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December 28, 2023 Massive industrial projects dominate development across region in 2023

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Economic development work that started before the Covid-19 pandemic hit paid off in a big way in 2023, with the region seeing the largest aggregate capital investment from new and expanding companies it has ever seen.

Topped by the $750 million hydroponics plant project Plant Agricultural Systems has planned for Baker County, the region attracted $1.8 billion in capital spending plans, according to data collected by JaxUSA Partnership. 

That's the highest amount of announced investment the area has ever seen, more than doubling the last high-water mark, in 2021.

Plant Agricultural Systems' solar-powered plant on 772 acres near U.S. 90 and Interstate 10 in Sanderson will grow produce like leafy greens and vine crops such as tomatoes, with the company saying it should employ 600 people.

The state is providing a $2.29 million grant to fund the construction of entrance road infrastructure at the Woodstock Industrial property, where the facility will be located.

The second largest investment:  Toronto-based roofing company IKO Industries's  700,000-square-foot campus it hopes to open by 2025.

The company is investing $270 million in the 80-acre site near State Highway 301 and County Road 218, with the company saying it expects to add 100 workers to the area. It's the eighth North American shingle factory IKO has opened and the company's first in Florida.

In Duval County, the largest project is the Cosentino Group's plan for its first North American production facility, bringing a $270 million capital investment and 180 jobs to Jacksonville's Cecil Commerce Center.

Jacksonville won the development — only the second plant for the company outside of Spain — due to a mixture of the area's transportation assets and the composition of its workforce, CEO of Cosentino Americas Eduardo Cosentino told the Business Journal.

Those two aspects of the area have been key to the economic development wins, said JaxUSA President Aundra Wallace.

"Jacksonville really is America's logistics center," Wallace said. "So you start with how they move their products and the ability to reach 98 million customers within an 11 to 12 hour drive."

The rise of major industrial projects comes as the office market has faltered, with less demand for spec office buildings but a rising need for warehouses.

The other trend: regional development. While Duval County has the largest amount of investment — as well as the Cosentino project, Jacksonville has seen the expansion of BAE Systems, the growth of Danone, an addition by KLS Martin Manufacturing and the arrival and expansion of FlexCold — 2023 was the year for big projects in the outlying counties.

As well as the projects in Baker and Clay, Putnam County saw the investment of $235 million by Saint-Gobain North America, which is doubling the capacity of its CertainTeed facility.

"What you're seeing on the manufacturing side is that they're now seeing opportunities for the region holistically and not just Jacksonville," Wallace said. "Those counties have done the work getting infrastructure in, and they're very marketable right now."

So what will 2024 bring? 

More of the same, Wallace said.

"We will always be looking for office-related projects," he said. "But I think you're going to continue to see the industrial/warehouse/refrigerated cold storage space projects still dominate 2024.

"Some of those things are really coming coming forward in conversations now between commercial brokers and landlords and tenants, and we got to see how that all shakes out for '24."

Article written by Timothy Gibbons

Editor in Chief, Jacksonville Business Journal