Manufacturing in Northeast Florida: ‘Our Strongest Industry’ | Jax Daily Record | Jacksonville Daily Record
Manufacturing could be the second-fastest growing industry in Northeast Florida, based on current interest in the area from businesses looking for the best place to open or expand their operations. .
The trend is driven by how the coronavirus pandemic has changed the office market, said Aaron Bowman, senior vice president of business development at JAXUSA Partnership, the regional economic development arm of JAX Chamber.
“Manufacturing is probably our strongest sector after COVID. Previously, about 65% of requests came from companies that needed office space. Now that has changed. About 65% is related to manufacturing, transportation and logistics,” Bowman said.
Another factor driving this trend is the continued high migration of people to the state and region from people seeking a better quality of life and opportunity.
“More than 1,200 people move to Florida every day and more than 100 a day come to Jacksonville. Businesses realize where people want to live and what areas are growing,” Bowman said.
“Retirees go further south. We welcome the youngest. They are more interested in where they live and they find where to work when they get here.
Bowman specializes in recruiting advanced manufacturing and aerospace companies. He recently returned from the annual Farnborough International Airshow in England, where he saw a change in the way prospects view northeast Florida.
“There is incredible interest from aerospace companies. When we went there 10 years ago, we were asking for meetings. This year, people were asking us for meetings. We had 27 in three days,” Bowman said.
The regulatory business climate is also driving increased interest in the state and region, said Lake Ray, president of the First Coast Manufacturers Association.
“We get calls from prospects in the Northeast, especially Connecticut and New Jersey. They tell us they want to expand, but the local government is anti-business. We are business friendly, so people are looking to northeast Florida,” Ray said.
The current negative trend for the manufacturing sector is the challenge created by supply chain issues.
Components and raw materials can sometimes be difficult to acquire when needed to keep production moving. Delivery of finished products to distributors and retailers may take longer than usual, depending on the availability of ground transportation.
“Manufacturers are feeling the back and forth effects,” Ray said.
The association works with struggling manufacturers upstream of the supply chain situation to help them find alternative sources.
“If the widget you need is sitting on a ship, maybe we can find someone to create an equivalent widget,” Ray said.
Bowman and Ray said the region is better positioned than other parts of the country in terms of supply chain issues.
There are no relief offloading freighters, and JaxPort infrastructure improvements, such as the recently completed channel deepening and jetty expansion, put the area at the top of the list for manufacturers to searching for new sites, they said.
“America isn’t going to shut down manufacturing, and companies like to come to northeast Florida to manufacture,” Ray said.
Bowman said another indicator of the industry’s continued growth in northeast Florida is warehouse development.
Over 4 million square feet of manufacturing and distribution space are under construction. About half is already under occupancy contract and the rest will be available for future prospects.
“We are well placed. It’s a good time to be in my shoes,” Bowman said.
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