Florida keeps outgrowing its 20th-century reputation as a place to kick back, relax, retire, and vacation. Efforts to establish a more diverse economy and workforce over the past few decades are paying off, with several Florida cities attracting more businesses, headquarters, and expanded locations.
Beyond the brand-name companies that call Florida home, the Sunshine state now tops lists of places to launch a startup. These kinds of businesses are a critical component to increasing Florida’s profile in industries like tech, health care, biomedical science, and others.
A study published by Real Estate Witch compared the 50 most populous U.S. metro areas across 12 metrics and calculated a combined weighted average of each score to determine its “startup city” score. The metrics examined include things like average annual income, number of business and patent applications, employment growth, LLC and incorporation fees, marginal corporate tax rate, among others.
Using these calculations, four Florida cities made the top 10: Orlando (3), Miami (4), Tampa (6), and Jacksonville (8). These cities stand in company with Las Vegas (1), Salt Lake City (2), Atlanta (5), Phoenix (7), Denver (9), and Kansas City (10). All these cities have the following in common: A thriving business climate, averaging 7,500 per 100,000 residents over the past five years, with 26% more CEOs that the national average; strong employment growth over the last 12 months at nearly 1.5x higher than the metro average; and low taxes and fees at 28% less than the studied city average.
Orlando has made great strides transforming its image as primarily a vacation destination into a tech hub where businesses can form, grow or relocate. The Orlando Economic Development Commission’s campaign launched a few years ago. “Orlando, You don’t know the half of it” was a major contributor to the city’s reputation rebrand.
Efforts like these pay off. With 9,265 business applications per 100,000 residents over the last five years – 56% more than the studied city average – Orlando ranks third on the list of fastest-growing startup scenes. The Orlando metro area also has the second-highest employment growth rate (7%) behind Las Vegas.
With 14,058 business applications per 100,000 residents in the last five years, Miami has 2.5-times the number of applications as the average city on the list (5,931).
Miami has become a haven for all sorts of tech, finance, and other heavy-hitter industries during the pandemic. Google search inquiries for “business plan” in Miami have soared to the No. 6 spot on the list. Not just a place for back-office operations, Miami and neighbor Palm Beach are becoming known for major headquarter relocations as well. Elliot Management, Blackstone, Citadel, Icahn Enterprises, and all major investment firms, have relocated or expanded satellite offices in recent months.
The city also ranks No. 7 among all cities for interest in the search term “venture capital,” and a slew of investors have moved to South Florida for its low tax rates. SoftBank Group Corp. announced a $100 million funding initiative for Miami-based companies or those planning to relocate. Goldman Sachs is also looking for space in the area.
Miami’s tech boom is also good news for Latin American startups. The city has a host of bilingual employees – about 75% of the population speaks a language other than English – and it’s in the same (or almost the same) time zone as most Latin American countries, making it easier to do business internationally.
For entrepreneurs looking to start a business, Tampa Bay has it all: employment growth (5.6%), affordable employees ($52,291), and flourishing businesses (7,695 business applications per 100,000 residents).
The Tampa Bay area is a rapidly growing startup hub named one of the best emerging tech cities and one of the best places to work in tech. Per-capita business applications (7,695) have exceeded the national average (5,931) by approximately 30% over the last five years, catching the eye of entrepreneurs and high-profile investors such as Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.
One of many accelerator programs the city has to offer includes innovation hub Embarc Collective. Tampa Bay, along with Southern Florida, Jacksonville, and Orlando, all have advisory boards to the Florida Diversity Council, an organization committed to service as the premier resource for diversity best practices and leadership development in Florida. The programs and initiatives help support a more diverse economy to help startups thrive throughout Tampa Bay and Florida overall.
Inexpensive business costs and a low corporate tax rate (4.46%) attract entrepreneurs who want to pocket more profit and reinvest in future growth opportunities.
PS27 Ventures, headquartered in Jacksonville, provides educational resources and access to investors to help businesses grow sustainably. The organization taps into an expansive network of accredited investors to support Florida-based startups locally. Citing tax laws that are more favorable in Florida than in the Northeast, investors increasingly focus capital here, specifically with artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and 3D printing technology companies.
While each city has different things to offer, all of them present the unique Florida lifestyle that makes time outside of work even more enjoyable. Now more than ever, people are looking for work-life balance and maximizing what the “life” part has to offer.
Whether you’re enjoying the beaches near Jacksonville and Miami, the Bay in Tampa, or the theme parks in Orlando, there’s something special about Florida living that appeals to rank and file employees and top-level executives alike.
Author is an economist and Florida Realtors’ Director of Economic Development for Florida Realtors