Sarasota’s economy is driven by education, arts, tourism and financial services. The cultural arts industry alone employs close to 5,000 people, but tourism has the biggest economic impact, totaling $2.6 billion last year. The city’s population swells to more than 100,000 during the winter months, but year-round it’s closer to about half that amount.
Compared to the rest of the country, Sarasota’s cost of living is 3.80 percent lower than the U.S. average. The median home cost is $151,400, but as more baby boomers retire, home appreciation continues to rise.
The city and surrounding areas have also become a hub for e-commerce businesses. Google named Sarasota the city with the top online business presence in Florida, based in part on the ability of customers to make a purchase from a web page as well as mobile-friendly websites. The tax climate is also a draw. In a recent survey, Sarasota was voted the seventh tax-friendliest city in the United States for small businesses. That helps explain why the unemployment rate is 4.3 percent, well below the national average.
Overall ranking: 797 out of 1,500 points
Environment for success: 302 out of 500 points
Cost of doing business: 256 out of 400 points
Quality of life: 111 out of 300 points
Labor force: 89 out of 200 points
Diversity: 40 out of 100 points