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East Manatee innovators take world view

A few weeks ago, while writing a story on the state of agriculture in Manatee County, I learned about an up-and-coming livestock export business in East Manatee.

It turned out to be an object lesson in how the world has turned in the past few years. There were lessons on the boom and bust of the economy, changing gender roles, and a steadily shrinking globe.

Strickland Ranch & Exports, located two miles down a dirt road off Rutland Road, surely one of Manatee County’s most beautiful drives, would seem to be about as remote from the modern business world as anyone could get.

It reminded me of the Virginia and Florida countryside from the 1950s, a slower, quieter time.

Along that dirt road were the ghosts of platted subdivisions from the 1920s, with names like Manhattan and New York, meant to lure northern investors. Those big real estate plans from long ago died when the Florida land boom of the 1920s went bust.

Now, the land is mainly populated by cattle which seem a little surprised when a visitor drives past, leaving a plume of dust hanging in the air.

But the tranquility is misleading because there is a whirlwind named Renee Strickland at work, making deals with ranchers in countries around the world to export local livestock.

It’s hard, plodding, methodical work. All of us know how difficult it can be to deal with any local government. Multiply that difficulty by a factor of 100 when dealing with other governments, with their own sets of rules, their own culture, their own language.

And frankly, Renee is a woman working in what used to be a man’s world, both here in the United States and abroad. Not that Renee would or does complain about it. She just goes about her business with a winning combination of personality, smarts, industriousness and tenacity.

Her husband, Jim Strickland, knows when he’s got a good thing going, and he knows that the export business is Renee’s thing.

The information super highway is wide open from their ranch to everywhere else in the world, and they use the Internet to make quotes and receive inquiries.

Frequent flights to other lands help them put faces to the names of potential customers, and make friends who are as real, genuine and unpretentious as they are. For more about the innovation from Strickland Ranch, see Saturday’s Herald.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be reached at 708-7916.