When looking across the United States at regional areas that serve as major drivers of industrial growth and overall economic prosperity, the city of Jacksonville and its surrounding counties are often (unfairly) left off the list. While it has long operated in the shadow of major metropolitan areas like New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago, Jacksonville’s neglectful status isn’t due to a lack of business or residential population, but rather simple ignorance.
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In fact, the city, which is by far the largest in Florida and stands as the 12th most populous in the nation with more than 870,000 inhabitants, is perhaps one of the United States’ most budding engines of economy, with a diverse set of global industry leaders leveraging its vast amount of modern facilities and dynamic local talent to facilitate major levels of success for their business.
But it wasn’t always like this, and one of the main players in building up the city’s economic prowess is JAXUSA Partnership, a nonprofit division of the JAX Chamber founded back in 1990 with a complete focus on developing the city’s economy by attracting new businesses and helping local ones expand and grow even further. “Over the last 25 years, the city of Jacksonville has undergone an amazing evolution—one that is still ongoing—and it’s been a pleasure to play a role in such and watch the city and its surrounding counties continuously elevate themselves to new levels of success,” says Jerry Mallot, president of JAXUSA Partnership and executive vice president of JAX Chamber.
Covering seven counties (Baker County, Clay County, Duval County, Flagler County, Nassau County, Putnam County, and St. Johns County) in addition to, JAXUSA has spent the last 25 years assisting the many businesses within this area build a much more dynamic economic environment. “As an organization, our specific goals change over time, but overall it’s our mission to drive business development, enrich the city’s identity, consistently attract talent, improve public policy, and facilitate entrepreneurial growth no matter the size of business,” Mallot says.
While one can find an abundance of industry diversity in Jacksonville, he says there are specific sectors that their organization strategically targets to attract and grow. “When discussing our goals for the industrial makeup of the city, we want to make sure that everything is done purposefully and in line with what we feel are not only in the city’s best interests presently, but down the road in the future as well.”
The industries that JAXUSA focuses on are Financial Services (including professional services), Health and Life Sciences (including health care technology), Logistics (including Supply Chain Management and IT), Aviation and Aerospace, Advanced Manufacturing, and Information Technology. “Amongst these industries we have seen an abundance of investment and growth over the years, but furthermore, when you look at their makeup, it’s evident that there is quite a bit of service crossover between them that really makes for the dynamic business environment we had originally hoped to cultivate.”
However, what’s most impressive about Jacksonville’s diverse economic setting is that not only has it become a major hub for some of the world’s most impactful and influential industries with respect to the overall global market, but also the city’s ability and capacity to lure the biggest players within such sectors to come in and establish major operations.
Let’s look at a few examples, beginning with Deutsche Bank, the major German-based global banking and financial services company who chose Jacksonville over cities like New York and other major U.S. cities for what has now grown to a 2,100 employee plus operation. Then there’s Saft, the world’s largest manufacturer of lithium ion batteries who runs a $200 million facility within the city’s Cecil Commerce Center. The city is also the U.S. headquarters for Adecco, the world’s largest staffing agency, and Healogics, the world’s most expansive provider and operator of serious wound care centers. Still haven’t heard enough? “Beyond that we are the location for major production centers run by Embraer and Northrop Grumman, and just this year wrapped up a $300 million deal with johnson and johnson for their vision care enterprise,” says Gabrielle Bryan, Director of Marketing for JAXUSA, who adds “Additionally, we were recently selected from crowded fields to serve as a location for both the prestigious Australian financial firm, Macquarie Group, and GE Oil and Gas.”
It’s all there, and while many underestimate Jacksonville as a city and potential business location, it’s clear that those leading global industries do not. And while investment continues to pour in from the outside, the city is also strengthening its foundation from the inside as well. Mallot points to local business leaders like Shad Khan, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who recently pledged a billion dollars to revitalize the city’s downtown shipyards area, which will include new offices, shops, entertainment centers, and residential areas to create an even more lively and bustling environment. “Jacksonville is already a wonderful area to not only do business in but live as well, and the investments made by Mr. Shad Khan and others strengthen what we feel is a city that delivers on every level—from a talented local workforce to recruit from and a low cost of doing business, to an energetic downtown and overall high quality of life.”
If the present day Jacksonville is exciting, the future is perhaps even brighter. “As previously stated, we are constantly looking for new ways to improve our city, and through our five-year strategic planning process between the Northeast Florida Regional Council and our regional chamber called Innovate Northeast Florida, we are continuing to see investment pour in from all over,” says Bryan.
Mallot concludes that while the Jacksonville he knew 25 years ago is unrecognizable compared to today, with the city’s economy and growth of business exploding in recent years, it could very well continue it’s rapid evolution into one of the premium business destinations not only in the United States, but in the entire world.
As president of JAXUSA Partnership and executive vice president of JAX Chamber, Jerry oversees the strategy for economic development in Northeast Florida. He directs a staff of 14 in the areas of business development, marketing, business expansion, workforce development and business intelligence. Considered one of the top 50 economic developers in the country, Jerry focuses on the expansion and relocation of headquarters to the Jacksonville region and supports the team on larger projects.
Gabrielle serves as the director of marketing. She has spent more than seven years marketing the Jacksonville region to corporate decision-makers and site consultants around the world. She also has worked with companies such as Deutsche Bank, Saft, Embraer, Web.com and Medtronic to promote their growth and expansion in the region. Her other responsibilities include social media, advertising and public relations.