With a population of more than 1.5 million, Northeast Florida offers a dynamic market for business relocation and expansion. Known for affordability and accessibility, this seven-county region is home to four Fortune 500 companies and at least 80 other corporate, regional and divisional headquarters. Two ports, multiple interstate highways and exceptional air and rail connections have made Northeast Florida a hub for international trade and distribution.
The region’s crown jewel — Jacksonville — is the northernmost big city along Florida’s eastern seaboard. Here, where city and county governments operate as one, businesses looking to relocate or expand are likely to enjoy smooth transitions. With Panama Canal expansion looming large, improvements to the Port of Jacksonville remain a priority. Lately, however, emphasis is shifting to downtown revitalization. There’s a move afoot to lure expanding companies to city center, and EverBank Financial Corporation is leading the charge. In January 2012, EverBank committed to relocate its corporate headquarters — and approximately 1,500 employees — from a suburban office park to a downtown Jacksonville high-rise. Officials are hopeful that EverBank’s move to 270,000 square feet of space at the former AT&T Tower (to be renamed EverBank Center) will spark an urban core resurgence.
Meanwhile, in America’s oldest city — St. Augustine — the German firm 2G Cenergy Power Systems Inc. is making plans to open its first U.S. manufacturing plant and employ an estimated 125 workers. Company officials noted proximity to major ports, strong pool of potential employees with manufacturing experience and proactive business climate as pivotal reasons for locating in the region.
WHO LIVES HERE
Median age in the Jacksonville MSA is 37.7, slightly above the national median age and nearly three years younger than the median age for all Floridians. The area’s six colleges and universities graduate 20,000-plus students each year, many of whom join the labor pool or start businesses in the region to continue enjoying Northeast Florida’s exceptional quality of life.
Skilled and multicultural
Jacksonville has fewer foreign-born residents than most other comparably sized cities in Florida, but the immigrants who do live here are more highly skilled. For every 100 immigrants without a high school diploma, Jacksonville boasts 223 with at least a bachelor’s degree, according to a report from the Brookings Institution.
The banking and insurance industries have long been key components of Jacksonville’s economy, employing 55,000 workers, and the numbers are growing:
• Citibank has hired 200 new employees and plans to hire 200 more at its south side Jacksonville offices.
• JPMorgan Chase, with some 3,800 employees in Jacksonville already, plans to add 250 more along with 66,000 sq. ft. to its existing home-lending operations.
• Florida Blue (formerly Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Florida) will add 200 jobs in Jacksonville to manage a Medicare administrative contract recently acquired by one of its subsidiary firms.
Northeast Florida earns an “A” for availability of high-quality and specialized healthcare.The healthcare sector accounts for 13% of the local workforce; add in health insurance companies, medical device manufacturers and other healthcare- and bioscience-related enterprises and that number jumps to 20%. Healthcare options here include:
• Baptist Health System: Jacksonville’s largest private employer with five hospitals. Baptist Clay, under construction in Clay County, will include an emergency center and medical building.
• Nemours Children’s Clinic: providing specialty pediatric care.
• Mayo Clinic: Top-notch healthcare services and cutting-edge research in Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic conditions. In May 2012, announced plans to construct a primary care center on Jacksonville’s south side and to add nearly 100 beds to its main campus. The $97-million expansion is expected to generate 400 jobs.
• Shands Jacksonville: The city’s only Level 1 trauma center plans to build a $125-million, 110-bed community hospital on the city’s north side.
16 of every 100 Jacksonville-area residents are connected with the Navy, through active or reserve duty, or as retirees, civilian employees or members of a military family, resulting in an annual economic impact of $6.1 billion. Four Navy installations directly employ more than 56,000 military and civilian workers. Each year, some 4,100 highly trained personnel exit or retire from service in Northeast Florida, and 80% of them choose to remain in the region, bringing their military-honed skills in electronics, technical maintenance, repair and management to local employers.
40,000 employed in distribution and warehousing makes logistics one of Northwest Florida’s strongest industry sectors.
• In 2011, 8.1 million tons of cargo passed through JaxPort, an increase of 100,000 tons from 2010 thanks in large part to a rise in international freight from Asia. JaxPort remains the nation’s No. 1 for vehicle exports.
• Jacksonville International Airport offers daily non-stop service to 25 cities.
• CSX, Norfolk Southern and RailAmerica provide rails that can reach a potential 45 million customers within eight hours.
• I-95, I-295 and I-10 intersect at Jacksonville; I-75 is just 60 miles away. Another 17 state and county highways link the region to Georgia and the rest of Florida.
With the merger of BI-LO and Winn-Dixie supermarkets, South Carolina-based BI-LO Holdings will move its headquarters to Jacksonville. Says President and CEO Randall Onstead, “Jacksonville is centrally located within our eight-state operating area, with an existing infrastructure that is best positioned to host the combined BI-LO and Winn-Dixie support center, corporate office and distribution facilities. We look forward to being a contributor to the community.” The move means retention of 900 existing jobs and creation of 100 new ones.
Minneapolis-based Medtronic broke ground in April 2012 on a 75,000-sq.-ft. expansion of its Surgical Technologies Division HQ in Jacksonville. The $14-million project will add 175 jobs to the firm’s local workforce of 600.
With the acquisition of Internet pioneer Network Solutions in 2011, Jacksonville-based Web.com is poised to become the world’s largest online marketing company. The firm, which designs and hosts websites for small and medium-sized businesses, will add 200 new jobs in Jacksonville as a result.
QUALITY OF LIFE
Two Jacksonville schools are among the top 25 on Newsweek’s 2012 ranking of “America’s Best High Schools.”
Sports and recreation
Jacksonville is home to the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL team, the Jacksonville Suns minor league baseball team and one of college sports’ biggest rivalries, the annual Florida-Georgia Football Classic. Golf is always in season here at more than 85 elite courses, including TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra where The Players PGA Tournament is held annually in May.
Arts and culture
Jacksonville was named to AmericanStyle magazine’s “Top 25 Big Cities for Art” for the second year in a row. The Jazz Festival, Film Festival, Museum of Contemporary Art, Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, Museum of Science and History, Maritime Heritage Center and Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens are among the region’s arts and cultural assets.
• FlightStar Aircraft Services, Cecil Field - Jacksonville
• Kaman Aerospace Corporation - Jacksonville
• Northrop Grumman Corporation - St. Augustine
• Bank of America/Merrill Lynch - Jacksonville
• Deutsche Bank- Jacksonville
• Fidelity National Financial - Jacksonville
• Florida Blue - Jacksonville
• JPMorgan Chase - Jacksonville
• Baptist Health System - Jacksonville
• Mayo Clinic - Jacksonville
• Medtronic Inc. - Jacksonville
• St. Vincent’s Healthcare - Jacksonville
• Coach Distribution Center - Jacksonville
• Crowley Maritime Corporation - Jacksonville
• CSX - Jacksonville
• Landstar System Inc. - Jacksonville
• Patriot Transportation Holding Inc. - Jacksonville
• RailAmerica Inc. - Jacksonville
• Georgia Pacific Corporation - Palatka
• Pilot Pen Corporation of America - Jacksonville
• SAFT North America - Jacksonville