The cost of everything from boys underwear to car repair continues
to be lower in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties than the national
average, according to a quarterly cost of living index released
ACCRA, a nonprofit research organization in Arlington, Va.,
compiles the report, which compares the cost of living in more than 200
counties across the country. With 100 representing the national
average, Pinellas scored 95.7 percent in the third quarter while
Hillsborough came in at 98.8. Sarasota, meanwhile, ranked higher than
the national average, with a score of 104.3.
Laura Berkowitz, senior research manager with Pinellas County
Economic Development, is one of the half-dozen or so agency employees
who spend two days a quarter gathering local data for the ACCRA study.
In return for participating, the agency gets a copy of the report,
which is sold to the public. In Hillsborough, data are gathered by the
Tampa Chamber of Commerce.
Price information is gathered during the second week of the
quarter. ACCRA said it collects more than 50,000 prices on 60 different
items in six areas: housing, utilities, grocery, transportation, health
care and miscellaneous goods and services.
“We talk to doctors, price tennis balls and check rents for
apartments,” Berkowitz said. “We check the cost of everything from an
eye exam to an Advil tablet.”
ACCRA's cost of living index is widely used by companies
considering relocation, Berkowitz said. So coming in below average is a
big plus when it comes to attracting businesses. “We get requests for
this information all the time,” she said. “Especially when our area has