Doing business in Northeast Florida: Insight from experts

There are many resources available for businesses starting out or seeking to expand in Northeast Florida. Here is insight from some of the leaders who can help:

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  • | 12:00 a.m. August 18, 2023
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Carlton Robinson

JAX Chamber chief innovation officer

Carlton Robinson

One of the fundamental strengths of the JAX Chamber is the ability to ignite and cultivate innovation. The JAX Chamber creates an environment where entrepreneurs can connect to corporations that contribute to economic and development opportunities.

The chamber leverages the collaborative strength of the business community to promote the success of entrepreneurs at every stage of development. Businesses can advance their capital, stimulate innovation and encourage talent from within.

The chamber also facilitates communication and unifies members of similar interests and industry types among various demographics. 

Venture services programs such as the JAX Bridges Entrepreneurship Program and the Jacksonville Women’s Business Center set the chamber apart by contributing to the larger ecosystem and curating entrepreneurial activity.

Through these programs, small business owners have access to mentoring, industrial education, consulting and networking opportunities.


Marice Hague

Small Business Development Center at the University of North Florida interim director

Marice Hague
Jennifer Grissom

Starting a new business is not always easy. It involves planning, making key financial decisions and completing a series of legal activities. State designated as Florida’s principal provider of business assistance, the Florida Small Business Development Center at UNF has helped thousands of business owners get started.

The FSBDC at UNF employs professionally certified consultants who provide no-cost information, guidance and a confidential sounding board. We also offer regularly scheduled training workshops in many topics that make up the critical business foundation all entrepreneurs need to know before starting a business.

From developing a business plan to securing funding, we have the expertise to help you launch your business successfully.


Scott Maynard

St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce vice president of economic development

Scott Maynard

We have an entrepreneurship initiative – the Pitch Factory. It’s a program that we offer twice a year that shows you how to launch and grow a business.

After seven weeks, you pitch your idea to a group of judges, there are prizes and it’s a chance to share ideas with other entrepreneurs.

Also, our Economic Development Council offers a 26-page Business Start-up Resource Guide that has many contacts for services, licenses and permits, insurance, taxes, zoning and other information people need to start a business.


Jonel Hein

U.S. Small Business Administration North Florida district director

Jonel Hein

We are a federal agency that works with city, county and state agencies, so we can help people access capital and provide a mentoring network.

We also help people meet the requirements to bid on government contracts and do business with the government.

A lot of people don’t know this, but the SBA also can provide loans to help homeowners and renters cover damage from natural disasters.


Jon Cantrell

Clay County Chamber of Commerce president

Jon Cantrell

Clay County is growing so much. We have about 19,000 homes under construction or planned here. There is a lot of opportunity because there are a lot of good people here looking for jobs with larger companies.

A business’s most important resource is employees and we’ve got a lot of potential employees.


Paul J. Grainger

Iconic Real Estate Investments vice president

Paul J. Grainger
Photo by Scott S Smith

1. Specialize. At more than 840 square miles, Jacksonville and the broader MSA can be an overwhelming amount of ground to cover.

Whether you narrow your focus to a specific real estate sector (retail, office, industrial, multifamily) or home in on a certain submarket, it’s important to find a niche.

Our community is filled with unique neighborhoods that each have their own character and history.

Consequently, it’s important to develop an understanding of zoning overlays, historic districts and local regulations.

2. Network. Build relationships with local businesses and community leaders.

Their insights are invaluable, often shedding light on emerging opportunities or potential risks. Engage with the JAX Chamber, or join professional organizations such as NAIOP, Urban Land Institute or Northeast Florida Builders Association to jump-start your understanding of the marketplace.

Consider partnering with a real estate brokerage firm to assist in providing a nuanced understanding of market dynamics.

Success hinges on local insights and strategic partnerships.


Abel Harding

First Horizon Bank North Florida market president

Abel Harding

A local banking partner is key. With the influx of newcomers we have seen, folks can sometimes forget the importance of finding a banker you can engage with on a regular basis.

That banker should be an adviser and an intro point to other key professionals, like attorneys and accountants.

Building out professional relationships in-market is essential when looking to do business in this market.


Craig Shoup

Jacksonville Bar Association executive director

Craig Shoup

If you want to start a business, just call us. With more than 1,600 members in Northeast Florida, we can refer you to someone that can help with any legal need.

Assistance finding an attorney in your area, a board-certified attorney or a legal aid organization to help with life’s legal moments also is available from The Florida Bar at


JAX Bridges Entrepreneurship Program 

About: JAX Bridges helps small- and medium-size businesses build strategy, gain access to capital and contract opportunities, and connect to other entrepreneurs to grow their businesses by providing entrepreneurial education/training opportunities.


Jacksonville Women’s Business Center

About: The Jacksonville Women’s Business Center endeavors to create a new level of innovation and ignite the enterprising spirit through advanced entrepreneurial development, education, extensive resources and dynamic networking. 


Pitch Factory

About: The Pitch Factory is a six-week workshop that will help prepare entrepreneurs to bring their businesses to the next level by helping to develop and refine their pitches and strategy.


Northeast Florida Chambers of Commerce

Baker County Chamber

Address: 20 E. Macclenny Ave., Macclenny, 32063

Executive Director: Darryl Register

Phone: 904-259-6433


Clay County Chamber of Commerce

Address: 2042 Park Ave., Suite 111,

Orange Park, 32073

Phone: 904-264-2651

President: Jon Cantrell


Nassau County Chamber of Commerce

Address: 961687 Gateway Blvd., Suite 101-G,  Fernandina Beach, 32034

President: Regina Duncan

Phone: 904-261-3248


JAX Chamber

Address: 3 Independent Drive, Jacksonville, 32202

President: Daniel Davis

Phone: 904-366-6600


St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce

Address: 100 Southpark Blvd., St. Augustine, 32086

President: Isabelle (Rodriguez) Renault

Phone: 904-829-5681


Help for entrepreneurs     

University of North Florida Small Business Development Center

Phone: 904-620-2476


U.S. Small Business Administration

Address: 7825 Baymeadows Way, Suite 100B, Jacksonville, 32256


Phone: 904-443-1900

SCORE Jacksonville

Address: 7825 Baymeadows Way, Suite 100B, Jacksonville, 32256

Phone: 904-443-1911




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