magazine has named Sarasota the best little city in the nation.
In its December issue of
best places to live, the monthly publication touts Sarasota for more
than its sun-drenched beaches and balmy weather.
Money noted the city has
its own symphony, ballet and opera companies, is home to the Ringling
Museum of Art and is within an hour of Tampa Bay and its Buccaneers
professional football team.
Though the article never
mentions Manatee County, it is clear from the statistics cited by
Money writers that Sarasota's northern neighbor is included.
The quoted numbers, such
as a population of 530,900, describe the Sarasota-Bradenton Metropolitan
Statistical Area -- statistician jargon for the area that includes
population centers surrounding Bradenton and Sarasota.
Regardless of what the
statistics describe, economic developers in Sarasota plan to make
the most of the designation, which reaches a large national audience.
Kathy Baylis, vice president
of the Sarasota County Committee for Economic Development, said making
the Money list will help the city overcome its reputation as a destination
solely for retirees and tourists.
"This is just another thing
to help us build an image outside the community," she said.
Baylis also expects employers
recruiting in a tight labor market to use it as a marketing tool.
Money writers described
the lifestyle in the Sarasota area, where the median home price is
$126,000, as affordable. The magazine mentioned that the area's job
growth last year reached 5 percent and is projected to increase by
30.5 percent during the next decade.
In focus groups led by
economic development experts in Sarasota and Manatee counties, technologists
said they chose to move to the area because it was an ideal place
to raise families.
"They are looking for smaller,
quaint, and not so crowded places," Baylis said.
A diversification of business
sectors beyond retail and services is also attracting younger workers
and creating higher-paying jobs, she added.
Alan Mirabella, assistant
managing editor at Money, said Sarasota won its designation by topping
about 24 other cities with populations less than 250,000.
Criteria included job growth,
quality of life, education, economy and home prices.
"This year we focused on
cities that are managing their growth very well," he said. "We looked
at cities that are not yet overcrowded, that are not spoiled by things
like gridlock. We talked to dozens of people in each of the cities,
and we got the sense that people who live in Sarasota really like
that the Money rankings can be controversial, recalling the ire raised
last year when New York and San Francisco were named the best places
Others have quibbled with
the magazine's methodologies, which it has admitted are not necessarily
meant to be a scientific or statistical approach.
This year, the No. 1 choice
among 300 of the country's largest metropolitan areas is Portland,
Regional winners are Providence,
R.I., in the Northeast; Chicago, in the Midwest; Raleigh/Durham/Chapel
Hill, in the South; and Salt Lake City, in the West.
Other rankings include
lowest violent crime rates, highest home prices, and most single people
-- a list on which Gainesville was named No. 2.
Besides the national and
regional winners, the magazine named seven other five-star cities:
Austin, Texas; Bloomington, Ind.; New York City; Phoenix; Rochester,
Minn.; San Diego, and San Francisco.