Categorized | Publisher's Letter

Change is upon us

Well, here we are. It was an interesting mayoral race for our fine city to say the least. I was probably like most in Jacksonville and went to bed not knowing who our next city leader would be. The people spoke and by a narrow margin, Alvin Brown was elected.

I watched this election process closely, like many of you I’m sure, because I wanted to see if campaign rhetoric would translate into action. Often the best intentions to help along our small businesses get pushed aside when large employers or a business from another region starts knocking on the door of city hall.

When Saft America (a high-tech battery manufacturer) committed to the area, it came with over 20 million dollars of incentives between state and city funds. For that governmental encouragement, Saft committed to hiring 279 high-paying jobs by 2016. This is great news for our area, of course, and I’m happy we put the deal together—it was money well spent.

But according the Mayor’s Strategic Initiatives report, firms in our region employing less than 100 people make up 98% of all Northeast Florida companies. Do you have any incentive room left for us?

While our fine Mayor is just getting started, I am encouraged by what I have seen so far. Making small business and entrepreneurship one of the strategic initiatives of this administration is a good start.

I loved it when he recently toured businesses on San Marco boulevard suffering through the ongoing “streetscape project.” If you have ever been through this area, it’s a mess. With the sidewalk torn up and heavy equipment in the way, retailers are hoping pedestrians are willing to trounce through mud and noise to patronize their businesses. It will be great when construction ends, but surviving the improvement is an accomplishment in itself.

It was good to see Mayor Brown walking and shaking hands with the effected business owners, and giving words of encouragement, hearing their concerns and bringing media attention. Kudos.

Of course, job creation is number one on any civic leaders list of goals in America today, and Jacksonville is no different. Yes, we want to compete for any large employers coming to the area, but those opportunities are few and far between. They are a definite home run when we get them, but the “base hits” happen slowly and don’t get published in the newspaper when businesses like yours and mine hire one at a time.

I would encourage you to make your voice heard, you have more influence and impact on public policy than you may think. Collectively, we are a large group that can encourage our elected officials to operate in a way that takes down unnecessary barriers to our success and help stack the cards in our favor. The rest is up to us.

After reading the recently completed Strategic Initiatives report, the last sentence stood out to me: “If every small business in our region hired one person, the employment rate would be zero”

Oversimplified for sure, but it also seems pretty reasonable when you think about it in these terms.

Let’s get after it.

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