April 12, 2024
Ringling College of Art & Design
The Ringling College of Art & Design opened a new state-of-the-art library in January 2017.
Ca’ d’Zan
Ca’ d’Zan, the former winter home of John and Mable Ringling
Siesta Key
Sarasota County has 40 miles of coastline.
Braves in North Port
The Braves will move from Kissimmee to a $100-million spring training complex in North Port in 2020.

Community Portrait

Business Assets in Sarasota County

Lynn Waddell | 8/30/2018


Sarasota’s public schools consistently rank among the best in Florida and the nation. The county has 33 private schools, two-thirds of which are religiously affiliated.

The Sarasota County School District is one of only two in Florida to maintain an “A” rating every year since the state started the grading system in 2004.

Sarasota County residents value public education even though many may not have school-age children. Last year, a referendum to renew an additional 1 mill property tax for schools — the maximum the state allows — passed with 79% of the vote. The extra tax generates about $56 million annually and allows for higher-than-state-average teacher pay, longer school days and broader curriculums.

The school district is one of only six in the nation that participates in Kennedy Center’s Any Given Child program, which strives to provide access to arts education to every K-8 student. The National School Boards Association and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts have recognized the district for its success.

In addition to traditional schools, the Sarasota County School District has magnet schools. U.S. News & World Report rated Pine View High School for the Gifted the No. 1 high school in Florida and 19th in the nation. Suncoast Polytechnical High School has a career and technologydriven curriculum. The district also allows high school students dual enrollment in Suncoast Technical College.

Higher Education

Higher education in Sarasota County ranges from satellite campuses of Florida’s larger universities to small colleges to technical school. In 2017, the Cross College Alliance was formed to expand learning opportunities and allow a seamless educational experience among five major area institutes, including the University of South Florida-Sarasota/Manatee, New College of Florida, the Ringling College of Art, the State College of Sarasota/Manatee and the Ringling College of Art and Design.

  • USF-Sarasota/Manatee has roughly 2,000 students and offers more than 40 bachelor’s and master’s degrees and professional certificate programs from a nationally ranked research university. The USF campus also takes advantage of its location by partnering with Mote Marine Laboratory, which provides classroom space and opportunities to intern with world-renowned marine scientists.
  • New College of Florida is a topranked public liberal arts university with just under 1,000 students. New College has plans to double its enrollment by 2022.
  • State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota works closely with the business community and offers a range of bachelor’s degrees, certificate programs and adult education courses, including a nursing program that ranks fourth in the state.
  • The Ringling College of Art and Design is a private college offering degrees in fields ranging from advertising design to creative writing to graphic animation. Its students routinely win national Addy Awards, and it graduates are regularly listed in the credits of Oscar-nominated and award-winning films.
  • Florida State University offers training for third- and fourth-year medical students at its regional College of Medicine campus and advanced study for performers at the Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training.
  • The University of Florida has three footprints in the area: the Innovation Station Sarasota County is the first engineering extension office of UF's Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering; the UF IFAS Extension Office serves the agricultural community; CityLab-Sarasota provides educational services and community outreach.
  • Suncoast Technical College provides a local workforce trained in computer technology, health, criminal justice, human services and industry trades.
  • The Sarasota/Manatee County area is also home to campuses of private regional and national colleges, including the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Bradenton, Keiser University and Everglades College.


In 2017, the non-profit arts sector contributed nearly $3 billion to the local economy and employed 7,445, according to a national study by Americans for the Arts.

Sarasota’s wealth of art traces back to circus magnate John Ringling, who in 1931 opened the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art to house his personal collection. Today, the museum property, now owned by the state, is home to the Circus Museum; the Asolo Repertory Theatre, the largest professional nonprofit theater south of Atlanta; and the Florida State University/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training.

Downtown, the Sarasota Opera stages productions in a 1,100- seat historic theater. Meanwhile, the iconic purple seashell-shaped Van Wezel performing arts center hosts more than 100 events a year, including performances by the Sarasota Orchestra, Sarasota Ballet and international performers. The cityowned landmark, designed by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and Taliesan Associated Architects, entertains 265,000 visitors a year.

In a nod to Sarasota’s past, the Circus Arts Conservatory and Sail-or Circus Academy stage big-top performances throughout the year.

Community theaters, art galleries, history museums and cultural events abound throughout the county. Per capita, Venice Theater is the largest non-profit community theater in the nation. The red carpet rolls out for 10 days during Sarasota Film Festival. The Sarasota Festival of Arts brings about 250 arts vendors to downtown.


Sarasota County has six barrier islands, all with public beach areas. Longboat Key is lined with beachfront condo towers and miles of golf courses. Siesta Key contains more bungalow and low-rise structures.Popular with families, Siesta Beach tops many national “best beaches” list. Lido Key beaches are near St. Armands Circle, a shopping and entertainment district.

Casey Key, with mansions nestled among mangroves, is a sleepy slice of island with a sprinkling of rentals and the oldest beach park in the county. Venice beaches are known as a good place to find fossilized shark teeth. Venice also has the only dog-friendly beach in the county. Nature lovers, fishermen and kayakers gravitate to Manasota Key, which has secluded beaches and mangrove- lined waterways.

Tags: Sarasota Community Portrait

Florida Business News

Florida News Releases

Florida Trend Video Pick

Florida wildlife officials say residents and visitors should expect to see gators at an increasing rate as mating season ramps up.


Video Picks | Viewpoints@FloridaTrend

Ballot Box

Do you think recreational marijuana should be legal in Florida?

  • Yes, I'm in favor of legalizing marijuana
  • Absolutely not
  • I'm on the fence
  • Other (share thoughts in the comment section below)

See Results

Florida Trend Media Company
490 1st Ave S
St Petersburg, FL 33701

© Copyright 2024 Trend Magazines Inc. All rights reserved.