Milken: Sarasota Job Growth Tops in Nation



Economic leaders always enjoy seeing the Greater Sarasota area climb the rankings of American cities in various business categories, but it was a particular surprise when the Milken Institute’s list of Best-Performing Cities published in January. The listing ranked the North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton metropolitan area as No. 6 among large metros, a 20-spot leap from last year.

This particular report grades cities based on job creation and sustainability. This area was one of only two communities in the Top 10 that didn’t also hold a high spot last year; Salt Lake City in Utah climbed from No. 11 to No. 10. So why the dramatic shift? A deeper look at the numbers shows this area ranked first in the nation in terms of short-term job growth as measured by Milken. “The region tops the chart in 12-month job growth, beating out economic powerhouses around the county,” reads the report. “Though the region is largely a tourist destination and retirement haven, high-tech industry output has been growing recently, signaling some success in the area’s push to diversify its industry profile and thus improving resilience.”

Mark Huey, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County, says it's always a positive when business rankings make note of Sarasota’s increasingly strong economy. The short-term job growth accolade comes as no surprise to him. “We know what that’s about. It’s our service economy that has boomed in the rebound in the last couple of years,” Huey says. The current economic boom can be seen in real-time with the rise of new hotels and condos in Downtown Sarasota, creating construction work in the short run and permanent jobs in the hospitality field. That speaks to the job growth, if not diversification, though Huey notes that it’s those jobs that will continue to provide the backbone for the economy in this region for some time.

That's not a surprose to Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County, who says a surge in hospitality jobs has led to professional opportunities for numerous workers in the field. In Sarasota County alone, 13 hotels are under construction or, like The Westin Sarasota or Homewood Suites by Hilton Sarasota, have recently opened their doors. That's the biggest surge in new hotels in the area since the 1950s, Haley believes. She also stressed that jobs in hospitality often provide work training for professionals in a number of fields, providing work for full-time college students and others who need flexible hours.

According to the Milken report, 2017 stood out in job growth not just for the 103.24 percent increase but how it performed relative to other areas compared to prior years; Provo, Utah, the top ranked city on Milken’s report overall, had job growth in 2017 of 101.96 percent. In 2015, this area ranked 90th in short-term job growth compared to its top-slot finish in 2017. 

And other strengths also contributed the Milken score as well. Sarasota ranked 13th in high-tech gross domestic product growth over a five-year period and ranked 15th in wage growth in the nation as of 2015.

Graphic courtesy Milken Institute.

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