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Jax Daily Record Monday, Apr. 25, 202205:30 PM EST

Southeast Toyota Distributors to move from Talleyrand to Blount Island

JaxPort signed a new 25-year lease deal with the regional auto distributor that employs 800 employees. 
by: Mike Mendenhall Associate Editor

Southeast Toyota Distributors LLC will move its JaxPort auto processing operations at Talleyrand into a new $36 million facility at Blount Island Marine Terminal, about half of which will be paid for by taxpayers.

The Jacksonville Port Authority board voted 7-0 on April 25 to approve a 25-year lease that includes three five-year renewal options with the Toyota distributor’s parent company, JM Family Enterprises Inc.

JaxPort officials say the lease agreement and facility upgrades are valued at $210 million over 40 years.

The company signed its existing lease with JaxPort in 2002. It was a 15-year agreement with a 10-year renewal option, according to board documents.

At an 86-acre Blount Island site, Southeast Toyota plans to build two processing buildings and associated work areas totaling more than 250,000 square feet. The new site is 13 acres larger than the 73-acre Talleyrand operation.

JaxPort and and Southeast Toyota Distributors LLC executives sign the deal for the new 25-year lease that includes a new facility.

After the JaxPort board meeting, Southeast Toyota Distributors Group Vice President Casey Gunnell told reporters that the company estimates a total capital investment of $36 million in the new facility through a public-private partnership with the Florida Department of Transportation.

The JaxPort board also approved a Public Transportation Grant Agreement with FDOT for $16.5 million that will fund nearly half the project. 

JaxPort’s summary of the agreement says Southeast Toyota will invest $16.5 million as a required grant match.

Site improvements include two new rail line connections dedicated to the Southeast Toyota distribution facility. 

Southeast Toyota employs 800 people at JaxPort comprising processing, parts and distribution, and technical support and training jobs, according to a JaxPort news release.

It is the automobile brand’s largest independent distributor globally moving vehicles, parts and accessories to 177 Toyota dealerships in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and North and South Carolina, the release says.

Southeast Toyota Distributors LLC will move its auto processing operations at JaxPort from Talleyrand to the Blount Island Marine Terminal.

JAXUSA Partnership President Aundra Wallace told reporters that retaining Southeast Toyota’s 800 jobs in Jacksonville was a key consideration when making the agreement. 

 Gunnell said after the meeting that the company intended to stay in Northeast Florida and find a suitable location at JaxPort to “keep our employment in Jacksonville steady for the next several years.” 

He said that Southeast Toyota had not started researching other possible ports before the company reached an agreement with JaxPort.

“Had we not found a solution in Jacksonville we would have started to look out to the surrounding areas, but we didn’t have to, which is great,” Gunnell said.

JAXUSA is the economic development division of JAX Chamber and helps recruit corporations to Northeast Florida.

According to Wallace, there will be indirect jobs created by Southeast Toyota’s expansion and he said the lease extension could lead to increased employment by the company in the future.

“I’m sure there will be expansion … down the line adding additional jobs to this region,” Wallace said.

About 100,000 Toyota and Lexus vehicles are processed annually through JaxPort.

He said JaxPort is linked to many companies’ decisions to stay or relocate to Jacksonville.

“People don’t understand the economic impact that JaxPort has for this particular region,” he said, “meaning gainful employment for all walks of life for this entire region is tied to JaxPort.

“What I really want people to understand is the importance of JaxPort and the importance of Southeast Toyota. They stepped up, they made this partnership work with JaxPort. It’s going to be continued growth for our region,” he said.

Formed in 1968, Deerfield Beach-based Southeast Toyota has operated at its JaxPort facility for 50 years, Gunnell said.

The company processes about 100,000 Toyota and Lexus vehicles annually through JaxPort. 

Southeast Toyota Distributors Group Vice President Casey Gunnell

Recent supply chain disruptions and the global pandemic have caused some volume decline, but Gunnell said Southeast Toyota’s distribution has remained steady.

“Once we get to the third quarter (2022), we should be back to basically where we were pre-pandemic with vehicle processing,” Gunnell said.

Southeast Toyota’s existing JaxPort facility at Talleyrand is split into two sites. Gunnell said the move to Blount Island allows the company to consolidate to one property.

Gunnell said the new facility will increase efficiency and provide new amenities for associates.

“We measure efficiency by every time we have to move the vehicle while it’s here and we will have to move the vehicle less as a result of having that one contiguous piece of property processing vehicles. It also gives us the ability to build new facilities that are more efficient and better ergonomically for our associates,” he said

Southeast Toyota and JaxPort will begin demolition at the Blount Island space in August and estimate construction will start on the new facilities in 2023, according to JaxPort Senior Director of Communications Chelsea Kavanagh. 

Gunnell said the company expects to complete the facility’s design in October and conducted a feasibility study of the property before completing the agreement.

Kavanagh said JaxPort plans for the auto distributor to take occupancy in late 2024.

JaxPort Regulatory Compliance Chief Nick Primrose told the board that the port intends to buy 23 acres owned by Southeast Toyota adjacent to the 53.24 acres the company leases at Talleyrand and find another tenant before the new lease takes effect. 

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