Northeast Fla., Jacksonville Business Briefs - March 2010
GREEN COVE SPRINGS
» The Governor's Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development awarded the city $557,000 for a road to support expansion of Ocean Galley Seafood. Ocean Galley plans to build a 35,000-sq.-ft. facility and hire 30 workers. The company also will receive a $60,000 bonus for locating the new plant in a brownfields redevelopment area.
» Morris Publishing Group, publisher of Jacksonville's Times-Union newspaper, filed for reorganization in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The plan exchanges $278.5 million in senior subordinated notes for $100 million of new, second-lien secured notes. Morris reported a net loss of $140.7 million in 2008 and a loss of $13.2 million in the first nine months of 2009.
» The Federal Aviation Administration gave Cecil Field permission to operate as a spaceport. Launches, which could come as early as next year, would be horizontal, with spacecraft taking off like an airplane. Once over the Atlantic Ocean, spacecraft would fire rockets. Jacksonville Aviation Authority officials say they are in talks with several potential operators, including Virgin Galactic.
» Local developer Vestcor Cos. has asked the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission for help with financial problems plaguing two of the city's premier downtown apartment buildings, The Carling and 11 East Forsyth, renovated with tens of millions of dollars in city loans and grants. Vestor requested interest-only payments on $34 million of city-financed loans and incentives to help fill empty commercial space. Between the two buildings, Vestcor executives say about 80% of the apartments and 17% of the commercial space are occupied.
» Florida Doctors Insurance Co. of Jacksonville acquired Preferred Insurance Co. and Physicians Preferred Insurance Management, creating the fourth-largest provider of professional liability insurance for physicians and surgeons in Florida.
» New Jersey-based PSEG Solar expects to complete its 100-acre solar farm on Jacksonville's Westside this month. The company is building 4,000 arrays that hold 200,000 solar panels on a tract along U.S. 301. The 15-megawatt farm, one of the largest in Florida, will sell power to utility JEA.
» Jacksonville tech company Seal Shield introduced the world's first washable cell phone at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The company, which already makes computer keyboards, TV remotes and other gadgets that can be run through dishwashers, is targeting the healthcare market.
» St. Joe Co. sold two "non-strategic" properties at a loss for tax purposes, according to the Florida Times-Union. The Jacksonville-based real estate company sold its golf course at St. Johns Golf and Country Club for $3 million and the remaining assets of its Victoria Park community in DeLand for $11 million. St. Joe will write off $68 million from the Victoria Park sale and $3.6 million from the St. Johns sale and receive a tax refund of $27 million from the deals in 2010.
» Tarmac America has postponed construction of a proposed limerock mine in the southern part of the county, saying environmental permitting times have pushed the project to 2011. An adjacent project, Progress Energy's new two-unit nuclear plant, had also been delayed.
» County commissioners agreed to suspend transportation impact fees for 90 days in an attempt to stimulate the local economy and chip away at the 13.9% unemployment rate.
» The Department of Defense again has recommended that Mayport Naval Station become home port for a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The department had backed off that plan and agreed to study it after complaints from supporters of a Virginia site. But the new review says having a carrier in Jacksonville would help "mitigate the risk of a terrorist attack, accident or natural disaster."
» Jacksonville City Councilman John Meserve was charged with a third-degree felony for unlicensed practice of real estate for receiving $105,000 in commissions for brokering Mayport land deals when he was mayor of Atlantic Beach. Gov. Charlie Crist suspended Meserve pending the outcome of the case.
» A branch of the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition opened in January.
» Bo Williams Buick, a downtown landmark for 40 years, has closed.
» Royal Wessanen of the Netherlands sold Tree of Life, the large natural/organic food distributor based in St. Augustine, to Kehe Food Distributors of Romeoville, Ill., for $190 million. Tree of Life's executive management is expected to stay in place.