Posted by Rebecca Miller
First, I must thank the folks with the Downtown Fresno Partnership for letting me get in on all of this exciting blogging business. For the year and a little bit that I have lived in Fresno, I’ve had a circle of about ten friends to annoy with my Frenthusiasm. Now with a larger audience, I’ll have to find some way scale up the rhetoric to make sure you guys know how much I love this hot, hot city (two hots included: one for the temperature, one for the quality of attractiveness).
People say one of Fresno’s greatest assets is that it is so close to everything. I’ve recently been having an internal debate on this very subject. I LOVE the fact that Fresno is so close to everything (obviously, the title of my blog is Three Hours from Everything). I can go explore the wide world every weekend! But at the same time, I can’t help but feel that this particular “asset” sells Fresno short. Why is it that the best thing about Fresno is that it is so close to other great things? Doesn’t that just mean we actually love those other great things more? Doesn’t that just mean that Fresno is not actually a destination?
I’ve been wondering and wondering and wondering why this is the case and how one embraces and criticizes a fantastic-yet-not-so-fantastic characteristic simultaneously. And then, the other day, while sitting mesmerized by Mayor Swearengin at an “I Believe in Downtown” community gathering, it hit me. The reason that people tout Fresno’s proximity as a stand-alone, singular, all-encompassing asset, an asset that fundamentally takes people AWAY from Fresno, is because Fresno has not embraced anything else. Fresno has no identity. How can people want to visit a place with no identity? That’s why I’ve been having such a hard time fighting for Fresno, defending this great city against the fabulousness of San Francisco and LA.
I was a marketing major in college in a program that hammered away at something called a “personal brand.” A personal brand defines the kind of person you are; defines how other people view your skill sets; defines the kind of opportunities come your way. I think the same concept applies to a city. Fresno has so many unique features ripe for the picking (pun) that it truly surprises me that Fresno is not on the “hottest city for singles” or “best places to settle down” lists.
1) Food. Obvious. But I think native Fresnans don’t understand how AWESOME the food really is. Food on the East coast doesn’t look like this. Doesn’t smell like this. Doesn’t taste like this. NOTHING tastes like Fresno food. Why is this not a thing? Why is Seattle known more for its markets than the produce capital of America/world/universe?
2) Culture. The myriad rich traditions embedded in everyday life here are astounding. And we are all living together in peace? Forget being a cross-cultural model for California. Forget being a model for America. Fresno should be a model for the world. We celebrate the histories of every unique individual living in this great city. And it’s second nature.
Whether we like Fresno or not, it is the city we have – full of poverty statistics, but also full of potential. The people who live here are our people. The buildings downtown are our buildings. The perceptions of our city, well…they are perceptions of us. Why would we not invest everything we have into developing Fresno’s personal brand? Give Fresno something to brag about. And while I will still love the fact that “I can ski in the morning and surf in the afternoon,” maybe I’ll start appreciating Fresno for Fresno. Because one day, the people in San Francisco and LA and the mountains and the beach will say, “The great thing about _insert cool place here_ is that it is so close to Fresno.”