By Ben Tinsley
Ah. Sweet Jacksonville. One-time tomato capital of the world. Sunshine and East Texas landscape. Hometown of country music singers and sports icons. Famous actors went to school here.
Jacksonville, which is in the process of growth and renovation, including a proposed civic center. This 14.1 square miles of local goodness sports a population of over 14,500.
Experts believe Jacksonville is in a plum position to benefit greatly from the increasing, business friendly climate of the Lone Star State. It is located mere hours away from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex — Fort Worth and Dallas being among the top 10 business-friendly cities in the United States, according to a recent survey.
Given its positioning, D-FW's good news may translate into astounding business potential for this city, local officials say.
“Jacksonville boasts an economy that exceeds other cities its size with numerous manufacturers and bedding plant industries,” the Chamber website states. “Executive homes, an outstanding school system, several area private schools, golf courses, (one junior college), a theological seminary and the (Stacey Hunter) Activity Center, for both local and regional conferences, all combine to add enrichment to Jacksonville's natural setting.”
The aforementioned, second-annual Thumbtack.com Small Business Friendliness Survey shows Texas continues to be a top state for small business, earning grades of “A” and “A-PLUS” in nearly every individual category, reports show.
Jacksonville is not specifically among the cities surveyed but it is within a strategic distance from several of them.
Those other Texas cities — Austin, Houston and San Antonio — also ranked high on this new Top Ten List. The top ranking states overall were Utah, Alabama, New Hampshire, Idaho, and Texas. The lowest were Illinois, California, Hawaii, Maine and, in last place, Rhode Island.
(This is kind of a statistical “high-five” for Texas, given Texas Gov. Rick Perry's attempts to attract businesses to Texas and away from California.)
Thumbtack.com surveyed 7,766 small businesses across the United States.
The survey is the only one of its kind to obtain data from an extensive, nationwide universe of job creators and entrepreneurs in order to determine the most business-friendly locations.
While there are various “business climate rankings” that rate locations as good or bad for business, there are no others that draw upon considerable data from small business owners themselves, according to the report.
“For the second year, Texas sets an excellent example of what small businesses want,” explained Sander Daniels, co-founder of Thumbtack.com. “The state's straightforward regulations, low taxes and high quality resources put entrepreneurs in a position to grow and succeed.”
Once called “the Tomato Capital of the world” because of its production and shipping of top-notch tomatoes, Jacksonville still much public attention with events such as June Tomato Fest celebration and the Tops In Texas Rodeo in July.
Additionally, organizers of Tomato Fest are working to restore the throne of the Tomato Queen as an ongoing talent contest.
And don't forget: the city's quirks might one day become virtues. Google Map Streets View, for instance, captured an image of a UFO in Jacksonville. That image is still there on the screen for anyone to view.
Once some savvy business owner sees the potential in marketing that interesting quick, perhaps a Roswell-esquire sci fi convention might not be far behind?