The Mathis Report: Wallace says he’ll keep up fight for jobs
JAX Chamber’s next economic-development leader assured the almost 570 people gathered Thursday to pay tribute to his predecessor that he will continue the quest to create jobs.
Downtown Investment Authority CEO Aundra Wallace becomes president of JAXUSA Partnership on Oct. 1. He succeeds Jerry Mallot, 70, who retired Saturday after 24 years of leading the chamber’s economic-development division.
“People want the opportunity to earn meaningful, gainful employment so they can accomplish whatever it is that they want in their life,” he told the JAXUSA meeting at which Mallot made his farewell presentation.
“At JAXUSA Partnership, our team will work to continue to create meaningful and gainful employment opportunities for families in Northeast Florida,” Wallace said in brief remarks before Mallot shared stories about his job-recruitment experiences.
JAX Chamber said that during Mallot’s tenure it was involved in creating 102,000 jobs and about $8 billion in capital investment in the First Coast region of Baker, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns counties.
“I want to make one thing abundantly clear to everyone. I’m not here to replace Jerry Mallot. No one can do that at all,” Wallace said.
“As I said before, if there’s a hall of fame, Jerry definitely gets a gold jacket for helping our particular region and city to grow over his 2 ½-decade career in Jacksonville.”
Wallace said he will “continue to run the race that brought jobs to our region. This is such a great opportunity to trust the incredible valued team at JAXUSA Partnership that we have in place, and the momentum that we have.”
Wallace said he grew up in rural Georgia and was raised by a single mother “who instilled in me that your reputation is the one thing that you have, and it will follow you everywhere that you go. So, when I say to you, that I give you my word, you can count on it, that it’s going to get done.”
Wallace, 50, was hired in 2013 as the DIA’s first CEO. He previously was executive director of the Detroit Land Bank Authority and was a senior vice president at the North Carolina Community Development Initiative. He also worked in community and economic development with Miami-Dade County.
He leads the DIA staff to create jobs and economic investment in the Downtown Community Redevelopment Areas on the Northbank and Southbank.
The authority was created in 2012 when former Mayor Alvin Brown split the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission into the DIA and the Office of Economic Development.
Wallace crafted deals including the Barnett and Laura Street Trio redevelopments and projects in the urban core, Brooklyn and LaVilla as well as the economic development agreement for The District mixed-use project on the Southbank.
The DIA board is scheduled at its Sept. 19 meeting to discuss its options regarding the search firm selection and request for proposal processes as well as a possible interim CEO if needed until the search is complete, according to DIA Chairman Jim Bailey.
The DIA is focused on Downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods while the economic development office works throughout Duval County.
Wallace will step beyond that and work throughout the seven-county region.
His time here, he said “has been spent putting deals together to redevelop and revitalize our Downtown. And I’ve had to put together some pretty creative financing deals in order to get some of the things done that our town has needed and Mayor Curry wants us to get done.”
Wallace also issued an invitation to the JAXUSA investors and members that his door is open.
“I look forward to meeting and talking to each and every one of you in this room. We’re going to need your help and support to get all of this done,” he said.
“I’ll say to you, you are going to see (and) you are going to hear from me a lot over the coming months."