Pinellas Park is one of the best small towns in the country to start a small business, according to new national rankings.
Site Selection Magazine — a national publication well-watched by commercial real estate developers and brokers, corporate site selectors and economic developers — ranked the top 50 small towns for small businesses and startups in its July edition.
Pinellas Park ranked 38th. It is the only Pinellas County jurisdiction on the list.
There are eight other Florida cities and towns on the small business list including Tamarac (7th), Daytona Beach (11th), Weston, (16th), Jupiter (31st), Lauderhill (36th), Sarasota (38th), Margate (42nd), and Bradenton (47th).
Site Selection looked at factors such as population growth, access to capital, taxes, available workforce, and internet access. This analysis looked at cities and towns across the U.S. with populations of less than 75,000 people.
Cheyenne, Wyoming ranked first on the list. Missoula, Montana and Ames, Iowa round out the top three.
Start a Small Business Here
Pinellas Park City Manager Bart Diebold said the ranking is a big deal considering the magazine’s reach within commercial real estate and economic development circles.
“We are all extremely excited about this ranking — for small businesses are truly the backbone of our community,” he said.
Diebold said Pinellas Park looks to be expeditious with business and construction permits.
“We have a pretty quick turnaround,” Diebold said.
He also said a $23.5 million investment to redevelop the Pinellas Park Youth Park will attract more visitors to the area. Essentially, further putting the city on regional and national maps.
The City is upgrading existing sports fields, parking, amenities, and infrastructure in order to host more games and tournaments at the 38-acre sports complex.
“Sports is a big deal,” Diebold said.
A $13.5 million allocation from the state and $10 million from Pinellas Park will fund the new Youth Sports Park Complex.
Pinellas Park has a population more than 53,650 residents according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The city has a significant immigrant population.
According to the Census Bureau, 17.1% of Pinellas Park’s population is foreign born. And, 24% speak a language other than English at home.
The city benefits from the rise in remote and telework during and after the pandemic, Diebold said.
“It gave people options to do that,” Diebold said about the growth of remote workers in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area.
Affordable housing challenges
Like other Florida localities, Pinellas Park has a working class history. Pinellas Park has seen housing prices rise dramatically. This makes it tough on entry level, lower-paid workers, as well as some seniors.
Diebold said the cost of living is one of the first questions prospective employers and site selectors have when looking to land here.
He hopes affordable and workforce housing pushes from Tallahassee and regionally bear some fruit. However, it’s been a challenge in Florida to get landlords, residential real estate developers, and home builders interested in affordable and workforce housing. They instead reap the profits of hefty rent increase and higher home prices.
Existing neighborhoods and residents can also oppose new apartment complexes and affordable housing over worries about parking and impacts on traffic and property values.
“It’s a challenge,” Diebold said of the housing quandary.