Top Newsmaker: Aundra Wallace an assured but low-key leader in region’s growth

Here is a look at some of the biggest newsmakers in 2023.

  • By Ric Anderson
  • | 12:00 a.m. January 2, 2024
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Aundra Wallace an assured but low-key leader in region’s growth

Heading into 2023, the JAX Chamber and JAXUSA Partnership set a goal of bringing in $350 million in business investment to Jacksonville by year’s end. By mid-April, they were $1 million shy of reaching that level. By the end of May, they’d blown past it by $269 million.

And on it went. The chamber and JAXUSA Partnership,  its regional economic development arm, landed project after  project on their way to ending the year with $1.87 billion in promised investment. 

JAXUSA President Aundra Wallace had a lot to brag about, as the chief orchestrator of the big-ticket deals. Yet as the numbers skyrocketed, Wallace maintained the leadership style that had come to define his public persona at the chamber and before that as the CEO of the Downtown Investment Authority – that of a stoic, plain-spoken professional who didn’t seek the limelight but was comfortable in it when it shined on him. 

“Aundra and his team absolutely crushed it this year,” JAX Chamber President and CEO Daniel Davis said. “More than $2 billion in capital investment, projects all across the region and an incredible economic development mission to London that will pay huge dividends for our community. We’re looking forward to another big year in 2024.”

JAXUSA’s successes included landing the $750 million Plant-AS hydroponics plant in Baker County, the $270 million Cosentino plant that will be the Spanish countertop manufacturer’s first U.S. manufacturing facility, and the $235 million expansion of wallboard manufacturer CertainTeed  in Baker County. 

Wallace also helped launch JAXUSA’s new five-year strategic plan, which includes a focus on recruiting and expanding advanced manufacturing and logistics companies along with a continued push to attract fintech firms. 

Talent development and support for infrastructure and transportation improvements also are part of the plan. 

In addition, Wallace played a major role in promoting Jacksonville to more than 75 English businesses during a trip led by Mayor Donna Deegan to London surrounding the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Oct. 1 game. That trip prompted a delegation from the Association of British HealthTech Industries to visit Jacksonville in early December to discuss bringing businesses in that sector to the city. 

Top Deals and Newsmakers of 2023

Here is a look at some of the biggest deals and people who made headlines in 2023.

Top Deals:

Cosentino Group plans $270 million first phase of manufacturing plant. Story here

Phoenix Arts & Innovation District launches in New Springfield. Story here

Blackwater Development says it has Regency Square Mall deal. Story here

Ponte Vedra Inn & Club wins approval to start expansion, renovations. Story here

ICE finalizes its $11.9 billion acquisition of Black Knight Inc. Story here

‘Stadium of the Future’ plans are unveiled by the Jaguars. Story here

Gateway Jax plans $500 million Downtown project in NorthCore. Story here

Aldi buying Winn-Dixie, Harveys parent Southeastern Grocers. Story here

Regency Centers buys Urstadt Biddle in $1.4 billion deal. Story here

Top Newsmakers:

Donna Deegan makes history as Jacksonville’s first female mayor. Story here

Bryan Moll poised to help revitalize Downtown with Gateway Jax. Story here

Nick Allard guides JU College of Law toward new Downtown campus. Story here

Suzanne Pickett: Advocate for city’s Historic Eastside. Story here

Obituaries of 2023:

Activist and community advocate Ben Frazier. Story here

Beaver Street Fisheries Chairman Hans ‘Harry’ Frisch. Story here

Civic leader and insurance executive Marvin Cecil 'Ceree' Harden III. Story here



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