The state is awarding a $5.5 million grant to construct a 3-mile rail spur at Cecil Commerce Center in West Jacksonville.
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the grant Nov. 29 in a hangar bay at nearby Cecil Airport.
He said the spur would help to bring 500 jobs to the area.
The spur would link the megasite at Cecil Commerce Center with a rail line north of Interstate 10.
The city owns the industrial park property and Dallas-based Hillwood is the master developer of what is AllianceFlorida at Cecil Commerce Center.
DeSantis said the project would be a dual-service line to increase access for manufacturing and logistics companies.
“I know they’ve (government officials) already been talking at the local and state level with some companies that are eyeing this. And this (rail spur) would be enough for them to want to come, so stay tuned,” DeSantis said.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, Jacksonville Aviation Authority CEO Mark VanLoh, JAX Chamber and other state and local officials appeared with the governor at the announcement.
The airport is a separate facility from Cecil Commerce Center.
“This new rail track will make an inaccessible area of the industrial park accessible for businesses in important sectors like manufacturing and attract new businesses to Jacksonville from across the country,” DeSantis said in a news release after the announcement.
It is unclear whether the companies aiming to benefit from the rail line already have a presence at Cecil or the line is designed for companies considering the site.
No tenant announcements were made at the event and DeSantis said that would come in “the not too distant future.”
A recent request for the availability of JEA services shows an unnamed manufacturer is considering a project for the Cecil megasite.
A project code-named Raptor Stone is considering a 410,000-square-foot facility with 180 employees, according to the request.
While the megasite is shown as almost 750 acres, the map included with the Raptor Stone application shows 570.5 acres for the project. The governor said the megasite was 600 aces.
Hillwood Senior Vice President Dan Tatsch did not return a phone call Nov. 29 for comment.
Hillwood contracted with the city to develop 4,474 acres as an industrial and business park in the 17,000-acre former naval air station in West Jacksonville.
The money for the rail spur project will come from the Governor’s Job Growth Grant Fund that historically funds job training and education programs as well as what the state considers job-creating infrastructure projects.
In November 2021, the state allocated $6 million from the fund to JAA to partially finance paving nearly 2 miles of road at Cecil Airport and Spaceport.
“If there’s key infrastructure where we can come very quickly, work with a local government, a county or city and get something done that’s going to have a high impact value in terms of jobs and industrial base things that are priorities, then we want to do that,” DeSantis said.
State Sen. Clay Yarborough said after the announcement that adding the rail line to the megasite and Cecil expands Jacksonville’s logistics network.
He said it would bolster JaxPort, JAA airports, trucking and warehouse distribution centers and interstate and rail hubs that attract companies to Northeast Florida that need ways to move goods or receive raw materials.
“If you have all these pieces of land and property out here and you configure the rail line through the property to get to the companies or to the buildings, before the companies are in if that’s the case, you’re basically providing access to the network they need to get the goods out or to get the materials in to do what they’re doing,” Yarborough said.
“It’s network connectivity.”