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Jax Daily Record Friday, Mar. 7, 201412:00 PM EST

Flightstar will hire up to 400 employees

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Flightstar Aircraft Services LLC, chosen Wednesday for the JAXUSA Partnership’s quarterly Industry Leader Award, plans to add 250 to 400 employees as it ramps up its latest expansion, more than first anticipated.

Chief Operating Officer Tucker Morrison said Thursday that not all of the jobs will be filled immediately upon completing the project. He expects to add the positions “as we ramp up.”

“And 18-20 months from now we will be at a steady state in the new facility with approximately 1,500 employees,” Morrison said by email. Today it has about 1,100.

JAXUSA, the economic development division of the JAX Chamber, recognized Flightstar for its “outstanding business performance and corporate citizenship.” Flightstar is headquartered at Cecil Airport in West Jacksonville.

Flightstar provides heavy maintenance and repair services to the commercial aviation industry. Jerry Hernandez, president and CEO, started the company in 2000. Its services include major maintenance inspections; aircraft modifications and upgrades; interior refurbishment and reconfiguration; passenger-to-freighter conversion; and engineering service and support.

Its major customers are Delta Air Lines, FedEx and Southwest Airlines.

In the past five years, it has increased its employees from 350 to 1,100 and has expanded its hangar space to 360,000 square feet with more than 1 million square feet of ramp space.

The 135,000-square-foot addition of covered hangar space is expected to open in December. To meet current demand, Flightstar has leased a hangar from KCI Aviation to convert passenger planes into freight carriers.

The city approved construction in late January at Cecil Airport for the Flightstar hangar, a $30 million project at 5925 Aviation Ave. by Balfour Beatty Construction LLC.

The permit specifies construction of a new aircraft maintenance hangar, called Hangar 935, along with support spaces and site improvements for the total 165,077-square-foot project.

The project is the largest building undertaken by the Jacksonville Aviation Authority at Cecil Airport, and is being financed equally by the JAA and the Florida Department of Transportation.

JAA will build the hangar and office facility on 11.5 acres of airport property.

Upon completion, JAA will lease the land and Hangar 935 to Flightstar for commercial aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul, called MRO. The authority said Flightstar currently leases two MRO hangars and one large warehouse-storage building at Cecil Airport.

A year ago, areadevelopment.com reported that Flightstar would expand at Cecil Airport with the assistance of a $3.5 million Florida Department of Transportation infrastructure development grant awarded to JAA.

The grant supplements the department’s previous commitment of $10 million in Strategic Intermodal System funding for the project. The remaining $17 million is provided by Flightstar and the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, for a total of $30.5 million.

JAXUSA to hostĀ Rob Clements

Rob Clements, chairman and CEO of EverBank Financial Corp., is scheduled as keynote speaker for the JAXUSA Partnership quarterly meeting June 18. JAXUSA is the economic development division of JAX Chamber.

Jacksonville ranksĀ high in office-using jobs

Jacksonville is No. 2 in growth the past four years in “office-using employment,” reports CBRE Global Research and Consulting.

The 3.8 percent annual growth in office-using jobs in Jacksonville was second to Nashville, Tenn., which experienced almost 6 percent a year in such growth.

Tampa was No. 5 at 3.6 percent; Miami was No. 8 at 2.4 percent; and Orlando was No. 13 at 1.5 percent.

“It validates that we are back to our pre-2008 employment levels, particularly in financial services and office use,” said Mike Harrell, senior vice president at CBRE Capital Markets.

Such growth indicates that office space is being absorbed and might continue to be in greater demand because employers are creating more office jobs.

“We rolled along from 2002 up through 2007 with about the same annual average growth in jobs here,” he said, and then the recession hit.

“We are back to those levels or exceeding them, that’s the main significance,” he said.

Harrell said the majority of the office and financial jobs are being created in the suburban market, particularly Deerwood Park and the Interstate 95 south corridor, including Flagler Center and the Old St. Augustine Road area. “Those are still magnets,” he said.

However, EverBank Financial Corp. relocated some jobs from the suburbs to a Downtown tower, renamed EverBank Center, in 2012.

Harrell said that shows “Downtown can draw large, dense employers given the amount of space we have in the Downtown market. That is a shift.”

He said Jacksonville sustained “runs of good employment growth” in the late 1990s, and after the post-tech bust in 2001-02 through 2007.

“Jacksonville is attractive for a lot of employers for all the reasons we’ve known for many years,” he said, such as military spouses and retired military personnel looking for jobs. He said quality of life is another asset.

As for Downtown buildings, CBRE is marketing the Wells Fargo Center for sale. “The process of selling that asset continues,” Harrell said.

Retail reductions

RadioShack Corp. and Staples Inc. announced store closings this week, but didn’t specify where.

Staples said in a corporate filing Thursday that it has initiated a plan to close up to 225 stores in North America by the end of 2015.

Staples operates four stores in Duval County at 5800 Beach Blvd., St. Johns Town Center, Riverplace Shopping Center and in Jacksonville Beach.

The Framingham, Mass.-based company also said it would add eight new product categories to its stores, completing the additions at more than 1,000 U.S. stores by the end of June, plus hundreds of stores in Canada.

That means it will “refresh” nearly 20 percent of its products, adding new items beyond office supplies while removing other items.

RadioShack, based in Fort Worth, Texas, announced Tuesday it would close up to 1,100 underperforming stores.

“We will continue to have a strong, unmatched presence across the U.S. with over 4,000 stores including over 900 dealer franchise locations,” it said.

The company, which sells mobile technology products, operates 11 Duval County locations.

[email protected]

@MathisKb

(904) 356-2466

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