BY MARK YOUNG, Bradenton Herald: April, 23 2019
Photo Credits: Tiffany Hopkins Bradenton Herald
Bradenton ranks in the top 100 small cities for small businesses out of more than 1,200 small cities across the country, acccording to WalleHub.com.
Bradenton tied at No. 98 with Lafayette Colo. Holland Mich., ranked No. 1 and the highest ranking Florida small city, Fort Meyers, came in at No. 3.
Bradenton beat out neighboring Sarasota by 54 spots, with Sarasota ranking’s standing at 152.
Thanks to recent cuts in federal income taxes and other factors, 70 percent of small business owners surveyed by WalletHub said the time to start a new small business — or grow one — is now.
WalletHub looked at several factors, including business environment, access to resources and business costs, with subhead categories including access to a working labor force, average commute time, office space affordability, cost of living and more.
“I originally thought the business environment in Bradenton was not good,” Beasely said. “I set out to start here and take my capital elsewhere but as I was having this conversation, I realized my problem was not connecting into the local community. I’m a native here so it’s completely my fault for thinking there were no resources here. I started talking to people and found there is an entire ecosystem of start-up resources.”
Beasley’s journey led him to Florida Funders, an organization that encourages and offers financial aid to start-up companies that are willing to keep their capital in the Sunshine State. Beasley said too many potential entrepreneurs stumble through the world of infomercials or end up buying into someone else’s idea of entrepreneurship, which rarely pans out.
There are plenty of resources and individuals who want to give that information for free right here in Bradenton.
“But going to events is not enough,” Beasley said. “You have to hang out after these events. I went to one last week and stayed after, picking up trash in my suit. About 200 people attended the event and only six stayed after. You have to get to know these people and those are the relationships that make real change.”
Changing the notion of what encompasses our “region” is another big aspect in changing the dynamic of the business environment.
Hand has always been a big proponent to change the narrative of Bradenton’s so-called regional placement. While Bradenton is considered to be a part of the Bradenton-Sarasota-North Port metropolitan area, Hand says when it comes to business relationships, Bradenton is part of the Tampa Bay region.
“It’s critical to separate that when it comes to business opportunities,” Hand said. “Connecting across the water will help harness some of the other resources we need.”
As a region that consists of Sarasota and North Port, the region last year dropped from sixth in 2017 to 22nd in a Best Performing Cities study conducted by the Milken Institute and published at workandmoney.com.
Bradenton fell behind somewhat in some of those key metrics ranking 482nd in access to resources, but scored higher in business environment, and better still in business costs, coming in at No. 96.
The report states, “A city with a smaller population can offer a greater chance of success, depending on an entrepreneur’s type of business and personal preferences.”
So what does that mean for Bradenton?
Better communication designed to attract and retain higher paying jobs.
Sara Hand, co-founder of Spark Growth and the Station 2 Innovation Center business incubator, said Bradenton is even better off than the WalletHub report indicates, and significantly better than Bradenton’s lowest score on access to resources.
“Before, people thought there was no money here, no investors,” Hand said. “But there are great companies here and plenty of resources, but we need to talk about it and share it better. One of the things Bradenton does well with is that we are geographically right in the middle of the Tampa Bay region and we are positioned well to start with.”
Joel Beasley is an example of a small business that is thriving and made possible from the resources available in Bradenton. The chief technology officer for Leaderbits.io Beasley’s podcast is No. 1 in the technology development world and named after his book Modern CTO. His company has recently expanded from 11 employees to 30 and it all happened right here in Bradenton.