Tampa Bay among least cost places for business, but is that enough to draw smart workers?
Wake up and good morning. So, if this new analysis is correct, many major Florida metro areas -- Tampa Bay included -- already rank among the least expensive regions with the lowest operating costs and best business climate.
That's great news, of course. But it does seem to beg the question: If we're already among the cheapest and business-friendliest places, how will Florida Gov. Rick Scott's mandate to try and make Florida cheaper (lower taxes) and even friendlier to business (less regulatory red tape) really be able to make a big difference?
In a ranking of the 20 cheapest regions to set up a business, Florida appears five times. Tampa Bay ranks seventh. And Orlando is No. 1, with Jacksonville finishing at No. 3, Palm Beach County at No. 16 and Broward County ranking 20th. No other state placed more than one area on the list of top 20.
But will we make a big splash if Tampa Bay goes from 7th to, say 5th cheapest for business? No way.
(The report comes a month after the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council placed Florida sixth overall -- and second among big states -- in a ranking of the best places to run a small company.)
"Florida is one of the most pro-business states in the nation,'' said John Boyd Jr., a principal with BizCosts.com, the New Jersey-based company that did the analysis earlier this month. ``And it has been for some time.'' Read more about the survey in coverage from the Orlando Sentinel.
BizCosts compared the annual costs of operating a typical corporate headquarters in 55 areas across the U.S., weighing factors such as labor costs, tax burden, utility costs and travel costs. For its model, it calculated those expenses for a 75,000-square-foot facility employing 300 people.
"If it purely came down to the (cost) numbers, Orlando would arguably be the new headquarters for JetBlue Airways," says Sentinel business columnist Beth Kassab here. Indeed, when JetBlue was weighing a headquarters relocation a few years ago from Queens (near LaGuardia Airport) to Orlando, Orlando would have stomped the New York City area in relative costs. But that is not what made the difference in JetBlue's decision to remain in New York.
Write Kassab: "It's not exorbitant costs that are holding Florida back, despite the calls for lower taxes we hear out of Tallahassee. It's education, transportation and other quality of life issues."
Bingo. The real question is how long will it take the less-is-better Tally gang to go from a one-dimensional to three-dimensional understanding of Florida's need to raise its bar, not just lower its costs?
And what's on Tally's target to trim these days? Education. Transportation. Let's be clear, though. No doubt, Tallahassee's state government needs a good trim. But that's not enough of a plan to make Florida a 21st century magnet for smart businesses looking for smart places to put down roots and grow.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist