Florida Trend | Florida's Business Authority

Battery Powered: Saft's battery plant was a victory for Jacksonville

In 2015, President Barack Obama visited French battery maker Saft’s Jacksonville office and touted the company as a leader in clean energy with its production of lithiumion batteries.

“These batteries are the kinds of things folks don’t always think about when it comes to renewable energy, but it couldn’t be more important,” Obama said.

Saft’s large batteries are produced for three main uses, says Jody Beasley, general manager of the plant: Energy storage for power produced by solar and wind; ensuring an uninterrupted power supply for telecommunications towers; and powering city buses and mining vehicles, replacing petroleum fuels.

The plant opened in 2011 after receiving a $95.5-million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. It now employs 190.

Landing the facility was a win for Jacksonville economic development officials. “One of our targeted industries is advanced manufacturing,” says Aaron Bowman, senior vice president of JAXUSA partnership.

LNG Leader

The Saft plant was promoted as an entry into the clean-energy manufacturing field for Jacksonville. While that sector hasn’t taken off, Jacksonville is a leader in another clean energy field, liquefied natural gas, says First Coast Manufacturers Association President Lake Ray.

Two companies are building liquefaction and storage facilities to fuel LNG-powered vessels at JaxPort for freight carriers Crowley Maritime and Tote Maritime. That makes Jax- Port one of a handful of U.S. ports equipped with LNG terminals.

“We’re basically on top of the world in terms of LNG,” says Ray.

Innovation: Government Contract

Gainesville-based Altavian, founded in 2011 by three former University of Florida students, is producing unmanned aerial vehicles used to collect data in difficult sites, such as mining and agricultural fields.

One of Altavian’s major customers is the U.S. government. The General Services Administration recently awarded the company a contract that will allow government agencies to buy drones from Altavian as needed. Altavian says it is the first U.S.-based unmanned aerial vehicle manufacturer to get a GSA contract.

Altavian has an additional office in Charlotte, N.C., and has 38 employees. The privately owned company does not disclose revenue.

Business Briefs

HASTINGS — By a vote of 136-29, residents of Hastings chose to dissolve the town, which was founded in 1890 and incorporated in 1909. The town will be absorbed by St. Johns County. Residents supported the dissolution because of concerns about the town’s finances.

JACKSONVILLE — Ameris agreed to buy Atlantic Coast Financial for $145 million. Southeastern Grocers’ credit rating was downgraded by Moody’s because of difficulty paying $900 million in debt. Private equity firm Lone Star Funds owns Southeastern, the parent company of Winn-Dixie and three other supermarket chains. Title insurance company Fidelity National Financial completed the spinoff of its investment subsidiary into an independent company called Cannae Holdings. Cannae is headquartered in Las Vegas, where Fidelity Chairman Bill Foley relocated after getting an NHL expansion franchise.

  • Rayonier Advanced Materials completed the acquisition of Tembec after increasing the purchase price from about $807 million to $874 million to satisfy Tembec stockholders, who opposed the original deal.
  • City-owned power and water company JEA is looking into privatization.
  • The Wall Street Journal reported InfiLaw, owner of the Florida Coastal School of Law and another law school in Arizona, is in discussions with non-profit law schools to take over operations of the two programs.
  • Sports merchandising firm Fanatics agreed to a licensing deal with Major League Soccer. The company already markets merchandise for the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB. Web.com is consolidating its headquarters into a new six-story, 218,700-sq.-ft. building on the city’s Southside. The website services company has nearly 1,000 employees.
  • St. Vincent’s Riverside hospital is spending $55 million to build a heart and vascular pavilion. The 75,000-sq.-ft. facility is projected to open in the fall of 2019. USG is expanding its building products plant, adding a production line and increasing efficiency with modernized equipment. The expansion will add about 20 jobs for USG, which has about 150 employees in Jacksonville.

LAKE CITY — First Federal Bancorp agreed to buy Coastal Banking, the holding company for Fernandina Beachbased CBC National Bank. Besides increasing First Federal’s operations in Nassau County, the $83-million deal expands the Lake City bank into Ocala and South Carolina.

LIVE OAK — Pilgrim’s Pride agreed to pay $1.4 million in fines to settle a lawsuit alleging its chicken processing plant is polluting the Suwannee River. Pilgrim’s Pride also agreed to upgrade equipment to reduce the plant’s waste to settle the federal lawsuit filed by Environment Florida and the Sierra Club.

NASSAU COUNTY — FPL bought 1,310 acres in the Crawford Diamond Industrial Park from Rayonier for $13.1 million. FPL is not saying what it plans for the property.

OCALA — Marion County signed an agreement with McGinley Farm to develop the Florida Crossroads Commerce Park on a 900-acre site on County Road 484, west of I-95. County officials say the site has the potential to create manufacturing and distribution centers employing about 3,000 people.

ST. AUGUSTINE — Buc-ee’s paid $5.5 million to buy 13.7 acres for a convenience store and gas station near the World Golf Village off of I-95. The store would have 120 gas pumps and be Buc-ee’s first location outside of Texas.


  • VyStar Credit Union hired Brian Wolfburg as president and CEO. Wolfburg had been chief operations officer at Alaska USA Federal Credit Union in Anchorage.
  • David Bassin became CEO of Healogics, a Jacksonville- based company that manages woundcare centers. Bassin joined Healogics as CFO in January 2016.


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