Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Sarasota #4 in Nation

DANA SANCHEZ
Herald Staff Writer

MANATEE - We're on the map in more ways than one.

Manatee County's recent astronomical property appreciation rate - 41 percent this year - brought national attention to the area. Now the growing Sarasota-Bradenton Metropolitan Statistical Area is drawing attention for other reasons: showing up on quality-of-life indexes on an almost daily basis.

Like Entrepreneur Magazine's Top 50 Places for Entrepreneurs (Sarasota-Bradenton was No. 47) and Colin Powell's Alliance For Youth 100 Best Communities for Young People (We showed up on the unranked list). We're also No. 8 on a list of 100 top renter-friendly midsize towns by ApartmentRatings. com.

On Tuesday, the area landed the No. 4 spot on a list of the 10 hottest major metropolitan markets for jobs by American City Business Journals.

Sarasota-Bradenton is the top Florida market for jobs and is bettered by only Las Vegas, Phoenix and Washington, D.C., according to a report at www.bizjournals. com.

The study compared unemployment rates (3.5 percent for Sarasota-Bradenton in June, down from 4.4 percent last year), non-farm employment, jobs added and the percentage change.

This area's work force grew by 16,500 jobs from June 2004 to June 2005, the study found. That's a 5.6 percent increase.

Quality of life and a growing population are getting the area onto lists, said Nancy Engel, executive director of the Manatee Chamber's Economic Development Council.

"When your metropolitan statistical area grows, that kicks in more things being recognized," Engel said.

The population for the Sarasota-Bradenton Metropolitan Statistical Area is 639,438, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2004 American community survey.

Some list-makers consider that a large city like Entrepreneur.com, which ranked the hottest large, mid-size and small cities for entrepreneurs.

Sarasota-Bradenton ranked 47th on its list of top 50 large cities to start and grow a business. Phoenix ranked No. 1 followed by Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and Las Vegas.

Phenomenal demand for real estate has helped Sarasota-Bradenton rank high in quality-of-life indexes, said Jim Parrish, a business analyst at the University of South Florida's Small Business Development Center in Tampa.

"When people move to an area to achieve quality of life, they need things," Parrish said. "Any business oriented towards consumers is going to do very well." That includes restaurants, retail establishments, financial services and banking, he said.

Here's a list we didn't show up on: Forbes' 2005 list of most expensive ZIP codes. Heading that list was the Atherton, Calif., ZIP code 94027, with a median home price of $2,496,553. Miami Beach's 33109 ZIP code was the most expensive Florida ZIP to make the list, with a median home price of $1,505,655.

This compares with Sarasota-Bradenton with a median home price of $347,400 in August, up 34 percent from $258,700 last year, according to the Florida Association of Realtors.

Here's an informal sampling of other lists ranking Sarasota-Bradenton:

• The area ranked No. 161 for risk from diesel soot out of 359 metropolitan statistical areas, according to a February study by the Clean Air Task Force using data from the Environmental Protection Agency.

• The Milken Institute, a nonprofit economic think tank ranked Sarasota-Bradenton sixth in a list of top performing cities in November.

• Sarasota ranked third in a list of top 10 Best American Art Towns, a guide to galleries, museums, festivals, lodging and dining, according to the Economic Development Corp. of Sarasota County.

• Sarasota was named sixth on a list of best markets for the creation of start-up businesses, according to a study by SalesGenie.com.

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