Delaney: 4 economic deals to hit Council this month
University of North Florida President John Delaney, the 2013 chair of the JAXUSA Partnership, told about 500 JAX Chamber members Tuesday that four economic-development projects would be presented this month to City Council.
Soon after Delaney's lunchtime remarks at the quarterly meeting at the Hyatt Downtown, Council was presented a deal for Corys Thunder Inc., which was code-named "Project Fission." The legislation was filed soon before the 5 p.m. Council meeting.
The Daily Record was told after the JAXUSA event by a source that a second project was expected, although no other economic-development legislation was filed Tuesday afternoon.
That project was described in general terms as an IT-financial services expansion of a company with a local presence that would involve at least 200 jobs.
JAXUSA Partnership is the economic-development division of the JAX Chamber.
Corys Thunder is based in St. Marys, Ga., and wants to move its headquarters and 31 jobs to the Jacksonville International Tradeport in North Jacksonville. It would create four more jobs by Dec. 31, 2015.
Corys Thunder makes training simulators for nuclear power plants and the average workforce wage was listed as $107,133, plus benefits of $16,000.
The City Office of Economic Development reports Corys Thunder has asked for $297,500 in state and local assistance, comprising $49,000 from the City in the form of a Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund and $248,500 from the state for its portion of its tax refund and another $52,500 in training funds.
The project qualifies to be fast-tracked through Council for a vote March 26 because the City incentives are less than $300,000.
Corys Thunder intends to lease 25,000 square feet of space at 1351 Tradeport Drive. The site is in a Community Redevelopment Area, which provides for development assistance.
Delaney reported that JAXUSA has 40 prospects in the pipeline and the number is growing.
The Daily Record reported Feb. 28 that the names of "Project Fission" and "Project Colgate" surfaced in public records, with few hints about size or nature.
While code names don't always fit the project, "fission" appears to be a logical identifier.
There were questions whether the projects were related to speculation about 1 million-square-foot and 500,000-square-foot projects.
FedEx Ground Package System Inc. has confirmed it is reviewing Jacksonville for a project, believed to be at Cecil Commerce Center.
Sources have said that the 500,000-square-foot project could be FedEx, although the international package shipper hasn't confirmed the location or size of a possible project.
FedEx Corp. is based in Memphis, Tenn., and FedEx Ground is based in Pittsburgh.
JAXUSA Partnership President Jerry Mallot, also interim CEO of the chamber, said in late February that several projects would be announced in the subsequent 60 days.
"It's looking pretty good. We have a number of projects that are nearing closure or final decisions," he said.
Mallot said the prospects operate among industries such as logistics, financial services, information technology and manufacturing.
"We have a good balance of companies looking at us in general and nearing a final decision," he said.
Mallot said in late February the majority of the current prospects are new to the market and their projected jobs range from 30 to several hundred.
JAXUSA Partnership represents the seven counties of Baker, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns.
Many of the prospects are considering Duval because of its inventory of existing available buildings, he said.
Mallot said the 2013 goal is to create more than 3,000 jobs. He said the economic development efforts generated more than 3,000 jobs last year in the partnership area, exceeding the goal of 2,500.
Code names aren't unusual and typically are accompanied by confidentiality requirements.
A state statute allows companies working with Florida economic development agencies to apply for confidentiality, which prohibits agency employees from discussing the deal until it becomes public or they are otherwise permitted to talk. The statute says violators are committing a misdemeanor.
Vistakon president says growth continues
Dave Brown, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Inc.'s president of the Americas, said after his keynote speech Tuesday to the JAXUSA Partnership that the 1,800-job Jacksonville-based operation continues to expand.
Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, whose Jacksonville-based division is known as Vistakon, makes the Acuvue brand of disposable contact lenses.
The company is expanding its distribution center at its Deerwood Park campus in Southside and also is leasing a former SuperStock building nearby for administrative space, which is where Brown will relocate.
"Over the years, we have gradually grown and along with that comes the need for more space," Brown said. "When there are opportunities in the area, we're always interested in looking."
He said ground was broken recently for the distribution center. The move to the former SuperStock building is expected in the second quarter.
"We expect it to be state of the art," he said.
Vistakon has developed a 661,174-square-foot headquarters, research, manufacturing and distribution center at 7500 Centurion Parkway and is expanding its distribution center by 104,227 square feet. The expansion boosts its presence in Jacksonville on the 68.87-acre complex.
In January, the City approved a construction permit for Danis Construction LLC to renovate a 34,000-square-foot building that formerly housed SuperStock for use by Vistakon. It is a $1.355 million construction project, the permit shows. Another permit calls for $77,000 in interior demolition work. The building is at 7660 Centurion Parkway.
The plans show the project as the Vistakon, Division of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Inc., Global Franchise Headquarters.
It shows renovations to 18,447 square feet on the first floor and 15,007 square feet on the second floor.
First-floor plans show an auditorium, sales areas, commercial operations, conference space, finance and information technology offices and a collaboration video area. Second-floor plans show a marketing area, executive office areas, a boardroom, conference areas, multipurpose space and other uses.
It also shows space for ODLean, whose website, odlean.com, says it is part of The Vision Care Institute, a limited liability company in the Johnson & Johnson family of companies. Its consulting services address optometric practices, from glasses to medical to staff and cash flow.
Vistakon also has been leasing other area space for its functions as it expands.
Brown and Vistakon also have been in view of Gov. Rick Scott. Scott used the Vistakon property as his site to announce his manufacturing sales tax break legislation and Brown attended Scott's "State of the State" address in Tallahassee to the Florida Legislature.
In addition to its plans to lease the SuperStock building, Vistakon also has been leasing other area space for its functions as it expands.
Brown did not specify additional office and distribution space needs, but said, "in general, we want to have a nice work environment."
At the JAXUSA Partnership event, Brown discussed the history and global reach of the company.
He said Acuvue is the No. 1 contact lens brand in the world and that the company also is an innovator in education with The Vision Care Institute, which provides instruction to current and future eye doctors about vision diagnostic and treatment technologies.
According to the JAX Chamber, Brown was recruited by Johnson & Johnson in 1990. In 2009, Brown was appointed president of the Americas group.
"In that year, the company faced flat sales as a result of the economic downturn in the U.S. Brown reorganized the company, reset priorities and created a culture where the $1 billion-plus company has exceeded growth expectations," said the chamber.
In brief, Brown presented information that:
• Johnson & Johnson, based in New Brunswick, N.J., has revenue of $65 billion over the three sectors; its products are sold in 175 countries; it has more than 127,000 employees worldwide among more than 275 operating companies; and that 1 billion people use Johnson & Johnson products every day.
• The Vision Care Institute's first location was in 2004 in Jacksonville and it now has 19 locations worldwide and 90,000 eye-care professionals have trained with it.
He discussed ways to encourage business growth in Florida, including the potential passage of Scott's sales tax break proposal, and cited a Johnson & Johnson Vision Care initiative, the Florida Center for Manufacturing, a consortium for government and industry to improve the industry's workforce and opportunities.
• Johnson & Johnson Vision Care sells $3 billion of Acuvue brand contact lenses a year globally and has 4,100 employees worldwide, including 1,800 in Jacksonville. The other manufacturing plant is in Limerick, Ireland.
The JAXUSA Partnership gave its quarterly "Industry Leader Award" to Medtronic Surgical Technologies. The Jacksonville-based company makes products to diagnose, prevent and monitor chronic conditions. Construction is under way on a $14 million, 75,000-square-foot training facility for completion in 2015. It will add 175 jobs.
Allstate plans upgrades
The Allstate building at 4920 San Pablo Road S. is set for $2 million in upgrades and remodeling.
Allstate Insurance Co. applied for a building permit to renovate the second and fifth floors of the eight-story building and to upgrade the mechanical and electrical systems.
M.A. Mortenson Co. is listed as the contractor for the project.
Plans show that the 17,354-square-foot second floor and the 17,711-square-foot fifth floor will be remodeled. Plans show offices, conference rooms, "huddle rooms" and more renovations.
More about RockTenn's Downtown move
Robin Keegan, director of corporate communications for Norcross, Ga.-based RockTenn Corp., said the existing space for the company's Regional Shared Services Center offices in North Jacksonville is an old elementary school that was "pressed into service for this group."
The functions will relocate in June to space in the duPont Center II building at 1660 Prudential Drive on the Downtown Southbank. The employment level will remain at 70.
"The new space is a much more modern office space specifically designed for the team's shared services activities," Keegan said.
She said RockTenn owns the North Jacksonville property, which is near its 9469 Eastport Road containerboard mill, and has not finalized plans on how it will use the space being vacated.
RockTenn Corp. plans to move its Regional Shared Services Center in June to the Downtown Southbank, where it will provide back-office functions for the company's U.S. facilities. RockTenn is a leading producer of corrugated and consumer packaging as well as recycled operations.
Keegan previously said the Southbank space would be larger but after review said it would be smaller, but more functional.
Building plans show tenant improvements for 12,791 square feet of space on the second floor of the four-story, 80,000-square-foot duPont Center II building. C. Harrison Construction of Callahan is listed as the contractor for the $614,503 project.
RockTenn employs about 26,000 people and operates more than 240 facilities, including the Jacksonville containerboard mill, in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Chile, Argentina and China.