When one suburban mayor gets upset with a neighboring suburban mayor

Interactions between suburbs can get interesting, particularly if a business opens with which two suburbs would like to be associated:

All that having been said, some things still stick in your craw. Some things keep happening again and again, and every single time they make you see red, and the sense of frustration just lingers. I was chatting with David Harding at the rededication of Kiwanis Park by the Warrenville Park District when he mentioned that he got an invitation to the grand opening of a new business on Weaver Parkway in Cantera, and the special guest of honor to cut the ribbon was George Pradel, the Mayor of Naperville. David was annoyed by this, as he knew I would be, and he was kind enough to email to me the information later. Sure enough, the Mayor of Naperville was welcoming a new business to Warrenville and the Mayor of  Warrenville had not even been invited to the event!

As you might imagine, as your Mayor, this kind of stuff really bugs me. It seems to be localized, and principally affects businesses in Cantera on our border with Naperville. Warrenville’s Cantera development is first class, so naturally businesses find it attractive and locate there. But, for marketing purposes, the Naperville name carries more weight, so people do their best to play up the Naperville connection and minimize the Warrenville address. I have seen hotel shuttle busses for Warrenville hotels with “Naperville/Warrenville” featured prominently on their sides. Of course, I think that should be “Warrenville/Naperville”, and it sets me off every time I see one, but I get it.  Business is about positioning for maximum success. You can’t blame a business, especially given current conditions, for trying to leverage, what is to them, every marketing advantage. And, bottom line, what is most important to the community is that our businesses prosper and stay around for a long time. If they find it necessary to fudge things a little to appear to be in what they see as a more lucrative market, I suppose that is a small price to pay.

But this new business still got a letter from me. I can assure you it was a respectful and polite statement that we were disappointed that they apparently didn’t feel it was inappropriate to invite the Mayor of another community to cut their ribbon as they opened their new business here in Warrenville, and a reminder that Warrenville is proud of who we are and we hope they are as happy to be here as we are to have them here. Thankfully, each time I have to write one of these letters, Ana talks me back from the edge, and proves to be a most prudent editor.

I won’t tell you the name of this latest new business. I’m sure they meant no disrespect, and that they are good folks. Also, I don’t think it would be a good idea if a couple hundred angry Warrenville citizens arrived at their front door some evening with blazing torches held high, bearing buckets of hot tar and sacks of feathers, loudly inviting them to relocate to the community that they apparently prefer with an offer of help to do so, although I must confess, this image is appealing. No, Warrenville will take the high road, as we always try to do. That’s who we are. Besides, what goes around comes around. Just the other day, I passed a shuttle belonging to a Naperville hotel that had “Chicago/Naperville” prominently featured on its sides.

I found this amusing. But, there are some deeper issues here:

1. Naperville is the big, successful suburb. Not only does it have lots of people, a vibrant downtown, and good schools,it has done so in large part because of a thriving business community that has provided a lot of good jobs. Warrenville, on the other hand, is a smaller community of over 13,000 people that has less wealth and prestige.

2. Warrenville finally incorporated in the 1960s to be able to control some nearby land and not have it all fall into the hands of Naperville.

3. It does seem a bit odd for the business to invite the mayor of Naperville and not the suburb in which it actually located. If they wanted to be attached to the idea of Naperville, why not actually locate in Naperville? There has to be a good reason they located in Warrenville.

4. I’m not sure what the mayor of Warrenville achieved in this statement to the public. That he is willing to stick up for Warrenville? That Warrenville deserves some attention as well? Warrenville is not going to become Naperville and would probably say it doesn’t want to…so what purpose does this serve?

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