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Jax Daily Record Friday, Jul. 15, 201112:00 PM EST

Chamber rebrands Cornerstone: Welcome to JAXUSA

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by Karen Brune Mathis

Managing Editor

Cornerstone is turning the corner to a new brand.

The Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce will formally announce today that the Cornerstone name is being changed to “JAXUSA Partnership.”

“It was totally precipitated from the marketplace,” said chamber Executive Vice President Jerry Mallot, who was Cornerstone president and will continue the title with JAXUSA.

The full name is JAXUSA Partnership For Regional Economic Development.

Cornerstone is the private, nonprofit division of the chamber. It is a regional partnership that markets the area for economic development.

“We kept hearing from site consultants and others that when we know you, Cornerstone is a great brand, but when you are trying to create awareness of who you are when you are communicating in this country or in other countries, ‘Cornerstone’ has no meaning,” he said.

“It could be any sort of organization and you are missing the opportunity of giving some indication of who are and where you are in your initial contact,” said Mallot.

He said people often disregard initial contacts if they do not recognize the name or location.

The announcement will be made at today’s Cornerstone meeting. It’s at 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at the Hyatt Downtown. The brand will be rolled out in the fall.

The logo is blue and green with what appears to be a flag over the J, which Mallot said is a directional triangle pointing to the northeast, as in northeast Florida.

The Cornerstone Economic Development Partnership covers Baker, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns counties. JAXUSA will continue to cover those counties.

Mallot said the chamber has been exploring a rebranding for a while.

“We knew it was uncomfortable for our regional partners,” he said, in telling them they should use the “Jacksonville” name.

“We got serious about it when we had a site consultant group here last November and they unanimously said, ‘hey, you really need to do this.’”

Mallot said the St. John & Partners advertising and marketing firm walked Cornerstone through the process. The process included working with the partner counties “to look at the logic of it and what their concerns are and we worked together.”

The decision: “Let’s use the airport code for JAX.”

“It allows us to be short and sweet in terms of the name,” he said. Adding USA, he said, tells national and international clients where JAX is.

“It really came together quite well,” said Mallot.

“A different name is more likely to allow us to engage with more companies,” he said.

Mallot said that while the name is announced today, the brand will roll out in September or October.

He said internal preparations must be completed, including paperwork changes, although he said there’s not as much in light of the use of online materials.

Online changes are much easier, he said.

Mallot said St. John & Partners performed the work as an in-kind contribution.

Mallot said the discussion about branding began at least 2 1/2 years ago, but began in earnest with the site consultant remarks in November.

It was frequently referenced during the eight-month Jacksonville Community Council Inc. “Recession Recovery and Beyond” study, which concluded in May and was presented in June.

Regional rebranding was one of the study group’s recommendations.

In a statement, the chamber said the new name “makes a direct connection to the Northeast Florida region and showcases its geographical location in the United States, which is important not only for domestic prospects but also for international prospects.”

Mallot also is an executive on loan to the administration of Mayor Alvin Brown to review economic development policies and procedures and to take several months to make recommendations.

“It’s all about jobs,” Mallot said in a chamber news release.

“Our new name combined with the commitment of our new administration and our regional partners will help potential prospects see Northeast Florida as the best place to expand their businesses.”

In the statement, Mallot said that one-third of the region’s economic development prospects come from outside of the United States and involve a foreign corporation.

“Opportunities in the international marketplace are growing. Just six years ago, only 10 percent of Northeast Florida’s new business leads represented the international market,” he said.

JAX is the airport code for Jacksonville International Airport, which the chamber said often is the first site experienced by national and international visitors when visiting the region.

“With the increasing importance of online technology and search engine optimization, research shows incorporating USA into the new name should be beneficial for JAXUSA Partnership and international businesses alike, making it easier for prospects to connect early in the process,” said the chamber.

“And while Jacksonville may be a focal point, incorporating partnership with the descriptor, ‘For Regional Economic Development,’ communicates the economic strength found throughout Northeast Florida’s seven-county region,” said the chamber.

Mallot said the new identity “is an invitation to learn more about our region. It will help us interact and build relationships with companies and industry leaders who may consider expanding or relocating to our area.”

The chamber reports that the JAXUSA Partnership consists of 200 private sector investors in Northeast Florida in partnership with the chamber, the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission, the Jacksonville Port Authority, the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, JEA, WorkSource and the seven counties.

According to the chamber, JAXUSA descends from the initial “Believers in Jacksonville,” the chamber’s first national recruiting effort in 1924. Business leaders traveled by rail to Northeast and Midwest cities to recruit business to Jacksonville.

In 1961, the “Committee of 100” was formed to operate as a chamber division to recruit businesses. Cornerstone evolved into the economic development arm of the chamber in 1990 and was formally established in 1991.

Throughout the years, the chamber used what it called “super funds” to raise money for marketing and recruitment.

Cornerstone launched a series of five-year commitments from corporate investors.

Now in its fifth five-year program, the chamber has raised almost all of its $10.5 million goal for 2011-15.

Cornerstone also became a regional development effort. In 1994, Clay County joined as the first formal partner outside Duval County. It was followed by Putnam and Baker and then Nassau. St. Johns and Flagler joined later.

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