November 30, 2023
ATS NE July 2020
Using driverless vehicles allows Mayo Clinic to limit staff exposure to potential hazards.
ATS NE July 2020
Georgia-Pacific, which makes Angel Soft and Quilted Northern bath tissue in addition to paper towels, has started operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Palatka plant, which has about 1,000 employees, has been producing at 120% of its normal capacity since late March.

Northeast Florida Roundup

Driverless vehicles help fight COVID-19

Laura Hampton | 6/25/2020


Driverless Vehicles Help Fight COVID-19

Since late March, Mayo Clinic Florida has been using autonomous vehicles to transport medical supplies and COVID-19 tests on its Jacksonville campus.

The collaboration came after discussions between the clinic and the Jacksonville Transportation Authority about innovative ways to transport patients and supplies across the clinic’s growing campus. When the hospital opened a drive-through clinic for COVID-19 testing, JTA offered the use of four autonomous vehicles leased from Beep, which owns the vehicles through a partnership with Navya, a French autonomous vehicle company.

“We were excited about the opportunity,” says Dr. Charles Bruce, a cardiology professor and the chief innovation officer for Mayo Clinic Florida. “Having the vehicles take the specimens from the drive-through testing sites to the processing laboratory not only frees up our staff for patient care-related activities, but it also limits their exposure to potentially hazardous samples. Plus, it gives JTA the ability to test the use of these vehicles in a real-world setting.”

Bruce says after the crisis is over, Mayo Clinic will consider purchasing an autonomous vehicle for multiple uses around the campus. The vehicles cost about $300,000 each.


  • Fidelity Investments plans to hire hundreds in Jacksonville. The company employs about 1,300 in its Jacksonville and Ponte Vedra offices. New hires will mainly work as financial consultants, licensed representatives and customer service representatives.


  • Pattillo Industrial Real Estate is seeking permits to build a 315,000-sq.-ft. warehouse on the north side of Jacksonville at New Berlin Road and I-295. The new warehouse is the largest on the 175-acre property, which includes seven warehouses with plans for a total of 13.


  • The Jacksonville City Council has approved a new seven-member board for Jacksonville Electric Authority. All members of the previous board resigned in January when former CEO Aaron Zahn was terminated.


  • The city of Jacksonville is finalizing plans for a fixed dock and adjacent floating dock in Mayport. The fixed dock will be used for commercial vehicles, and the floating dock will be used for personal boats. The city will pay for the $6-million project over four years.


  • Baptist Health has purchased 11 acres in north St. Johns County. The property is adjacent to 23 acres the hospital system purchased in July 2019. Both properties are within the 6,450-acre master-planned community Silverleaf near World Golf Village, which will include 10,000 homes when completed.
  • In Jacksonville, a flurry of medical facility expansions: Memorial Hospital has begun expansion plans that include an $800,000 renovation to its pharmacy and construction of primary and specialty care clinics. Most recently, the hospital applied for a permit to begin a $15.5-million expansion that would add an operating room. Meanwhile, Ascension Health has received a permit to begin construction on two free-standing emergency departments in addition to a $22.6-million renovation of its southside hospital. Ascension St. Vincent’s has completed work on its $55-million Riverside hospital addition. UF Health has begun construction on an addition to its Jacksonville facility. Mayo Clinic has received a permit to start work on a six-story, 200,000-sq.-ft. building on its Jacksonville campus. The $65-million project is one of two major projects planned for the campus. The Mayo north addition will be used for cardiology, gastroenterology and other procedures. The $144-million investment also includes a 1,000-space parking garage.
  • North Florida Regional Medical Center has reached a settlement with the Alachua County property appraiser. The hospital’s tangible personal property value was decreased by $10 million for 2017-19. The hospital is expected to receive close to $700,000 in refunds.


  • Florida Blue has received a permit to build a $12.3-million, four-story parking garage in downtown Jacksonville. The 862-space garage will be built at 800 Forest St. on property provided by the city. Florida Blue will also receive a $3.5-million grant. The city provided the incentives to entice Florida Blue off a riverfront property that will become the headquarters for Fidelity National Information Services. The $145-million headquarters will house about 1,700 employees, 500 of whom will be new full-time employees.


  • Jacksonville-based marketing and communications firm Dalton Agency has acquired the Bradford Group, a public relations, social media and content marketing agency in Nashville. It is the agency’s third acquisition in Nashville in the last three years.


  • Impact Church has received a permit for a $5-million renovation at its new campus at Regency Square Mall. The church bought the 191,000-sq.-ft. former Belk store in 2016 for $7 million.


  • Citing “unpredictable economic conditions,” Stein Mart and private equity firm Kingswood Capital Management have terminated a merger agreement. Also, Nasdaq has temporarily extended Stein Mart’s deadline to meet the minimum bid price requirement until Sept. 18. Stein Mart has consistently traded under $1 since May 2019.


  • Traders Hill Farm, an aquaponics lettuce grower, has reversed a move to sell its products through food distributors and has shifted back to selling directly to consumers in light of the pandemic.
  • After unsuccessful attempts to restructure, Jacksonville-based debt collection agency Diversified Consultants has laid off all 250 of its employees and closed.
  • A website, Jacksonville Restaurant Reviews, has teamed up with local chefs to offer interactive, online classes through Zoom.
  • The Alachua County Family and Civil Justice Center performed drive-through marriage ceremonies in April and May for couples who had a license but could not hold traditional weddings during the pandemic.
  • Alachua County-based biopharmaceutical company Ology Bioservices has received $53 million from the Department of Defense to develop and manufacture an antibody treatment and vaccine for COVID-19 and other viral diseases. The company, which employs 200, is working to develop the vaccine for U.S. Defense officials and not the general public, which takes longer and requires more clinical trials.
  • In April, Jacksonville-based food service wholesale provider Restaurant Depot began issuing day passes to the public for the first time in its 40-year history. The decision to open to the public was made after restaurants in the region started closing their dining rooms and limiting service to takeout.

Read more in Florida Trend's July issue.
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