BRADENTON -- The Bradenton-Sarasota area topped all other Florida communities as a satisfying place to live and ranked No. 23 in the nation out of 189 communities surveyed, according to a recent Gallup-Healthways poll.
The survey was conducted over a two-year period starting January 2012 and ending in December. It took into account several factors ranging from employment opportunities and overall quality of life.
The primary survey question was intentionally vague and did not address specifics such as local government services, according to Gallup.
"Are you satisfied with the city or area where you live?" was the question asked of participants.
The Fort Collins-Loveland, Colo., area scored highest with a 94.9 percent satisfaction rate.
The Bradenton-Sarasota area scored a 90.5 percent satisfaction rate.
The only other Florida community to score in the 90s was the Naples-Marco Island area, which scored 90.2 percent and ranked 27th overall.
Thirteen Florida communities were included in the survey. Port St. Lucie scored lowest with an 82.7 satisfaction rating good for No. 142 in the overall ranking.
The closest communities to the Bradenton-Sarasota survey was the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area, which scored 108th with an 84.7 percent satisfaction rate.
Bradenton City Councilman Gene Brown said Gulf Coast weather probably helped the area excel in satisfaction rankings. What Bradenton has to offer residents also spurred its top state ranking, he said.
"We have everything from sports, arts, beaches, culture and amenities like Riverwalk, which is a huge draw for our local residents," said Brown.
It's not just people like Brown, who was born, raised and continue to live in their hometown who agree with the Bradenton-Sarasota area's high ranking.
Johnette Isham, executive director of Realize Bradenton, has only called Bradenton home for about six months.
"It's the best place I've ever lived," said Isham, a former Sarasota resident. "Bradenton is a welcoming community and living downtown puts me within walking distance of some very unique and cultural attributes."
'Friendly City' slogan
Cities often use marketing slogans, but Bradenton's "Friendly City" identity couldn't be more accurate, Isham said.
"I wholeheartedly believe Bradenton is the Friendly City," said Isham. "For people old enough, I describe it like the TV show 'Cheers' where everybody knows your name, people are friendly and open doors for you. It's just a great place to come to and get to know everyone."
Isham said a Gallup poll in 2009 reported three factors are most important in creating an attachment between a city and residents: cultural and social offerings, friendliness and physical assets such as parks and public spaces. Bradenton does it best, she said.
Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston said he figured all that out a long time ago.
"This city is an awful good place to live," said Poston. "I've had opportunities to move other places, but I had the good sense to know that when you are well off, it's a good thing. We have everything anyone needs as far as sports and arts and it's all within driving distance. We have everything to offer, but without the hassle of living in a major city."
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.