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A touch of employment diversity comes to Flagler County

Sara and Tim Hale enjoyed spending their vacations at Hammock Beach in Flagler County, and when they thought about sites for their new technology solutions company, they decided Flagler might be the right spot.

“At that point in time we realized there was an opportunity,” says Sara Hale.

The Hales founded Coastal Cloud in Palm Coast in 2013. Since then, it has grown to 110 employees, with plans to reach 250 in the next three years. The company also has offices in Steamboat Springs, Colo., and Louisville, Ky.

It’s exactly the kind of business that the county would like more of — Flagler’s economy, dominated by residential real estate, has been one-dimensional, and “when the real estate market crashed, Flagler County had all of its eggs basically in the construction industry,” says Helga van Eckert, executive director of the Flagler County Department of Economic Opportunity.

Coming out of the recession, Flagler had the highest unemployment rate in the state, which peaked at 15.2% in December 2009.

Realizing they needed to diversify the economy, county leaders formed the economic development agency in 2011 as a public-private partnership and brought in van Eckert to run it the next year.

As of September, unemployment had fallen to 5.5%, but Coastal Cloud, for the moment, remains an anomaly rather than the harbinger of a trend.

Van Eckert and other leaders are optimistic that they can attract more companies like Coastal Cloud to the area. “There’s a great quality of life. The cost of living is affordable. The community is a great spot,” says Hale.

Sponsored Content

Shenandoah Dairy is undergoing a $6.4-million expansion that includes adding ultra-modern systems for milking, cow comfort and calf care, plus environmentally friendly waste management. The project, which is expected to be completed by Spring 2017, will create 14 direct jobs and 30 indirect jobs. Shenandoah employs about 100 and ships about 33,000 gallons of milk per day, filling 5.5 tankers. “To see how technology is increasing dairy production is amazing,” says Dr. Alvin B. Jackson Jr., Suwannee County economic development director, “and it is happening right here in Suwannee County.” Shenandoah began as a family-run business in 1987. Today, the farm milks 3,250 cows three times a day. An additional 2,500 acres under irrigation provide forage for the cattle.


Promoting Robots

After getting his degree in mechanical engineering, Mark McCombs founded a non-profit three years ago called Renaissance Jax to promote robotics in area schools. The organization is now supporting 2,000 students in 20 counties and working with school teams to compete in FIRST, a national robotics competition. McCombs, the non-profit’s only employee, relies on corporate donations and funding from schools that are involved.

McCombs says he was inspired to help students by his school days in a robotics program. “I’m circling back to all the stuff I’ve been doing for a long time,” he says.


» Mike Schatzlein retired as CEO of St. Vincent’s HealthCare. Schatzlein came to Jacksonville in September 2015 after serving as CEO of another hospital system run by Ascension, St. Thomas Health in Nashville. COO Tom VanOsdol was named interim CEO.

» Nicole Brose became president of Dignity U Wear, a Jacksonvillebased non-profit that provides new clothing for people in need. Brose was development director for First Coast No More Homeless Pets.

Business Briefs

ALACHUA — Coqui RadioPharmaceuticals dropped plans to build a $250-million manufacturing facility with 164 jobs, and will instead build the plant in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Coqui produces radioisotopes for a range of diagnostic and treatment options. Biotech company CTD Holdings is moving its headquarters to Jupiter. The company will take 51 jobs to Palm Beach County and will leave only four workers at its previous headquarters site in Alachua. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases awarded Nanotherapeutics a 10-year contract of up to $159.4 million for advanced biologics manufacturing services. Nanotherapeutics will support the institute’s research to develop a range of therapeutics and diagnostics.

CLAY COUNTY — The Clay County Economic Development Corp. received an $89,000 state defense grant to strengthen and diversify the area’s non-defense economy while promoting its military training operations. The county will use some of the money for its strategic plan to raise the visibility of area amenities.

JACKSONVILLE — Trucking and logistics company Sunteck Transport Group is merging with a Dallas-based company to form Sunteck/TTS Holdings, which will have nearly $1 billion in annual revenue. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Bacardi, whose logo includes the image of a bat, is building bat habitats at its rum bottling plant in Jacksonville. The three caves can hold up to 500 bats and are being built with the Lubee Bat Conservancy to fight habitat depletion. Online sports merchandise retailer Fanatics reached an agreement with the National Hockey League to manufacture and sell official league merchandise. Fanatics is also partnering with Under Armour in a deal to sell Major League Baseball jerseys. Convenience store operator Gate Petroleum is introducing a line of freestanding car washes. The company identified seven initial sites with plans to develop more than 20 locations in northeast Florida. UPS plans a $196-million expansion of its package distribution center, adding 264,000 square feet for a total of 800,000 square feet on 130 acres. Jacksonville’s Southern League baseball team, which has operated as the Suns for most of the last half-century, is changing its name to the Jumbo Shrimp. The name “celebrates Jacksonville as a big small town,” the team says. Horizon Terminals opened its 27-acre terminal at Jacksonville’s port. The company expects to move 80,000 automobiles through the port in 2017. ARC Group, franchisor of the Dick’s Wings restaurant chain, is altering its corporate strategy and buying two of its 24 restaurant locations. The company will focus on a combination of corporate-owned and franchised restaurants. Campers Inn is moving its headquarters from New Hampshire to Jacksonville with the help of $132,000 in city and state incentives. The operator of RV dealerships is creating 22 jobs with the move.

PONTE VEDRA — Advanced Disposal Services sold 22.1 million shares at $18 each in its initial public offering. The waste management services company had tried to go public in February but delayed the stock sale because of poor market conditions. Advanced Disposal will use the $374 million in proceeds to pay off debt. The PGA Tour said its Players Championship golf tournament generated a record $8.5 million for local charities in 2016.

ST. AUGUSTINE — St. Johns County commissioners approved $426,141 in incentives for beer distributor Burkhardt Distributing to build a 113,000-sq.-ft. headquarters and warehouse facility. Burkhardt has operated in the county since 1989 and will have 90 employees when the facility is completed.