FloridaTrend.com, the Website for Florida Business


Jacksonville skyline
Jacksonville, Florida
NOTE: This photo is available as wallpaper for registered users of FloridaTrend.com. [Photo: Kelly Laduke]

Quick links
» Overview (this page)
» Who Lives Here? (Demographics)
» Economic Life
» Leaders
» Quality of Life
» Why I Live Here
» Bonus: Download wallpaper of the Jacksonville skyline for your computer

The most “southern” of Florida’s major cities in character, Jacksonville has long shed its old civic inferiority complex to emerge as a modern, livable, business-friendly community that has grown aggressively, if sometimes haphazardly. The city’s metropolitan form of government — the city and county governments have been consolidated since 1968 — has provided a sound platform, and the landmark mayoral administration of John Delaney from 1995-2003 marked a turn in city politics away from traditional good-ol’-boy dealings. Delaney also launched an ambitious, praiseworthy plan aimed at preserving green space and creating the basis for a public transportation system, but his administration continued the city’s tradition of adding operations and maintenance requirements that weren’t adequately funded through debt service. Passing along obligations and underfunding city pensions are among the factors in an emerging fiscal crisis today.

The city has an engaged, well-organized business community, including a notable component of women entrepreneurs and a solid, thoughtful group of heavy-hitters called the Jacksonville Community Council. The city’s port, one of the most progressively managed ports in the state, along with the presence of rail companies and rail infrastructure (CSX, RailAmerica), as well as Jacksonville’s location at the junction of two interstates have positioned the city as a significant transportation hub and hot spot for both domestic and international trade. The ongoing work to redevelop the old Cecil Field air base as a manufacturing and distribution center is bolstering the city’s business infrastructure.

Jacksonville’s biggest challenges are the emerging fiscal crisis; lingering racial divisions; crime; chronically underperforming schools; and the inability so far to build a vibrant downtown that capitalizes on its handsome skyline and a great natural asset — the St. Johns River, which runs through the heart of the city. Mayor John Peyton has made downtown and the river a major focus for the last two years of his administration.

Jacksonville Beach
Jacksonville Beach

The Count

The population of Jacksonville, a consolidated city-county, is 859,421, encompassing 94% of Duval County’s total population of 904,408.

Among the remaining municipalities:

Atlantic Beach: Population 13,819

Baldwin: 1,605

Jacksonville Beach: 22,749

Neptune Beach: 7,377


Between April 1, 2000, and July 1, 2008, Duval County’s population grew by about 9%, compared to the state average of 14.7%. Growth in neighboring bedroom counties like Flagler and Clay, however, far outstripped the state average (Flagler, 83.1%; Clay, 31.2%).


White: 63.7% Black: 31%Hispanic: 5.9%

Only 8.2% of the city’s population is foreign-born. Slightly more than a third of that group was born in Asia; slightly more than a third was born in Latin America.

Almost half of the city’s population was born in Florida.

Only 11% of the population speaks a language other than English at home. Among that group less than half speak Spanish — 56% speak some other language.


Between 2005-07, only 7% of the city’s population was composed of people who moved there from outside the county.

Age Comparison

Median age

% over 65
Jacksonville 35.6 10%
Florida 39.8 16.8%

Duval County 2008 Election

McCain: 50.5% Obama: 48.6% Other: 0.8%


Jacksonville has a slightly higher percentage of non-family households — households with members who are unrelated by birth, marriage or adoption — than other Florida communities.


About 9.4% of families and 12.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.7% of those under age 18 and 12% of those age 65 or over.

Religious Life

Southern Baptist Convention: 41.7% (many in large evangelical congregations)

Catholic: 18.9%

Other religions: 14%

United Methodist: 8.3%

Presbyterian: 3.9%

Episcopal: 3.8%

Churches of Christ: 2.1%

Assemblies of God: .3%


Avondale/Riverside — Historic neighborhods along the river southwest of downtown; 1920s-style upper-income homes, ranging from bungalows to quasi-mansions

Westside — Generally blue-collar, middle-class area with an agricultural and manufacturing heritage

Springfield — Gentrifying area just north of downtown with many historic homes

San Marco — “Artsy,” mostly upscale area south of downtown that includes a diverse mix of residents and buildings, including apartments and condos, an entertainment area and mansions on the river

Arlington — First-tier suburb developed mostly in the 1960s and 1970s, mostly middle-class homes

Northside — Traditionally blue-collar area, slower-paced with much undeveloped land

Beaches — The beach communities tend toward low-rise development with more beachfront houses and fewer condos than elsewhere in Florida

Southeast — Fast-growth area including many newer suburbs and shopping centers that have sprung up on formerly forested land between downtown and the beaches; home to the San Marco neighborhood

St. John's River in Jacksonville
The St. Johns River is one of the city’s greatest natural assets.

Economic Life

White Collar: 79% Blue Collar: 21%

Call Centers: About eight of every 100 workers are employed at call centers.

Working for a Living: Duval County’s per-capita income is $36,616, on par with the state average. Its largest major private-industry sector is healthcare, with 13% of all employees, followed by retail trade, with 12%, and finance and insurance, at 10%. Significant layoffs in finance and retail during the economic downturn have hit Jacksonville hard, but the city’s unemployment rate of slightly under 9.7% is still lower than the statewide average of 10.2%.

Major Economic Engines

The U.S. Navy:
Cecil Field’s closure in 1999 shrunk the Navy’s presence somewhat, but Jacksonville is one of the biggest Navy hubs in the southeastern United States. Between its Naval Air Station just four miles from downtown and its station at Mayport, the Navy is still the largest employer in the area, with more than 35,000 civilian and active-duty personnel. The 6,000-acre Cecil Field site is being redeveloped as the Cecil Commerce Center and is coming into its own for commercial and industrial activity. It primarily supports aviation and aerospace companies, including Boeing, Logistical Services International, Northrop Grumman and FlightStar.

the Navy in Jacksonville
Jacksonville is one of the biggest Navy hubs in the Southeast.
[Photo: Daniel Gay/U.S. Navy]

Four major health systems give Jacksonville not only high-quality medical care, but the biggest professional employment base in the city: Baptist Health System employs nearly 5,600; the Mayo Clinic, 5,000; St. Vincent’s Medical Center, 3,796; and Shands Jacksonville, 3,500. The University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute at Shands is one of only five facilities devoted to this cancer treatment in the country. In addition, the Nemours Foundation, based in Jacksonville, operates a children’s hospital in Wilmington, Del., along with satellite facilities in Jacksonville and Pensacola, and is building a hospital in Orlando.


The Jacksonville Port Authority, known locally as JaxPort, is an international trade seaport with three public marine terminals at Blount Island, Talleyrand and Dames Point. It generates some 50,000 direct and indirect jobs in northeast Florida and handles not only cargo containers but is No. 2 in the nation behind NY/NJ for vehicle imports and exports.

JaxPort generates about 50,000 direct and indirect jobs. [Photo: Kelly Laduke]
The TraPac Container Terminal opened at Dames Point this year; the $230-million joint project with Mitsui O.S.K. Lines is expected to open up container trade with Asia, especially when the Panama Canal expansion is complete. Together with Jacksonville International Airport and railroad companies CSX and RailAmerica, the area bills itself as a major transportation hub. In addition, Landstar System, a billion-dollar transportation services company, contracts with thousands of independent freight agents and truckers to move more than a million loads of freight each year.

Insurance and Financial Services:
Jacksonville has a long history as a banking and insurance center. Barnett Bank is long gone, but Prudential Insurance, whose building is a longtime fixture in the city’s skyline, is still a major employer. Fidelity National Financial, a real estate, insurance and financial services giant that employs more than 15,000 nationwide through subsidiaries like Fidelity National Title Group, moved its headquarters to Jacksonville in 2003.

Economic Life, continued

Short List of Big Employers

Naval Air Station: 19,500

Naval Station Mayport: 15,293

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Florida: 9,000

Publix Distribution Center: 6,615

Shands Jacksonville
Jacksonville is home to four major health systems, including Shands Jacksonville. [Photo: Kelly Laduke]
Winn-Dixie Stores: 6,200

Baptist Health System: 5,600

Mayo Clinic: 5,000

CSX: 4,400

Citibank (Citi-Cards): 4,200

Bank of America: 4,000

St. Vincent’s Medical Center: 3,796

Naval Air Depot: 3,766

Wachovia: 3,700

Shands Jacksonville Healthcare: 3,500


River City:
Flowing through the heart of downtown, the St. Johns River is one of the city’s major strengths, although access is still poor in many formerly industrial areas. City officials are working to change that, investing in parks and public spaces such as the Riverside Arts Market — a vacant space under the Fuller Warren Bridge that turns into a market each Saturday. The recent bankruptcy of LandMar Group is a blow to downtown redevelopment; the city has declared LandMar in default of its redevelopment agreement on the ambitious Shipyards project.

The Ritz Theatre
The Ritz Theatre and LaVilla Museum showcases African-American culture.

Nearly a third of Jacksonville’s residents are African-American. The city has an active African-American chamber; a historically black university, Edward Waters College; a black cultural museum, the Ritz Theatre and LaVilla; and important historical sites such as Kingsley Plantation.

Higher Education:
The University of North Florida’s reputation is growing along with its campus on the southeast side of the city, but it still has a small student-to-faculty ratio of 22:1. Florida Community College at Jacksonville is known for its information technology track. Private Jacksonville University was named one of “America’s Best Colleges” for the fourth consecutive year in U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings. Other schools of higher education include the Florida Coastal School of Law; Edward Waters; the Art Institute of Jacksonville; and technical/vocational schools, including ITT Technical Institute.


The city faces a pension crisis with unfunded liabilities in excess of a billion dollars that is likely to compete for funds with long-needed community improvement projects, including downtown redevelopment.

Duval has led Florida’s large counties in murder rate for 10 years, though the rate dropped in the first five months of 2009, thanks in part to intense community focus on the crime problem. With more than 6,400 crimes per 100,000 population, however, the county still ranked first in the state in crime rate, according to 2007 Florida Department of Law Enforcement Statistics.

Nearly 20,000 homeless live on Jacksonville’s streets and in shelters — about a quarter of them veterans.

Economic Life, continued

Women Entrepreneurs

Some 13% of northeast Florida’s women business owners (seven-county area) gross more than $1 million in sales a year — nationally, that percentage is 3%. Nearly 80% of women business owners among the group started the business they run.


Jacksonville has suffered fewer direct hits from hurricanes than any other part of Florida.


Benefits of consolidation have included relatively lower taxes and greater government efficiency. Jacksonville officials like to brag that they have the lowest tax burden of any major city in Florida and the third-lowest nationwide. Jacksonville’s property tax rate is also the lowest of all major cities in Florida, according to the city. That may have to change, however: The city faces a fiscal crisis due to underfunding its pension obligations and also to a history of passing along the cost of growth to future residents. Mayor John Peyton has proposed a 14% increase in property taxes to stave off the crisis.

Largest City

Jacksonville is the largest city by area in the continental U.S. as a result of the 1968 consolidation of Duval County and city government.

Cost of Living

Jacksonville residents pay a little less than the national average for housing, healthcare, transportation and other goods and services with the exception of food — for which they pay slightly more. They pay slightly more for goods and services than the Florida average.

Sarah Palin in JacksonvilleDuval was the largest county John McCain and Sarah Palin (at Jacksonville Landing) carried in the Southeast.


Duval County is a GOP stronghold, even though there are far more registered Democrats (46%) than Republicans (37%). Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland says the Dixiecrats — conservative Democrats — help keep Duval voting Republican; it was the largest county John McCain carried in the Southeast. The trend could be changing, though. After not electing a Democrat countywide since 1995, Duval sent a popular former councilman, Democrat John Crescimbeni, back to City Hall last November. But that was a special election held on presidential election day. The real test will be the spring 2011 city council races, which will include Crescimbeni’s bid for re-election and a mayoral race to replace John Peyton. About a dozen well-known names — all Republican — are already floating for the mayor’s race.

Duval County Voter Registration:

Democrat: 241,145 Republican: 193,071 Other: 93,905
Total: 528,121

Consumer Behavior

> Most popular boat in this city surrounded by both ocean and freshwater? The simple, flat-bottomed Carolina Skiff

> Jacksonville is home to the largest percent block of champagne and sparkling wine drinkers in the state.


Must-Know Leaders

> Zim Boulos is chairman of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission and president of Office Environments & Services.

> U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, a Jacksonville native who has served in Congress for 17 years, is mulling a U.S. Senate bid against Gov. Charlie Crist.

John Delaney
> John Delaney, a former prosecutor and two-time mayor of Jacksonville, is president of the 16,500-student University of North Florida.
> Marty Fiorentino, a former CSX communications executive, heads the Fiorentino Group, a government relations and business development firm.

> Bill Foley, chairman of Fidelity National Financial, moved the giant company from Santa Barbara, Calif., to Jacksonville. He also heads other businesses, including resorts, a winery and restaurants.

> A. Hugh Greene, president and CEO of Baptist Health has pushed Baptist’s expansion from a downtown medical center to five hospitals, including Wolfson Children’s Hospital.

> Michael Hightower, a vice president at Blue Cross and local Republican Party official, chairs the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce.

> Preston Haskell, founder and chairman of local design-build powerhouse Haskell Co., is an important voice in industry issues statewide but also is extremely involved in the Jacksonville community.

State Sen. Tony Hill
> State Sen. Tony Hill was an early supporter of Barack Obama. He still has Obama’s ear.
> Martha “Marty” Lanahan, north Florida executive and Jacksonville city president of Regions Bank, is known for her work on behalf of the community.

> Dr. Robert I. Lufrano is chairman and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, the largest private employer in the city.

> Kelly Madden, First Coast market president for Wachovia, is heavily involved in the community and will serve as chairwoman of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce in 2010.

> Audrey McKibbin Moran, president and CEO of the Sulzbacher Center, which houses and feeds Jacksonville’s homeless, is influential in city politics and policy.

Lee M. Thomas
> Lee M. Thomas is chairman, president and CEO of Jacksonville-based Rayonier, one of the largest timber companies in the nation. He’s the retired president and COO of Georgia-Pacific.
> Joan W. Newton, chairman emeritus of Regency Centers Corp., is a longtime business and civic leader who serves on the University of North Florida’s board of trustees.

> Lynn Pappas, a real estate attorney, is active in civic and business affairs and has served on the state Board of Governors.

> Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton leaves office in 2011, at which time he will return to lead his family’s business, Gate Petroleum.

> David A. Smith, chairman and CEO of PSS World Medical, is also chairman of Florida TaxWatch.

> Michael J. Ward is chairman, president and CEO of CSX Corp.

Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver
> Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver, co-owners of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, are also some of the most generous philanthropists in the city. The Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation and Weaver Family Foundation have invested more than $100 million in educational, social and other non-profits in Florida. [Photo: credit]

Jacksonville Beach
In contrast to trends at many beaches in Florida, development along Jacksonville’s beaches has remained mostly low-rise.

Quality of Life

> Arts:
A vigorous arts scene includes the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, ranked as one of the top 40 in the nation in terms of budget size and population served; top acts at the Florida Theatre; and a monthly art walk that draws a crowd downtown on the first Wednesday of the month.

> Libraries:
The city is home to the largest public library in the state.

> Beaches:
Some of Florida’s best beaches are an easy drive from downtown in places like Jacksonville Beach, Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach and Vilano Beach, offering a wide range of sport fishing, boating and water sport opportunities.

Jacksonville has one of the largest urban park systems in the country.
> Parks:
Jacksonville has one of the largest systems of urban parks in the nation, including an increasing number of riverfront parks downtown.

> Commuting:
While public transportation is weak and trucking congestion is an increasingly urgent problem for economic developers, Jacksonville’s commute time isn’t bad for those who drive the city’s many bridges each day. Commuters spend an average 23 minutes getting to work.

> Family Friendly:
Jacksonville children enjoy urban amenities that include the downtown “Kids Kampus” with a splash park open all summer. Across from downtown on the Southbank, the Museum of Science and History offers interactive science exhibits, as well as summer camps and other perks for kids. To the north, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens has more than 1,000 rare and exotic creatures. The zoo occupies about 70 acres along the St. Johns River.

> Golf:
Jacksonville is a golf center and is home to numerous championship courses, including those at the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club, St. Johns Golf and Country Club and two courses at World Golf Village. Nearby Ponte Vedra Beach hosts the PGA Tour and the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, which hosts the Players Championship in May. The course is consistently named one of the best in the world. The World Golf Hall of Fame, located 20 minutes south of Jacksonville in St. Augustine, features historical items, golfers’ memorabilia and interactive experiences.

> Skyline:
Architects including Henry John Klutho converged on the city from around the nation after a huge fire in 1901 destroyed downtown. As a result, Jacksonville is home to many striking historic buildings, such as Klutho’s St. James Building, a one-time department store that now houses City Hall. But it also has one of the most beautiful modern skylines in the south, crisscrossed by dramatic bridges and marked by unique skyscrapers such as the Modis building. Quality of Life, continued

Annual Florida/Georgia football game
The annual Florida/Georgia game packs in the fans.

> Football:
The game is a local obsession — not only when the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars take to the field in the fall, but in college match-ups such as the Florida/Georgia game and the Toyota Gator Bowl.

> Volunteerism:
Jacksonville ranks second in Florida in volunteer rates, behind Tampa. Nationally, it’s ranked 45th among 50 large cities.

Average Volunteer Rate: 20.7%

Average Volunteer Hours per Resident: 26.1

View from a Competitor

Florida Trend asked an economic development professional in a market that competes with Jacksonville to assess the city’s strengths and weaknesses.

”Jacksonville has been linked ‘to a great sea by a great river’ since its beginning days. With the widening of the Panama Canal, scheduled for completion in 2014, Jacksonville is poised to assume an even more powerful leadership role in the coming era of giant cargo ships. But its greatest strength is its model of government, created in 1968. Jacksonville is today the envy of civic, business and governmental leaders from across our state, since its one-stop-style-of-local-government makes doing things in Jacksonville easy when compared to most other cities and counties in Florida.”

"Although it is the largest city in our state by size, when contrasted to and when competing with other regions of Florida, Jacksonville has a comparatively small population. As a result, it lacks some of the amenities and the quality of life image now being demanded by the creative class. In the years ahead, Jacksonville will have to learn how to better showcase its assets; not just to future residents now living in other parts of the United States, but to those citizens looking to relocate to the United States from other countries. This international competition for talent is going to be an especially difficult game for Jacksonville to win, unless it establishes new ways of recruiting highly skilled, highly educated, highly motivated workers, essential for the new economy.”

Why I Live Here

Abel and Austin Harding
Abel Harding and son Austin

It’s the rolling waves of the Atlantic Ocean from the end of the Jacksonville Beach Pier. It’s the childhood memories of an excursion down the Trout River at the helm of my uncle’s tugboat. It’s the charm of the riverwalk that snakes along the St. Johns River, the buzz of the Riverside Arts Market on a Saturday morning.

It’s the eclectic atmosphere of Five Points on First Friday, a lazy afternoon lost in the maze that is Chamblin’s Bookmine, the peaceful calm of Evergreen Cemetery, where five former governors rest. It’s the eerie morning fog that envelops Fort Caroline, the site of North America’s oldest European settlement.

It’s the sound of an all-star jazz band emanating from the halls of Snyder Memorial Church during the Jacksonville Jazz Festival. It’s our pulsing downtown on a late fall afternoon when the entire city is focused on the storied Florida/Georgia game.

It’s the recognition of our history and the knowledge that we still have the ability to mold and shape our own identity as we charge into the future. For all of these reasons and many more, I am proud to call Jacksonville my hometown.

Abel Harding
Vice president for commercial lending, IronStone Bank

Why I Live Here

 Paul Tyler
Paul Tyler (left) hauls in a sailfish.
I grew up in Jacksonville after moving to the area at age 4 after my father was transferred here to NAS Jacksonville (Naval Air Station). I have spent the majority of my life here (nearly 40 years), with the only exception being the time that I spent attending the University of Florida.

I love the Jacksonville area and have remained here by choice for a number of reasons. It is a great place to raise a family with abundant access to quality public education, youth sports and numerous outdoor activities. My family and I are all avid golf, fishing and boating enthusiasts, and the Jacksonville metropolitan area offers some of the nation’s best access to each. The golf courses in the area are world class, including the TPC at Sawgrass, my home course. The Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Fernandina Beach areas offer fishing opportunities both inshore and offshore, saltwater and fresh, many of which are unique to the Jacksonville area. Access to the waterways is much better in northeast Florida than in most other parts of the state due to a relatively less dense population concentration. This also contributes to much better traffic congestion problems when compared with other major metropolitan areas in the state.

The cost of living in Jacksonville is much more attractive than other areas of the state, with relatively low property tax rates and housing costs.

What has kept me in Jacksonville for most of my life is the overall quality of life. From the Jacksonville Jaguars to the TPC and numerous golf courses to the great beaches, Jacksonville is a place that offers plenty of family-oriented activities.

Paul Tyler
President/commercial group, Haskell Co.

Why I Live Here

Jeannie Gabrynowicz
Jeannie Gabrynowicz
The Navy sent us here for duty at the Mayport Naval Station. We bought a home near the shore and could manage on one car since the Navy base was a 4-mile bike ride up the beach. We kept the house during three tours of duty both stateside and abroad. As soon as we could, we returned to Jacksonville’s Atlantic Beach to settle down and start new careers. Even though we’d been away for eight years, our friends were awaiting us. Living near the beach is magical. Add to this the fact that it’s just a half-hour drive west to work downtown. The result is we have a living, work-a-day community, rather than a neighborhood of often-vacant vacation homes. We’re staying put!

Jeannie Gabrynowicz
Director/endowed scholarships and grants, Jacksonville University