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O2O - connecting the Ocala and Osceola national forests

SPOTLIGHT

‘The Biggest Impact’

When President Jim McCarthy joined the North Florida Land Trust in 2014, the non-profit conservation organization had a $233,000 budget and a staff of three. In seven years, the trust has grown to 14 full-time employees and a budget of $8 million — and has secured protection for more than 25,000 acres.

“The secret to that (success) is finding really good people,” McCarthy says. “But, we have also stayed focused on where we could have the biggest impact.”

The organization achieves its mission of preserving the natural resources, historic places and working lands of North Florida by purchasing or receiving donations of land, as well as by helping public agencies with real estate transactions.

The land trust’s largest project, the Ocala to Osceola (O2O) Conservation Corridor is a 1.6-million-acre wildlife corridor that connects the Ocala and Osceola national forests.

Other recent projects have included the Bogey Creek Expansion, a 75-acre publicly accessible park in the Pumpkin Hill neighborhood of north Jacksonville, and the Ride Out Point Acquisition, a 578-acre preservation area on Black Creek in Clay County.

AEROSPACE

  • Jacksonville-based architecture, engineering and construction firm Haskell has been chosen to build a headquarters and production facility at Orlando Melbourne International Airport for Aerion, a Nevada-based aircraft manufacturer of the AS2 supersonic business jet.

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

  • The Jacksonville Veterans Chamber of Commerce launched in January. The organization is open to veterans, service members and their families.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

  • The Jacksonville City Council voted against investing $245 million in the Lot J Project. Proposed by Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s Gecko Investments and Cordish Cos., the project called for creating an entertainment district across from TIAA Bank Field.

EDUCATION

  • Cliff Stearns donated $270,000 to the College of Central Florida Foundation to support an annual speaker series at the college’s Learning Resources Center. An Ocala resident, Steams served in Congress from 1989 to 2013.
  • Alumni Linda and Ken McGurn donated $2 million to the University of Florida to establish the McGurn Fellowship Program for Media Integrity and the Fight Against Disinformation. The program will recruit expert lecturers and professors to research and teach the origin and solutions for public disinformation, aiming to boost trust in media, society and government.

ENERGY

  • The Jacksonville Electric Authority halted its search for a master developer of a 2,000-acre park northwest of JaxPort’s Blount Island Marine Terminal and near the St. Johns River. Plans for JEA to partner with JaxPort on the development were halted in September 2020.

HEALTH CARE

  • The mental health and substance abuse facility Transformations at Mending Fences opened in January in Marion County. The facility includes equine therapy, experiential adventure therapy and art therapy in its other clinical offerings.
  • Construction has begun on Brooks Rehabilitation’s Bartram Park inpatient hospital. The 60-bed hospital will be built on the rehabilitation center’s 115-acre campus.
  • Vet Comp & Pen Medical Consulting has named Rich Blaser co- CEO. Blaser was a co-founder of Infinite Energy and co-CEO for 26 years.
  • AdventHealth plans to build a 100-bed, $10-million hospital in Palm Coast.

REAL ESTATE

  • Jacksonville-based home builders Dream Finders Homes filed plans with the SEC to become a publicly traded company.

RETAIL

  • VidaCann, a medical cannabis provider, opened its first Gainesville location.
  • PetGuard, a pet food product and supplies producer in Green Cove Springs, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

SPORTS BUSINESS

  • Work has begun on the first phase of the Frank DeLuca YMCA Sportsplex expansion in Ocala.
  • Alachua County commissioners signed off on a sports events center that will include 13 basketball courts, 26 volleyball courts and an indoor track.

TRANPORTATION

  • Silver Airways began service at Jacksonville International Airport to Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in South Carolina. The twice weekly flight will operate on Mondays and Fridays.
  • JZ Expedited Trucking plans to develop 45 acres near the St. Johns River in Jacksonville. The property will include 1 million square feet of storage space.

COVID-19 UPDATE

  • The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance has been postponed until May 20-23. Typically held in March at the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island, the classic car show has raised $3.75 million for Community Hospice of Northeast Florida since the event began in 1996.
  • The Hyatt Regency Riverfront was fully booked in the first three months of this year. The downtown Jacksonville hotel was awarded an $8.3-million contract to isolate U.S. Marine Corps recruits for 14 days before they’re transported to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina. The contract can be extended until July 11.
  • For the second consecutive year, the Florida and Florida State annual rivalry baseball game in Jacksonville has been canceled.

 

Read more in Florida Trend's April issue.
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