Time to Get Some Swagger when Selling Jacksonville


Aaron Bowman, senior vice president for business development for the JAXUSA Partnership, sees a lot of positive factors to attract businesses to Northeast Florida. He wants business people in the region to also feel positive about it. "We need to brand Jacksonville and we need to get some swagger," Bowman said Tuesday at a luncheon meeting of the JAX Chamber's South Council at the Jacksonville Golf and Country Club.

Bowman provided the members with JAXUSA Partnership's list of the "top selling points for the region," which consists of the five-county metropolitan area, plus Flagler and Putnam counties.

Even on a bad weather day in Jacksonville, Bowman touted the climate and quality of life as one selling point for the area. He said the Northeast Florida lifestyle is an incentive to recruit and retain workers, particularly young people who don't see a need to stay close to their birthplace.

"They are looking for an active lifestyle and they're not finding it in the Northeast," he said.

Bowman also said the climate is attractive in the competitive aviation industry, since much of the work needs to be done outdoors.

"How would you like to be working on an airplane in Minneapolis right now?" he said.

Jacksonville is already strong in the aviation industry, particularly with companies like Flightstar Aircraft Services Inc. and others expanding at Cecil Field.

"If you haven't seen what's going on in aviation, it's actually very exciting," Bowman said.

Health care is another attraction for Jacksonville, he said.

"You would not believe the draw that Mayo Clinic is," he said.

Beyond health care providers, Bowman said Jacksonville has a thriving biosciences industry with major medical manufacturers like Vistakon, which makes contact lenses, and Medtronic, which makes surgical instruments in Jacksonville.

JAXUSA Partnership, the economic development division of the JAX Chamber, helped bring in 23 projects with 3,766 jobs in 2013, Bowman said, and it is looking to bring in 3,500 new jobs this year. He said there are 75 "qualified prospects" looking at the region.

Bowman, a retired U.S. Navy officer who was commander of Naval Air Station Mayport, said plans to deepen the Jacksonville port are needed "to maintain our competitive edge" in the logistics and foreign trade market. He also thinks it's important "to keep Downtown thriving" to attract businesses.

He said Jacksonville is getting a lot of support from elected officials. Gov. Rick Scott, Mayor Alvin Brown and the Jacksonville City Council are all "pro business," he said.

"We've got all the planets aligned right now of people wanting to help," he said.

By Mark Basch