By Aaron London
firstname.lastname@example.org Published: Saturday, August 16, 2014 at 10:20 p.m.
PALM COAST — In the competition to attract new business development, communities are always looking for an edge. And they are eager to get positive attention from any source.
News last week that Forbes magazine ranked Palm Coast — specifically the Palm Coast metropolitan statistical area, which includes all of Flagler County — No. 7 on its list of “Best Small Places for Business and Careers” was welcomed by city and county officials.
But while the recognition can shine a spotlight on a community, it is less clear how much impact it has on companies looking to expand or relocate.
“I wouldn’t think that a site selector who would make a decision solely on these lists would be someone who would be in business for a long time,” said University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith. “It doesn’t necessarily have a deeper meaning.”
Snaith said a lot of lists come out ranking communities but it is important to understand how they are constructed.
“What’s going into them and the various metrics combined to give the ranking is important,” he said. “There is sort of a marketing element to them, when the lists come out.”
According to the Forbes.com website, the “Best Places” list uses a variety of measurements, including job growth, cost of business and cost of living, income growth, educational attainment of the population, projected economic growth as well as recreational and cultural opportunities.
Snaith said site selectors and companies considering expansion projects look at a wide variety of issues before making a decision.
“There are factors specific to clients that may not be reflected in those specific lists,” he said.
For Helga van Eckert, executive director at the Flagler County Department of Economic Opportunity, the Forbes ranking is proof that the county’s economic development efforts are paying dividends, particularly the focus on high-tech companies.
“Much of the growth (Forbes is) seeing comes from projects like Coastal Cloud, AVEO Engineering and TBD Partners,” she said. “We have a growing high-tech presence here and Flagler County has been able to attract very qualified individuals in this field.”
The news was also welcome to Volusia County officials after Forbes ranked the Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach metropolitan statistical area No. 86 out of 200 large cities nationwide.
“Those of us that live in Volusia County understand it is a great place to live, learn, work and play so it’s always encouraging when an outside entity, certainly someone of Forbes magazine’s stature, evaluates our MSA and affirms that we are in the Top 100 of the best places in the country for business and careers,” said Rob Ehrhardt, Volusia County economic development manager.
Tim Hale, owner of Coastal Cloud in Flagler County, said the ranking could help in efforts to recruit workers with high-tech skills.
“What it is helping us with is validating our recruiting messages to people we are hiring,” he said. “We’re generally coaxing them out of the big metro areas. Articles like this provide some external validation to what we believe ourselves.”