Northeast Florida Roundup
Job hopes: Columbia County land state grants that target areas of opportunities
Residents of Columbia County, the rural north Florida community where I-75 meets I-10, are hoping a pair of small economic development grants will unlock big job growth by filling some infrastructure gaps.
The two grants, both awarded this year by the governor’s office from the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, include $860,000 for Florida Gateway College to start a training program for aviation and power plant mechanics and aviation airframe maintenance workers. The hope is that the new program can become a talent pipeline for HAECO Airframe Services, which inspects, maintains and repairs commercial jets at Lake City Gateway Airport right next door to the college.
HAECO has struggled to find skilled workers for its Lake City operation, where its clients include JetBlue and United; last year, the company said it had enough work to employ 1,100 people but was stuck at around 930 [“Plane Truth,” June 2017]. One reason HAECO says it has had trouble filling the jobs is because employees brought in from outside the region have to leave to find continuing education. (The nearest airframe and power plant program is 60 miles away at Florida State College in Jacksonville.)
The second grant is a bit bigger: Just over $3.1 million to build a new rail spur that extends from a CSX-owned rail line to the edge of a planned, 2,600-acre industrial park owned by timber giant Weyerhaeuser. The company and its local government allies hope the direct spur will make the giant property, which they call the North Florida Mega Industrial Park, more enticing to potential customers, particularly manufacturing companies that might need a large footprint. Local economic developers say the site is one of only a handful of spots in Florida that could accommodate a “catalyst project” such as an auto assembly plant.
The rail spur, Columbia County says, will “greatly enhance the marketability” of the Weyerhaeuser-owned industrial park.
— Jason Garcia
Business Briefs, People in the News for Northeast Florida:
- Two local CEOs, Mitch Glaeser of the Emory Group of Companies and Rich Blaser of Infinite Energy, plan to begin building San Felasco Tech City, a mixed-use development near U.S. 441. The first phase of the project will have 60,000 square feet of offices, housing and recreational space.
- The new superintendent of Duval County Public Schools, Diana Greene, will earn $275,000 a year, the same as her two predecessors.
- UF Online partnered with Walmart to offer bachelor’s degrees in business administration to Walmart and Sam’s Club employees, who will pay $1 a day for their education. Walmart will cover the costs of tuition, books and fees.
- Having outgrown its downtown offi ce space, digital marketing fi rm SharpSpring will move its headquarters to Celebration Pointe, a new mixed-use development in southwest Gainesville.
- Shared Labs, a software company based in Jacksonville, will move to a downtown office building and add 107 jobs at an average an nual wage of $53,298 by the end of 2021. The company is to receive $500,000 in financial incentives, including more than $100,000 from the city.
- A federal grand jury indicted city council members Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown on fraud charges stemming from a $2.65-million U.S. Small Business Administration loan that Katrina Brown obtained to finance a barbecue sauce manufacturing plant. The federal government is seeking at least $754,613 from Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown, who are unrelated.
- Jacksonville-based RS&H, an architecture and engineering firm, bought Tsiouvaras Simmons and Holderness, a transportationplanning firm in Colorado. Financial terms were not disclosed.
- UF Health Jacksonville opened an epilepsy wellness center.
- Jacksonville-based Southeastern Grocers emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy with about 575 stores in seven states. The grocer’s restructuring included lowering its debt by $600 million and closing 94 stores.
- JaxPort’s board approved a plan to borrow up to $85 million through a bond offering to pay for capital improvements, including a harbor deepening, berth rehabilitations and a new autoprocessing facility.
- Colliers International Northeast Florida will move to the SunTrust Tower from the Bank of America Tower, where its lease is expiring.
- Miami-based startup MyPark launched its app at St. Johns Town Center, allowing users to reserve a prime parking spot in one of 17 MyPark spaces for a fee.
- Jacksonville-based Web.com, a web marketing company, tentatively agreed to be sold to Siris Capital Group in an allcash deal worth about $2 billion. The deal must be approved by the company’s shareholders.
- The city sought to evict the owner of Jacksonville Landing from its riverfront property. The city says the Sleiman family violated its lease for city-owned land by failing to run a “highquality, first-class retail facility,” citing vacancies, unpleasant smells, peeling paint and other problems. In a lawsuit filed last year, Sleiman Enterprises blamed the city for the mall’s condition.
- The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating a reported die-off of freshwater turtles throughout the St. Johns River watershed.
- Elite Airways began service from Northeast Florida Regional Airport to Rochester, Minn.
Frank Castillo became president and CEO of Feeding Northeast Florida, which provides food to people in need in eight counties.
Antonio Farias, previously vice president for equity and inclusion and Title IX officer at Wesleyan University, joined the University of Florida as its first chief diversity officer.
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