Florida ranks second among the 50 states for having the best business climate, according to a new survey of U.S. corporate executives released at the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) annual conference.
Texas ranked first, Georgia ranked third, followed by South Carolina and North Carolina, respectively.
Conducted by the Development Counsellors International (DCI) every three years, the “Winning Strategies in Economic Development Marketing” survey has tracked trends in economic development since its inception in 1996.
Florida is in the No. 2 spot with 22 percent of the respondents naming it as the state with having the most favorable business climate.
Respondents who named Florida mentioned the state’s pro-business environment, favorable tax climate and its strategic location.
It appears to be all systems go for Macquarie Holdings USA Inc. to expand its financial services offices from the fifth floor onto the fourth floor at Riverplace Tower.
The Mayor’s Budget Review Committee signed off Monday on the introduction of legislation for a city-state incentives package for Macquarie to locate its Corporate Operations Group in Jacksonville and create 50 jobs.
“If we approve this, they are going to do it,” said Office of Economic Development Executive Director Kirk Wendland on Monday.
The unit would be a shared services center that provides human resource and business services to support Macquarie’s global operations.
The 50 jobs would pay an average $56,160 a year, plus benefits, and would be created by year-end.
Macquarie would invest about $1.7 million in tenant improvements, purchase of IT equipment, furniture and fixtures. It would be built within Riverplace Tower on the Downtown Southbank.
Wendland said Macquarie, which was approved in 2015 for incentives to open a finance and accounting shared services facility in Jacksonville, was on track to create the 123 jobs it pledged in that deal to create by the end of this year.
“Macquarie has met or exceeded all the benchmarks associated with their 2015 project,” the summary said.
The city previously reported that Macquarie created 92 positions as of Dec. 31 at an average wage of $82,456. That’s more than the 86 jobs that the city said were required to be created by then — and higher than the projected average wage of $64,356.
The Australia-based financial services company opened in Jacksonville in February 2016 on the fifth floor of the Southbank tower at 1301 Riverplace Blvd. and already had leased the fourth story in anticipation of growth. Now it’s moving into about half of that floor.
A permit application and plans under city review show that Brasfield & Gorrie LLC is the contractor for the $850,000 project to demolish the interior of 8,500 square feet of space.
A company spokesman in New York previously declined comment about the expansion, the number of employees in Jacksonville or plans to hire more.
However, Macquarie Jacksonville jobs posted online recently include positions in tax accounting, financial control, financial accounting, product control, regulatory reporting, compliance analyst and financial analyst.
The global financial-services company started with 60 employees on the fifth floor and anticipated reaching 135 employees this year.
However, the two floors can accommodate 250.
Macquarie executives and city and business leaders announced in July 2015 the company had chosen Jacksonville as a global banking shared-services office.
The team provides finance, accounting, tax and regulatory support and other services to Macquarie functions in the U.S. and in some European markets.
Its U.S. headquarters is in New York and it has offices around the country.
Macquarie initially leased about 17,500 square feet on the fifth floor at Riverplace Tower.
For those first 123 jobs, the City Council approved taxpayer incentives of $393,600, comprising a Qualified Target Industry grant of up to $147,600 and a training grant up to $246,000.
Macquarie also requested $1.37 million from the state, consisting of the QTI match of up to $590,400, a Quick Action Closing Fund up to $500,000 and a Quick Response Training Grant up to $282,900.
Macquarie said for the first incentives that it expected to invest $2.2 million into improving its leased space. Adding in IT, equipment and furniture boosts that to at least $3.1 million.
It has invested more than $3 million into the Riverplace Tower offices.
The service launched Thursday, said David Meyer, chief marketing and strategy officer for St. Vincent’s HealthCare.
Meyer said the service is a continuation of St. Vincent’s goal to expand access to health care services.
“Big picture for us, is to invest in a variety of more convenient, more accessible services that provide health care that better meets the community,” he said.
He said that 70 percent of people that use virtual health care options do not have a primary care physician, meaning that many times if a virtual clinic had not been available, the patient would have went to the emergency room, which is not a desired outcome since the cost structure of ERs are much higher than other options.
That, Meyer said, is also why St. Vincent’s is planning to open at least 10 St. Vincent’s Health Centers around Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia at a cost of $75 million.
“There are a much less costly solution to not only hospitals, but our competitor’s free standing emergency rooms in the market,” he said.
The cost for the virtual clinic is $49.99 to speak with a physician or nurse practitioner. Meyer said that other virtual clinics about 70 percent of people are able to receive care, with just 30 percent needing a referral to another health care provider.
People can receive health care services for a wide range of issues at these virtual clinics including: cough, sore throat, strep throat, eye infections, pink eye, upper respiratory infections, sinusitis and seasonal allergies, rashes and dermatitis, urinary tract infections, fever, colds, flu symptoms, bug bites and stings.
For more information, visit www.jaxhealth.com/services/st-vincents-on-demand-virtual-care/.