Four of nation's top five markets are in the Sunshine State.
Orlando Business Journal - July 13, 2007 by Dan Ping
Citrus, once the driving force behind Central Florida's economy, has been replaced by a new "crop" -- small businesses.
A study released this week by Bizjournals indicates Orlando is growing far more small businesses than oranges. In fact, the report ranks Orlando as the No. 1 city in the nation in which to start a small business, defined as having 99 or fewer employees.
The ranking comes as no surprise to Jerry Ross, director of the Disney/Small Business Administration National Entrepreneur Center, one of two such facilities in the nation.
"There are resources in this town you don't find in other communities," Ross says. Among those are institutions dedicated to helping small businesses, such as the University of Central Florida and Orange County government.
Ross also cites Orlando's large pool of creative talent in diverse fields such as art, science and technology. And, he says, it helps to have a roster of companies such as Walt Disney World that are willing to give startup companies opportunities. "If you want to start a business [in Orlando], somebody will give you a shot."
'Full speed ahead'
Orlando was the only U.S. market to snare a spot in the top 10 metro areas for three key factors: population growth, small business creation and small business concentration.
The latter category compares each market's number of small businesses with its population. Orlando's ratio of 2,821 small businesses per 100,000 residents is 16 percent better than the study group's average of 2,439 per 100,000.
"Orlando is going full speed ahead," says Mark Vitner, senior economist for Wachovia Corp. "Most people think of it as Disney World and Mickey Mouse, but it's much more than tourism. It has a tremendously diverse base of industries -- high-tech, software development, defense, benefits administration, video-game manufacturing."
That diversity is important in growing the local pool of small businesses, says Rod Vargas, CEO and president of Apex Environmental Engineering & Compliance Inc.
"It's inspiring to see all these different types of companies and the innovative things they do," says Vargas, who was named the Small Business Administration's 2007 Florida Small Business Person of the Year. "It's contagious. It drives you to do something that hasn't been done before."
Bizjournals used a formula to rate small business vitality in the nation's 75 largest metropolitan areas, which ranged from New York City, with a metropolitan population of 18.75 million as of 2005, to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., with 667,000 residents.
The factors, based on statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, dealt with small businesses, as well as indicators of economic health and growth potential. They included:
- Concentration of small businesses, expressed as a ratio per 100,000 residents
- Two-year (2003-2005) and five-year (2000-2005) percentage change in concentration
- Two-year and five-year percentage change in the total of small businesses
- Two-year and five-year percentage change in population
- Two-year and five-year percentage change in private-sector employment
- Two-year and five-year percentage change in private-sector payrolls
- Average pay per private-sector worker, expressed in 2005 dollars
Orlando wasn't the only city in Florida to have a strong showing.
In fact, four of America's five best markets for small businesses are in the Sunshine State: The Sarasota-Bradenton metro area ranks No. 2, followed by Miami-Fort Lauderdale at No. 3 and Jacksonville at No. 5. The state's remaining metro market, Tampa-St. Petersburg, ranked No. 14.
The Florida markets, despite their diverse locations, share several attributes, according to the study. Each has experienced rapid growth since 2000 in population, employment and the number of small businesses.
Top 5 U.S. cities to start a small business
3. Miami-Fort Lauderdale
4. Las Vegas
Dan Ping can be reached at (407) 241-2895 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.