Florida’s Northeast is a place of both opportunity and possibility. Home to three Fortune 500 companies and the national or divisional headquarters of more than 80 other firms, its signature city, Jacksonville, was ranked the No. 3 “Best City for Job Seekers” by Money magazine in 2020. At 875 square miles, Jacksonville is the largest city by area in the continental U.S. and one of only a handful nationwide where city and county governments function as one. Adding to this region’s appeal is its prime location just south of the Georgia state line along I-95 and the Atlantic coast, ensuring ready access to multiple markets by land, sea and air.
More than 80 firms have chosen to site their national or divisional headquarters in Jacksonville, and there is always room for more. Companies boasting additions/developments in this sector include:
• Business data and analytics giant Dun & Bradstreet, which plans to relocate its corporate headquarters from New Jersey to Jacksonville in fall 2021, bringing 500 jobs to the city at an average salary of $77,000 over the next five years.
• Staffing firm CSI Companies, which cut the ribbon on its new headquarters in The Point at Gate Parkway in April 2021 with 125 employees in place. The new facility includes a fitness center and yoga lawn, café-style lounge, coffee bars on every floor and collaborative spaces throughout.
• Culinary and food science company Darifair Foods, which broke ground in October 2020 on its 47,500-sq.-ft. corporate headquarters and innovation center at Flagler Center in South Jacksonville. Estimated completion date: late 2021.
KEY PLAYERS: Advanced Disposal, Jacksonville; Fanatics, Jacksonville; Florida Blue, Jacksonville; Landstar, Jacksonville; McKesson, Jacksonville
Aviation/Aerospace & Defense
Cecil Spaceport in Jacksonville is making news. Owned by the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, Cecil is one of 11 commercial spaceports in the U.S. and the only one on the East Coast that is licensed for horizontal launch. In December 2020, aerospace contractor Aveum unveiled Ravn X, the world’s largest unmanned aircraft system. Designed to deliver small satellites to space, Ravn X can reach speeds of 575 miles per hour. Its first mission is tentatively scheduled for October 2021.
In other aerospace-aviation news:
• Aerospace conglomerate Redwire, a leader in mission critical space solutions, has acquired the Jacksonville-based firm Made in Space and will establish its headquarters in Northeast Florida.
• Canadian aerospace company Space Engine Systems has received FAA approval to establish its North American operations at Cecil Spaceport. The site will serve as the company’s propulsion technology development facility with a goal of launching a reusable cruise vehicle.
• Boeing has announced plans to add about 400 more jobs at Cecil Airport in Jacksonville. A new facility to be built by Jacksonville Aviation Authority (JAA) and leased to Boeing will include nearly 270,000 square feet of hangar space and more than 100,000 square feet of office and support shop space, with an anticipated completion date of January 2024.
• Elsewhere at Cecil Airport, JAA will construct a 39,000-sq.-ft. hangar and office facility to support ManTech Advanced Systems International.
KEY PLAYERS: ASEC, Jacksonville; AVMAX, Jacksonville; The Boeing Company, Chicago; Flightstar, Jacksonville
Logistics & Transportation
This region is loaded with logistical advantages: two deep-water ports, three railroads, two commercial airports, a spaceport and three interstate highways — I-95, I-10 and I-75 — that put 61 million people within an eight-hour drive.
Not surprisingly, Amazon has built a significant presence here. At last count there were 12 Amazon facilities/sites in Florida’s Northeast, including two under construction: a sortation site at Cecil Commerce Center in Jacksonville and a last-mile fulfillment center due to open in St. Augustine by year’s end.
Other recent developments across the region include:
• Texas-based CarParts.com plans to open its sixth U.S. distribution center in Northwest Jacksonville. The 180,000-sq.-ft. facility is expected to create 150 new full-time jobs.
• Loctec Ergonomic Technology, a manufacturer of work furniture, has leased a Jacksonville warehouse and plans to build a distribution center in North Jacksonville.
• The Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. has begun delivering grocery products using a “hub-and-spoke model” that originates from its customer fulfillment center in Groveland (the hub) and incorporates fresh food suppliers (the spoke) in Jacksonville.
• Jacksonville-based CSX Corporation has announced two important acquisitions: the Massachusetts-based Pan Am Railways, which adds three more Eastern states to its 23-state network; and Tampa-based trucking company Quality Carriers Inc., which expands its multimodal capabilities for shipping.
JaxPort, Florida’s largest container port, would likely have been expected to break records for another year, if not for COVID-19 which resulted in a 4.6% decrease from 2019’s record. And while the port retained its position as one of the nation’s busiest vehicle handling ports, the number of vehicles actually passing through JaxPort fell to 555,880 in 2020, down from the previous year’s 696,500. But good news — with the first three quarters of FY 2021 behind it, JaxPort has moved 15% more containers than the same period last year. Meanwhile, a project to deepen the port’s shipping channel continues.
Among recent developments:
• Global logistics and shipping services company American Roll-On Roll-Off Carrier Group (ARC) has relocated its corporate headquarters to Ponte Vedra Beach in St. Johns County.
• Massachusetts-based 1A Auto, an online auto parts retailer, has opened a warehouse in NorthPoint Industrial Park near JaxPort’s Blount Island Marine Terminal.
KEY PLAYERS: Amazon, Seattle, Wa.; Crowley Marine, Jacksonville; CSX, Jacksonville; Suddath, Jacksonville; Volkswagen Group of America, Herndon, Va.
Florida’s Northeast is home to three Fortune 500 companies and 20 major insurance and investment services firms on Forbes’ Global 500 list. Familiar U.S. brands thriving in Jacksonville include Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase, Fidelity National Financial, FIS, Wells Fargo and VyStar Credit Union. Here too are Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank and Sydney-based Macquarie Group as well as insurance giants Florida Blue, Aetna and Allstate.
FIS, one of three Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Jacksonville, added 200 employees last year and its new headquarters remains on track to open as scheduled in June 2022.
Among other recent developments in this sector:
• Macquarie Group has recently opened a Technology Leasing Division in Jacksonville.
• TD Bank will expand its existing presence in downtown Jacksonville with additional office space and plans to build several new stores in the area. More than 250 jobs are expected.
• Jacksonville’s VyStar Credit Union is making plans to acquire Georgia-based Heritage Southeast Bank, with 22 branches and $1.5 billion in assets.
KEY PLAYERS: Emtec, Jacksonville; Fidelity National Financial, Jacksonville; FIS, Jacksonville; SS&C Technologies, Jacksonville
With an ever-growing workforce, lower-than-average leasing costs for industrial space and easy access to multiple markets via air, sea, rail and road, this region is well-equipped to ensure long-term manufacturing success.
Recent developments in this thriving sector include:
• Record demand for Boston Whaler’s award-winning line of fiberglass boats has prompted Brunswick Corporation to reopen its 225,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing facility in Flagler County with the expectation of 400 jobs.
• S2A Modular, a manufacturer of electrically self-sustaining and clean-energy home and commercial structures, has purchased land in Baker County for its first East Coast mega-factory to manufacture luxury smart residences and smart commercial buildings. The anticipated facility is expected to create some 250 new jobs in the region.
• Johnson & Johnson Vision, maker of Acuvue disposable contact lenses, has signed a 10-year agreement with JEA, Jacksonville’s community-owned utility provider, to ensure that 100% of the electricity at its global headquarters comes from solar power. The deal is part of J & J’s commitment to source 100% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025.
KEY PLAYERS: Johnson & Johnson Vision, Jacksonville; Pilot (Pen) Corporation of America, Jacksonville; Rayonier Advanced Materials, Jacksonville
The region’s K-12 public educational options include five of the top 25 Florida school districts offering career-focused academies and career and technical education (CTE) programs. Three Jacksonville high schools were among the nation’s top 215 on U.S. News & World Report’s “Best High Schools, 2021,” and St. Johns County school district received its 10th consecutive “A” grade from the Florida Department of Education in 2019. (Note: school district grades were not assessed in 2020 due to the pandemic.)
With a combined graduate and undergraduate enrollment topping 17,000, University of North Florida has for the second year in a row been named among U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges — National Universities, 2021” at No. 272 and remains among “Top Public Schools” at No. 136. In 2021, UNF’s Coggin College of Business was recognized by The Princeton Review as one of the nation’s best business schools for the 14th consecutive year.
Also making headlines: Edward Waters College, Florida’s first independent and historically black institution of higher learning, newly renamed Edward Waters University, offering its first graduate-level program — a master’s degree in business administration; Jacksonville University, partnering with Baptist Health Jacksonville to create a 12-month “bachelor’s in nursing program” for those who already have a bachelor’s degree in another field; and Flagler College in St. Augustine, ranked No. 4 on U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Regional Colleges South.”
For the fifth time in six years, Mayo Clinic Jacksonville is named Florida’s No. 1 “Best Hospital” by U.S. News & World Report, and among the top 50 hospitals in seven adult medical specialties: cancer, diabetes and endocrinology, gastroenterology and GI surgery, geriatrics, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopedics and urology. And as Mayo prepares to celebrate its 35th year in Jacksonville, two expansions are underway: an addition to include eight operating rooms and procedural space for cardiology, gastroenterology, hepatology and other departments, as well as additional emergency room space to accommodate 14 new ER patient rooms and 10 new short-stay and care rooms. And breaking ground in 2022, a $223-million, 200,000-sq.-ft. integrated oncology center.
Also tapped by U.S. News, UF Health Jacksonville as the nation’s 39th best hospital in the ear, nose and throat category. Affiliated with the University of Florida, this 695-bed facility in downtown Jacksonville recently broke ground on its first free-standing emergency department in northwest Jacksonville. Estimated completion: late 2022.
On the pediatric side, Wolfson Children’s Hospital, a Baptist Health affiliate, took top 50 honors in two specialties: pediatric diabetes and endocrinology (No. 44) and pediatric orthopedics (No. 45). One of five hospitals owned by Baptist Health in Jacksonville, Wolfson continues to work toward completion of a multi-year, $200-million construction project that, when completed will be the largest children’s hospital campus in Florida.
Life & Leisure
Plenty to Enjoy
Florida’s Northeast overflows with things to see and do. In Jacksonville, there’s the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, this region’s largest fine arts museum; MOCA (the Museum of Contemporary Art) Museum of Science and History (MOSH); and Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. For sun worshippers, there’s Amelia Island in Nassau County, named a top 10 U.S. island by Conde Nast readers in 2020, and home to the town of Fernandina Beach boasting 400+ historic homes, churches and commercial buildings. And, of course, Florida’s Northeast boasts 90 miles of Atlantic Ocean coastline for swimming, snorkeling, sailing, surfing and sunning.
Move Over Central Park, Make Room for Jacksonville
With more than 80,000 acres of parklands, Jacksonville is home to the largest urban park system in the nation. Among these are three national sites — Fort Caroline National Memorial, the Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve and Kingsley Plantation — seven state parks and more than 450 urban city parks, one of which — Jessie Ball duPont — is home to a 250-year-old, 70-foot-tall live oak with a circumference of 25 feet.
Golfers love Florida’s Northeast for its more than 80 courses including TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach where the Players PGA Tournament takes place annually. The PGA Tour’s newly completed $65-million, 187,000-sq.-ft. global headquarters opened here in February 2021.