Florida Trend | Florida's Business Authority




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6 Colleges / Universities

Downtown Jacksonville is having its moment. Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan has a $387 million plan for the Shipyards and Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. The company will flag Khan’s five-star hotel and residence project on the downtown riverfront. Another $2 billion development, one of the nation’s largest, is also proposed for the riverfront. The wider Northeast Florida region also is bustling with ship traffic at JaxPort (the Jacksonville Port Authority), manufacturing expansion and more than 1.6 million people shaping its diverse communities. Business leaders are focused on economic mobility and regional cooperation as they work to maintain a high-quality of life and a favorable business environment that attracts top talent. Jacksonville saw a net growth of 67% of corporate relocations, the highest of any major U.S. city last year.



In Baker County, agri-tech company Plant Agricultural Systems is investing $750 million in the development of advanced production facilities, with plans to hire more than 600 full-time employees over the next eight years. The Fort Lauderdale-based agricultural services provider of physical and digital hydroponics systems plans to build facilities spanning 8.1 million square feet across 772 acres in the town of Sanderson. The facilities will grow leafy greens and vine crops in a solar-powered plant that uses 70-90% less water than conventional agriculture. The farm relies on data centers supported by artificial intelligence processing and deploys blockchain technology in its supply chain, allowing consumers to trace the produce they buy to its production using a digital code.

Johnson & Johnson Vision’s Jacksonville contact lens manufacturing center is undergoing $57 million in investments. Johnson & Johnson employs about 4,200 people at its Deerwood Park campus. New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson has been operating its contact lens business in Jacksonville since 1981.

Canadian roofing products manufacturer IKO South plans a $270 million manufacturing center in Clay County, taking advantage of its new site just 10 miles from I-10 to create what company officials say will be one of the top investments in Florida for 2023. The company will make asphalt roof shingles, insulation boards and commercial roll roofing in three plants totally 650,000 square feet of manufacturing space built on an 80-acre site.


JaxPort is one of the nation’s 17 strategic seaports, on-call at all hours and every day to move U.S. military cargo for national defense, foreign humanitarian aid and disaster relief, and the only port in Florida with this designation. JaxPort recently facilitated the movement of approximately 877 pieces of military equipment, including dozens of aircraft, through the Blount Island Marine Terminal. The U.S. Army’s South Carolina-based 841st Transportation Battalion shipped the equipment to support the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade’s deployment to the Middle East, part of a regular rotation of forces supporting Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria fighting terrorist groups.

The recently launched JaxPort Express is a $47 million public-private partnership to enhance sustainability at its Blount Island and Talleyrand terminals. In coming years it will have a new battery-powered locomotive servicing Jacksonville to replace an older diesel-powered unit. The upgrade promises reductions in emissions and maintenance expenses.

CSX, one of Jacksonville’s largest employers, is donating $1 million to Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens to support the construction of a new CSX Bicentennial Train Station, coinciding with the founding anniversary of the railroad. CSX also committed $10 million to the University of Florida to support a future graduate center under construction in Jacksonville’s downtown.


The University of Florida plans to build a $100 million financial technology graduate school in downtown Jacksonville, looking to serve 10,000 graduate students in health care business, engineering and artificial intelligence on a 15-acre campus. City officials are helping the university raise money for the project, having committed $50 million over the next three years. The state of Florida set aside $75 million for the project in the state budget. UF already has a presence in the city through the University of Florida College of Medicine — with programs in medicine, nursing and pharmacy — on the 110-acre UF Health Jacksonville campus.

The University of North Florida has been named one of the top three Best Online MHA Programs in Florida and one of the top 50 Best MHA Programs Online by EduMed.org. UNF’s online programs in the medical field earned top honors for their overall quality, affordability and commitment to student success. The demand for trained administrative professionals in health care is on the rise with growing vacancies in critical positions.

Jacksonville University turned a 30,000-square-foot facility into a center of interdisciplinary science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics studies on its Arlington campus. Calling the STEAM Institute among the first of its kind in the country, the space houses learning spaces for students in the sciences, engineering and arts. Students majoring in animation, computing sciences, cybersecurity, data science, engineering, film, fintech, game design, geographic information systems, robotics, sustainability and visual design all learn there.


Financial services companies have been drawn to the region’s wealth of talent in banking, investments, insurance, mortgage and cybersecurity. Among them, global accounts payable automation company Medius, which recently opened U.S. headquarters in Jacksonville. Medius CEO Jim Lucier says Jacksonville is a burgeoning hub for fintech organizations because of local educational institutions. Medius uses automation and artificial intelligence to confirm, code and pay invoices. It says it has more than 4,000 customers in 102 countries and processes $180 billion in annual spending.

Health care

Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville has the go-ahead for a $432 million expansion to add five floors to its eight-story patient tower. When completed in 2026 the 1.4-million-sq.-ft. hospital will have 428 beds. Mayo Clinic Hospital opened in April 2008 with six floors and 214 beds and was first expanded in 2012 when two floors and 90 beds were added.

In recent years, Mayo Clinic in Florida has experienced unprecedented growth. Staffing at Mayo Clinic in Florida has increased 23% in the past three years, today numbering 8,314 staff members. This total includes 1,074 physicians, researchers, residents and fellows. The hospital’s plans for developing its Jacksonville facility also include a Hilton Hotel and a new central power plant, and it still has hundreds of acres to grow.

Wolfson Children’s Hospital is doubling the number of beds for children and adolescents in need of behavioral health services to 20 with a $7.28 million renovation. Funding for the unit includes a $3 million donation from The Players Championship and $5 million from the state of Florida.