- By: Bruce Batti, Fresno Chamber of Commerce Board Chairman and President of JSA
My family moved to Fresno in the summer of 1967. Al Radka consumed the airwaves selling Lesterburgers and Oberti Olives. White Front was the original “big-box” discount store and a retail powerhouse at Blackstone and Ashlan. And I was batting third and playing shortstop for Bilsten’s Appliance in the Bullard Babe Ruth League. Not really a point here, but I thought I’d share.
Point is, I came to Fresno in 1967 and have called it home since. Not begrudgingly, or with any misgivings like some of my contemporaries who chose to stay, but loudly and proudly. I have long debated with out-of-town friends, relatives and relative strangers, the many strengths and attributes of being a resident of Fresno. And yes, like many of you, I would get my undergarments in a bunch when our fair city was maligned on a late night show, or unjustly rated as one of the worst cities when it comes to (fill in the blank). Traditionally, our knee-jerk reaction to this kind of negativity has been to form a committee or launch a PR campaign – all to promote, defend, and / or champion the brand of this great city of ours. All well intentioned – yes. Effective? Eh…not if our actions don’t match our words.
You see, my late in life epiphany was that if Fresno is going to win the battle of the brands, (Get it…battle of the brands?) it would have to be done mano y mano. Or, so as not to sound sexist, womano y womano. To that end, our business community is doing more to move theFresnobrand forward than any slogan or committee can on it’s own. When a local business competes for, and wins business on a regional or national platform, then we all win. The overall impression of Fresno is elevated because relationships are made, bonds are created and myths are dispelled. After interacting with Fresnans in a few business meetings, folks from the Bay Area can see that – yes, we have mouthful of teeth. No, we don’t watch Hee-Haw reruns. And yes, damn right it’s hot, but it’s a dry heat. There, the top 3 Fresno myths busted!
As the fifth largest city in California, Fresno businesses are engaged daily in commerce regionally, nationally and yes, even globally. When I look across the broad business landscape represented by our 1700+ Chamber businesses, it puts a smile on my face to think that you folks are our city’s front line ambassadors. While the advancement is incremental, there’s not a better way to move the brand of Fresno forward. More importantly, I can’t think of a better, more qualified group to do the job.
Oh yeah, for the record, I had a .439 batting average and Bilsten’s beat Builder’s Concrete for the championship. Also for the record, the game was played in a really, really, really dry heat.