October 30, 2014

Around the State

| 9/1/1998
Regional Airports - Gainesville air travelers and residents of small and midsize communities statewide are upset that diminishing local air service is making travel more expensive and less convenient. Many residents must make long drives to bigger airports, and economic development suffers.

Gainesville leaders have chalked up plenty of air miles flying to major airlines' headquarters to plead with carriers. Last fall in Atlanta, they failed to convince Delta's chairman to reconsider his decision to drop jet service to Gainesville. "He had made up his mind that Delta could make more money pulling out big jets to bigger markets," says C.B. Daniel, chairman of First Union National Bank in Gainesville. Daniel also heads the local aviation task force that flew to Dallas last winter to lobby American Airlines; then to Arlington, Va., in May to solicit U.S. Airways. So far, no takers. Atlantic Southeast Airlines, Delta's commuter link, did step up service in Gainesville, but this summer the airport was still 206 seats short a day, airport revenues may tumble by $400,000, and passengers grumble about tiny planes and inferior service.

Meanwhile, Ocala grumbles in envy. The city hasn't had commercial service for more than a decade. "What Gainesville's got and complaining about, we'll kill for," says Terry Crawford, president of Conimar Corp. Ocala air travelers usually drive to Tampa or Orlando to catch flights. Gainesville fliers often go to Jacksonville. Years ago, the two communities considered cooperating on an airport, but parochialism interfered, and it still does.

The trend of major carriers shunning smaller markets is national, and Congress is mulling legislation to steer big airlines back to underserved areas. Aggravating the issue statewide, Florida's corner-pocket location attracts few national hubs. In Tallahassee, lawmakers directed Enterprise Florida to study regional air service and recommend incentives. Airlines demand guaranteed inducements to serve financially riskier airports. They want exclusivity, lower airport and landing fees, and help with advertising.

In the end, new 50-seat commuter jets serving second-tier markets may save the day. These aircraft - bigger than turbo props - are okay with business travelers, says Daniel. In the meantime, Gainesville's taking a build-it-they-will-come attitude. The airport recently expanded its terminal and parking and added another baggage conveyer belt and more retail space. "We're not going to stop and drop dead in our tracks," says airport director Gene Clerkin. "We're going to get additional service, if not today, then sometime in the future." - Jane Tanner

JACKSONVILLE- The nation's oldest shipping company, Norton Lilly International, moved its headquarters from Secaucus, N.J., to the north side. By year's end, the company expects to employ 40, and up to 120 by 2001.

CSX Transportation anticipates about 500 new positions over the next three years as the merger with Conrail unfolds.

A newly revitalized First Coast African American Chamber of Commerce, with more than 100 members, got a boost from the U.S. Small Business Administration's local office, which agreed to help increase SBA loans and international trade opportunities for black-owned business.

Harris Specialty Chemicals, manufacturer of coatings and other construction products, bought Oregon Research &Development Corp. of Salem, a roof and deck coating maker. The company will remain in Oregon, but is expected to increase Harris' sales this year by $16 million.

Atlanta-based real estate investment trust Weeks Corp. is buying more of Jacksonville International Tradeport. For three buildings, a combined 330,000 square feet, Weeks recently paid $11.3 million. Its tradeport holdings now total seven buildings with 734,000 square feet of space.

Residential developer Taylor Woodrow Communities has a purchase agreement for a 4,500-acre tract in southeastern Jacksonville, including a pristine peninsula long sought by environmentalists and the state for preservation. Impact studies are ongoing and Taylor Woodrow officials say future plans for the property, currently owned by the Applebaum Marital Trust, are uncertain.

ST. JOHNS COUNTY - A string of upscale residential developments is proposed for northwest St Johns along State Road 210. In addition to the large tract in southeastern Jacksonville, Taylor Woodrow is eyeing property off 210. Also submitting plans for the area are St. Joe/Arvida, C. Atkerson Inc. and South Hampton Partners.

Bronz-Glow Technologies, which provides corrosion protection for AC units, is moving from Jacksonville to a new facility on International Golf Parkway and plans to double its work force, to 100.

OCALA - With a boom in retirement communities, nursing homes are moving in. A $12 million home and assisted living facility, expected to generate 220 jobs, opens next month. Life Care Center of Ocala is part of Cleveland, Tenn.-based Life Care Centers of America with 200 such operations around the U.S., including 11 in Florida.

A proposal is on its way to Washington to place a six-block downtown commercial district on the National Register of Historic Places.

Tags: Florida Small Business, Politics & Law, Northeast, Business Florida

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