2 min read December 2021 — Despite still reeling from the effects of the pandemic, Jacksonville is primed for long-term growth. Marty Fiorentino, president of government affairs and business development group The Fiorentino Group (TFG), shares why he is bullish about what comes next for the city.
What were the biggest ways TFG continued to grow despite the challenges posed by the pandemic?
One of the big things was to stay close to our clients. We reached out to them to see what their issues were as the pandemic hit and how we could be helpful in tackling them. There was significant uncertainty involved and we jumped right into the issues we could assist them with. Accessing government officials and tracking where the government was going as it relates to the pandemic was a big part of that effort and it continues to be — primarily in terms of government funding. Because people could not be at city hall or at the state capitol, we were able to stand in the gap. In addition, we were able to connect a number of our clients with each other to take advantage of business opportunities, which helped ensure growth for our firm.
What major initiatives are you looking forward to implementing over the next year or two?
A significant portion of our work is defensive. For the companies that we represent, our goal is to see that no harm is done and to help ensure they are able to conduct business in a way that is beneficial to their customers, their shareholders and their employees. On the advocacy side, not-for-profits have been stressed due to the pandemic. We look for funding to help bridge that gap. On the healthcare front, for instance, we are looking at a new emergency department for our safety net hospital here in Jacksonville and advocating for funds at the local and state levels and also private funding. We are also diving into some civil justice reform issues. Insurance costs for a lot of small businesses have gone through the roof, particularly transportation businesses. We want to begin a dialogue to create some reform efforts in the civil justice arena to make a more level playing field when it comes to lawsuit abuse.
What makes Jacksonville an excellent choice for companies like TFG?
It’s a wonderful place to raise a family. The cost of living is highly affordable. A drive over to I-10 or I-95 reveals cars coming into town from other states by the thousands. They are not driving through town just to go to Miami, they’re stopping here and laying down roots. Jacksonville is bisected by the St. Johns River, which runs right through our Downtown. For years, we’ve tried to create a catalyst to grow our Downtown. Miami, Tampa Bay, Orlando — those Downtowns have flourished. Jacksonville is right on track with an unprecedented amount of building permits. In the next 10 years, our Downtown is going to dramatically change. We have lovely beaches here that are accessible. Northeast Florida in general and St. Johns County in particular are booming. It also offers the best public school system in the state. St. Augustine is a great tourist destination that provides great restaurant choices, with some of the most beautiful beaches in the state. Northeast Florida has got a lot going on just with its natural beauty, its affordability and its workforce. We have a number of colleges and universities that are building up a skilled and talented workforce ready to cater to the demands of companies moving into the region. And don’t forget, no state income tax!
What are the prevalent challenges your clients continue to face?
The prevalent challenge is the workforce issue. We had a company in the transportation arena that had 600 drivers in 2019 and it’s now down to 300. The workforce shortage is a constant in our client conversations, as well as supply chain shortages. Our construction clients are struggling when it comes to getting the materials they need. Quoted prices are only good for a week when they used to be good for a month. The price of steel or aluminum is going up so rapidly it is hard to give good estimates. As I mentioned before, Jacksonville is working hard to meet these workforce requirements.
What is your outlook for TFG and Greater Jacksonville for the next three to five years?
Our firm has grown incrementally over the past two decades. We are now at a point where we are looking to potentially add new people to the firm. As our clients grow and our number of clients grows, so do we. That is how we like to do business. We are highly bullish on the future of the firm. We are excited about what lies ahead. People are motivated coming out of the pandemic, not only here at TFG, but also in other businesses that continue to grow. We see an economy that has great potential if the government does not stifle it.
As for the State of Florida, we are one of the largest economies in the world – Florida is on the rise. The state is definitely one of the brightest spots in the country, if not the brightest. Jacksonville in particular is at a tipping point. We have growth, people are moving here, we are increasingly diverse, not just racially but also geographically. Good things are in store for Jacksonville from that perspective, both with our economy and also with the fabric of our community. New ideas many times are good ideas. We see a lot of that happening as we continue to grow.
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