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Photo by David Chapman - Don Shea, Jacksonville Civic Council executive director, and Ed Burr, CEO of GreenPointe Holdings.
Jax Daily Record Thursday, Apr. 12, 201212:00 PM EST

Burr, Shea talk merits of economic reform legislation

by: David Chapman

The proposed Downtown Investment Authority will be an independent body, but its capabilities will be decided annually by City Council through legislative power: Approval of its budget.

“You have to earn your stripes every year,” said Ed Burr, CEO of GreenPointe Holdings and a driver of the recently introduced economic reform legislation.

Burr and Jacksonville Civic Council Executive Director Don Shea briefed more than 70 Urban Land Institute North Florida members Wednesday about the two pieces of Mayor Alvin Brown’s economic reform legislation.

The legislation is under Council review.

Burr was in charge of an ad hoc group that helped create the legislation and Shea has been an executive on loan to the Brown administration to develop economic development strategy, specifically for Downtown.

If the legislation passes, Council will annually set the authority’s budget and, in effect, determine what and how effective it can be, Burr said.

“The budget is always going to be subject to City Council approval,” Burr said. “The budget is the limitation for Downtown.”

Council received the legislation two weeks ago and will review it at the committee level next week.

If passed, the authority would consist of a mayoral-appointed nine-member board that will hire an executive director. The director will report to the board.

Shea said the board initially will improve upon the current Downtown master plan and Burr said the goal is to increase Downtown’s tax base.

Downtown had generated 17 percent of the City’s tax revenues in 1986 and now accounts for 2 percent, according to Brown.

Burr said while Downtown’s contribution might not reach 17 percent, he sees it rising to the “low double-digits, high single-digits.”

“A great, successful Downtown should be a net contributor,” Burr said. “If we create and retain dollars Downtown, we invest it back Downtown, we can use those dollars to grow.”

Shea said businesses being sought for Downtown will fall in line with the JAX Chamber’s targeted industries, which include finance and insurance services, headquarters and others.

Asked what Downtown Vision Inc.’s role will be under the proposed authority, Burr said it would be enhanced.

DVI is the nonprofit Downtown Improvement District.

Burr said he wants people involved in the Downtown authority to “feel like it lost” if it misses an opportunity.

“Any time we recruit a business to this area, I want the Downtown Investment Authority to fight tooth and nail for that company to come Downtown,” Burr said.

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