NerdWallet has ranked Naples as one of the best places to start a business in Florida.
Naples came in third on the list — after Maitland, near Orlando, and Doral, close to Miami.
In its rankings, NerdWallet touts the white sand beaches, swanky shopping streets and abundance of golf courses in Naples — and the helping hands that are available to businesses from such organizations as the Fifth Avenue South Business Improvement District and the Small Business Development Center at Florida Gulf Coast University.
There are 50 businesses for every 100 people in Naples — the highest number in any of the areas on NerdWallet’s top 10 list.
NerdWallet analyzed 268 places with populations of 10,000 or more to come up with its rankings. The personal finance website, based its scores on business climate and economic health, tapping data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
“The access to capital in Naples is wonderful,” said Jace Kentner, Collier County’s interim economic development director. “We are well-known because of the CEOs that come here. There are a lot of folks that have their annual meetings in Naples and every time they come here to have their annual meetings they are like ‘we should have our business here.’ ”
The weather and quality of life are hard to beat — and the opening of the Naples Accelerator, a tax-supported business center designed to help small startups and international firms break into the market with their products and services, has been a big draw for entrepreneurs, Kentner said.
Still, Kentner was a bit surprised to see Naples so high on NerdWallet’s list since it’s a smaller market, with a small economic development team and a small budget to attract businesses.
“It’s really good news because it showed that our hard work is paying off,” he said. “It shows that we can compete with others across the state in job creation and in helping businesses.”
Part of the success, he said, is the development of new incentive programs and new ways to support small businesses, such as those offered by the accelerator. A second food-focused accelerator is in the works in Immokalee.
“If you look at what other people are doing, it’s true they have more money and they have more warm bodies they’re throwing at projects. What we have is a lean approach that is very thoughtful that uses creativity and initiative to play in a competitive field,” Kentner said.
This year, county representatives manned a booth at the CES, the global consumer electronics and consumer technology trade show that takes place every January in Las Vegas, Nevada. Kentner said attendees lined up to learn more about business opportunities in the Naples area.
“They were waiting to talk to us,” he said. “That’s amazing.”