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Jax Daily Record Friday, Feb. 23, 201804:43 AM EST

Group seeks to ‘Elevate Northeast Florida’

Workshop part of effort to boost economic development of region.
by: Andrew Warfield Staff Writer

A new economic development effort to benefit the region began Thursday as Elevate Northeast Florida held its first work session at the Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village in St. Augustine. 

The workshop was part of a three-day trip by Austin, Texas-based Avalanche Consulting, which has been retained by the Northeast Florida Regional Council, JAXUSA Partnership and CareerSource Northeast Florida.

Elevate NEFL is an effort to promote a regional, rather than provincial, approach to economic development.

It follows Innovate Northeast Florida, a strategy developed in 2012 and implemented over five years,

During the workshop, participants engaged in tabletop discussions on aspects of economic development. 

Topics included economic momentum, talent and education, culture and recreation, trade, global brand, and innovation and entrepreneurship.

The ideas were collected and will be included in the strategic initiative.

Amy Holloway, president and CEO of Avalanche, told the group about the progress the region has made since her firm led the Innovate Northeast Florida project.

“The charge of that strategy was to create a region that was more innovative across many platforms,” Holloway said. “It’s generated really amazing results.”

She said in the last six years, the region has created more than 19,000 net new jobs and attracted $2.7 billion in capital investment.  

“Elevate Northeast Florida is how to take it to the next level of competitiveness, not only how to become the best business climate in Florida, but how to make it the best and most competitive in the country,” Holloway said. “And I think that’s possible here.”

The strategic planning process includes assembling a regionally diverse steering committee of public, private, education and nonprofit leaders to build the framework and facilitate the strategic plan.

It will develop economic assessments and benchmarking analysis, target businesses determined to have the greatest potential for success in Northeast Florida, create a workforce development strategy and provide economic and marketing recommendations to help the region continue its economic momentum and build a global brand.

Avalanche, Holloway said, specializes in a holistic approach to economic development, taking the process beyond job creation.

“It’s truly about making it a better place for every single person here,” Holloway said, adding that approach translates into economic vitality.

Key to that goal is a public survey, available on the project website at

Holloway urged participants to recruit people to take the survey. The deadline is March 23.

“We want every single person in this region to know they should participate in that survey,” Holloway said. “The more input we get, the better the strategy will be.”

Avalanche plans to issue its report in August.

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