Business Florida 2021 - The Regions
Baker • Clay • Duval • Flagler • Nassau • Putnam • St. Johns
Jacksonville has a long-standing history of manufacturing excellence. The proof is in a neon coffee cup that first appeared atop the Maxwell House plant downtown in 1910. The signature cup still glows nightly, but in the intervening years, many more manufacturers have settled in Florida’s Northeast. In addition to coffee, products manufactured in this region include pacemakers, insulin pumps and other medical devices; glass bottles; high-tech lithium batteries; aircraft components; contact lenses; writing instruments; and peanut butter.
And at least three of this region’s manufacturers are in growth mode:
• Johnson & Johnson Vision, maker of Acuvue disposable contact lenses, has received a $24-million permit to expand the central utilities plant at its 732,000-sq.-ft. southside Jacksonville facility. In 2019, the World Economic Forum recognized Johnson & Johnson’s Jacksonville plant as a “lighthouse” — a so-called smart factory that embraces technology as a competitive advantage — for its use of vision-guided robots and augmented-reality tools to reduce costs and bring products to market faster.
• Georgia-Pacific, which makes Angel Soft and Quilted Northern bath tissue in addition to paper towels, has beefed up production to meet the increased demand for its products due to the coronavirus pandemic. The firm’s Palatka plant, which has about 1,000 employees, began producing 120% of its normal capacity in late March.
• Huckins Yacht, a third-generation family-owned custom yacht manufacturer in Jacksonville, has begun building the Hybrid Sportsman 38, a hybrid prototype that couples the design of the company’s 1936 Sportsman with the option of operating with either diesel or electric motors fueled by fireproof lithium ion phosphate batteries. The final product is expected to retail at around $1.3 million.
KEY PLAYERS: Johnson & Johnson Vision, Jacksonville; Pilot (Pen) Corporation of America, Jacksonville; Rayonier Advanced Materials, Jacksonville
Talent thrives in Florida’s Northeast thanks in large part to readily available educational opportunities at all levels. The region’s K-12 public educational options include five of the top 25 Florida school districts offering career-focused academies and career and technical education (CTE) programs. Three Jacksonville high schools were among the nation’s top 250 on U.S. News & World Report’s “Best High Schools, 2020,” and one school district — St. Johns County — received its 10th consecutive “A” grade from the Florida Department of Education based on student achievement, learning gains and graduation rate (94.3% countywide) among other factors.
With a combined graduate and undergraduate enrollment topping 17,000, University of North Florida has, for the first time, been named among U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges — National Universities, 2020” at No. 281 and continues to remain among “Top Public Schools” at No. 140. In 2019, UNF’s Coggin’s College of Business was recognized by The Princeton Review as one of the nation’s best business schools for the 13th consecutive year. And one more point of pride: UNF ranks No. 1 among the state’s 12 public universities for percentage of graduates employed in Florida.
Also making news: Edward Waters College, the first historically Black college in Florida, which is on its way to becoming a university as it expands course offerings and creates its first graduate-level program — a master’s degree in business administration; and Jacksonville University, named to U.S. News & World Report’s list of “Best Regional Universities South, 2020” at No. 28 and to “Best Colleges for Veterans” at No. 16.