River City Plastics will open its 130,000-square-foot PVC plant in Baker County in October and will employ 130 at an average annual wage of $24,000, 36% higher than the county average. River City received more than $720,000 in local and state incentive funds.
National Auto Finance leased a 37,000-square-foot office for its loan service division. The center will open next month and employ 65 at an average annual salary of $28,000. The Boca Raton-based company, which will receive $875,000 in Qualified Target Industry funds, plans to hire as many as 350 over the next five years.
Barnett Banks (NYSE-BBI) agreed to acquire the 41 Florida banks of Michigan-based First of America for $160 million. Located primarily on Florida's west coast, the banks will add $1.1 billion in assets and $931 million in deposits to Barnett's $40 billion in assets and $34.5 billion in deposits. Barnett's expansion coincides with the rapid growth of First Union Banks of North Carolina, which now has a 17% Florida market share, compared to Barnett's 20%.
Commercial Metals Co. plans a 19,017-square-foot, $7-million expansion of its west Jacksonville metals center, which buys and shreds recyclables and sells the metals to steel mills. Commercial, which currently employs 93, will hire another 15 by the end of the year when the expansion is complete.
The Jacksonville Electric Authority formed a marketing alliance with the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and the South Carolina Public Service Authority. Called the Energy Authority, it will market excess electricity to municipalities in the Southeast. The $10.5 million venture will be based in Jacksonville and employ 30.
Two 81,000-square-foot distribution facilities are being built at Jacksonville International Tradeport and another 100,000-square-foot project will begin later this year. The Tradeport, a 620-acre industrial park in north Jacksonville, plans to expand by at least 350,000 square feet a year.
Cigar maker Swisher International Group is expanding its east Jacksonville production facility by 10,000 square feet and will add about 100 jobs over the next five years. Swisher, with executive headquarters in Darien, Conn., employs 750 in Jacksonville and is building a 45,000-square-foot distribution center.
Champion HealthCare, a health maintenance organization, almost doubled its office space, adding 9,000 square feet to its existing 10,000-square-foot facility. The company, which currently employs 65, plans to hire at least 85 within the next year.
St. Johns County
St. Augustine's Bridge of Lions, a 70-year-old span across the Matanzas River in east St. Johns County, was named one of "America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places" by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It joins the ranks of the Ellis Island National Monument and Washington, D.C.'s 200-year-old Congressional Cemetery. Increased boat and car traffic may require the replacement of the St. Augustine landmark, which features marble lions guarding its Western portal.