Saturday, February 24, 2007

Best U.S. Cities for Jobs: I Was Surprised

Forbes.com recently released "The 25 Best U.S. Cities for Jobs." Raleigh-Cary, NC topped the list and usual suspects such as Salt Lake City was included (it really is a great city). I was surprised to see the Sarasota-Bradenton-Venice, Fla. region at number 11. What???

Things must have changed in the year-and-a-half since I've left. Tourism growth was stated as the reason. I also think Sarasota's Economic Development has been successful in growing businesses who need qualified employees to fill those spots. But, I can see that affordable housing is still an issue. If a company wants to recruit and maintain excellent staff, the salary needs to be compatible with the cost of living.

Has Sarasota finally addressed the affordable housing issue? When I was down last weekend, I noticed TONS of "for sale" signs on houses, some with "foreclosure." I knew the bubble would burst, I just couldn't sit around long enough to see it happen.

Speaking of tourism, I understand there's discussion within our great state's House of Representatives to increase sales tax by up to 2.5%, from 6% to 8.% (then add county and local tax on top of that) in order to reduce property tax. This would make Florida's sales tax the highest in the country.

I believe it was a State Rep who said along with resident spending, tourist spending would make up the difference from lost revenue of property tax. In essence, the residents will pay less in property taxes as long as tourists are spending money in the state.

This is a good theory, somewhat. We're lucky here in the Sunshine State not having state income tax because over 84 million visitors (84.6 visitors in 2006 to be exact, according to VISIT FLORIDA) come play and spend with us. But, with a state tourism budget smaller than that of the city of Las Vegas, how can Florida continue to compete and attract visitors?

If money isn't spent to bring visitors, then who's going to be spending money and generating revenue from sales tax? And, is it reasonable to expect out-of-towners to pay for our infrastructure? I realize while they visit they do use our services, but where do you draw the line?

Like any business, making more money requires an investment. While we think tourism is fun and games, it's serious business. Florida's tourism generates substantial revenue and economic stability for its residents. I hope the Republican-run House has the common sense to thoroughly think this through.

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