» After a six-year slump, Jacksonville real estate is back. Home sales increased 7.1% last year, with the median price jumping 6.8% to $133,500. Permits for new homes were up 35% last year, though still far below their peak levels in 2005.
» Mortgage servicers are still feeling the effects of the housing collapse, however. Mortgage servicer Homeward Residential intends to lay off 370 in its Jacksonville office. Lender Processing Services agreed to pay $127 million to resolve claims that it wrongfully foreclosed on homeowners and used “robo-signing.” University of North Florida economist Paul Mason believes this industry's slump is temporary. “As the number of mortgages increases, somebody will have to service them,” he says.
» Elsewhere in the economy, the financial sector is a bright spot, adding 1,200 jobs last year. Citibank hired 200 at its southside Jacksonville office and plans to hire 200 more; Foundation Financial Group expanded its regional sales center and mortgage division; Deutsche Bank has shifted hundreds of jobs to Jacksonville. EverBank brought its headquarters into Jacksonville's downtown along with 1,700 jobs, including 200 new positions.
» From health insurers to hospitals, Jacksonville's health care companies are expanding as well. Surgical device maker Medtronic will add 175 jobs to its 600-plus Jacksonville workforce and will construct a 75,000-sq.-ft. addition to its surgical technologies division headquarters. Mayo Clinic is undergoing a $100-million expansion expected to create about 200 construction and staff jobs. In December, Baptist Health opened the 11-story, $200-million J. Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver Tower, featuring state-of-the-art surgical suites with intraoperative imaging capabilities. Novitas Solutions, a Florida Blue subsidiary, is adding 200 jobs.
» Meanwhile, the city laid off 150 employees in September and demoted another 150 to cut costs.
Businesses to Watch
» Healogics: The wound care management services company is expanding its Jacksonville headquarters and recently opened a training center. It expects to add 20 jobs in Jacksonville this year.
» Brightway Insurance: Sales increased more than 50% last year to $257 million. This year, the company expects to earn an additional $100 million.
» Rayonier: The 13th-biggest landowner in the world, Rayonier has had a good year under new CEO Paul Boynton, with its stock up 23% from the beginning of 2012, and its profit, sales and cash on hand improving from the year before. Much of its growth comes from fibers derived from trees, which are used in cigarette filters, LCD screens and more.
» Body Central: The struggling women's apparel retailer brought in a new CEO to help turn its sales around. Same-store sales dropped 11.6% in the fourth quarter. The company decided to keep its headquarters in Jacksonville after flirting with the idea of moving to Georgia last year, securing more than $500,000 in local and state incentives to stay.
People to Watch
» Patrick Geraghty: As CEO of Florida Blue, Geraghty has overseen the expansion of stand-alone retail stores and is participating in a marketplace that allows employees to choose among health insurers' plans. Florida Blue and Florida Blue Foundation committed $5.2 million last year and $5.6 million over the next two years to Jacksonville non-profits.
» Tim Cost: The new president of Jacksonville University plans to strengthen ties with the business community and will lead an $85-million fundraising effort.
» Nikolai Vitti: As the new superintendent for Duval County public schools, Vitti, 36, was recruited from Miami-Dade's public schools, where he was credited with turning around low-performing schools.
|Duval Population: 888,874|
|Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 0.84%|
|Population by Age:|
|Per Capita Income: $42,709|
|MSA||Dec. 2012||Dec. 2011||% Change||Jobless Rate|
|Source: Agency for Workforce Innovation|
|Homes - Single-family, existing-home sales|
|MSA||2013 Sales||1-Year Change||2013 Price||1-Year Change|
|Source: Florida Realtors|