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pinion Guest Op/Ed: Rebranding the Civic Center: The Real Story

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After 31 years as the Manatee Civic Center, the name of the convention facility in Palmetto has now been changed to the “Bradenton Area Convention Bureau.” If you feel disenfranchised, you are one of many that have expressed their displeasure. On September 25, 2012, the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners approved the funding and voted on the new name, without the matter having been included on the published agenda.

I contacted four county commissioners to express my dismay over the name and my concerns about the way the County Commission was approaching this issue. A vote was taken that day with Commissioners McClash and Gallen voting no since both commissioners asked for a delay on the vote to allow for more discussion, but were defeated with a 5-2 vote. I emphasize that all of this took place after the funds were already spent re-branding the Civic Center, the sign was hoisted and the staff was already answering the phones using the new name. What was the point of even voting, except to rubber-stamp a decision that had already been made and executed without notice to the public or public input?

In 1980, when Representative Ralph Haben, then the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, lobbied for and received a state grant for eight million dollars, it was to be used to construct a convention center for Manatee County. When Rep. Haben applied for the grant, he mentioned on many occasions that Manatee County and his hometown of Palmetto seemed to be ignored while other areas of Florida benefited from state-funded projects and programs. Now, Palmetto continues to be ignored, but this time by its own county commission and neighbors.

The Executive Director of the Manatee Civic Center, Elliott Falcione, met with me and the Palmetto Community Redevelopment Agency Director Jeff Burton and showed us the new logo and informed us that the new name for the Civic Center was going to be the Bradenton Area Convention Bureau. I stated that I was not happy about the change. However, it was clear that my opinion did not matter. The explanation we were given was that the “Manatee” did not come up in Internet search engines. Shortly thereafter, I attended the “branding presentation” where the website was presented. Interestingly enough, there was no mention of Palmetto on the site, which is where the Civic Center is physically located.

Do not be misled, no one is saying it should be named after Palmetto, only that all parties with a vested interest should have been a part of the discussion and their interests taken in to account. The Manatee County Civic Center belongs to all of Manatee County and yet the decision for the name change was not made by the County Commission, which should represent Palmetto’s interests as well, but the Tourist Development Council, which consists only of certain individuals representing the City of Bradenton and the island municipalities. The Manatee County Civic Center sits at one of the gateways to the City of Palmetto. It is only logical that the citizens of Palmetto should have had input in this matter.

As always, shop local and support our community!

Shirley Groover Bryant


City of Palmetto


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