LIFT: The Visible Invisible State Line

by Sonja Hubbard

As residents of Texarkana, we rarely are even conscious of our movement back and forth across the state line dividing the Arkansas and Texas side of the city. There is no distinct wave of change that washes over one as you move from one side of State Line Avenue to the other. It is just another busy street in our unique city. But while we can’t see a distinct line or even feel one, this invisible delineation is evident in the operations and decisions that influence our Texarkanas and changes our daily lives.

We read of the conflicts and disagreements in the paper, they are discussed at meetings, with friends and over coffee around town but we feel it is our own internal, dirty little secret. On a recent family vacation to St. John, U. S. Virgin Island I learned how wrong that sentiment is. At a wonderful beachside dinner on far end of the island, far from home and totally at peace with the world, we sat one evening enjoying a delectable gourmet meal. The chef, hearing our accents, asked where we were from and when told “Texarkana” happily produced an article that ran in the island paper that very day. A smile spread across my face. I was very proud that not only did he know of our special city but even the island of St. John did too. We made the paper! When the article was handed to me, my smile turned into an awkward nod and shrug. I wasn’t sure how to respond. The story was entitled ‘A tale of sister cities—Friendly football rivalry has turned more serious’. The title alone told me that our secret was out. As I read the story I was disappointed and even embarrassed. I wanted to argue that this doesn’t properly represent us but sometimes, it really does.

The article said, “City leaders on either side of the state line have been squabbling over tourism dollars, sewage treatment and other issues that probably could be resolved with little fuss in other parts of the country. The rivalry seems to know no bounds.” I have heard from citizens trying to recruit business to Texarkana and serve on boards that acknowledge that outside parties have seen this article and read others of our conflicts. Investors question coming to a community where the politics, policies and people are adversarial and conflicted. If as the article states, ‘this could be resolved in other parts of the country with little fuss,’ then why can’t we do it?  The answer is we can and maybe we are beginning to. It’s time for us ALL to end the blame game and begin to cooperate.

Several years back a friend and competitor shared a book with me titled ‘Co-opetition’ by Adam M. Brandenburger and Barry J. Nalebuff.  The book describes a “revolutionary mindset that combines competition and cooperation”. It points out that while we can slice up the pie differently with one party getting a bigger piece and someone else getting a smaller one; to be revolutionary different we must instead grow the pie. To do that we must cooperate, even within competitive environments. We can do that and we can grow the pie that isTexarkana, USA. Money doesn’t magically stop flowing across the very visible invisible line. Businesses in town employ people from both sides of the line, they buy product across the line, customers shop on both sides and all benefit. This works. By better aligning the goals and agendas of both sides of Texarkana everyone can benefit from our co-opetition. We will all benefit, we will grow and we will be a better Texarkana. Truly Twice as Nice with a state line that is only visibly significant as for its novelty and tourism appeal.

Together we are stronger and together we can continue the wave of change that is beginning. Support cooperation, co-opetition and erase the visible invisible divide on State Line. Please join us and support our elected representatives as we change the way we do business in Texarkana USA.

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