It’s no secret that employers are looking for young talent to fill jobs in the workplace, regardless of target industry. And, as quality of place becomes a top consideration for millennial and upcoming Gen Z talent, in some cases, more so than the job opportunity itself, cities are in fierce competition for this type of worker.
Count Jacksonville as a competitor to watch. Personal finance firm, SmartAsset’s recent report rated Jacksonville as the #5 most popular city to which millennials are moving. The Northeast Florida city of nearly 900,000 was the only Florida city to be listed in the report. The data was cultivated from the U.S. Census Bureau showing the number of people between ages 20 and 34 who moved to the city. In Jacksonville, the net migration was more than 6,350, less than 200 millennials from the #4 spot.
Reasons cited in the study for Jacksonville to be a hot spot is the state’s zero income tax environment and that Jacksonville residents are some of the least taxed in the country.
I specialize in financial services and work directly with companies to showcase the region to attract jobs and capital investment. I also lead our regional strategic planning efforts and oversee our marketing, research and investor relations teams.
I stumbled into economic development through an internship while I was in college in Hamilton, Ohio. It’s been just over 23 years. I moved here 16 years ago and met this guy named Jerry Mallot (the retiring president of JAXUSA Partnership) and I’ve been at the Jacksonville chamber ever since.
I love showcasing the region to someone who’s never been here or thinks they know Jacksonville but really don’t. Just watching them be amazed by what they didn’t know about Jacksonville is the best part.
Everything’s driven by talent these days, so a lot of our research and time is spent really digging into a project and understanding what they’re looking for and demonstrating that we have the capacity to meet that need. The way we shine is by introducing them to companies that are successful. They may not be direct competitors but at least are similar so they can relate to their experiences.
Although we promote the entire Northeast Florida region, Downtown is our showpiece. That experience of being able to bring people Downtown and have them feel the vibrancy that we all so want for Downtown will be a turning point for the whole region.
There are some great people stepping forward to make investments Downtown that are already familiar with the area. When we hit the radar of investors from the outside, that’s the turning point.
I have two teenage boys. My fun involves a lot of attending their lacrosse and basketball games in various gyms and fields across the region. We love to travel, so every year I take them on what I call an “epic trip.” We went to Breckenridge this year – I went skiing, they went snowboarding. We’ve gone on cruises, to New York, D.C. We’re working on the next plans. We have fun planning together.
I try to read, that’s my quiet time. I don’t have one favorite author. I have a book club. I read books about interesting people whose lives are nothing like mine.
My parents live a couple of miles from me. They moved down from St. Louis about seven or eight years ago. That’s been great. I wanted to be a teacher at first – my mom was a teacher and guidance counselor – and then I moved on. When I went to college I wanted to go to law school. I could have found a very interesting law path, I’m sure.
Law school would have been great, but looking at the hours and the lifestyle, this has been a lot more fun. What I love about this work is no two days are ever the same, and no two companies are ever the same, and no projects are ever the same. The variety and the people are what make it so special. So far, I’m having fun. As long as I’m having fun, I’m going to stick with this.
About Cathy Chambers
Title: Senior vice president, Strategy & Business Development
Organization: JAXUSA Partnership, the economic development division of the JAX Chamber
Education: Bachelor of Arts, Public Administration, Miami University, Ohio; MBA, Xavier University;
Family: Sons Luke, 14, and Nathan, 12, and dog Kobe
Hometown: St. Louis
Hobbies: Travel, reading
According to a recent Brookings Institution report on innovation and placemaking, employment hubs in downtown cores that drive universities, venture capitalists and investors, firms, entrepreneurs, research labs and independent creators are strengthened by geographic proximity to one another. These hubs – known as innovation districts – are key drivers of economic development and talent attraction and retention for cities.
Universities supply valuable research, innovation and future workforce that spur growth for communities, existing companies and startups building on existing urban assets and infrastructure for a healthy economy.
Following suit, higher education is playing a significant role in the economic revitalization of downtown Jacksonville. Three Northeast Florida colleges – Florida State College of Jacksonville (FSCJ), Jacksonville University (JU) and University of North Florida (UNF) – have expanded their offerings in the city’s urban core and are committed to supporting workforce development in the region.
As Maria Pellegrino-Yokitis, JU’s director of Planned Giving stated at a recent symposium on the growing trend of downtown higher education presence, “The health of any great city is dependent on a thriving downtown campus. Our downtown is filled with great leaders and great businesses and we want to be part of that energy.”
JU found many of its students were already residents in the urban core due its proximity to its main Arlington campus across the St. Johns River from downtown. As a result, the university, which has also been involved in community renewal and revitalization in Arlington, wanted to reengage its presence downtown.
Providing undergraduate and post-graduate courses for students at the SunTrust Tower on South Laura Street, JU’s downtown campus is aimed primarily at working adults enrolled in professional programs, offering high-quality university education unconstrained by bricks and mortar, geographic proximity or traditional classroom hours. Coursework is also available for traditional students. The downtown campus has been so popular that the university is planning future expansion.
As an innovation district, downtowns are viewed as hotbeds for startups and entrepreneurship. UNF is setting up classrooms and opening its Center for Entrepreneurship on two floors of the Barnett Bank building that is being restored downtown.
Projected to open in January 2019, UNF will offer master-level classes along with opening the entrepreneurship-focused center, which is expected to bring together all colleges at UNF to give up-and-coming entrepreneurs from all disciplines a place to test their ideas through the initial vetting stage. It will also give UNF students a chance to work side-by-side with already successful entrepreneurs in the market.
“The goal is to create and build a thriving ecosystem that supports entrepreneurs and helps them pursue and achieve success in Jacksonville and North Florida by connecting ideas with a support structure of talent, expertise and capital,” said Dean Mark Dawkins of UNF’s Coggin College of Business.
Innovation also thrives in downtown universities in areas of the creative space. FSCJ recently opened its culinary arts café in the historic Lerner Building on West Adams Street. The student- and staff-operated farm-to-table restaurant, 20 West, which opened to the public earlier this year, showcases FSCJ students’ culinary talents and provides valuable real-world learning opportunities through the college’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality program.
In addition to the restaurant educational experience, the school is also in the process of renovating the five floors above the restaurant to provide downtown housing for students at any of the school’s campuses. FSCJ’s commitment to downtown’s revitalization efforts by expanding its downtown presence is tactical for both the students and the city’s economic health.
“FSCJ’s Downtown Immersion effort was inspired by the desire to provide a more inclusive and comprehensive experience for our students, while contributing to economic development,” said Marie Foster Gnage, FSCJ’s VP of institutional effectiveness.
Downtown revitalization and economic development is driven by the strategic interplay between FSCJ, JU, UNF and the Northeast Florida business community. Their partnership and commitment demonstrates the positive impact of higher education in the urban core.
Rulon International, a manufacturer that specializes in making acoustic ceilings and wood wall panels, announced its plans to create 20 new jobs and expand its current building at World Commerce Center in St. Augustine, according to an article in The Daily Record. The new addition would add 27,000-square-feet to its 85,000-square-foot building to begin construction next month.
The company, which relocated its operations from Pennsylvania in 2006, has doubled its employee count since its entry into the Northeast Florida market.The addition of 20 more jobs is only the beginning, according to Rulon International President and CEO, Wayne Robison, who said “we expect to keep growing.”
According to Robison, he said “the company looked at four states when it was planning to move, and concluded that St. Augustine was the best fit because the leaders at Rulon liked the area and thought it would be a good place to do business and attract employees.”
Over the first five months of 2018, Jacksonville International Airport (JIA) has been in the news. Earlier this year, JIA announced its accolade of being ranked North America’s #1 airport for customer service according to customer surveys conducted by Airports Council International for the second year in a row; followed by news of two new nonstop flights on Allegiant to previously unrepresented cities of Louisville, Ky. and Norfolk, Va.; and the most recent announcement of six new destinations to be served by Frontier Airlines according to Jacksonville Business Journal five of which are new destinations for JIA.
Ultra-low-cost carriers (ULCCs) are not the only airlines expanding at JIA. Southwest recently invested in a new route to Fort Lauderdale and United service to Denver began in April. The airlift schedule for June represents a substantial increase in service over 2017 with a 17.3 percent YOY growth in flights and 15.8 percent in seats. This is good news for the JAX region, its residents and businesses.
Once today’s announced flights begin service in August, travel to 40 different airports in North America can be reached nonstop to/from Jacksonville. Those cities are:
- Chicago (O’Hare and Midway)
- Dallas (Dallas-Fort Worth and Dallas Love)
- Fort Lauderdale
- Houston (George Bush Intercontinental and Houston Hobby)
- Kansas City
- Las Vegas
- Marsh Harbour, Bahamas
- New York (JFK and LaGuardia)
- St. Louis (Lambert and Belleville)
- Washington, DC (Dulles and Reagan)
Karen Brune Mathis speaks with JAXUSA Partnership President Jerry Mallot on First Coast Connect to reflect on his 24-year tenure as the leader of economic development in Northeast Florida. In the segment, Jerry talks about highlights in his career, challenges and what sets us apart.
Whether its the biggest deals of Fidelity National Financial, which as Jerry states was the most impactful with community investment, high-wage jobs and stature (950 jobs and $93 million in capital investment) or Amazon with the largest number of jobs at what will be 5,000 jobs for Northeast Florida workers, Jerry credits a smart and manageable growth plan that has kept our economy vibrant, people employed and our tax base thriving.