2023 Spotlight: Jacksonville’s time under the radar is over

2023 Spotlight: Jacksonville’s time under the radar is over

2022-12-15T12:15:28-05:00December 15th, 2022|Economy, Jacksonville, Tourism|

Writer: Liz Palmer

4 min read December 2022 — Going into 2023, the synergy of Jacksonville’s business and government communities will be a significant catalyst for Northeast Florida’s projected growth. While it appears that things won’t be slowing down any time soon, the determinants of whether or not the region’s growth will be sustainable for the long-term include cost of living, a logistics sector keeping up with demand and well-planned infrastructure. 

An economic boom generated by the Jacksonville Jaguars’ arrival in 1993 kickstarted the region’s growth, and Northeast Florida has since become an economic powerhouse, although its success was quieter than its South Florida counterparts prior to the pandemic. Today, Northeast Florida residents and Jaguars fans anticipate design plans for stadium renovations any day now as the rest of Downtown Jacksonville gets a makeover and the city itself grows by over 30,000 people per year. For Jacksonville to maintain its spot on the map, leaders say its downtown needs to reflect a modern city. 

“We’re an amazing city, and for a long time we’ve flown under the radar, but now the secret is out. In Downtown, we have $1.4 billion currently under construction. That is a huge change because 10 years ago there was almost nothing under construction. And there’s also another $2.7 billion in projects in review. Even with everything that’s happened the last couple years, we’re building nearly 1,000 residential units and 540,000 square feet of office space, even when the office market is very challenging,” Jack Gordon, CEO of Downtown Vision Inc. noted to Invest:. 

Growth isn’t only concentrated downtown; interest has sprawled across the region. Even as more people come in, Jacksonville’s unique value proposition is the geographic space it has to offer. “As Jacksonville continues to grow and land becomes more scarce, competition will increase and developers will need to get more creative. One consequence of our growth is we do have less entitled land than we once did. But there is still no shortage of land that can be used or reused for development subject to rezoning efforts,” Christian Oldenburg, executive managing director and market leader North Florida with Colliers., told Invest: “Even in developed areas, there are products that are functionally obsolete or have low demand in their current state. So there is tremendous room for redevelopment in certain areas of Jacksonville, particularly in the Downtown area. We are already starting to see enterprising developers make big moves in the urban core, citing the incredible long-term value there.”

Another engine that drove growth in 2022 was JAXPORT’s harbor deepening, strengthening an already significantly robust logistics ecosystem and putting Jacksonville on the global logistics map. “The deepening of the harbor makes us more competitive with ports on the East Coast,” said JAXPORT CFO and Chief of Staff Beth McCague. “But the real value is what it will do for North Florida and the state over the next 30, 40, 50 years . . . A deeper harbor provides tremendous long-term value for the citizens in this part of the state and throughout the Southeastern region of the country.”

The harbor deepening brought in more interest and business, and the on-land logistics community is putting in work to ensure the well-oiled machine stays lubricated with more warehouse and flex space to come in 2023. “The deepening of the harbor has us excited to increase the throughput as freight activity shifts from the West Coast to the East Coast,” CEO of Atlantic Logistics Rob Hooper told Invest: this summer. Despite headwinds, logistics still saw heightened demand and further technological sophistication. “We saw significant growth and are working to install updated processes and procedures that will help us scale from $50 million to $100 million and then $200 million . . . Jacksonville has a tremendous logistics community and we’ve been able to bring great people in. It’s been a tiring time, but we consider ourselves blessed to be in logistics.”

As demand grows, so does cost. Initiatives underway to ensure access to capital and resources reach everyone living in Northeast Florida include those by LIFT JAX to tackle food insecurity, attainable housing and providing options for banking, preschool and workforce development. Florida is recognized as the state with the most affordable higher education, and while higher ed as a whole may be struggling to communicate its value proposition, the University of North Florida welcomed its largest freshman class in the school’s history this fall at 3,145 students. 

Moez Limayem became president of UNF this year with the intention of being a partner to the local business community and strengthen workforce development partnerships and programming. “When companies want to expand in our region or want to move to our region, the No. 1 question they ask is about talent. That’s what we’re working toward – being their talent supplier and partner. The good news is that we want to continue to grow in areas that are growing, such as healthcare, fintech, logistics, and education,” he said.

As a whole, public and private sector leaders are encouraged to see Jacksonville’s momentum continue into 2023. President and CEO of JAX Chamber Daniel Davis, who is also running for mayor, told Invest: he predicts 2023 will bring more development and relocation announcements that must be supported by strategic workforce development planning. “Over the next five years, we expect to see continued growth in Northeast Florida. Jacksonville is a hotbed for fintech and biohealth, so we are seeing people move here from  across the country,” he said. “Not only do we have incredible higher education opportunities in Jacksonville to develop highly-skilled talent, we also have about 100,000 military active-duty personnel in Northeast Florida. We are able to use that as a calling card for folks that are looking to bring businesses here to know that about 3,000 of these military personnel finish their duty to our country every year. We are able to keep about 85% of them here in Jacksonville. People that are willing to show up on time do a great job and we are able to create a crop of those folks every year. Between the higher ed institutions, the tech training that we have and the military personnel that want to stay in Jacksonville, our talent pool is deep and what companies need to be successful.” 

Financial institutions like TD Bank are set on expanding brick and mortar space next year, and companies such as Paysafe and Olympus Insurance are among those choosing to relocate to Jacksonville by the end of 2022 and into 2023. 

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