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Jax Daily Record Thursday, May 16, 201905:20 AM EST

Bringing development to Jacksonville starts with relationships

JAXUSA Partnership President Aundra Wallace offers insight into how it sells companies on coming to the city.

Doing a deal, says the JAX Chamber’s economic development leader, is all about relationship-building, and that includes a bird’s-eye view.

“That relationship-building piece is what gets us started,” JAXUSA Partnership President Aundra Wallace told participants of the 2019 “Cecil Behind the Scenes Bus Tour” on May 9.

Wallace is the former CEO of the Downtown Investment Authority and before that was executive director of the Detroit Land Bank Authority.

At JAXUSA Partnership, he negotiates with economic development prospects who are considering Jacksonville for relocation or expansion.

“The relationship is about getting them here,” he said. “Getting them here, getting them up in a helicopter, flying them around, giving them the seat from the air.”

That way, he said, prospects can see how close potential sites are from the water and the interstate system. 

“And letting people know, if you like fishing, whether it’s freshwater or saltwater, you can do it here. If you love golf, you can do that here. If you like hunting, you can do that here. If you want an urban lifestyle, you got it. Suburban, rural, you got it right here in Northeast Florida. 

“We show them all of that from an aerial setting.”

There are more elements involved in recruitment, including workforce. 

Companies need to know that Jacksonville offers access to military workers who are completing their service and looking for jobs.

And companies looking for millennial workers and the younger Gen Z candidates need to know that those age groups tend more than previous generations to pick an area to live and then look for jobs.

That makes it important for cities to develop housing and amenities that attract that age group, which in turn will attract employers, Wallace said, adding that an urban, downtown lifestyle is attractive to those prospective employees.

Wallace’s presentation took a comprehensive look at economic development and he said later that the goal this year is 2,500 jobs for the seven-county Northeast Florida area.

The bus tour was presented by the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, Florida State College at Jacksonville, Southwest Citizens Planning Advisory Committee, Westside Business Leaders Association, JAX Chamber West Council and city Office of Economic Development.

Another factor Wallace promotes for Jacksonville: the climate.

“I love nothing better than to call my friends in Detroit in January and ask what’s the temperature. They have a few choice words for me.”

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