Spotlight on Northeast Florida as Region is Featured in Florida Trend

The January 2022 issue of state business and policy publication Florida Trend features an in-depth look at the positive momentum taking place in the seven-county Jacksonville region in its “Jacksonville & Northeast Florida” regional economic profile.

The 26-page section highlights the region’s transportation infrastructure, industries, health care, education and development, showing that the region’s growth is not just in the here and now, but sustainable for the future. Read more…

Crowley Center for Transportation and Logistics Established at University of North Florida

Jacksonville continues to add to its reputation as America’s Logistics Center.

Jacksonville-based Crowley Maritime Corporation, a leader in logistics, marine and energy solutions, donated $2.5 million to the University of North Florida (UNF) for the creation and operation of the Crowley Center for Transportation and Logistics (CCTL). This center of excellence will establish a commitment to the growth and development of skilled, talented students in transportation and logistics, an industry that is growing at a rapid pace in the Jacksonville region.

The endowment will help fund the CCTL operations and leadership, faculty support, visiting scholars, pertinent industry research, pursuit of federally funded grants and contracts, student recruitment in the areas of transportation, logistics and data analytics, and curriculum.

The center will be housed in the UNF Coggin College of Business of which the transportation and logistics program is considered among the best in the nation due to an active and supportive regional professional community and a high-tech Logistics IT Solutions Lab for students to learn about supply chain tools and solutions.

“This donation represents a strategic investment in our industry’s future – the talent and knowledge our leaders of tomorrow and the research needed to propel our industry forward successfully,” said Tom Crowley, the company’s chairman and CEO.

Developing home-grown skilled logistics talent is of the utmost importance now and will be in the future as our region continues to attract and expand business in this industry. With JAXPORT’s and Port of Fernandina’s steadfast growth and the presence of three major interstates, the Jacksonville region has seen an expansion of logistics, distribution and e-commerce over the last several years, including the most recent announcement of American Roll-On Roll-Off Carrier Group’s headquarters relocation to Ponte Vedra Beach in June.

In recent months, the region has also announced new and expanding logistics and distribution centers, including:

  • The Kroger Company – the national grocery chain is adding 180 new jobs at a cross-dock distribution facility to support its refrigerated e-commerce delivery.
  • FlexCold – cold storage company building a temperature-controlled facility to serve meat protein exporters adding 20 new jobs and $47.3 million in capital investment.
  • FedEx Ground – expansion of long-time third-party logistics facility in Jacksonville adding 125 jobs and $10 million in capital investment on parking lot expansion for increased operations.

These announcements and future logistics and distribution companies will benefit from the targeted curriculum and training established through the CCTL.

“Crowley Maritime’s gift to establish this center is not only important for the Coggin College and UNF but is a major investment in Jacksonville and Northeast Florida,” said Richard Buttimer, dean of UNF’s Coggin College of Business. “This center will train future generations of transportation, logistics and supply chain leaders to ensure that Jacksonville has a world-class pool of talent and leadership for this vital industry.”

A Search For A New Food Service Headquarters Lands in Northeast Florida

Comarco Products, a long-standing leader in the food service industry, struggled with their ability to grow their operation from their headquarters in Camden, New Jersey. After years of dealing with remediation issues and burdening taxes, Comarco made the decision to relocate and ultimately settled on Palatka in Putnam County.

“It was a tough decision to leave our home of 32 years, but we knew we needed to move,” said Tom Hoversen, president of Comarco Products. “Our plant was showing signs of age and it was impossible to find a way to build out and modernize in the business climate we were in. I Googled “North Florida economic development” and started talking to people in my industry about new locations.”

After searching the Southeast for the ideal long-term location, Comarco settled on Florida since it gets most of its eggplants from Florida and the state had the available space and talent required to house their operations. The company leadership found the ideal site for their manufacturing plant in Palatka, located approximately 60 miles south of Jacksonville along the St. Johns River and known for its support of large-scale operations.

Comarco now runs their business in a 52,000-square-foot building and has 125 employees in the area. Their plan is to run three production lines out of the facility, which also serves as the company’s headquarters. They also expanded their operation with a freezer which can hold 1,200 pallets of frozen products along with automated equipment and new state-of-the-art conveyor lines.

The people and business community in Palatka have truly been welcoming and completely supportive,” added Hoversen. “We could have not asked for a better situation both professionally and personally. I can’t say enough good things about Palatka and we know that relocating to Northeast Florida was the right move.

Jacksonville Surging as a Destination for Tech Workers

A new study from Bloomberg and LinkedIn revealed that Jacksonville is a preferred destination for tech workers, ranking 4th in the most recent analysis. Jacksonville was the top-rated city in Florida and significantly ahead of several cities traditionally known as tech hubs like Seattle and San Francisco.

The study examines several hundred thousand tech workers in the United States and breaks down the inflow/outflow rate for several key markets. The data ranges from April to October, comparing 2020 with 2019. These findings complement another LinkedIn survey that showed Jacksonville had the second largest percentage inflow of workers from April 2020 to February 2021.

“We are glad to see a trend we’ve identified validated by independent research,” said Aundra Wallace, president of JAXUSA Partnership. “IT & Innovation has been a target industry for the Jacksonville region for some time and tech workers and entrepreneurs are taking advantage of this by moving to the region and building on the great ecosystem we have in place.”

Jacksonville’s technology composite is among the nation’s leaders. As headquarters for leading tech companies like Black Knight Inc., Newfold Digital, Coastal Cloud, Fanatics and Forcura, Northeast Florida is firmly established in technology and diverse across industries and disciplines. The region is also home to several emerging and startup firms, noted by Roofstock ranking Jacksonville 9th in their survey of U.S. cities with the most startup businesses.

E-commerce and fintech have been particularly high growth areas for Jacksonville.  Over the last five years, JAXUSA has been involved in the announcement of 13 e-commerce companies to the region, with a total investment of more than $3.3 billion in infrastructure and the addition of nearly 18,000 jobs at the time of the announcements. Fintech’s most recent addition was the announcement that Dun & Bradstreet, a leading global provider of business decisioning data and analytics, was moving their headquarters from New Jersey to Jacksonville.  This adds to the already robust fintech base in the area, anchored by FIS, who is underway with their new 300,000-square-foot headquarters along downtown Jacksonville’s riverfront that will add 500 new high-wage jobs and $150 million in capital investment.

“The theory that tech workers need to cluster around traditional tech centers like San Francisco or that fintech can only reside New York is outdated,” added Wallace.  “When you combine that with the decoupling of geography from employment like we’ve seen over the last year you realize that Jacksonville is going to be a target destination for tech workers for years to come.”

Read more information on the study.

Jacksonville a Top City for Tech Workers

National Study Validates Talent Migration Increase to Jacksonville

The COVID pandemic and the lockdowns that followed made people rethink their living situations. As more Americans have been eager to relocate from densely populated, high-cost cities around the country, Florida and in particular, Jacksonville, became a beacon for planting new roots.

A recent study by CBRE Group validated the point. The study used U.S. Postal Service change-of-address data from 2019 to 2020 to show migration patterns across the United States. CBRE Group is the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm.

Overall, the Jacksonville MSA recorded a 9 percent increase in inbound moves, accounting for nearly 3,000 more new households from outside the market than the prior year. This complements data from LinkedIn’s Economic Graph that showed Jacksonville had the second largest gain of net arrivals between April 2020 and February 2021 against the previous period, with nearly 11 percent gains in new residents.

“The migration trends for the Jacksonville region are very favorable, both for Northeast Florida’s seven counties and their employers,” said Aundra Wallace, president of JAXUSA Partnership. “We are seeing a lot of talented people moving to the area for local job opportunities, but also as they gain more flexibility in their work environments to work virtually anywhere.”

The study also noted that Jacksonville attracted a large number of residents from within Florida, but also all over the country. The Jacksonville MSA showed double-digit percentage gains from Georgia, New York, Tennessee, Michigan, Arizona and California. The top three MSAs where Jacksonville saw the biggest percentage increases were Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Gainesville, Miami/Fort Lauderdale and New York.

“As the new normal suggests, we continue to see a pattern whereby people are choosing to live in cities and states that provide excellent quality of life rather than be tied to proximity to the physical office,” added Aundra. “Jacksonville has everything companies and employees need to grow, whether the setting is a traditional workplace or via work-from-home opportunities, and the country is taking notice in a big way.”

The Jacksonville region is set up well to support this kind of influx. With the largest land mass of any city in the country, a well-established and diversified economic make up and a pro-business culture, Northeast Florida has shown the ability to support growth in all forms. That, coupled with a growing base of talent, positions the region to be a hot spot in the months and years to come.

See the full report from CBRE here.

Tech Leader Strengthens Innovation Ecosystem in Northeast Florida

Coastal Cloud, a Salesforce consulting partner offering businesses a single cloud-based platform to automate processes, has seen exponential growth since its founding in Palm Coast in 2012. They were recently recognized by Inc. as one of the fastest growing companies in Florida and by Florida Trend as one of the “Best Companies to Work For in Florida.”

From the beginning, Coastal Cloud set a goal of creating a modern consulting firm focused on client outcomes while ensuring that their expert consultants and employees would enjoy a work/life balance. By 2017, they had more than 100 employees and are now approaching 300 employees throughout the United States, a quarter of which are based in Northeast Florida.

“We really want to break the model,” said Matt Hauck, director of marketing for Coastal Cloud. Tech consulting companies have traditionally been centered around ‘tech cities,’ but the spread of the tech ecosystem has made that model expensive and not great for employees.  Northeast Florida provides the perfect environment for us because we can foster talent locally and attract talent nationally.

Coastal Cloud hires across a variety of levels and disciplines and has a retention rate that is unsurpassed in the technology space. Their Flagler County headquarters acts as a hub for its operations and is a draw to talent from across the country.

“When there are no barriers to where you work, people choose to work in Florida.  The special thing about Northeast Florida is that it strikes a wonderful balance,” added Hauck. “It’s easy to live here, has a lower cost of living and creates a lifestyle that is matched with business growth opportunities.”

Coastal Cloud’s motto of “improving business and improving lives” can be seen in their connection to the community. They are developing the next generation of technology consultants by helping educators integrate technology into the curriculum through its project-based i3 Academy at Flagler Palm Coast High School and offering internships that can lead to career opportunities at the company. They also actively support Captains for Clean Water, Safe Schools for Alex and the University of Florida Whitney Laboratory for Marine Science. Finally, they used their acumen to work with the federal, state and local governments on COVID testing and vaccinations for more than 1 million Floridians.

Forcura Builds on Jacksonville Roots and Becomes an Industry Leader

Founded in 2012, Forcura is a cloud-based software company that modernizes documentation, workflows and secure communications for health care providers in home health, hospice, rehabilitative therapy, skilled nursing and behavioral health. Forcura has seen significant growth over the last eight years and was recently named to the Inc. 5000 for the fifth consecutive year. With 31 million transmissions per year, Forcura services more than 500+ clients who provide care for over half a million patients every month.

In selecting Jacksonville as its corporate headquarters and base for continued growth, Forcura sees the region as a place where technology and health care intersect. “Jacksonville has one of the largest health care ecosystems not just in the United States, but in the world,” said Craig Mandeville, founder and chief executive officer. The amount of innovation and R&D investment funneling to the area is really game changing, so we’re privileged to be at the epicenter of such a vibrant and growing community of peers.

Another key consideration for Forcura is the amount of the talent in the region. They regularly garner additions to their team from local colleges and consistently attract national talent due to the area’s high quality of life as well as their reputation as an employer of choice. Forcura also invests in the workforce of tomorrow by supporting the Northeast Florida Regional STEM2 Hub, which seeks to provide all local students the opportunity to engage in experiences that will open doors to future technical careers. Knowing the city’s business landscape is constantly evolving, they also initiated a three-year commitment to Jacksonville University’s UpSkill Institute, which empowers today’s workforce to acquire new, in-demand skills.

Forcura is heavily invested in the Jacksonville community. They started the “Innovate Jax” podcast to help showcase and connect innovators, entrepreneurs and investors that are helping propel Jacksonville forward. They are also committed to JaxAngels, which provides access to capital, advice and mentoring for early-stage companies and the Innovation Hub.

“Jacksonville is really a hidden gem. The blend of people, culture and lifestyle makes it easy to recruit and develop talent and the business community is extremely supportive and focused on moving the region forward. For our team, Jacksonville checks all the boxes and we’re excited about being part of the fabric of Northeast Florida.”

Jacksonville #1 in Florida for Recent College Graduates

5 Reasons Why Florida Is the Best Place for Business

Enterprise Florida President and CEO Jamal Sowell shared insight on why Florida is the best state for business with Entrepreneur magazine earlier this month.

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Where your business is physically located can be the determining factor for whether you have access to the skills, facilities, and other vital resources you need to thrive. As it turns out, one of the best places for businesses to start or relocate is Florida.

When you think of Florida, you might think of warm weather, a vibrant culture, and beautiful beaches. The Sunshine State has all of that and more. According to Kauffman Indicators of Entrepreneurship, Florida had the highest rate of new entrepreneurs among all states in 2019, and a startup early survival rate of nearly 78 percent.

“All of those factors add up to a mix of business and lifestyle that really can’t be found in any other state,” says Jamal Sowell, President and CEO of Enterprise Florida and Florida’s Secretary of Commerce. Here, Sowell shares the top five reasons Florida is the best place for business.

1. State leadership

Florida’s Governor and Legislature support innovative public policy to encourage research and development of new products, Sowell says. That includes things like creating legal options for testing unmanned vehicles, simplifying access to certifications and professional licensing, and enabling the testing of new fintech products without the usual, prohibitive regulations.

“It’s small, incremental innovations that are making Florida a hot commodity right now,” he says.

2. Low tax structure and business climate

Florida has no personal income tax, a 5.5 percent corporate tax rate, and no payroll taxes. That can be a game changer for a business that’s just starting up or an established business that’s looking to leave a high-tax state.

“Enterprise Florida fields calls from across the country and the world every day of the week right now — and those calls are from businesses looking to relocate here,” Sowell says.

3. Workforce and talent attraction

Florida’s highly regarded public university system has been ranked the best in the nation and is “well-positioned to offer a trained workforce right now,” Sowell says.

Home to the nation’s third largest workforce — one that is culturally and linguistically diverse — Florida’s labor force is also more affordable than other leading high-tech states, thanks to a favorable tax structure and lower business costs.

4. Infrastructure

Florida’s infrastructure is an asset that can’t be overlooked. The state is home to more than 130 public-use airports and 20 commercial airports. This wealth of airports has “given Florida the edge we have in the aviation and aerospace manufacture and maintenance industries,” Sowell says.

Additionally, Florida’s network of 15 deep-water seaports support nearly 900,000 jobs across the state and contribute $117.6 billion to the economy each year. “These jobs and the economic impact are critical to the state, but also at local and regional levels,” Sowell says.

5. Quality of life

What really sets Florida apart from other states, Sowell says, is that it is “the ideal place” to work and live. Besides the beautiful weather, Florida’s cost of living is below that of other states with similar economic growth and in-migration rates. State analysts recently reported that Florida is expected to see its population increase by an average of more than 303,000 residents a year.

In other words, it’s a desirable and affordable place to live — and do business. “Add to that a myriad of cultural amenities, world-class theme parks, and sporting events and you have a clear recipe for a well-rounded and rewarding lifestyle,” Sowell says.

Find out more about how you can find a future for your business in Florida. Visit EnterpriseFlorida.com.