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Jax Daily Record Monday, Dec. 13, 202105:00 AM EST

Economic forecast: Downtown, economic development, small business, healthcare and higher education

Leaders share the primary economic issues they will face in the new year and their plans moving forward.


Jake Gordon

CEO, Downtown Vision Inc.

Jake Gordon

Primary issue: Attracting people back Downtown. 

Alongside the mayor and the Jacksonville Downtown Investment Authority, Downtown Vision and many others are working hard to bring people back Downtown.

The DIA is leveraging lots of new investment, from large development projects to historic building restorations, attracting more people to live, work and play Downtown. To assist, DVI is growing our valued orange-uniformed Ambassador team that helps keep “DTJax” cleaner and safer every day.

Downtown is adding amenities, from rooftop restaurants like Estrella Cocina to retail like Bread & Board Provisions and Ruby Beach Brewing. Our Downtown public spaces are more vibrant, especially on the riverfront.

Along with old favorites like First Wednesday Art Walk and Jazz Fest, Downtown now hosts the Street League Skateboarding World Championships and the Jax River Jams concert series presented by VyStar Credit Union.

And now every Third Thursday, you can “Sip & Stroll” on the Southbank Riverwalk, presented by PNC.


Bradley Talbert

2022 chair, JAXUSA Partnership; 2023 chair-elect, JAX Chamber; President and CEO, Memorial Hospital

Bradley Talbert

Primary issue: Talent attraction.

We are working closely with companies to develop the talent they need.

The Northeast Florida Fintech Initiative is a prime example. We also are continuing to work with secondary and higher education institutions to produce the highly skilled workers companies need.

The Open Innovation Center at the Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center will allow for companies to send employees to receive tech training and certifications that are critical in today’s economy.

By building upon strengths in sectors including health care, financial services and advanced manufacturing, we are more attractive to top talent because they know they have opportunities for advancement in Northeast Florida.

We also strategically market Jacksonville to job seekers and young professionals, highlighting the quality of life through the Find Your JAX initiative.

Fortunately, we saw this issue on the horizon several years ago and have a head start on our competitors.


Susan Appleton

CEO, trainer, coach, speaker, strategist, Appleton Communication

Susan Appleton

Primary issue: How businesses can create a genuine connection with their internal customers as an integral part of their profit plan. 

My strategy is to help business leaders identify gaps, understand the new internal customer landscape, and implement innovative strategies to develop people-centric businesses as a foundation for success.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, value for people and the demand for genuine connection became a necessity to create a significant internal customer experience.

Workers no longer are willing to be undervalued or overworked. Because we’ve had to learn to move in virtual, remote and hybrid spaces, leaders who focus on getting back to normal will lose the competitive advantage.

The new norm requires leaders to align, change or create a culture where the value of their workers is not an afterthought as it relates to profit but a part of their strategic plan. My goal is to help leaders to merge strategy with people and profits.


Michael A. Mayo

President and CEO, Baptist Health

Michael A. Mayo

Primary issue: Staffing – ensuring we have enough people to provide care and services to our patients.

Our strategy to respond is first, investing in our current workforce to retain talent and ensure their well-being, and next, innovative recruiting and investing in the future workforce.

During the pandemic, Baptist Health went beyond boundaries. We worked with international recruiting arms, especially for nurses, to bring global providers into our market with the hope they might enter a long-term commitment with Baptist Health.

We are partnering with Jacksonville University to train nurses in an accelerated 12-month curriculum with an opportunity to work at Baptist Health upon graduation, and helping fund a master’s respiratory therapy training program to strengthen the pipeline of qualified caregivers within Baptist Health and Northeast Florida.

Finally, we are working with the Department of Defense on a program that allows clinical and nonclinical military personnel to work in the hospital.


A. Zachary Faison Jr.

President and CEO, Edward Waters University

A. Zachary Faison Jr.

Primary issue: Affordability and the conundrum of balancing our commitment to providing a high-quality and competitive collegiate experience while working to maintain low attendance costs especially given the high proportion of Pell-eligible (low-income) students.

Edward Waters University is the most affordable private HBCU (historically black college or university) in Florida and among the most affordable private universities in the state.

For the past two academic years in 2020 and now 2021 EWU has provided support to students through our #WeGotYou and our #WeGotYouAgain program where EWU has paid the balance of semester charges of every returning student.

Over the past two years EWU has provided nearly $4 million and assisted almost 1,000 students who might otherwise have “stopped out” of school due to financial hardship. EWU’s spring to fall semester student retention rate rose to nearly 80%.


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