Updated 5 months ago
Jacksonville / Duval County
The recession is fast becoming a memory for Jacksonville residents.Employers are hiring, home values are up and tourism is increasing.All signs point to continued improvement this year. "We grew by leaps and bounds," says JAXUSA President Jerry Mallot."Our unemployment is among the lowest in the state. We had growth across the board in most sectors of the economy. We're really hitting on all cylinders." Mallot says much of the job growth comes from the banking, information technology, aviation and medical industries. The housing market is roaring back, with nearly 22% more homes sold last year than the year before. Tourism is up as well, with the average occupancy rate rising 2.5 percentage points.
Rayonier: One of the largest landowners in America, Jacksonville-based Rayonier has decided to split its performance fibers business from its timber and real estate services business.Rayonier CEO Paul Boynton will be in charge of the new performance fibers business, which is being spun off. The renewed strength of the housing market led to real estate sales of $149 million last year, a 61% increase from the year before. The performance fibers business, which produces specialty fibers used in consumer products like televisions and toothpaste, made up the bulk of Rayonier's revenue in 2013, providing $1 billion of its $1.7 billion in sales.
Crowley Maritime: Revenues for the Jacksonville shipping company have climbed back above the $2 billion level. Revenue reached That level in 2008, but fell to $1.5 billion in 2010.The company benefited from an effort to diversify its business lines and expand its petroleum shipping division.Crowley purchased eight petroleum tankers last year to accommodate the increased oil production in the U.S. that's come from hydraulic fracturing.
Vistakon: The division of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care has invested $218 million to renovate and expand its distribution and manufacturing areas. It is adding 100 jobs, mostly engineering technicians.The company makes Acuvue contact lenses, the world's most widely prescribed contact lens.Rose Conry grew her Staff time company from $300,000 to $2 million in four years.
Staff time: In 2009, during the recession, Rose Conry decided to start a second business with business partner Kelley Moore. As an HR consultant, she thought it made sense in part because so many companies had hiring freezes and were stocking up on temporary workers. "Our current clients we were working with kept asking us,'Can you place temps?' " Conry says. "People were downsizing, but work had to be done." She made $300,000 in revenue in the firm's first year; four years later, Conry says revenue is just below $2 million.
Perdue: The commercial furnishings and design business, founded in 1916, is bouncing back after sales dropped during the recession, with revenue up last year between 15% and 20% to $19 million. President Vince McCormack says the health care sector is driving growth. "We're optimistic about this year. There is good activity," he says.
Specialty Freight & Courier: Because of the proximity of the port and several interstate highways, Jacksonville is a magnet for transportation and logistics companies like Specialty Freight & Courier. The 17-yearold company specializes in same-day and next-day small package and freight deliveries. The company ships medical specimens and pharmaceuticals as well as large freight, such as appliances. The company employs 16 and has 70 contract workers. Revenue was up 22% last year and 200% since 2006, the company says.
St. Augustine / St. Johns County
Tourism continues as a dominant part of St. Johns' economy. The St. Augustine area benefited from the Viva Florida 500th anniversary celebration last year, with hotel occupancy rates rising to 60.3%, up 2.3 percentage points over the previous year. Tourism officials are encouraged by the announcement that Frontier Airlines will begin fying into Northeast Florida Regional Airport. A spokeswoman for the local visitors and convention bureau says at least two new hotels will soon be under construction. Two major hotel renovations are also expected. Northrop Grumman will spend $80 million to expand a manufacturing plant, adding 330,000 square feet and 400 jobs to its existing local workforce of 1,000. Northrop's St. Augustine facility makes and modifies aircraft for the U.S. Navy. The company was approved for a tax incentive package worth $3 million.
Orange Park / Clay County
Clay County, which touts its proximity to JaxPort and Duval County in its marketing efforts, added more than 1,000 jobs in the last year. Hi-Liner Fishing Gear & Tackle, a south Florida-based distributor of commercial fishing equipment, moved its headquarters to Clay County and will employ 12. The county expects to build on that growth this year thanks to the decision by Kentucky-based R.J. Corman, a railroad company, to open a signaling division in the county. Corman will employ at least 58. A limited access highway now under construction is expected to provide a major, long-lasting economic boost: The First Coast Expressway, a $1.8-billion toll road, will connect the county and Jacksonville. In addition to creating construction jobs, the road will open the county to new businesses and create opportunities for development at toll-way intersections.
Nassau County, home of Amelia Island, set records for tourism last year with more than 500,000 visitors.Job growth is up and the unemployment rate has fallen to 5.2% as the county diversifies its economy. Dtw Marketing Research Group moved its headquarters from New Jersey to Amelia Island last year. The firm will invest $2.1 million and hire 40 people. Homes are following the jobs: Construction is Under way on a massive, 2,900-acre master-planned community, developed by TerraPointe, a division of Rayonier, that includes 7.1 million square feet of office and retail space, along with more than 4,000 residential units. The development "will become Nassau County's new town center eventually," says Steve Rieck, executive director of the Nassau County Economic Development Board.
Putnam County is lagging the rest of the state in job growth. The county had 1,500 fewer people employed at the end of 2013 than it did five years ago. There have been some economic development wins for the county, however. Alex McCoy, vice president of economic development for the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, says call center Alorica added 370 jobs. And the Crystal Cove Resort and Marina, under new owners, is undergoing a $1-million renovation. The 54-room hotel, which also has a 250-seat waterfront restaurant and a marina, has seen a big increase in hotel occupancy since its renovation, according to owner Whitney Redford.
Baker County, which sits west of Jacksonville and hugs the Georgia border, has added 400 jobs over the last five years. Health care is expanding, with the construction of a new rural health clinic. Dennis Markos, chief executive of Baker County Medical Services, says the total cost of building, equipping and staffing the facility could be between $750,000 and $1 million.The county also took a significant step toward building a bypass around Macclenny by getting a $650,000 grant from the Florida Department of Transportation for planning and design work.
The intersection of I-10 and I-75 in the county has proven to be a nexus for job generation. Chick-Fil-A, Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse and Gator's Dockside all opened restaurants at the Lake City exit off I-75 last year.Jesse Quillen, executive director of the Columbia County Economic Development Department, says existing employers are expanding, with U.S. Cold Storage investing $15 million into its cold storage refrigeration logistics facility and hiring 15 people. TIMCO Aviation Services, one of Columbia County's largest employers with a 700-person workforce, was bought by a Korean firm HAECO. Quillen says the company is poised to add up to 40 jobs.