2022 Economic Outlook
Northeast Florida's economic forecast for 2022
Regional business leaders talk about the outlook for the year ahead, plus demographics and statistics
FORECAST / TOURISM
Director of Tourism, Parks and Recreation, Clay County
Tourism in Clay County turned upside down in 2021, Morgan says. Traditionally, hotels in Clay County have been busy during the week, drawing people doing business with Naval Air Station Jacksonville or the Cecil Commerce Center. “And then COVID happened,” Morgan says. “Now, the weekends are very, very strong.”
Why the shift: “We launched our website, exploreclay.com, in October 2020 and ran our first consistent marketing campaign. During the pandemic, people wanted to find a small-town destination. They were looking for new places to visit, and we fit that bill.”
Outlook: “In Northeast Florida, it looks great because of our undiscovered eco-tourism assets — whether you’re talking about cycling, hiking or waterway activities. I think the pent-up demand for vacations will continue. People want to be outside. People love the idea of being together with family. Those things aren’t going to go away anytime soon, and that will continue to drive vacations and getaways to the end of next year.”
Watching: “The economy. As gas prices continue to rise, that’s kind of a red flag. We are definitely a drive market; we pull from Atlanta and Florida.”
What will help Northeast Florida? “The resurgence of events. Northeast Florida is a very event-driven destination as a whole — whether it be concerts or unique events like the Nitro Rallycross Race. We have Nights of Lights in St. Augustine … golf tourism with The Players … the Concourse d’ Elegance in Amelia Island … the USA Cycling Amateur Road National Championship in Clay County. Those types of events bring people who are going to spend money and invest in our local community.”
Jacksonville’s Shipyards Property
The Jacksonville City Council has approved $114.5 million in incentives for Jacksonville Jaguar’s owner Shad Khan’s plan to develop the Shipyards property.
Plans for the 10-acre site near TIAA Bank Field include a five-star Four Seasons hotel, a six-story office building and modernized public marina. The city also approved $60 million toward a $120-million Sports Performance Center the team will build nearby.
St. Johns Retail
PEBB Enterprises and Falcone Group will begin construction on Beachwalk Retail Center this year. The Publix-anchored, 170,000-sq.-ft. retail space will serve the masterplanned Beachwalk community on SR 210 in northern St. Johns County. Plans for the community include a 110-room hotel and a high school alongside a 14-acre lagoon.
FORECAST / HEALTH CARE
President/CEO, Memorial Hospital, Jacksonville
Despite two years of reacting to a global pandemic, health care in Northeast Florida is growing rapidly. Health care systems across the region are expanding on virtually every campus.
“There’s significant capital investment in facilities, new hospitals, new centers of service, freestanding ERs, rehab hospitals and new community acute care hospitals.”
Driving Growth: “Northeast Florida continues to grow at an incredibly rapid rate. I think there are about 90 to 95 people a day moving to the region, so as new folks move into our area, the demand for services grows.”
2022 Forecast: “I’m cautiously optimistic, for sure. I do believe we’ll start to move forward out of the pandemic stage. We will see more people traveling again and getting out and visiting our beaches. I think we’ll see a significant rise in demand for elective procedures as we go into 2022 because people have put off basic preventive services like mammograms and colonoscopies.
Unfortunately, we’ll probably end up identifying some cases that will require surgery.” Watching for: “Clearly, we will continue to watch COVID and make sure we’re prepared for any future surge. Outside of COVID, everybody has concerns around possible inflation and workforce talent availability. The ability to hire and retain qualified talent is going to be as prevalent.”
FORECAST / BANKING
Market President Jacksonville, Bank of America, Jacksonville
Jacksonville already employs approximately 62,000 financial services workers, and that figure will rise as the region grows, Bennett says.
Based on the 2020 U.S. Census, Jacksonville gained more than 125,000 residents between 2010 and 2020.
“That’s a trend we’re going to continue to see,” he says.
Though Bennett says the economic outlook begins with growth, other factors in Northeast Florida make the forecast for the coming year look bright in the financial sector. The unemployment rate is about 3.7%, and new businesses are continuing to choose Jacksonville for their home bases.
As the pandemic begins to wind down, companies will start tackling challenges such as labor shortages and supply chain issues.
Though the banking industry in Northeast Florida is “extremely healthy,” it is not without its challenges. One challenge that all banks are adapting to right now is the increased use of technology.
“We have seen record levels of digital engagements across our new and existing clients over the past year.”
For the banking industry, the digital challenge involves educating consumers on the importance of digital technology and the virtual environment. Banks must continuously evaluate their digital offerings to ensure they are providing consumers with the best options.
Like many other employers, banks and other financial institutions will need to be creative in dealing with labor shortages. Bank of America is working with local colleges and universities to develop a talent pipeline. The bank is also working on workforce initiatives internally to “establish a culture of career development and advancement to attract and retain a high-quality workforce.”
Bank of America is also committed to raising the U.S. minimum wage to $21.
“It’s our next step to getting the minimum wage for Bank of America employees to $25 by 2025.”
FORECAST / TRANSPORTATION & LOGISTICS
Director/General Manager of Business Development, JaxPort, Jacksonville
Transportation and logistics will have many opportunities for growth in the next few years, and Northeast Florida is well-positioned to capture it, Peek says.
In mid-2022, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will complete its harbor deepening project at JaxPort three years ahead of schedule. The $484-million project to deepen the shipping channel to 47 feet means the region can retain its current business with the Asian market as well as grow its business as the container ships increase in size.
What was the big story in 2021? “Some of the major ports around the country were experiencing significant congestion. Ships had to wait to get to their berth to unload, and they were having problems finding enough trucks to carry that freight inland.”
Did Northeast Florida experience a bottleneck? “We did not have those problems in Jacksonville. We have had no congestion in our ports throughout the pandemic. Our berths are open and available. We have cranes available, and we have trucks available to take those goods to market.”
Will delays elsewhere impact Northeast Florida? “We’re speaking with several companies right now about diverting their freight to Jacksonville. We can unload it and get those goods to warehouses and, ultimately, to store shelves and into the consumers’ hands quickly.”
What is the outlook for 2022? “I believe there will be continued congestion in 2022. The question is how deep and how pervasive will it be? My impression is until next October there will be some degree of disruption in the supply chain.”
How is the region preparing for increased business? “Northeast Florida is seeing strong growth in warehouse-related industrial space. Major retailers are opening import distribution centers, and other companies are opening large warehouses. We’re also seeing some national developers build speculative warehouse space in Northeast Florida. They’ve done the analysis and determined Jacksonville is on the cusp. There is going to be a demand for a lot of new warehouse and distribution space.”
- JaxPort’s harbor-deepening project will be completed in June, three years ahead of schedule. With the Army Corps of Engineer’s 11-mile, $484-million project to deepen the St. Johns River to 47 feet, the harbor can accommodate larger vessels from global carriers.
- Orange Park Medical Center plans to build a $14.4-million freestanding emergency center in Middleburg. The facility, expected to be completed in the fall, will serve Middleburg, Lake Asbury, Green Cove Springs and Penney Farms.
- Washington Prime Group, based in Indiana, has emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy after reducing its debt by $1 billion. In Northeast Florida, the group owns Orange Park Mall in Clay County and Westland Park Place in Duval County.
- Chair of the University of Florida’s College of Medicine, Gilbert Rivers Upchurch Jr., has been named to the National Academy of Medicine for his contributions to understanding vascular disease and for contributing to advancements in vascular and surgical care.
- Ken Griffin, founder and CEO of Citadel, has donated $5 million to UF for its computer science education initiative. The money will be used to create an online community for teachers across the state to learn about computer science and help them obtain certification to teach it to K-12 students.
- Construction has begun on a $26-million Student Health Care Center at UF. The 46,000-sq.-ft. facility, expected to open in late 2022, will offer primary care, sports medicine, acute care, nutrition and ancillary services as well as a women’s clinic.
- The seven-story, 220,000-sq.-ft. Baptist Jacksonville Entry Building/ Wolfson Children’s Critical Care Tower is on target for completion this month. The estimated $224-million project will bring 50 new full-time jobs and provide an 89-bed neonatal intensive care center, a 26-bed pediatric intensive care unit, a 10-bed cardiovascular intensive care unit and a two-bed specialty burn unit.
- Global financial technology company FIS’ new headquarters in downtown Jacksonville is expected to be completed this summer. The 12-story, 300,000-sq.-ft. building cost $145 million. The company is adding 500 jobs to its existing 1,800 workforce.
- In the second half of the year, Jacksonville Electric Authority plans to move into its new eight-story headquarters downtown. The 163,000-sq.-ft., $75-million building is at Pearl and Adams streets near the Duval County Courthouse.
- The Jacksonville Zoo has received a $3-million gift from J. Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver to start its $50-million Rezoovenation fundraising campaign. In addition to a new manatee habitat, plans call for a new lion habitat as well as improvements to current exhibits. The zoo hopes to raise $25 million in the next five years, which will be matched by city funding.
- TD Bank is planning a $4.8-million renovation at its Deerwood Park North location in Jacksonville. The build-out, to be completed in the spring, will enable the firm to add 250 jobs in the next two years.
- Financial technology company Nymbus is moving its headquarters from Miami Beach to Jacksonville. The company, which develops software for banks and credit unions, will rent 4,000 square feet in the Vystar corporate office downtown, bringing more than 650 jobs to the region.
- Sun Country Airlines, which now operates out of Jacksonville International Airport, will begin service to its hub in Minneapolis-St. Paul on Mondays and Fridays starting in April.
- Jacksonville-based Crowley Maritime plans to invest in the startup Saildrone Surveyor, a California-based company that maps ocean surfaces. Crowley also announced that it has established a base of operations for its Crowley New Energy division in Providence, R.I. The new energy division has a mission to become the “first full-service turnkey provider for the offshore wind industry.”
- Montgomery, Ala.-based construction company Caddell has opened an office in Jacksonville. Caddell also has offices in Atlanta and Bentonville, Ark.
- The third-party logistics and transportation provider AGX Freight has appointed Ike Sherlock as its new COO. Sherlock served as vice president of operations at Grimes Co.
- Developer Eden Living is bringing a horizontal apartment concept to Jacksonville with plans for 265 rental units in the Arlington neighborhood. Instead of a multi-story apartment building, Eden Arlington will consist of 189 single-story cluster apartments and 76 two-story townhomes. The concept, which gives renters more space for private yards and courtyards, is expected to be completed in two years.
- The Lake Citybased double-sided, drive-thru coffee concept Ellianos Coffee plans to open two new locations in Northeast Florida.
ST. JOHNS COUNTY
- Flagler Health+ will open two primary care facilities in northwest St. Johns County early this year. The Greenbriar facility will be led by Dr. Mark Michaels, and the Julington Creek facility will be led by Dr. Aaron Tawes.
- St. Augustine-based Mexican street food restaurant Cantina Louie will open two new restaurants in northern St. Johns County. Since opening in 2014, the chain has opened eight locations in Northeast Florida and one in Asheville, N.C. An additional restaurant is under construction in Matthews, N.C.
- Boos Development has purchased a 15-acre site in northern St. Johns County. The new development, Shoppes of Longleaf Pine, will be used for retail space and will offer outparcels for build-to-suit or ground lease development. The retail center is expected to include Wendy’s, Heartland Dental and Lockhart Storage and other businesses.
- Construction has begun on St. Augustine’s Tag! Children’s Museum. The first phase of the project, which has been in the works for more than 10 years, includes indoor and outdoor spaces called the Discovery center and is expected to open in the winter. The museum is expected to have a $2-million annual impact on the economy.
- Owners of the new Port Orange Fysh Bar & Grill plan to open a second version in St. Johns County in 2023. Plans call for a 10,000-sq.-ft. restaurant on CR 210, making it one of the largest restaurants in the county.
- John Delaney has been appointed president of Flagler College after serving as interim president for one year. Delaney was mayor of Jacksonville from 1995 to 2003 and then president of the University of North Florida for 15 years.
- Flagler Beach will replace its iconic wood pier with a 800-foot concrete pier, the original length of the pier before Hurricane Matthew destroyed 160 feet of the structure in 2016. The city will use $10 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency grant money and raise an additional $2.5 million to complete the project.
- Construction has begun on a 100-bed, 158,000-sq.-ft. hospital in Palm Coast. AdventHealth Palm Coast Parkway will include a 30,000-sq.-ft. medical office building as part of the $145-million project.
- AdventHealth has opened a full-service, 13,000-sq.-ft. emergency room in Belleview. The 12-bed facility is open 24 hours a day and provides emergency care for the town’s 5,400 residents.
- Construction has begun on Trailhead Logistics Commerce Park in Ocala. The 943,426-sq.-ft. spec warehouse on 64 acres is located on CR 484 west of I-75. The joint venture between Transwestern Development Co. and QuadReal Property Group is expected to be completed by December.
- The University of Florida Emerging Pathogens Institute has published COVID-19 projections for the second pandemic winter 2021-22. Assuming no major variants emerge and vaccinations continue at the current rate, UF scientists project:
- Daily and weekly cases in Florida will drop to the state’s May and June 2021 rates before the Delta variant spike, which peaked in August 2021.
- COVID-19 will pose the greatest risk in areas where immunity is low. Vaccination rates range by county from 32% to 91%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Immunity wanes over time, and older people and those with underlying conditions will continue to be at risk for hospitalization and death.
- People who are at a higher risk will need to take additional precautions, such as wearing masks and avoiding large gatherings.
- The virus can mutate and form a new variant at any time, making it impossible to predict more than a few months out what might happen.