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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Jul. 21, 201512:00 PM EST

Economic development transition committee finalizing suggestions for Mayor Lenny Curry


Mayor Lenny Curry will be presented a road map to move forward with economic development, but no driver is being recommended.

That will be up to him.

“I think we could, but we didn’t,” said former Mayor John Delaney, chairman of Curry’s economic-development transition subcommittee when asked whether the group could have recommended who should lead the efforts.

One of Curry’s three objectives was for the committee to evaluate the necessary human resources to ensure appropriate staffing levels and expertise throughout the agencies affected.

Delaney, president of the University of North Florida, said the group recommends keeping the existing economic-development structure: The mayor’s Office of Economic Development; the mayor’s Office of Sports and Entertainment along with the nonprofit Jacksonville Sports Council; the independent Downtown Investment Authority; and the private JAX Chamber.

Delaney said he has been impressed with the leaders of those groups, including Ted Carter, who submitted his resignation as CEO of former Mayor Alvin Brown’s Office of Economic Development.

The group wrapped up its recommendations Monday afternoon at its ninth meeting. Its report isn’t final until the 18-member subcommittee votes on the final amendments. Delaney said the group might hold one more meeting unless it can sign off by email or conference call.

No major changes were made Monday to the recommendations that gelled over the past several meetings, including a new city focus on supporting the creation of lower-wage jobs in high-unemployment areas or in parts of town that don’t offer higher-paying opportunities.

City and state incentives currently focus on economic-development projects that pay higher wages or create a large capital investment. Those would be maintained as well.

The group didn’t rehash the recommendations.

One of them, heavily discussed during the meetings, was an agreement that the city should develop a convention center as an anchor institution that is responsive to market demand and to drive redevelopment of the Downtown Northbank.

“It was a strong consensus,” Delaney said. No dollar figure was attached to what Delaney has said could be a $200 million to $500 million project. Neither was a timeline. “We’ll get one,” Delaney said, “when a mayor wants one.”

The group met to review the draft and offer a few amendments that recommend a long-term infrastructure capital improvement plan be put in place and funded for the city; that tax-increment financing revenue remains in its respective TIF districts; and that the report refer to recommendations in the 2011 Northbank Redevelopment Task Force Final Report by the Jacksonville Civic Council.

In summary, the group recommended the city:

• Use an accountability matrix for organizations that receive taxpayer dollars to create jobs or expand businesses. The former Jacksonville Economic Development Commission created a “project evaluation matrix” in 2006 to measure the city’s return on investment.

The group suggests a matrix that covers Curry’s economic-development objectives. Once established, the city’s existing matrix as well as its public investment policy would be updated. It also suggests the four economic-development partners develop a matrix and policy specific to their projects and activities.

And, an annual report card should be issued to measure the progress toward Curry’s objectives. Delaney said the subcommittee members are interested in following through with that. “The members of the committee clearly want to remain involved,” he said.

• Evaluate the old Duval County Courthouse, the former City Hall Annex and other publicly owned properties in LaVilla and Mayport to determine which should be sold or leveraged to ensure their highest use to expand the tax base.

• Work with the private branding program led by JAX Chamber, its JAXUSA Partnership economic-development division and Visit Jacksonville to develop the city’s brand and external communication strategy. The messaging should underscore Curry’s “One City, One Jacksonville” theme.

• Streamline regulations and permitting.

• Develop a specialized public investment policy for mega-deals to make sure the city can compete effectively with other cities for large projects.

• Create a strategy to deal with owners of neglected properties. The group found that Downtown redevelopment is held back by blighted properties that are not properly cared for by their owners.

Delaney said the recommendations will be given to the city. “The mayor can decide how many he wants to follow,” he said.

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