September 18, 2014

Corner Office

Cookin' on All Burners

Lynda Keever | 6/1/2004
Early last month, I spent two days in northeast Florida. While there I spoke at the Clay County Economic Development Council's quarterly lunch in Orange Park and realized what a wise decision the council made in hiring Kellie Jo Kilberg as its director last year.

The visit was also a good opportunity for me to meet with several other business and government leaders and learn their perspectives on the outlook for their industries as well as their communities. It's a part of my job as publisher that I especially enjoy. Without exception, everyone I talked to on this trip was enthusiastic and upbeat about business prospects -- immediately and in the near future.

John Carey, president of Flagler Development Co., one of Florida's leading office and industrial space developers, said that while the company's business is strong in all of its Florida markets, "The Jacksonville region is on fire."

Things are really cooking in Jacksonville as the city prepares to host the Super Bowl in February 2005. Mayor John Peyton told me that even though Jacksonville is the smallest population metro area ever selected to host a Super Bowl, the city has raised more private sponsorship money than any other Super Bowl community. Peyton's goal is to make sure that when visitors leave Jacksonville after the game, "They think this is the friendliest city they've ever been to."

Hosting a Super Bowl offers so many long-term benefits for the entire region.

Jerry Mallot, executive director of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber's Cornerstone economic development program, and his colleagues at area chambers are working to ensure that corporate leaders and site selectors who attend Super Bowl events see the opportunities that northeast Florida offers for business location and expansion.

One of the mayor's longer-term goals -- similar to what we are seeing in cities all across the state -- is to revitalize downtown. Peyton knows that the key to achieving that goal is to attract more residents downtown, and he has set a goal of having 2,000 residential units coming online downtown in the next year.

John Delaney, Jacksonville's mayor before Peyton and now president of the University of North Florida, told me how Jacksonville has become "an exciting place for young professionals. When people have the opportunity to work and live in Jacksonville, they usually want to stay."

One of the reasons for that attraction is that residents are served by facilities like the Mayo Clinic -- one of the finest healthcare facilities in the world. Robert Walters, the clinic's chair of administration, describes the facility as a multi-specialty group practice with a three-pronged mission: Patient care, research and education. The clinic is currently working with other area hospitals on JaxCare, a program to increase access to healthcare for low-income working uninsured residents of Duval County.

One of the most satisfying conversations was the one I had with Bob Helms, CEO of Florida banking for Wachovia. Helms told me how much the bank relies on Florida Trend's statistics, data and analysis to plug into Wachovia's business planning. Executives there must be encouraged by what they're reading because Wachovia plans to add 50 Florida locations next year. The bank's approach to doing business is to always be cognizant of what is in the best interest of the customer, shareholder and employee, Helms said, and to make sure the bank is loyalty oriented.

That is also one of our goals here at Florida Trend. By spending time listening to you, our readers, talk about your businesses and your plans for the future, we can respond by providing the kind of information that helps your company make wise decisions. Earning your loyalty is a priority for us with each and every issue.

Tags: Publisher's column

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