The Daytona Beach News-Journal sits down with JAXUSA Partnership President Jerry Mallot to discuss Flagler County’s economic opportunity.
With the U.S. economy showing more signs of sustainable growth and a tax reform package set to energize business development, the outlook for economic growth in the Sunshine State is bright. Beyond local efforts, Flagler County is also a member of the JAXUSA Partnership, a group of seven Northeast Florida counties aligned to promote development in the region. For a look at what this means for economic development here and in the region, Jerry Mallot, JAXUSA president, offers the local spin.
What are the implications of tax reform for the regional economy?
It gives us a competitive advantage beyond what we have had in the past. There are a number of folks who are going to see our lack of an income tax as more of a spur then they did before since they lost deductibility in a number of states around the country. I think that might be particularly true for businesses that are family owned but I don’t think it will stop there. I just think it gives us another edge. We still have to be competitive in what we do but now we have an added advantage.
Infrastructure is getting a lot of attention in Washington D.C. right now. What are the pressing needs in northeast Florida?
There are always needs but I would tell you that northeast Florida has been able to attract four or five billion dollars worth of road development funds from state and federal sources over the last few years. That allows us to get ahead of the work. We’ve seen a lot of construction on Interstate 95 and other projects so we’re in much better shape, frankly, than most places in the country. We will always have needs, but I think the biggest challenges in infrastructure are in the northern part of the country.
How does Flagler County fit into the northeast Florida region economically?
Flagler has a unique role. It is very new in a lot of respects. It has a huge quality of life in the developments along the ocean and even west of 95. It’s kind of a very bright spot and has a great reputation, so I think that’s some of the things that make it unique and interesting. What we need more of in Flagler is available existing buildings and that is not an easy thing to do because somebody has to take the risk. But I think Flagler is quite well positioned and not just in its relationship north up to Jacksonville but south to Daytona and over to Orlando. It’s a sweet spot.
What is your outlook for the region?
I think it’s very good. I don’t see any clouds ahead. I listened to an economist the other day who said whether we like it or not sometimes there needs to be a recession, but he can’t see any reason why it would occur anytime in the near future.
Flying to or from Jacksonville International Airport? Anxiety and frustration certainly won’t be symptoms of the travel experience as an article in Jacksonville Business Journal highlights its #1 ranking for customer service for the second straight year. The designation, awarded by Airports Council International and voted on by customers at nearly 350 airports, measure check-in, security, ease of directions, food and beverage options and more.
JIA CEO Steve Grossman recognized that each airport employee plays a role in the experience “whether [they are] an airline employee, custodial staff or a restaurant server,” adding that through the insight obtained by customers who fly in and out of JIA provides “a roadmap for future improvements.”
The popularity of the region as a destination for business or pleasure is being recognized by the airlines as well. In the last six months, airlines have announced new and expanded routes between JIA and Chicago O’Hare, Philadelphia, Denver, Cincinnati, Austin and Trenton, NJ.
Kamara, a natural stone company located in the Republic of Georgia, has chosen Flagler County as its first venture in the U.S. market. Kamara Stone US is an official distributor of Kamara and Flagler County will be its first expansion point in the United States.
The company offers high-quality natural stone products to countries around the world. Kamara owns four quarries in The Republic of Georgia in which their excavation and processing is completed.
An initial capital investment of $1.5 million from Kamara will seek to open a distribution center in Flagler County. The importation of natural stone from the Republic of Georgia will come through the Port of Jacksonville.
“The plan over the next 2-3 years is to not only do the importing, but also do the design, creation and sculpting,” stated Helga van Eckert, Executive Director for the Flagler County EDC, describing that Kamara would start with distribution to prove the market and later expand to include manufacturing of its products.
Kamara intends to create 10 new jobs each year for three years with an annual economic impact of $1.8 million.
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.