Florida Trend | Florida's Business Authority

Pulling Rank

While it’s no surprise that Miami tops the list of the best U.S. cities for foreign businesses in the inaugural Investing in America ranking from the Financial Times and Nikkei, it may be surprising to learn that Jacksonville ranked No. 8, three spots higher than Tampa but a few notches below Orlando at No. 2.

Jacksonville scored 66 out of 100 overall, compared to 71 for Miami. It received a perfect score of 100 for after-care, which measures the degree of support foreign companies get after they make an investment. It earned an 85 for business environment, which includes taxes and incentives as well as other costs of doing business.

Jacksonville scored less favorably for openness (48) and workforce and talent (52).

Economic experts in Jacksonville think the city’s ranking was not as surprising as it may be to those outside of the First Coast.

“It’s not very surprising to see Jacksonville’s ranking because of the hard work that has been done over the years to develop international business relationships and to promote foreign direct investment,” says Douglas L. Johansen, director of international programs and associate professor of marketing and international business at the Davis College of Business at Jacksonville University.

There are more than 100 large foreign companies with headquarters in the Jacksonville region that employ about 17,000, says Aundra Wallace, president of the JAXUSA Partnership, the economic development division of the JAX Chamber. Firms such as Embraer, Saft and Deutsche Bank along with PaySafe’s North American headquarters, which will create 600 jobs over three years, have set up shop in Jacksonville.

Delegations of business, community and government leaders from Northeast Florida have been active during special events, such as London Fintech Week, Farnborough Airshow in the U.K. and the Paris Air Show to build business relationships and recruit companies to Jacksonville, Wallace says.

In addition to quality of life and lowered costs, Jacksonville’s location and infrastructure also have made it attractive for foreign companies, he adds.