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Business Observer Friday, Nov. 3, 2017 1 year ago

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Cape Coral struggles in Thumbtack survey of small businesses.

The Tampa Bay area and the Sarasota-Bradenton region are relatively good for small businesses — but Cape Coral might be a difficult place to start a company.

That's the word according to a new survey from Thumbtack, a referral website that connects consumers to small businesses. Thumbtack solicited input from more than 13,000 small businesses nationwide to build its rankings, which ascribe letter grades to each state and 80 regions.

Florida received an overall grade of B+ from Thumbtack, driven by its business-friendly tax code, where it scored an A+, and relatively simple regulations for hiring new employees.

On overall small business friendliness, Florida ranked No. 24 nationally. The B+ is also a step up from the B- Florida scored in the 2016 Thumbtack report.

The grades for Tampa and Sarasota were in line with the state — a B+ for each. But the two cities took different paths to get to those marks.

Tampa's unique advantage lies in the training and networking programming offered by city government, according to the survey results. The ranking could be a reflection of the strength of institutions like the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, which in its 2016 annual report boasted that 16,000 of its members attended at least one event over the past year.

But Sarasota has its own strengths, particularly when it comes to regulation. Zoning, environmental and licensing, laws are all more business-friendly in Sarasota than in Tampa, according to survey responses. (Some Sarasota developers and bar and restaurant owners, in particular, might be surprised to see that last response.)

Cape Coral didn't fare as well as its neighbors to the north in the Thumbtack analysis. It earned a D+ overall, and the report card included an F for zoning regulations; a D for licensing and the overall ease of starting a business; and a D+ for the government's website.

“Local government licensing rules are a complete mess,” writes one Cape Coral entrepreneur who responded to the survey and lists his profession as appliance repairman. “My trade skill isn't even listed so I have to carry different licenses to cover what my job entails.”

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