Oh, for heaven's sake, Forbes. Your list of Best American Cities for Business and Careers has the Tampa Bay area at No. 111?
Look, we feel bad about ourselves. We could do better in terms of job growth and business development, sure. We also understand that lists like these, with their fuzzy statistical shenanigans, are meant to stir the pot, meant to draw traffic to your online slide show.
So forgive us for picking nits, but let us set you up with a mojito and some grouper nuggets and ask a few questions.
You've got Provo, Utah, at No. 1. Really?
Funny, because that's the number of liquor stores Provo has: One. One state-run liquor store for 112,000 residents, open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Saturday. This little city may boast beautiful mountain views, low crime and a projected annual job growth of 2.5 percent through 2014, but good luck finding a drink to escape the boredom, or a restaurant on a Sunday.
And second is Raleigh? You know what they say about Raleigh? We don't either, because nobody ever says anything about Raleigh. This charmless chain-city exists in some dark recess of the consciousness. (It's in the same state as Asheville, right?)
Fort Collins, Colo., third on the list, smells like agriculture. We know this because people post online about it, not because we've ever been. Because, really, unless you're looking to buy cattle, watch mediocre college football or drive from Denver to Cheyenne, Wyo., why would you ever go to Fort Collins?
Then there's Des Moines, Iowa, which gets 35 inches of snow a year. Don't be caught downwind from the animal rendering plant near downtown. The city even has an odor hotline. "It doesn't hit all that often," wrote a local columnist, "but when it hits, it hits hard, scorching nostrils and forcing people indoors." Sounds like a great place.
No. 5 is Denver, which is a cool town, if you like traffic, white people and a giant halo of brown smog hovering over your city.
We could go on because 100 business hot-spots left Florida's cities in the dust — magical and magnetic places like Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Scranton, Pa., McAllen, Texas, and Wichita, Kan. We even fell to a handful of pit stops that nobody has ever heard of, places such as Kennewick, Wash., Rockingham County, N.H., and Peabody, Mass. Barely, just barely, we were edged out by that creative cradle of capitalism: Shreveport, La.
Look, we've got next to nothing against those cities. We're sure they're pretty great, and this is all in good fun.
But last we checked, Florida's cities were doing all right. (Forget about the mosquitoes and rare instances of cannibalism.) We've lured sports franchises and Super Bowls and, next month, the Republican National Convention. More people came to Orlando in 2010 — 51.4 million — than any city in the country.
Last weekend, the beaches here were packed with people from other places, pasty-skinned folks who trickled down to the vortex of sunshine and hucksterism, to get away, to enjoy America, from concentrate.
Maybe we don't make much, Forbes, besides beds, and money off everyone else. But drink up, and cut us some slack. At least consider us when you string together your list of Cities That Have It All Figured Out.
Ben Montgomery can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8650.