2023 Economic Outlook
Northeast Florida's economic forecast for 2023
Regional business leaders talk about the outlook for the year ahead, plus demographics and statistics
Perspectives on the Year Ahead
President/CEO, RTI Surgical, Alachua
- OPPORTUNITIES: “North- Central Florida’s thriving life sciences industry is home to numerous highly collaborative businesses that support, encourage and strengthen each other to drive innovation and positively impact the community. The region’s proximity to the University of Florida and Santa Fe College provides a very strong talent pool that is essential to supporting growing businesses. RTI Surgical has a private-label OEM business model and partners with leading medical technology companies to address unmet needs in the tissue and biologics regenerative medical device markets.”
- CAPITAL INVESTMENTS: “In 2023, we will complete an expansion and enhancement of more than 5,000 square feet of custom-designed clean rooms.”
- WORKFORCE: “As we grow, we are focused on enhancing the employee experience by fostering an inclusive environment that values differences, celebrates multiple approaches and points of view, and embraces diversity so employees can be their true self at work.”
CEO, Jacksonville Aviation Authority, Jacksonville
- HIRING OR FIRING? “A job posting that once had 50 applications may now only generate a dozen. However, we are seeing this improve and think it will continue to do so in 2023. We benefit from the amount of people moving to Northeast Florida. For those businesses operating at the airport that have experienced staffing shortages, such as the restaurants, the authority has helped them by hosting several job fairs.”
- CAPITAL INVESTMENTS: “The airport will undergo some large changes over the next several years. This includes the expansion of the TSA checkpoint and adding a third concourse to the terminal, which will give us six new gates. The combined total for these two projects is around $300 million. The authority is also building a $185-million facility for Boeing at one of our general aviation facilities, Cecil Airport.”
- RISING INTEREST RATES: “Interest rates and commodity price increases have affected the airport in a number of ways, but it’s been mostly evident in construction and labor costs. Interest rates are higher now than they have been in over a decade. This increased financing costs for construction of the third concourse prior to what they would have been pre-COVID. Retaining and hiring employees during a period of inflation also means that salaries need to be competitive with the market and are higher than they have been in the past.”
Executive Vice President/COO, VyStar Credit Union, Jacksonville
- CAPITAL INVESTMENTS: “In 2021, VyStar broke ground on a seven-level, 759-spot parking garage in downtown Jacksonville. The garage will be complete by the end of this year and will serve VyStar employees and downtown tenants and offer 14,000 square feet of retail space.” VyStar opened its first Georgia location in Thomasville in 2022. “Our field of membership in Georgia includes 26 counties, and over the next three years, we plan to open up to 25 additional branches between Greater Orlando and Georgia.”
- HIRING OR FIRING? “As we continue to grow and bring the benefits of credit union membership to more people, we must grow our teams to support those members. With each new branch, we add approximately six staff. Additionally, we continue to see growth in our lending, IT, human resources, operations, marketing and many others from a new staff perspective. We are focused on meeting the needs of our more than 840,000 members.”
Executive Vice President/COO, UF Health, Jacksonville
- CAPITAL INVESTMENTS: “In early 2023, UF Health Jacksonville will open three freestanding emergency/urgent care centers, the first of their kind in this region. This new model will give patients the best medical options possible and charge only for the level of care provided. If patients do not require emergency-level services, they will be charged a lower urgent care rate. However, the full range of emergency-level services will be available if needed. At the UF Health North campus, construction is underway on a 124-bed tower, the second on the campus. At the UF Health downtown campus, design and planning is underway for an expanded emergency department and trauma center. This will help UF Health continue its leadership as the region’s only Level I trauma center.” Additionally, UF Health East was slated to open in December as a collaborative partnership between UF Health and Jax Spine & Pain Centers.
- RISING INTEREST RATES: “The more immediate and significant concern is the exponential increase in material and labor costs. It is causing us to limit the size of some future projects and look for creative alternatives. Unfortunately, we see this trend continuing in the near future.”
- HIRING OR FIRING? “Expansion also requires additional staffing that UF Health plans to hire as well as focusing on retention with current staff.”
President, University of North Florida, Jacksonville
- HIRING OR FIRING? “It is more difficult to hire skilled talent now as the workforce remains fiercely competitive. I imagine that trend may get worse in 2023, and employers will have to continue to adapt. Over the next six months, the goal is to hire more people due to our current number of vacancies and to continue to attract accomplished faculty and staff to our university.”
- GROWTH: “We always have multiple capital projects under way as we continually improve and enhance our campus infrastructure. This fiscal year, we will be expending up to $75 million in total for projects that include deferred maintenance, renovations and new construction.”
Economic Development Opportunities in 2023 …
Tourism Development Director, Ocala/Marion County
Recent capital investments in Ocala and Marion County have helped solidify the area’s recognition as a tourism destination, Shaffer says. “Ocala/Marion County welcomed the World Equestrian Center, the largest equestrian complex in the nation, in 2019. There is a 248-room hotel and several restaurants and shops. The variety of venues WEC provides has taken Ocala/Marion County to the next level for hosting events and meetings. In 2022, Ocala/ Marion County opened the Florida Aquatics Swimming and Training facility,” including two Olympic-sized pools, a training center and coaching/ training programs.
President/CEO, Jax Chamber, Jacksonville
“We’ll continue to focus on key industries that include advanced manufacturing, financial services, health and biomedical, IT and innovation, and transportation and logistics. Those companies need skilled talent to succeed, and we will look to develop our own and become a destination for people seeking their next career move and next great place to live.
To develop the best in our community, we are focused on working with schools and companies to define career pathways, expand internships and apprenticeships, and show students the opportunities they can have in Jacksonville.
As we continue to grow, we’re focused on making sure everyone can live here. We’re focused on solutions to build more affordable housing, which I believe is something we should treat as city infrastructure.
We know a vibrant downtown is critical for a great city, so we’re focused on promoting the incredible work of downtown pioneers and advocating for policies that give developers more certainty when taking on these game-changing projects.
To help accommodate entrepreneurs, the chamber launched the Open Innovation Center at Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center in October.”
KEVIN M. WAUGAMAN
CEO, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Network Realty, Jacksonville
“There was heated growth in the real estate market in 2021 and part of 2022 in Northeast Florida. What we will continue to have through the first half of 2023 is a comparison challenge. Many real estate indicators are reported year over year. That won’t be pretty and hasn’t been for a while now because 2021 and the first six months of 2022 were overheated and not sustainable over the long term. A move away from an overheated seller’s market toward a balanced market is what is occurring.
The real challenges for our area are more macro, and the nation is facing them: Higher mortgage rates, whether or not inflation can get under control so we can see real wage growth, avoidance of fear that sometimes comes along with recession and the ancillary impact.
In addition to these, one challenge that will also have an impact on inventory is a phenomenon called ‘rate lock’ — people with low interest rates hesitate to sell and move because of the difference in mortgage rates. There are ways to structure deals that can help with this.
The region is strong and will perform well relative to other areas. It has been strong for a long time. Companies are still moving here, and people are still moving here. I am extremely bullish on our area not only for 2023, but over the long term. There will be housing price blips and mortgage rate volatility along the way.”
MAJOR DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENTS
- Rise Sports Town: The $65-million investment, originally called the Doro, will include 247 multifamily residential units next to the Sports Complex, which is home to 121 Financial Ballpark, VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena and is close to TIAA Bank Field. It is slated to be completed this year. Rise: A Real Estate Company is building Rise Sports Town and moved its headquarters from Valdosta, Ga., to Deerwood Park in Jacksonville in 2021 to focus more on area developments.
- Four Seasons Jacksonville: A 10-acre site near TIAA Bank Field will include a five-star Four Seasons Hotel, residences, a six-story office building and a modernized public marina. Jacksonville Jaguar owner Shad Khan’s Iguana Investments is behind the development of the hotel and the Shipyards property and is receiving $114.5 million in incentives from the Jacksonville City Council for the project.
- Federal Reserve Bank/Florida Baptist Convention Buildings: The 100-year-old Federal Reserve Bank Building is undergoing restoration and will include a restaurant, event and banquet space and offices. The Florida Baptist Convention building next door, nearly a century old, will include 24 apartments and retail space. JWB Real Estate Capital of Jacksonville is spearheading the estimated $18.5-million revival. Both the former bank and convention buildings are National Historic Landmarks.
- The Hardwick at Ford on the Bay: Located at the former Duval County Courthouse site, the Hardwick will include about 330 apartments, retail stores and restaurants in a 20-story building. The project is estimated to cost $160-million.
- One Riverside: Located in the Brooklyn neighborhood, One Riverside will include 270 apartments, retail shops, a Whole Foods and restaurants at the former site of the Florida Times-Union building. The development will also have a parking garage for 600 vehicles. Groundbreaking took place in September.
- The Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville has opened a $13-million special collections building on the University of Florida campus. The building includes the museum’s collection of preserved specimens of fish, reptiles and amphibians.
- A new Isaiah 117 House is slated for Macclenny. The Elizabethton, Tenn.-based non-profit provides a home for children who are in state custody because of abuse, neglect or abandonment. Groundbreaking took place in October.
- A master-planned community called Hyland Trail is coming to 750 acres along Sandridge Road in Green Cove Springs. Hyland Trail will include an estimated 1,500 homes along with commercial and retail sites. The community is expected to open this year. Merritt Properties will develop a 158,400-sq.-ft. flex/light industrial business park on 16 acres within the boundaries of the Oakleaf master-planned community. The office park will include four single-story buildings. The project is Merritt’s second flex/light industrial project in the Jacksonville area.
- JaxPort’s Exemplifying Potential to Reduce Emissions with Sustainable Solutions (EXPRESS) project has received $23.5 million from the U.S. Department of Transportations’ Marine Administration. JaxPort EXPRESS is a $47-million public-private partnership with the port, SSA Jacksonville and Crowley. The grant supports sustainability initiatives at Blount Island and Talleyrand Marine terminals.
- Jax Chamber and the Jacksonville Transportation Authority have opened a 3,900-sq.-ft. Open Innovation Center. Located in the Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center at LaVilla, the business accelerator space will serve as the Jax Chamber’s hub for innovation and technology training.
- FIS has moved to its new 12-story, 300,000-sq.-ft. downtown Riverside headquarters. FIS plans to have 1,800 employees in Jacksonville by 2029, including 500 new workers. The company also named Stephanie Ferris as its new CEO. Previous CEO Gary Norcross is now executive chairman.
- Walmart Health will open three of its 16 Florida locations in Jacksonville by fall 2023. It has two Jacksonville area locations that opened in 2022. The other locations planned by fall 2023 are in the Orlando and Tampa areas. Walmart Health offers primary care and urgent care.
- The Flagler Beach Pier, which sustained damage during Hurricane Ian, will be replaced with a concrete structure. Although plans were already in place for a new pier because of previous damage, there were discussions about repairing damaged parts from Ian and reopening the pier before a new one would be constructed.
- Usher Land and Timber in Fanning Springs has partnered with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences to use artificial intelligence to help reduce the use of resources such as herbicides as well as land and water in farming. Artificial intelligence can help lower herbicide applications by up to 75% to 80%, according to the Florida Farm Bureau.
- Big Shoals State Forest will expand by 142 acres with acquisition of land that is part of the Florida Wildlife Corridor in Hamilton County. The Alachua Conservation Trust worked with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on the expansion, which adds native pine hardwoods and wetland forests to the Big Shoals Conservation Area, spanning about 6,000 acres. The acquisition was funded by the state conservation program Florida Forever.
- The Berkley Oaks subdivision project may bring 250 new homes on 50 acres within a half-mile of the Williston Airport. City council members in Williston gave initial approval in October.
- Cannabis consumer packaged goods company Green Thumb Industries of Chicago has opened a 28-acre cultivation facility in Ocala. Green Thumb’s cannabis goods cultivated in Ocala will be available at its Rise Express dispensaries that will be adjacent to 10 Circle K stores around the state starting this year.
- Blue Skies Firearms Academy has opened in O’Brien.