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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Sep. 18, 201811:45 AM EST

'Elevate' report: Rebrand Northeast Florida as Jacksonville

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JAXUSA's strategic plan recommends “embracing Jacksonville” as region's name and using 'The Water Life Center of America' as brand essence.
by: Jay Schlichter Staff Writer

The seven-county region should be rebranded and needs to work together to make it “the highest performing economy in the nation,” according to a 62-page marketing and strategic plan titled “Elevate Northeast Florida.”

The report lists goals to pursue over the coming years in Baker, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Putnam, Nassau and St. Johns counties, which comprise the JAXUSA Partnership of the JAX Chamber.

A condensed 34-page version of Elevate was presented and discussed with an audience of roughly 100 people Tuesday afternoon at the JAXUSA Partnership Regional Economic Development Forum at the University of North Florida.

The partnership is the chamber’s economic development division.

Among the recommendations in both the smaller version and a draft of the full report is a suggestion to “embrace Jacksonville as the name of the region versus 'Northeast Florida.'”

“The impact of a shared, regional brand is recognized and magnified when local organizations agree to lead with the name of the largest, most globally-recognized city in its region,” the report states in the chapter on establishing a strong, unified regional brand.

The report was assisted by Avalanche Consulting Inc., an Austin, Texas-based economic development strategic consultant.

Elevate Northeast Florida lists several large metropolitan cities that market themselves as Greater Austin, CharlotteUSA, Greater Columbus Region and Metro Denver.

“The few regions who lead with their geographic position (e.g., 'Team Northeast Ohio' in the Cleveland region) have a weak-performing center city,” the report states.

“Because of this, Jacksonville (e.g., Greater Jacksonville, JAXUSA) should be the go-to name of the region.”

The report also suggests a new brand theme to match the region's “DNA,” following a two-year community engagement process.

“A vision emerged from the process that reflects what many cherish about the region: Our waterways, the river, ocean, Intracoastal, and preserves that surround the region not only nourish us, but also literally inspire and guide strategic decisions.”

The report suggests the area be named “The Water Life Center of America,” and encourages other agencies to adopt the new theme.

The report was initiated in March by the JAXUSA Partnership, Northeast Florida Regional Council, CareerSource Northeast Florida and other partners.

Avalanche Consulting and the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning were chosen to prepare the report.

More than 1,500 stakeholders contributed about 1,300 hours of their time to the report, it says.

Along with the vision of making the region the “top destination for opportunity and investments,” the four main mission statements to reach that goal are:

• Empower partnerships to advance education and workforce.

• Deepen the area’s industry clusters and intensify support for their growth.

• Amplify the area’s leadership as a pre-eminent smart region.

• Embolden the area’s global brand and expand awareness.

“First, the region's vision is to have the highest performing economy in the country. This future is attainable,” the report states.

“In 2017, the Jacksonville metro had the third highest rate of job growth of all large metros in the U.S. Intentional investments to support industry growth and advance the region's workforce could improve the region's ranking even more in the future.”

The report says its mission's success depends on the formation of an Elevate Executive Committee and chairpersons to lead teams “in executing the project's action plans,” holding quarterly meetings and producing an annual progress report. It also recommends seeking sponsors and a grant writer to fund specific Elevate-related initiatives.

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