"The cost of living is among the lowest of other major cities in the country," Mallot says. "We try to keep our annual growth at about 2 percent, which is aggressive but manageable and allows us to build our infrastructure of roads, utilities and lifestyle amenities equal to or faster than our population growth."
Close To Interstates, Rail Lines And A Port
"From a logistics provider perspective, we are really blessed by what I consider one of the premier areas of the country," says Jeff Spence, CEO of ICS Logistics in Jacksonville.
"Geographically, we sit in a sweet spot with three major interstates and rail lines. We also have a marine terminal which is unique in that most ports are really strapped for real estate––yet Jacksonville has capacity."
Spence notes there are multi--modal and tri--modal regions. "But this is really a quad--modal area,:" he says. This fourth mode includes the Cecil Commerce Center.
It’s the old Cecil Naval Air Station, with the third--longest runway in the state, and is surrounded by about 3,000 acres of prime and developable land for distribution space.
"It offers huge air cargo potential which––when you add it to our infrastructure assets of highways, trains and marine––offers an environment which is a great jumping--off spot for all the Caribbean Basin as well as South America and Europe."
ICS Logistics is an asset--based 3PL. "Our history is in perishable warehousing––which is how we got started in 1974,” Spence says. “We now focus on international trade because we are in an excellent port city."
Spence says that about 85 percent of the products ICS Logistics touches either starts or stops offshore––and about 60 percent of those products are perishable. ICS ships a lot of leg quarters to Russia––more than half the U.S. quota.
"We do a lot of inbound and outbound container work at our dockside facility and at our inland facility in Jacksonville," Spence says.
In fact, in 1993 the company started a small perishable warehouse at the Jacksonville Port Authority and since then that facility has already doubled in size.
On the non--perishable side of its business, ICS is currently constructing a 553,000--square--foot dry warehouse at the Jacksonville Port Authority––which is being built to serve an international manufacturer under a long--term contract which will support weekly ship calls from the Baltic Sea.
"There are 52 ships entering here a year so there are tremendous opportunities for non--perishable food items leaving the United States in an export mode on those returning ships," Spence says.
On the inbound side, ICS receives containers of products from overseas, which pass through either a USDA import inspection process (for red meat), or an FDA inspection (for seafood). Products are then transloaded and shipped by either truck or rail to one of ICS’s warehouses for distribution at a later date.
Spence notes some similarities between Jacksonville and San Diego. "Both cities are commerce--driven and not tourist--driven. If you look at San Diego prior to its first Super Bowl, you will get an idea of what Jacksonville is like at this moment––and you also get a sense of what our growth potential is here."
Spence hopes the Super Bowl, which was held in Jacksonville in the winter, gave the area some much--needed national exposure, unlocked the hidden values of the city in terms of infrastructure and geography, and helped identify it as a uniquely positioned logistical hub.