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At least 111 has three number ones

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image Forbes Magazine recently ranked Tampa Bay as the 111th best place to do business in the United States. At least that number includes three number ones. Mitch Traphagen Photo

Yes, things could be better here but there is an awful lot of good stuff already in place.

By MITCH TRAPHAGEN

Forbes Magazine recently rated Tampa as the 111th best place for business. It’s kind of hard to cheer, “Yay!  We’re 111th!” but at least this area did better than most other Florida cities. Ft. Lauderdale came in near dead last at 182. Provo, Utah came out at the top of the list of best places for business and careers, while Modesto, California came in last at number 200. No Florida cities were in the top 100.

The top five cities were Provo, Raleigh, Fort Collins, Des Moines, and Denver. Ironically, I’ve lived in three of those top five cities and have traveled to all of them. You might be asking yourself…Des Moines?  Yes, it is a very prosperous, well-educated and progressive little city, but it has only a handful of the cool amenities of Minneapolis or Chicago while sharing the same occasionally difficult climate. And when the next blizzard hits (and there will be a next one), half the city will be on the web looking for flights to Florida or Arizona. It is, however, a great place to get a good job and has some really excellent roads with even better roads on the way. Oh yeah, like the other cities in the top five, Des Moines has great public parks and nature trails.

That infrastructure, along with excellent education and employment opportunities, are among the things that Forbes looked at in creating their list. Tampa, and the state of Florida in general, stumbled on those counts. The truth is that to big companies, taxes aren’t everything. All five of those cities have much higher tax rates than does Florida, and in none of those places is it easier to start a business. Taxes pay for education, highways, light rail, and parks — none of which are lately renowned in Florida. The bottom line is that if a state won’t invest in itself through education and infrastructure, then it certainly creates the appearance that it doesn’t believe in itself or in the future. Big companies want to be where there are well-educated people who are happy with their homes and neighborhoods. Moreover, having big companies around makes it easier for small companies, including the Mom-and-Pop businesses, because big companies employ more people who make more money and thus have more to spend at the small, local businesses.

It’s not a vicious circle, it’s the only circle.  And yes, it does involve a roll of the dice when it comes to taxpayer dollars.

No one likes to pay taxes and part of the allure of Florida is the absence of a state income tax. I’m not advocating for more taxes, I’m just wondering where the heck all of the money goes. Florida really has no excuse for being in a recession. We have tens of millions of tourists coming here year around, paying taxes through the nose for virtually everything you can imagine. Somehow, someway, I firmly believe that as a state, we can do better with what we have.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe seems to agree. In response to the Forbes list, the commissioner took to his Twitter account stating there should be no excuses, that Tampa needs to be in the top ten on that list. He goes on to point out that the University of South Florida, the University of Tampa and Hillsborough Community College are keys to improving the city and the economy. He also stated a circle of his own with a tweet saying, “The more companies that locate here, the more talent wants to be here, which improves the attractiveness to more companies. Cluster 101”

I greatly admire Commissioner Sharpe. While I don’t agree with everything he says, I am convinced he is an honest man who speaks from the heart and that his heart is set firmly in the Tampa Bay area. He wants what is best for this area and the people living here. And not just today with quick fixes for appearance’s sake, but in the future as well.

All that said, I don’t take the Forbes list as the gospel. Yes, things could be better here but there is an awful lot of good stuff already in place. No mainland state can match the natural beauty in Florida. Apparently Forbes didn’t get down to South County where we have Simmons Park, a beautiful waterfront respite that is indicative of a commitment to preserving some of the best Florida has to offer, the Apollo Beach Nature Park, the still new and growing Hillsborough Community College campus in Ruskin and literally scores of residents ranging from philanthropists to artists to entrepreneurs. They apparently didn’t meet the dedicated and caring teachers in our area schools. They didn’t meet the incredibly dedicated officers of the District IV Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office who have not only kept a lid on crime better than anywhere else in the county, but also work hard to make this a better place to live. Of course, there is always room for improvement and that goes without saying in a large state like Florida, but 111 out of 200 metropolitan areas?  I’m going to focus on the number ones. We have a lot of them.

I’ve met some of the best and most caring people in my life here. Like few other places, Florida in general, and Tampa Bay specifically, opens the door to literally anyone, offering some of the best ways possible to enjoy life. I’ve lived in three of the Forbes top five cities, and yet I chose Tampa Bay. With a definite potential for improvement, to me it’s number one.

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