Tampa Bay and Florida far from top in business-friendly rankings

Published May 20, 2015

Business-friendly Florida? Gov. Rick Scott says yes, yes, yes.

The latest national analysis says no, no, no.

A study by MarketWatch, part of the Dow Jones company that publishes the Wall Street Journal, ranked the 100 largest metro areas in the country using 23 economic measures to decide which urban markets are the most and least friendly to business.

Dallas landed at No. 1. And Florida metros — the same our governor travels the country touting as the best for biz? Well, Miami ranked No. 37, with Tampa Bay and Orlando trailing at No. 46 and 47, respectively. Poor Lakeland scraped by near the bottom at No. 98.

So what makes Dallas so friendly?

MarketWatch analyzed a range of 23 categories related to business environment, company performance and economic outcome. In 22 cases, the best possible score was 100, while in the 23rd it was 150. A perfect score in all metrics would yield 2,350 points. Then MarketWatch crunched the numbers. "Ultimately, Dallas-Fort Worth won with a score of 1,687. San Francisco wasn't far behind, at 1,665, and Seattle took the bronze with 1,651," MarketWatch reported.

What's holding Tampa Bay back at No. 46 with 1,222 points? The "business climate" here ranked low at No. 72. The "company performance" — businesses on the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq markets — here did better at No. 31. And the "economic outcome" measure put Tampa Bay at No. 57.

All in all, pretty middle of the pack.

For comparison's sake, Dallas racked up a No. 17 in business climate, a No. 16 in "company performance" and a strong No. 4 in "economic outcome" — indicators that the Texas metro area is hitting on all pro-business cylinders far above the Tampa Bay metric.

And what happened in low-ranking Lakeland? It's apparently moving at a slower pace than most larger metro areas, and ranks among the lowest metro areas in the number of graduate degrees. But this survey also revealed a blind spot to Lakeland's business gem — the headquarters of grocery dynamo Publix Super Markets. Because it is a private company and does not trade on the NYSE or Nasdaq, its significant influence was not captured in the analysis.

No single survey captures the economic essence of any metro area. But this analysis is just the latest reminder that being "business friendly" goes far beyond simply boasting about no state income tax and cheap wages. That's a losing sales strategy.

Contact Robert Trigaux at Follow @venturetampabay.