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October 21, 2014

Business Florida 2011 - The Regions

Northeast - Connecting to the World

Northeast Florida offers international companies the right mix of amenities and global connections.

Jaxport
fDi Magazine has ranked Jacksonville's Foreign Trade Zone the third best port zone in the world. Shanghai and Tangier, Morocco, ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively. Foreign Trade Zone #64 covers 1,400 acres in Jacksonville, including several industrial parks, Jacksonville International Airport and JAXPORT's three cargo terminals, as well as freezer and cold storage facilities at the Talleyrand Marine Terminal. [Photo: Jaxport]

Peter Denoncourt says there wasn't one particular thing that stood out about Northeast Florida when Saft America Inc. went looking for a new location to build a manufacturing plant for its lithium-ion batteries; it was a combination of factors that made this seven-county region attractive.

Jacksonville proved to be the perfect low-cost entry point city for Saft America's new $200-million manufacturing plant. Two-thirds of the 50 million people living in the southeastern United States are within 600 miles of this region, which is home to more than 80 corporate, regional and divisional business headquarters; a combination of quiet neighborhoods and bustling urban centers; miles of pristine Atlantic coastline; and a wealth of cultural and recreational opportunities, not to mention America's oldest city — St. Augustine. And with three interstate highways, three major rail lines, two deepwater ports and four marine terminals, Northeast Florida offers some of the best transportation options available.

Since Saft America plans on using its new factory as a?"showcase" to both domestic and international clients interested in alternative energy sources, convenience played heavily into the site decision. Jacksonville International Airport, with 200 arrivals and departures daily, provides easy access to the factory, which is located at nearby Cecil Commerce Center North.

"Convenience was important from the beginning," says Denoncourt, who will run the Jacksonville operation. "We?wanted to make it easy."

Saft America Inc. already has five manufacturing plants in the southeastern U.S., mostly in rural areas. However, for this new 235,000-square-foot factory for the production of lithium-ion batteries, the company required a more sophisticated site and Jacksonville seemed the perfect fit, says Denoncourt. "This city has more of an international feel."

The lithium-ion batteries to be manufactured at Saft's Jacksonville facility, which is slated for completion by early 2011, will be the type that can help?store the energy generated from solar and wind farms for easy distribution and use by electric utilities.

Northeast Florida
Demographics for the Northeast Region can be found at Business Florida's interactive map of Florida.
Regional Assets

Universities/Colleges
• Edward Waters College
• Flagler College
• Florida State College at Jacksonville
• Jacksonville State University
• St. Johns River Community College
• University of North Florida

Airports
• Jacksonville International Airport
• Northeast Florida Regional Airport
? ? at St. Augustine

Seaports
• Port of Fernandina
• Port of Jacksonville

Spaceport
• Cecil Field Spaceport

"We expect to do a lot of work,'' Denoncourt says, noting that at full capacity, the Jacksonville facility will produce an estimated $300 million worth of batteries annually. To meet demand, Saft is expected to hire as many as 280 workers at salaries that are approximately 15% above the average statewide wage. Many of the hires, Denoncourt adds, will likely be drawn from the region's plentiful pool of former military employees.

Active market sectors

Elsewhere, Northeast Florida bustles with expansion activity in several key market sectors, including:

Financial: German-based Deutsche Bank, which commenced operations in Jacksonville in 2008, hired an additional 250 employees in 2010 — another step toward meeting its commitment to create a total of 1,000 jobs for the region. In addition, Maitland-based Digital Risk has announced plans to open a service center in Jacksonville and hire a minimum of 175 employees. The company monitors and manages loan portfolios and detects loan fraud, reviewing approximately 14,000 loans per month.?

Energy: InEnTec Chemical moved its corporate headquarters from Bend, Ore., to Clay County in 2010. The company's manufacturing facilities convert both hazardous and non-hazardous commercial, medical and industrial waste materials into clean, renewable energy products such as ethanol, methanol, syngas and hydrogen with minimal environmental impacts and low costs.?InEnTec officials note that the Northeast region offered the perfect location to tap into the scientific expertise available at Florida's leading research universities as well as an ever-growing clean technology talent pool.

Aviation/aerospace: Aviation Systems Engineering has?added 10 high-paying jobs to its Jacksonville branch office. The company specializes in aviation system development and analyses and has contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense. AvMax Group?is opening a heavy maintenance and modification facility to serve the region's jet and turboprop aviation industry at Jacksonville International Airport. The facility will initially employ as many as 100 to 120 licensed aircraft mechanics.

Healthcare: Northeast Florida's already strong healthcare economic engine continues to surge forward. Hospital giant Health Care Association of America (HCA) is building a new $130-million hospital near Cecil Commerce Center, and Baptist Medical Center is adding a $200-million, 11-story tower to its existing campus.

Tags: Northeast, Business Florida

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