Jacksonville-- The faith-based non-profit Fresh Ministries has proposed a $2.1-million business incubator. The 25,000-sq.-ft. building, west of downtown, would serve up to 25 companies and is expected to be in business by the summer. Michael Bryant, director of urban ministries, projects the center will generate revenues of $8 million annually and create 100 full-time jobs in three years.
International Transit is changing its name to Florida Express Carriers. The trucking subsidiary of Florida East Coast Industries is also moving its headquarters from St. Augustine to Gran Park at Jacksonville, on the south side, where it will employ 35 people.
Jacksonville contact lens manufacturer Vistakon laid off all of its 371 contract employees last month as a result of automation requiring few workers. The company will lay off another 600 employees by the end of this year. The downsizing has been in progress since 1998. Vistakon employs 2,200 people at its two Jacksonville sites.
Oakscape, a subsidiary of Tampa-based Computer Management Consultants, plans to hire 70 employees over the next six months -- particularly web developers experienced in Sun Microsystems' Java programming language. Salaries range from the mid-$50,000s to the mid-$100,000s. Oakscape develops web-based applications for complex business functions.
Jacksonville-based E-dr. Network, an online supplier of optical products to eye-care professionals, has moved to Sutton Place at Windsor Parke near Jacksonville's beaches. The company recently laid off a third of its 75 employees. ... TekSystems, an information technology staffing company based in Hanover, Md., also has signed a lease at Sutton Place. It will move its Jacksonville office from Baypine Road this spring.
Levy County-- The Levy County Economic Development Council and the Levy County Development Authority have merged to form the Nature Coast Business Development Council, a private-public partnership to encourage the creation of jobs, bring services to the county and improve the quality of life for its residents. Lannie Cardona, executive director of the new organization, says the group will broaden and improve business recruitment efforts.
Ocala-- A jury ruled against Maris Distributing Co. in its three-year antitrust battle against beer dynasty Anheuser-Busch. The key issue in the case was whether a clause in the contract between Anheuser-Busch and Maris Distributing that prohibited public ownership of the distributorship violated federal antitrust laws. A buyout offer, initiated by Anheuser-Busch, would have allowed Maris Distributing to sell the distributorship only to the brewery or a third party that Anheuser-Busch approved.
St. Johns County-- The St. Johns River Water Management District and the state are working together to buy 21,931 acres of the Twelve Mile Swamp owned by the Cummer Land Trust for $20.1 million. The land is being purchased for water resource protection and future public use.
Overheard: Weinstein's Launching Pad
Mike Weinstein, Jacksonville's peripatetic public official, may be on the move again. A longtime aide to Ed Austin, a former state prosecutor in Jacksonville who became mayor, Weinstein has been executive director of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission since its inception in 1997. Prior to that, there were failed efforts to get Weinstein named chief of the Jacksonville Electric Authority and Jacksonville Port Authority.
The latest buzz: Weinstein will take over planning for the 2005 Super Bowl, which the city landed in November. Insiders say Weinstein sees the high-profile, community feel-good Super Bowl effort as an ideal platform from which to run for mayor when John Delaney's term ends in 2003. -- John Finotti