Davis seeks ‘victories’ from chamber trip
Jacksonville civic and business leaders for some time have advocated for a better Downtown and improved education system.
A three-day trip to Charlotte, N.C., this week by many of those same leaders potentially could bring back "victories" in those areas.
The 33rd Annual JAX Chamber Leadership trip departed Tuesday morning for North Carolina's largest metropolitan city. Among the more than 130 participants was chamber CEO Daniel Davis, the first-year leader of the organization.
He said he hopes those who are participating will be able to "narrow it down to a couple of victories" Jacksonville could implement. Davis, like numerous others interviewed, specifically referred to Downtown revitalization and education.
At the education forefront is Nikolai Vitti, Duval County Public Schools superintendent, who is taking part in the trip. Charlotte's size and demographics are comparable to Jacksonville and there are opportunities to learn, he said.
"They've done an impressive job of incorporating technology," Vitti said. "It's something I am looking to bring to Jacksonville."
Charlotte's school system in 2011 won the $1 million Broad Prize for Urban Education. The award is given to an urban school district that has demonstrated the greatest overall performance and improvement in student achievement while reducing achievement gaps among low-income and minority students.
In addition, school board Chair Fred "Fel" Lee, vice chair Becki Couch and member Jason Fischer will be on the trip.
They are among several public and city officials on the trip.
Mayor Alvin Brown said he wanted to look at Charlotte's public-private partnerships, Downtown and sports and entertainment practices. Each topic is the subject of a session.
Ted Carter, Office of Economic Development executive director, and Tonisha-Landry Gaines, city Special Events Department head, also will attend.
In a statement, Carter said the trip provides an opportunity to evaluate the competition, as Charlotte consistently competes with Jacksonville for economic development.
Landry-Gaines said she is interested in seeing Charlotte's Downtown efforts and how sports and entertainment have played a role in that development.
City Council President Bill Gulliford will be one of two from the legislative body in attendance. He'll be joined by Council member Greg Anderson, Finance Committee chair and an EverBank vice president.
Gulliford said he's "very interested" in the city's successes with Downtown, which he said had similar issues to Jacksonville in the past but is now working. He also wants to review Charlotte's government structure, its millage rate and corporate governance, among other aspects.
Then, if the council can do so, he wants to implement any idea possible. If council can't do it on its own, Gulliford said it can work with the mayor's office, business community or whoever else to ensure results.
Downtown Investment Authority Aundra Wallace, authority Chair Oliver Barakat and member Tony Allegretti will be on the trip.
Allegretti, the chamber's downtown engagement director, said Charlotte has about 15,000 downtown residents and he wants to know how Jacksonville can do the same, especially when it comes to typing in transportation elements.
For the public officials, the trip costs $2,495
Taxpayers will pay for at least eight officials to go on the trip – Brown, Carter, Landry-Gaines, Gulliford, Vitti, Lee, Couch and Fischer. Wallace is paying his own expenses. Anderson's expenses are being paid for privately.