Doors officially open for chamber’s new Open Innovation Center

JAX Chamber and JTA celebrated completion of the 3,900-square-foot space inside the Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center.


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  • | 3:36 p.m. October 21, 2022
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Innovation. It does a community good.

And the Open Innovation Center at the Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center in LaVilla is the place for that to happen.

That was the message shared by leaders from JAX Chamber and the Jacksonville Transportation Authority at the facility’s Oct. 21 grand opening.

The 3,900-square-foot space on the second floor of the transportation center will be the chamber’s hub for innovation and technology training for entrepreneurs and employees from business and industries across Jacksonville, according to a JAX Chamber news release.

From left, Jacksonville Transportation Authority CEO Nathaniel Ford Sr.; JAX Chamber Chair and JTA board member Ray Driver; and JAX Chamber Chief Innovation Officer Carlton Robinson at the Oct. 21 grand opening.
From left, Jacksonville Transportation Authority CEO Nathaniel Ford Sr.; JAX Chamber Chair and JTA board member Ray Driver; and JAX Chamber Chief Innovation Officer Carlton Robinson at the Oct. 21 grand opening.

“This is just a starting point to identify a place for innovation,” said Carlton Robinson, JAX Chamber chief innovation officer. 

“Now that we have this space, anything is possible.”

The concept for the center began with a conversation with JTA CEO Nathaniel Ford Sr. at the JAX Chamber’s annual leadership trip in 2018 to Denver, Robinson said.

“I wanted people to come here (to the innovation center) and say, ‘What if,’ ” Ford said.

“This was a missing piece for us – a place where companies can send people to collaborate, a place where entrepreneurs can spin ideas into businesses and take off right here in Jacksonville,” said JAX Chamber Chair Ray Driver, who also serves on the JTA board of directors.

The Chamber’s Venture Services Division will be based inside the innovation center and its entrepreneurial education programs, including JAX Bridges, will be held there, the release said. Sponsors who assisted with the build-out of the space include Miller Electric Co., Haskell, Perdue, W.W. Gay Mechanical Contractors and Auld & White.

The JTA board voted 7-0 on Oct. 29, 2020, to approve a five-year lease with JAXUSA for the innovation center. JAXUSA is the economic development division of JAX Chamber. 

Officials prepare to cut the ribbon for the new Open Innovation Center.
Officials prepare to cut the ribbon for the new Open Innovation Center.

According to lease documents, JAXUSA agreed to spend $360,000 to build-out the space. JTA agreed to provide JAXUSA a $6,000 monthly rent abatement in exchange for the build-out cost, totaling $72,000 a year or $360,000 over the life of the lease.

Robinson said then that there was no set date to begin construction or open the center because of the coronavirus pandemic. But, “it gave us more time to evaluate the space,” he said at the grand opening. 

As a result, he said, programs and collaborations can be scaled and adapted to the needs of the partnerships.

The Chamber’s Venture Services Division, led by Robinson, held a Call to Innovate at JTA last year, with health care providers and hospitals presenting issues that entrepreneurs were asked to help solve.

 “This was a missing piece for us – a place where companies can send people to collaborate, a place where entrepreneurs can spin ideas into businesses and take off right here in Jacksonville,” Driver said.

The Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center at LaVilla opened to the public on May 4, 2020, serving as the JTA’s main bus transfer facility, administrative headquarters and regional mobility hub.

The 67,000-square-foot complex includes service to JTA’s traditional bus routes, First Coast Flyer, Skyway, paratransit, ride-share and future mobility services like the Ultimate Urban Circulator (U2C) autonomous vehicle network. 

The center is also directly connected to the Intercity Bus Terminal, where customers can transfer to Greyhound and Megabus.