Jacksonville is a sports and entertainment center, and our momentum must continue. Why? The impact is measurable and it benefits Jacksonville and all of Northeast Florida.
Sports and entertainment also add to our mix of amenities and enhance the quality of life that makes Jacksonville more attractive to businesses that might relocate or expand here, as well as to highly-skilled, mobile young professionals who can choose where to live and make their careers. In turn, expanding our local talent pool of highly-skilled professionals makes Jacksonville more attractive to relocating and expanding companies.
Look at global companies like Deutsche Bank, Medtronic and Adecco. They can locate practically anywhere. So can many of their employees, especially the prospective employees they want to recruit and hire. These companies are engaged in what they call a “war for talent,” a battle to secure the best and brightest workers for their businesses. They need everything they can to win this “war,” and the quality of life of the local community is proving to be a potent weapon in that arsenal.
Sports and entertainment help shine a light on our city, showing a worldwide audience that Jacksonville is a great destination.
Last fall, I joined Shad Khan and local business leaders on a trade mission to London as the Jaguars played a game there, where we met with 20 companies to pitch Jacksonville as a great place to do business. It’s clear that, as these companies decide where to invest, they are taking a close look not just at the hard economic numbers, but also key community quality of life indicators. One of these companies, Greencore Group, has already announced plans to invest $10 million and create up to 283 new jobs in Jacksonville. We’re expecting even more good news from this trade mission in the coming months.
So this is not about promoting sports and entertainment for their own sake. It is about building a dynamic, lively community with a strong set of amenities that make Jacksonville a magnet for new visitors, businesses and prospective new residents as well as a more appealing community for our existing residents.
As we attract more visitors, businesses and residents, we also expand and strengthen our local tax base to maintain and improve public services while limiting the tax burden on current residents.
Since making sports and entertainment a priority when I took office in July 2011, we’ve achieved some great successes:
- We’ve held two U.S. National Soccer team games at EverBank Field, with record-setting attendance, and we’re looking forward to a third.
- We will host the second and third rounds of the NCAA Basketball Tournament in 2015.
- We’re hosting the NCAA Regional Track and Field Championships for the next three years, and will welcome two major national championships in 2015.
- We’ve seen the Orlando Magic face the New Orleans Pelicans in an NBA exhibition game.
- The North American Soccer League awarded Jacksonville a new team, the Jacksonville Armada FC.
- The upcoming Florida Country Superfest is the biggest major concert at EverBank Field in more than 10 years.
We’re not stopping here. Working with the new Jacksonville Sports Council and other partners, the City will continue our focus on sports and entertainment. We aim to reach out to new and larger audiences with even more diverse events.
To succeed in attracting more sports and entertainment events, it’s not enough simply to have a good sales pitch. We also need to invest in the up-to-date physical infrastructure to support these events, such as the new state-of-the-art scoreboards and other enhancements to EverBank Field. We found a way to make this investment without taking away from important city services like our libraries or public safety, and Jaguars owner Shad Khan put in $20 million of his own money to get this done.
Building on the solid foundation we already have, I believe we can elevate Jacksonville’s status and competitive position even higher. It will make Jacksonville an even better, stronger, greater city for everyone.