FloridaTrend.com, the Website for Florida Business

A new Jacksonville

(Mark Wemple)

As Florida Trend enters its 60th anniversary year, we take a look at Jacksonville/Northeast Florida, one of the state’s first inhabited areas. Jacksonville is changing rapidly. It’s no longer the small Southern town you may recall. In fact, major projects are planned at the Shipyards and The District — with hotels, homes, offices, and retail — and downtown, where historic buildings are being redeveloped into modern offices and restaurants.


Transportation is about to get easier as the initial leg of the First Coast Expressway opens this year, ringing the city and connecting it to the numerous planned communities in surrounding counties. The new highway is bound to attract more workers, “players” and shoppers. The Port of Jacksonville continues to be a major business driver, CSX is headquartered here and the airport is one of the world’s most modern after hundreds of millions in upgrades.

Northeast Florida has a younger demographic than the retirement havens farther south and ample educational opportunities ranging from state colleges to universities to a medical school. And, of course, health care is big with the nationally known Mayo Clinic, UF Health, Baptist and St. Vincent’s, among others. Nemours Children’s Health System also has a major presence.

Insurer Florida Blue is a large employer, with a workforce of about 7,000. Other big companies include Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Deutsche Bank, Fidelity National, Stein Mart, Southeastern Grocers (Winn- Dixie), Firehouse Subs and tons of professional firms from ad agencies to accounting and engineering firms.

My family likes to vacation in nearby St. Johns County with trips into Duval for shopping or dining. The beaches, fairways and tennis courts are among the best; my wife, Betty, enjoys the area’s spas and restaurants.

If you haven’t already, visit the area. In the meantime, you can read our special section on Jacksonville.

Kiran Patel is our Floridian of the Year. He is the brains behind WellCare (which he sold to investors, including George Soros) and then turned around America’s 1st Choice, which runs Freedom Health and Optimum and was itself just sold to Anthem. He also owns the new Wyndham Grand resort on Clearwater Beach.

But more than that, Dr. Patel and his wife, Dr. Pallavi Patel, are generous benefactors. They donate to Florida Hospital, to local schools, to USF, to the Straz arts center in Tampa and to health initiatives in India and Zambia. Most recently, they have contributed the unbelievable sum of $200 million toward a new campus for Nova Southeastern University in Clearwater where it will train doctors and other health professionals.

Congratulations to the Patels.

Three Floridians died last year serving our country. Army Sgt. La David Johnson, 25, was killed Oct. 4 while on patrol in Niger. In addition, two sailors, Lt. Steven Combs of Sarasota and Airman Apprentice Bryan Grosso of Pensacola, were killed in a Nov. 22 aircraft crash in the Philippine Sea. We salute them and their families.

For the 10th year in a row, Florida Trend will feature the Best Companies to Work For in the August issue . Registration is free. The deadline is Jan. 26 . Sign up at bestcompaniesfl.com.

Fitness update: Due to rain and general sloth, I didn’t run the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning, but I’m claiming the 5k the weekend before. I ran in 29:19, which is a mere 9 seconds slower than last year’s time. My knee hurts just thinking about it.

— Andy Corty


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