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Compass Bancshares of Birmingham, Ala., agreed to acquire the four banks of Gainesville State Bank, located in Alachua, Keystone Heights, Melrose and Micanopy. The acquisition will add $209 million in assets, $186 million in deposits and $21 million in equity to Compass' growing Florida franchise.

Florida's population growth may have slowed in the '90s, but the state still gained 1.7 million new residents, a 13.6% increase, since 1990, estimates the University of Florida Bureau of Economic and Business Research. Preliminary figures put state population at 14.7 million. Broward County grew by the largest number, 164,000; Flagler County grew at the fastest rate, 43.5%.

A University of Florida graduate student designed a low-cost robot lawnmower, the LawnNibbler. The first of its kind according to its designer, the mower cuts the lawn automatically, avoids all obstacles, stays in the yard and knows where to mow. The unit weighs 35 pounds and will eventually cost less than $1,000.

Olchrist County


Pennsylvania-based AquaPenn plans to give the nation a taste of Ginnie Springs. The spring water bottler plans to open a new 82,500-square-foot plant on 80 acres near the natural springs by next summer. It will employ about 30.



... and other enticements aimed at bringing jobs to Jacksonville have begun to spark discussion among concerned taxpayers. Mayor John Delaney, who consolidated a number of existing agencies into a seven-member Economic Development Commission, wants a public debate. He's called for town meetings to hear what city residents think about the incentives.

Since January, Jacksonville's EDC has packaged $46 million in incentives for companies to create 10,940 jobs. Capital investment in the 15 projects totals $375.7 million. The list of incentives is long. Companies moving to one of the city's 19 enterprise zones are eligible for state tax credits and refunds and city tax breaks.

Developers building a northside mall near Jacksonville International Airport will get $17 million in ad valorem tax monies captured through tax increment financing. The money will go for roads, water and sewer. Local businesses have sought help, too. Atlantic Marine recently got a $2 million transportation fund grant to dredge a public channel so it would accommodate a ship that would otherwise have gone to Alabama.

Meanwhile, in nearby Clay County, the county commission has authorized a study of economic development and the use of incentives.

- Jane Tanner



One of five job training contracts awarded to Lockheed Martin IMS will go toward helping 3,200 northeast Floridians go from welfare to work. The $1.8 million contract awarded by the First Coast Jobs & Education Regional Board and Goodwill Industries of North Florida will assist welfare recipients in Clay, Putnam, Nassau, Duval and St. John's counties. Lockheed received similar contracts in central Florida and Broward, Polk and Pinellas counties.

Physician Sales & Services (Nasdaq-PSSI) and its Jacksonville subsidiary Diagnostic Imaging have acquired S&W X-Ray of Rochester, N.Y., a radiology and imaging equipment supplier. S&W had $73 million in revenues in '96.

American Heritage Life Insurance, a subsidiary of American Heritage Life Investment (NYSE-AHL), has acquired ERJ Insurance Group of Miami. ERJ will continue to operate under its own name and remain in Miami. Jacksonville-based American Heritage Life Investment has assets of $1.8 billion.

Unison Industries, a Jacksonville-based aircraft engine parts manufacturer, is going through reorganization following its June acquisition of the aerospace electrical division of B.F. Goodrich. Unison will consolidate its non-manufacturing divisions from its plants in Texas, New York and Illinois in Jacksonville. The moves are to bring an undetermined number of new jobs.

Jacksonville University has renamed its newly acquired national business research center the Center for American Free Enterprise. The center was formerly located at the James Madison Institute under the name Center for World Capitalism.