling one by the others name was not an acceptable practice. I still tell people who live outside of this area that I live in Sarasota even though I currently live in Bradenton. Maybe it is because I spent a few years living in Lakewood Ranch with a Sarasota address or maybe I just like the sound of it better than Bradenton. (Or maybe I secretly hate Bradenton) Either way it got me thinking about why there is such contention between the two counties.
As an outsider, I always saw the area as one large metro area with things to do in both. I would go out in Sarasota one day and then be in Bradenton the next. Business didn’t stop at the county line so neither did I. Maybe it is because I come from a bigger city (Columbus, Oh) and I am used to thinking of a metro area as being bigger than its geographical borders but I never understood why the people from one county seemingly despise the people from the other county. Its like there is something in the water that makes you look down on the people from the neighboring county.
In my experience the rivalry goes a little something like this.
Sarasota Treats Bradenton like their annoying younger brother. You know the one, mom and dad make you play with him and spend time with him so you do it but you don’t like it. You think he is dumb and weird and don’t really want your friends to know he is with you.
Bradenton Treats Sarasota like the rich stuck up kid in high school. You think he thinks he is cool because of who he is, maybe because his family has money, and you definitely hate the fact that he thinks he is smarter and better than you at everything.
Can it really be that shallow?
Can the people of one county look down on the people of the other just because of the county they live in. Yeah it happens but is it justified? I know a lot of people in town striving for change and a new culture in the area. They want to put the area on the map and make sure the world knows who Sarasota is or who Bradenton is. My question is can that really happen while there seems to be this unspoken war between the two counties? What would happen if instead there truly was a regional effort to cross promote each other and support the growth of the area as a whole.
Now, I know there are different organizations and entities that need the two to remain separate in order for them to succeed and there is always competition between community organizations for membership, donations, contributions and more. This will never change but I do think that working together often leads to bigger accomplishments for both parties than working separately. In this age of instant communication and virtual collaboration there is no reason for us not to be able to put the preconceptions of the past to rest and turn over a new leaf in growing the gulf coast of Florida.
Collaboration = Growth!
In my opinion the area is too small to exclude one group of people or the other. There are some people in town who pretend like they want to bring the players from both sides of the fence together for peace talks but in practice, people revert back to their prejudice and end up favoring their side of the line. In order for real growth an organization has to appeal to both sides of the county line in order to draw the power players out from both sides.
I predict that the first group to truly blur the borders and tap the talent and skill of both counties with a collaborative growth effort will be the winner over the long haul. The first organization to harness the great individual efforts of each of the two counties and unify them in one effort will accomplish much change and impact the landscape for business as well as the community. I am not talking about another “in name only” effort to change but an actual, balls to the wall, effort to change the thought process in these two counties. Maybe then we can truly put our area on the map!
Did I get it wrong? Do you agree or disagree with any of my observations or thoughts? Let me know in the comments section.