January 21, 2020

community portrait


More than just gathering data, we're capturing elements that make each community distinctive.

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

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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.

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