Photo: Stefan Rousseau/Newscom
Northeast Florida Roundup
British invasion: The Jaguars' London games pay dividends back home
Since Shad Khan bought the team five years ago, the Jacksonville Jaguars have continued to lose on the field, and Khan’s real estate development plans in Jacksonville have yet to pay off.
But city leaders who hoped Khan would prove to be a catalyst for economic development aren’t disappointed. Khan’s decision that the Jaguars will play an annual game in London, with an eye toward providing an opportunity to market the city along with his football team, has paid off handsomely.
“It functions almost like a trade mission every single year,” says Jaguars President Mark Lamping.
City leaders say several job wins for Jacksonville are tied directly to the London trips, including Resource Solutions’ decision to open a global services center in Jacksonville with 75 jobs, and Greencore Group’s plan to add 283 jobs to its Jacksonville site. They also say Deutsche Bank’s plan to add 350 jobs came out of meetings with the Germany-based bank’s London office.
The London visits “have raised the recognition level of who we are to a level I’ve never thought possible,” says Jerry Mallot, president of JAXUSA Partnership. “It’s just a very different level of discussions from where we were.”
Lamping says while Khan is committed to promoting economic development in Jacksonville, the London trips also benefit the team financially.
“It opens up additional revenue streams that we currently do not have access to,” he says. With more tickets sold at higher prices, the London games produce the equivalent of 1½ to two games of revenue for a Jacksonville home game.
“Most everyone is aware Jacksonville is one of the smaller markets in the National Football League,” he says. “We have to do things differently than maybe teams do in other markets.”
Since opening Dive Outpost in Live Oak in 1995, owner-operator Cathy Lesh and her staff have trained and hosted divers from across the U.S. and around the world who’ve come to explore subterranean Suwannee County. The full-service dive shop, fill station and motel are located just two miles from Peacock Springs State Park and its crystal clear waters. With annual sales of around $200,000 and 200 divers who make regular visits, Dive Outpost supports numerous businesses in Suwannee County. “Ecotourism continues to play a major role in Suwannee County’s economic growth. Local businesses such as Dive Outpost attract the global diving community to explore our world renowned caves,” says Dr. Alvin B. Jackson Jr., Suwannee County tourist development council director.
ALACHUA — Nanotherapeutics, a biopharmaceutical firm in Alachua, named Prasad Raje president and CEO. Raje was head of the life sciences division of EAG Laboratories.
GAINESVILLE — The University of Florida says its strategic development plan will focus on more closely aligning the city and university. The school plans to concentrate future development in the eastern third of the campus, collaborate with the city to preserve historic neighborhoods; and promises to help protect the environment on and around the campus. » Merieux NutriSciences is moving its food-testing facility from southwest Gainesville to a building near the University of Florida campus. The laboratory provides microbiology and nutritional chemistry testing services. Chicago-based Merieux plans to add 30 jobs over the next two years to the 70 it already has in Gainesville.
GREEN COVE SPRINGS — Forterra Building Products expects to create 150 jobs after acquiring Hanson Building Products last year. The former Hanson plant in Clay County has been largely idle for years, with only a small number of engineers still working there. Forterra, which produces precast concrete piping, is ramping up manufacturing at the facility.
JACKSONVILLE — After announcing plans in July to build a distribution center in northwest Jacksonville that will employ 1,500, Amazon now plans to build a second warehouse on the Westside that will employ an additional 1,200. The second center will handle larger consumer items, while the first center is targeted to distribute items such as books and toys. Regency Centers is acquiring Equity One in a merger of shopping center developers that focus on grocery-anchored properties. » Regency’s current management will continue to run the merged company from its Jacksonville headquarters. The combined company will operate 429 properties across the country. Regency is issuing stock worth $4.6 billion to buy Equity One. » As it changed its name to American Outdoor Brands, Smith & Wesson bought Jacksonville-based outdoor gear company UST Brands for $32.3 million. » Mississippi- based Cal-Maine Foods bought Dixie Egg, a 70-year-old family business for an undisclosed price. Cal-Maine is retaining Dixie Egg’s 300 employees. As it continues to realign its supermarket chains, Southeastern Grocers converted seven Winn- Dixie and 11 Bi-Lo stores to the low-priced Harveys brand. Southeastern, which is aligning its brands with local markets, now has 73 stores operating as Harveys, 500 Winn-Dixie stores and 165 Bi-Lo stores. It also has one store in Hialeah called Fresco y Mas. » Canada-based Exchange Income bought aircraft maintenance company Team JAS for $10 million. » National accounting firm BDO USA acquired LBA Group, a 50-year-old Jacksonville firm. BDO is adding 102 employees, including 11 partners, from LBA’s Jacksonville office. » Reinhart Foodservice is closing its Jacksonville facility, putting 66 people out of work. » Short-line railroad operator Patriot Rail acquired the assets of United Transportation Group, an Indiana company specializing in rail tank car and tanker truck cleaning.
Fun, Games and Education
As a video gamer, Lindsey Tropf realized how addicting gaming can be. But it bothered her that educational games don’t have that same hook.
“When you looked into the educational space, that wasn’t happening,” she says.
Tropf has founded a Gainesville company called Immersed Games to develop educational video games designed to keep players coming back for more.
With the backing of $50,000 in Kickstarter funds and $425,000 in investment capital, the company launched Tyto Online, a game where players evolve an ecosystem on an alien planet.
“I really want to create things and put awesome things out in the world,” Tropf says.