Called Florida’s "First Coast" because it’s located on the Atlantic Ocean in the northeast corner of the state.
Population: 1.3 million
Land Area: 840 square miles
Logistics Hub: Jacksonville was ranked the second "most logistics--friendly" out of 328 cities
Play Time: Region boasts 60 miles of beaches and 70 golf courses.
More than 45 million consumers are within easy access to food distribution companies located in the Jacksonville, FL, area.
"We can reach this many people in an eight--hour drive," says Jerry Mallot, executive vice president of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce. "Our location is central to the Southeastern marketplace, including Florida (with a population of more than 16 million people), Georgia, the Carolinas, Alabama and Mississippi," he says.
The main function of the chamber’s regional economic development group––called Cornerstone Regional Development Partnership––is to attract businesses to northeast Florida.
"One of the key areas we are focused on developing is food distribution," Mallot says. "In food, being close to the marketplace is a very important consideration. We have an outstanding transportation infrastructure that includes three interstate highways, three Class 1 railroads, a natural deep water port and multiple airports including Jacksonville International Airport––and all of these combine to make distribution here really happen."
Nearby interstates are I--95 going from Florida to Maine; I--10, which begins in Jacksonville and ends in California; and west of Jacksonville is I--75 going to southern Florida and north to markets in Atlanta and the Midwest. Class 1 railways are the CSX (headquartered in Jacksonville), the Norfolk Southern and the Florida East Coast Railway.
The area boasts two natural deep--water ports: Jax Port and the Port of Fernandina. Jax Port is one of the largest ports in the country and has three major terminals. About 60 percent of the activities at the port involve shipments of food to Puerto Rico.
As for utilities, electric power is abundant and affordable. The Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) handles the city’s electric, water and sewer functions. JEA belongs to a nationwide network of electric utilities that buys and sells power as needed. "We have always been a net seller of electricity during peak periods," Mallot says, adding the area has an abundant water supply to serve the water and sewage needs of food manufacturers and processors.
The area offers many business incentives, including state--sponsored Enterprise Zones and federal Empowerment Zones. "These zones generally involve sales tax deduction advantages and income tax credits," Mallot says. A local program offers revenue grants through a refund in property taxes for companies investing in physical expansion and capital investment which creates jobs in the local community. Workforce incentives abound as well, including a state program called Quick Response Training, which pays training costs for employees in order to help a company get on its feet after re--locating or expanding.
This program pays up to 100 percent of the cost, with certain caps, depending on the number of employees involved and the wage level of employees. Another state program––Qualified Targeted Industry––pays $3,000 or more per job created within targeted industries. "It’s paid in the form of a tax refund and is a very effective program attracting companies to this region," Mallot says.
A regional workforce board––WorkSource––is available for the continued training and upgrading of workforce skills over a long period of time and pays up to 100 percent of training costs.
As for the lifestyle in Jacksonville, it offers more than 60 miles of ocean beach and the largest urban park system in the country.