Some cynic (probably me) once described Gainesville as a college town in the middle of the prison belt.
But that doesn’t begin to tell our story.
We’re also a college town surrounded by the largest concentration of fresh water springs in the world.
We’re a college town flanked by graceful rivers and teeming wetlands and small farms and dense forests.
We’re a college town attached to a prairie that is a birder’s wonderland, and within spitting distance of state parks that are living archives of Florida geological history.
We’ve got small towns that beg exploring, and back roads that invite wanderlust, and woods riddled with paths less traveled.
Heck, you can see African zebra and Texas longhorns within a half hour bike ride of historic Micanopy.
And we’ve got a rich history, cultural heritage, culinary traditions and a music scene that would take volumes to fully describe, much less appreciate.
We’ve got the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. If you like you can breakfast with the sunrise on Crescent Beach, lunch in downtown Gainesville at high noon and dine at sunset on Cedar Key.
And that’s not even half of our story.
People don’t come here to work in steel mills, gamble in casinos or get Mickey Mouse’s autograph. They come here to enjoy our natural attractions and a certain quality of life.
And maybe more would come if our assets weren’t, in many cases, some of Florida’s best kept secrets.
After all, how do you explain Ginnie Springs to a Yankee who thinks Florida is all about South Beach and the Magic Kingdom? And who’s going to believe we’ve got buffalos sharing the same stomping grounds with alligators?
Gainesville is a college town that has hitched its economic wagon to education, science, technology and innovation. But the connectivity between our vision for a high-tech future and our desire to stay in touch with unspoiled nature is strong and unbreakable.
And here’s the thing: The sort of creative people we need to drive our wagon can pretty much live anywhere they like.
By and large, they’re going to live here because they like it here.
So we ought to make sure they know who we are and what we are all about.