Republican National Convention Showcases Jacksonville’s “Open For Business” Mentality

Preparations are underway in the Jacksonville region for the 2020 Republican National Convention. Jacksonville was selected to host the celebratory aspects of the convention, highlighted by President Donald Trump’s acceptance of the party’s nomination in Jacksonville’s VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.

The convention is estimated to have an economic impact of $100 million, but it will show value to the region long after the convention is gone. Tens of thousands of people from across the country will not only have the opportunity to experience Northeast Florida’s quality of life, business-friendly environment and talent-rich workforce but see the Jacksonville region as a viable destination for business growth and expansion.

The RNC mentioned Jacksonville’s strong interest in hosting the convention and willingness to support an event of this scale as key determinants in their selection process. Jacksonville was the first city to host a major sporting event since the start of the pandemic – UFC 249 in May – which brought to the forefront the region’s ability to move quickly and support high impact events.

With a seven-county region and an infrastructure able to support the influx of visitors, Jacksonville is well suited to play host to one of the key events on this year’s political calendar. To date, city officials have secured more than 10,000 hotel rooms across the Jacksonville metropolitan area and are coordinating with lodging, event and entertainment properties throughout Northeast Florida.

Even with the influx of people to the region for the event, Jacksonville is prepared to provide a safe environment for both visitors and convention participants. As one of the first areas in the country to open back up safely, Jacksonville is well on pace in its return to normal.

The selection of Jacksonville as a host city for the Republican National Convention shows that Jacksonville is open for business and dedicated to helping organizations of all shapes and sizes move forward.

JAXUSA Leads Business Recruitment Efforts in United Kingdom

A delegation comprised of Jacksonville city officials, business leaders and staff from JAXUSA Partnership and JAX Chamber is embarking on the 7th annual economic development mission to the United Kingdom.

The mission will further strengthen Jacksonville’s international ties and increase economic development prospects and relationships. It coincides with the annual home game for the Jacksonville Jaguars at London’s Wembley Stadium on Nov. 3.

During the trade mission, the team will tour facilities and meet with companies in the financial services/fintech, logistics, maritime and IT & innovation sectors. These industries continue to be targets for the Jacksonville region due to our available skilled talent, infrastructure and competitive business structure.

The delegation will build on Jacksonville’s growing fintech reputation through its new partnership with Innovate Finance, an association that serves as the connection and hub of the UK’s global fintech community, by learning additional ways to connect, collaborate and work closer with UK fintech companies.

A recent success in Jacksonville’s fintech industry includes the acquisition of UK-based WorldPay by Jacksonville-based fintech firm FIS, a Fortune 500 company and the largest fintech company in the world based on revenue and a leader in payment processing, financial software and banking solutions.

London has become a second home for the Jacksonville Jaguars as the team has had a presence in the United Kingdom since 2013, playing a home game in Wembley Stadium annually. Both Jaguars owner Shad Khan and the City of Jacksonville are committed to the UK for economic development growth opportunities.

Financial Talent Pool Reaffirms Macquarie’s Decision on Jacksonville

Jacksonville’s reputation as an international banking and financial powerhouse is growing as more companies seek the area’s lower cost of living compared to traditional markets and the more than 60,000 – and growing – employees that work in the region’s financial services industry.

Shemara Wikramanayake, CEO of Australian-based Macquarie Group, one of the region’s leading financial services companies, recently toured Jacksonville’s global office to showcase the company’s expanded operations. She was a member of Macquarie’s executive committee in 2015 that decided to establish a global financial services office in Jacksonville due to the city’s strong financial services presence and available talent pool.

Macquarie has been so impressed with the Northeast Florida workforce that the company has expanded well beyond its initial agreement with the city to create 123 jobs.

Now, the office has grown to more than 270 employees, growing by 38 percent in the past year alone, with 85 percent of the workers hired locally. The company has hired graduates from the University of North Florida and Jacksonville University and offered internships to students. It is also working with the institutions on workforce development programs.

Although most of the employees were hired locally, the company proudly displays a global map with pins showing the workers came to Jacksonville from 27 countries.

“It’s a very diverse workforce,” said Wikramanayake, who said 58 percent of the top-level managers in the Jacksonville office are female and a majority of the staff are women.

Besides the quality of the labor pool, Wikramanayake said other factors influencing Macquarie’s decision to open the office included the region’s attractive lifestyle and that “it was in the right time zone” to support the company’s operations.

Macquarie has 2,800 U.S. employees in 22 locations, and it expects to continue to expand the Jacksonville office. Since opening with finance functions, the Jacksonville office has added staff for other operations including risk management, human resources and information technology.

For more information, read the article in Jacksonville Daily Record.

Growth in Jacksonville’s FTZ No. 64 Benefits More Businesses with International Ties

Jacksonville FTZ 64

By John Freeman

Tariffs represent a hot topic in America’s business community, and many are wondering if Foreign-Trade Zone (FTZ) status can positively impact the national tariffs’ effects on business. It’s an issue that’s being closely watched.

In some cases, like tariffs on steel and aluminum, the final product is not subject to additional duties beyond those assessed on the imported materials. In other instances, such as the prospective tariffs on Chinese imports, additional tariffs could be assessed on items manufactured in an FTZ because of the way the trade action is written.

The National Association of Foreign-Trade Zones (NAFTZ) is advocating to manage tariffs in a way that would mitigate additional duties for FTZ stakeholders and keep U.S. companies globally competitive. A 2018 NAFTZ study concluded FTZs have a positive impact on employment growth, wage growth and value-added growth in the American communities in which they are located, compared to similar communities without FTZs.

Ironically, the creation of FTZs came in response to tariffs. In the 1930s, the Smoot-Hawley Act put large tariffs or taxes on imports to the United States. While the U.S. lawmakers, Sen. Reed Smoot and Rep. Willis Hawley, had good intentions and wanted to protect American manufacturers from a flood of foreign goods, most economists believe it made the Great Depression even worse.

For those involved in international trade, FTZs offer many economic benefits. They can save companies millions of dollars and strengthen their global competitiveness. As FTZs are essentially the U.S. version of free-trade zones, benefiting companies can bring imported merchandise into an FTZ-approved facility without paying duties and taxes since it is legally outside of U.S. Customs’ territory. These costs are not due until the product leaves the facility and enters the U.S. market, increasing cash flow and giving companies more flexibility.

If a product is exported directly from an FTZ, these goods may be re-exported without paying duties and with substantially lower customs fees. Companies within the FTZ may also benefit financially from the Merchandise Processing Fee savings weekly filings of customs entries, as opposed to being daily filings as required outside of the foreign trade zone.

In Jacksonville, Florida, FTZ No. 64 is an important part of the local economy. With the recent addition of Flagler County, FTZ No. 64 encompasses nine Northeast Florida counties including all seven counties within JAXUSA Partnership’s region. Of the 21 foreign trade zones in Florida, FTZ No. 64 is the largest in the state extending more than 5,000 square miles and more than 130 million square feet of distribution center and warehousing space within close proximity to JAXPORT.

JAXPORT serves as the administrating agency for all users within FTZ No.64, which operates under the alternative site framework, which can cut a lot of red tape and has less acreage restrictions.

Alternative site framework reduces the approval time, which can save a company money since they will be able to access the savings associated with an FTZ sooner. Storage and distribution sites can be approved as quickly as within 30 days; manufacturing and processing plants can be approved within 120 days or less.

Some of the best industrial land sites are available within FTZ No. 64. Importing and exporting companies that have benefitted from Jacksonville’s FTZ include APR Energy, Bacardi Bottling Corp. and Suddath, among others.

While an FTZ has the potential to save companies a lot of money on duties and fees, there are costs associated with applying for and running an FTZ. It’s not right for every business, therefore a cost/benefit analysis is needed to determine the return on investment.

The first step for companies interested in accessing FTZ No. 64 is to reach out to JAXPORT. As administrator of FTZ No. 64, JAXPORT has a dedicated FTZ administrator and a team with more than 15 years of experience working with FTZ processes. The port’s team provides the advantage of working with an experienced consultant who is available to answer questions and advise companies on whether an FTZ is a good fit.

International trade is a powerful driver of economic growth in Northeast Florida and businesses can enjoy immense benefits in an FTZ. Some have reduced their expenses by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Companies also can move goods more easily, generating additional revenue and profit, adding to their competitive advantage.

John Freeman is Director, Business Development and Global Cities Initiative for JAXUSA Partnership, the Jacksonville regional economic development agency for the seven counties of Northeast Florida.

Winning on Business Recruitment

Positive momentum in the recruitment of worldwide businesses is occurring in Jacksonville. More and more companies are discovering our region’s distinguishing strengths and assets that enable their operations to grow and be successful.

In a recent article, JAXUSA Partnership President Aundra Wallace highlighted a few of the characteristics and aspects that attract companies to our area as they discover Jacksonville is an ideal location for relocation or expansion.

All target industries are experiencing growth, but especially our IT & innovation career fields, particularly those areas related to data security and analytics. Companies and workers value our low labor costs, low cost of living and access to a skilled talent pool graduating from the region’s renowned K-12 schools and institutions of higher learning, validating Jacksonville’s recent recognition of being named a Top 10 Emerging Tech City by Site Selection Group.

In the interview, Wallace pinpoints JAXPORT, one of the fastest-growing ports in the country, as a major economic attractor for companies, particularly in the manufacturing and transportation/logistics sectors. E-commerce company Wayfair broke ground on a Jacksonville distribution center earlier this year with the intent to utilize the port for its global shipping and distribution capabilities.

Wallace also shared how international businesses have strong interest in our region, especially when companies participate in foreign direct investment in the area. Our Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) spans the entire seven-county region and helps companies doing business internationally reduce the cost of operations and function more efficiently. Our FTZ is the largest of Florida’s 21 FTZs based on a combined value of import/export trade.

Our skilled workforce and talent pipeline further contribute to the attractiveness of our area and entice potential company interest.

Assets and Talent Make Jacksonville Ideal Destination for Aviation and Aerospace

Airplane at JAX

By Aaron Bowman

Half a century ago, Apollo 11 landed on the Moon and astronaut Neil Armstrong took “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Fifty years later, space exploration in the United States is alive and well. Suborbital tourist flights and astronauts flying to the International Space Station are among the aerospace and defense milestones to look forward to in 2019, according to Aviation Week Network.

Jacksonville Advantage

Jacksonville – home to the only licensed commercial spaceport on the East Coast – is a leader in the aviation and aerospace industries, one of the region’s sectors for growth and innovation. From my professional experience, I’ve seen unprecedented growth in these industries throughout Florida, but especially in Jacksonville.

Take a look at Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) – 2018’s fastest-growing airport in North America. In March of this year, more passengers flew though JAX than any month in the airport’s 50-year history. The airport, which has grown year-over-year passenger traffic for the last year and a half, is in the process of expanding to meet this growing demand.

In addition to the record-breaking growth at JAX, another airport in Jacksonville Aviation Authority’s diversified airport system is considered a crown jewel for aeronautical, manufacturing and logistics business – Cecil Airport.

Cecil is a former military training facility and Navy Master JetBase. It is equipped with four runways including Florida’s third-longest runway at 12,500 feet and is home to Cecil Spaceport, one of eight spaceports in the United States approved for horizontal launches. The Cecil Spaceport control center, which will be housed at the airport’s air traffic control tower, will give operators the ability to track and remotely collect data from their spacecraft.

Though there have been few horizontal launches in the country so far, that’s likely to change in the near future. Potential operators include Virgin Galactic, Generation Orbit, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, among others, with capabilities of long-range flights that would span the other side of the globe in half the time of a typical commercial flight.

With Cecil’s long runways, ability to accommodate horizontal launch operators and hundreds of developable acres of land with runway access, Cecil Airport provides fertile ground for aerospace businesses to grow.

Cecil Airport at Cecil Commerce Center is currently home to a wide variety of aerospace industry leaders including Boeing, Flightstar Aircraft Services, Inc., Navy Fleet Readiness Center Southeast, LSI and more. Florida State College at Jacksonville’s (FSCJ) Aviation Center of Excellence which offers workforce training is also based at Cecil Commerce Center.

Defining Talent

Cecil Airport is a significant contributor to the region’s economy with an impact of almost $3 billion annually and 11,000 jobs. Jacksonville’s manufacturing base and logistical advantage positions the region well for the space industry.

Aviation and aerospace industries are hiring at all levels throughout the Southeast. In Florida, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting a 5 percent growth for aircraft mechanic and technical careers, and more than 12,000 new technical job openings in the next decade.

Nothing is more important to a company’s success than its workforce and Jacksonville offers a unparalled talent pipeline to meet the demands of the aviation and aerospace industry. The region’s four military installations provide a skilled, highly-trained workforce with the knowledge to staff technical and engineering positions. More than 3,000 personnel who leave the military each year choose to remain in Northeast Florida, providing a stream of diligent employees for local businesses.

Florida’s universities are among the nation’s top producers of STEM graduates, including many specializing in the industry. In addition to FSCJ and its Aviation Center of Excellence at Cecil Commerce Center, other aviation education programs in and near Jacksonville include University of North Florida, Jacksonville University, University of Florida, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and area high school aviation career academies.

Jacksonville represents the best in manufacturing, technology and innovation, and offers the business community and quality of life that companies and their employees need to thrive. There is a growing recognition among aerospace and aviation industry leaders that Jacksonville offers the assets that will help their businesses soar.

Aaron Bowman is senior vice president of business development for JAXUSA Partnership, the Jacksonville regional economic development agency for the seven counties of Northeast Florida. 

Jacksonville Continues LNG Lead With New Facility Opening

The use of LNG (liquefied natural gas) is of growing importance to the logistics industry and Jacksonville continues to lead in developments related to LNG initiatives.

JAX LNG recently opened as the first small-scale LNG facility in America that serves both trucks and marine vessels. The facility is a joint venture between Northstar Midstream, a division of Oaktree Capital Management, and Pivotal LNG, a division of The Southern Company.

The facility supplies TOTE Maritime’s dual-fuel container ships, the first of their kind in the world, and has the capacity to produce 120,000 gallons a day and store 2 million gallons. There is enough room at the Dames Point site to quintuple production and double storage.

“Pivotal is committed to transforming the nation’s energy landscape by leading the way in how we supply liquefied natural gas to our customers,” Pivotal President Tim Hermann said in a statement. “One way we are doing this is through the development of the JAX LNG facility. With our partners NorthStar, we’ve implemented innovative solutions to make clean, safe, reliable and affordable LNG available to marine and inland customers that can be served from the port of Jacksonville.“

The JAX LNG plant continues Jacksonville’s lead in the LNG space, especially for maritime use, as it adds to the first-of-its-kind LNG vessels and bunkering facility both at JAXPORT. TOTE and Crowley Maritime have both launched LNG vessels from Jacksonville, well ahead of a global emissions cap on ocean vessels that is moving much of the industry towards LNG adoption.

Eagle LNG, which supplies Crowley’s vessels and exports, operates the bunkering facility, the first facility of its kind in the world with plans to expand its capacity. The company is close to getting final regulatory approval to build 1.65 million gallons a day capacity across three liquefaction facilities.

JAX LNG expects its facility to become a supplier for additional industries, including rail, drilling, mining and others.

For more information on the LNG facility, read the Jacksonville Business Journal.

Jacksonville MSA Growing at a Faster Rate than United States

According to recently released U.S. Census Reports, in 2018, Jacksonville’s metro population grew 2 percent over the previous year, which made it the 6th fastest growing large metro (at least 1 million residents). During this same time, the U.S. growth rate was 1 percent. Adding nearly 30,700 people, the MSA welcomed approximately 84 new residents per day from 2017 to 2018. Over the same time period, Jacksonville city had the 7th largest increase in residents and was #1 in Florida in terms of growth.

More than half of new residents were from international locations. In fact, in the most recent data from the County-to-County Migration Flows: 2012-2016 American Community Survey, stated the largest area for in-migration to our region was Asia with more than 3,000 residents moving to Duval County over the course of the aforementioned four years.

Domestic in-migration data in the U.S. Census Report as detailed by Florida Politics shows that St. Johns County had the 3rd highest rate of county growth in Florida at 4 percent. By percentage growth, St. Johns and Nassau were the 3rd and 4th overall fastest growing counties at 4.2 percent and 3.6 percent.

In-migration numbers show that 70 percent of the newcomers to the region are under 40 years of age, highlighting that the Jacksonville region is a magnet for talent attraction of young professionals and has a growing workforce pipeline in our K-12 schools.

The population growth for Jacksonville MSA shows there is a healthy increase for residential growth. During 2018, the MSA had a natural increase of people (births over deaths) and net migration (newcomers over people leaving). Since 2010, our MSA grew 189,110 residents to 1.5 million, a percent change of 14.1 percent, the second fastest growth in the state.

Jacksonville is the 12th most populous city in the United States with nearly 904,000 residents.

Jacksonville’s Ports Generating Significant Impact To Region

The Jacksonville Port Authority (JAXPORT) and the Port of Fernandina, the area’s two deep-water ports, continue to set records with recent highlights and activity to remain globally competitive.

JAXPORT recently set a new port record in April 2019 with the arrival of the ZIM vessel Kota Pekarang, the largest container ship to ever call on Jacksonville.

The 11,923-TEU (container) vessel is operated by ZIM on a service offered by the 2M Alliance, comprised of Maersk, MSC, Hamburg Süd and strategic partners HMM and ZIM. The Kota Pekarang, which transited the Panama Canal from Northeast Asia before reaching the U.S. East Coast, discharged and loaded cargo at JAXPORT’s Blount Island Marine Terminal.

The previous largest ship to ever call on JAXPORT took place in March 2019 when the 11,000 TEU ZIM vessel Cape Sounio docked at Blount Island.

JAXPORT is Florida’s No. 1 container port complex by volume, offering worldwide cargo service aboard the world’s major shipping alliances with direct service to Asia, Europe, Africa, South America, the Caribbean and other key markets.

The port has grown Asian container volumes nearly 100 percent since 2012 with local jobs associated with JAXPORT’s Asian business grew more than 57 percent in a five-year period.

JAXPORT also recently signed a new lease agreement with its current tenant Seattle-based SSA Marine to be the operator of the port’s new Blount Island international container terminal with a $298 million, 25-year facilities lease agreement and continues to be a leader in liquefied natural gas (LNG) production and usage.

As vessels continue to be built with a deeper water draft, the need for deeper water at ports around the world is becoming more of a necessity. JAXPORT is answering the call with a deepening project underway.

The harbor deepening project consists of 13 miles of deepening that will take the existing 40-foot channel to 47 feet. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began the project in February 2018 and it is anticipated to be completed in five to six years.

The U.S. Army Corps divided the project into four sections beginning near the mouth of the St. Johns River from the Atlantic Ocean. JAXPORT’s focus is on funding the first three segments to Blount Island to start receiving increased cargo aboard larger cargo ships. The deepening will eventually include the Dames Point Marine Terminal.

As part of the project, new turning basins will be added and there will be full two-way traffic with further widening at strategic locations. The project consists of widening at Mile Point, the Training Wall Reach and St. Johns Bluff Reach plus construction of two new turning basins at Blount Island and Brills Cut.

The harbor deepening project is a significant investment that will greatly benefit the region’s advanced transportation industry, with more than 15,000 new jobs being created by the project. For every $1 invested in deepening, $24 will be returned to the economy. The project has been reviewed by the best environmental modeling in the world, plus peer review by scores of independent scientists, that advocate for the environmental safety of the full project design.

The Port of Fernandina also continues to see success and growth, with U. S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross touring the port in April 2019 and highlighting its recent successes and growth.

“They’ve designed this port for the kinds of products that are being exported, and that’s the way to make it work. Be a specialist, dominate segments of the trade,” said Ross.

Timber is one of those segments, largely due to Rayonier, the fourth-largest timber operator in the world and headquartered in Wildlight, located in Nassau County.

The port is also working on improvements including bringing in new equipment and potentially deepening the channel to 40 feet, as well as working to secure a barge system between Nassau County and Savannah, Ga.

A Winning Impact: THE PLAYERS Championship

“A tournament for the players, a course for the fans” via Garry Smits of The Florida Times-Union.

The 46th edition of THE PLAYERS Championship, taking place March 12-17 at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, is not only one of the biggest sporting events of Northeast Florida, it is also one of the most impactful to the local community.

Its local impact is massive as the tournament has an annual economic impact of $151 million and more than $100 million raised for charity since 1977.

Last year, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry proclaimed July 13 as THE PLAYERS Championship Charity Day in celebration that the tournament had reached more than $100 million in total donations, surpassed a 10-year goal of $50 million generated for local non-profits that promote youth education, health and wellness and character development, and that the 2018 tournament generated a record-setting $9 million to local charities.

THE PLAYERS also has become a worldwide sporting event. It is broadcast to more than 1 billion households in 226 countries and in 30 languages.

The top 56 players in the world and the winners of the last 25 major championships lead the lineup at this year’s tournament.

In the relatively young history of the tournament, 11 winners have been enshrined in the World Golf Hall of Fame located in St. Augustine. More are sure to come, such as Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott and Jason Day. The feeling is strong among the members of the PGA TOUR — the namesake of its “Gold Standard” tournament — that it will elevate the event even more.

More information can be found at THE PLAYERS Championship.