Photo: Bruce Lipsky/Florida Times-Union
Northeast Florida Roundup
The food network in Jacksonville
A group of Jacksonville businesspeople shares a common bond: Food and networking.
When Mark Patterson began his frozen dessert company, Naturally Smart, three years ago, he began looking for people who could help his fledgling business.
“I started networking, and there was really no one working on food,” he says.
Patterson started a network himself, bringing together small Jacksonvillearea businesses last year to form the North Florida Food Alliance.
The alliance, which includes a dozen food businesses, meets twice a month to exchange ideas and develop relationships with retailers and distributors who might carry their products.
“You have to show some kind of commitment,” says Patterson. “We expect you to show up for meetings.”
Besides attendance, the other requirements include having products that are “store ready” and don’t compete with those of other members.
The group is focused on Jacksonville area businesses now but is open to anyone in north Florida, and Patterson is hoping to expand with affiliates in other regions for networking opportunities.
Most of the products are for human consumption but membership includes the Pawfection Bakery, a home-based business that offers gourmet dog treats.
“I thought it would be a great fit for me and my company,” says Pawfection owner Amy Gorman.
“We’re all about networking and sharing ideas.” “We didn’t really know what the group was going to be except we knew we’re all like-minded companies,” says Jason McDonald, president of Fresh Jax, a food and healthy lifestyle business. “It’s really neat to just talk openly and confidentially with our peers.”
Tech + Food
“I’m a foodie and a techie,” says Jeff Charette, describing his inspiration for Menuat, a St. Augustine business that offers technology for electronic restaurant menus.
The electronic menu boards that Menuat provides in place of chalkboards allow restaurants to easily update menus daily.
After three years in business, Charette’s data show the electronic boards work. “We see traditionally a 7% increase in revenue as a result of using our menu boards,” he says.
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GAINESVILLE — Video game company Trendy Entertainment settled a lawsuit with co-founder Jeremy Stieglitz, who left Trendy in 2014. Trendy alleged Stieglitz violated a non-compete agreement by starting another company, Wildcard Properties, which developed a successful video game called ARK: Survival Evolved. A tweet from Stieglitz’s wife said Wildcard paid $40 million to settle the suit. Infinite Energy is raising the starting salary for all employees to $15 an hour.
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LAKE CITY — After laying off 128 workers during the winter, customer service center Sitel is hiring 200 at its Lake City facility.
YULEE — Rayonier is moving its headquarters from downtown Jacksonville to a 24,000-acre project it’s developing in Nassau County. The company is consolidating three offices, with 145 employees, into a 55,000-sq.-ft. building scheduled to open in the fall of 2017.
As part of a realignment of its executive management team, CSX promoted Cressie Brown from vice president/ labor relations to senior vice president and chief administrative officer, and Kathleen Brandt from head of its information technology unit to senior vice president and chief information officer. Lisa Mancini retired as executive vice president and chief administrative officer.
Chad Christianson was appointed CEO of Ocala Health, which operates two Marion County hospitals. Christianson was most recently COO of CJW Medical Center in Richmond, Va.