Employment Projections Spike with Fidelity

Article excerpt

Byline: Karen Brune Mathis, Times-Union senior business writer

Thanks in large part to plans by Fidelity National Financial Inc. to move its headquarters to town, projected employment growth in Jacksonville grew to an annual rate of 13,440 jobs for the first four months of the year.

That's faster than the four-month pace of 2002, and 72 percent higher than the entire 2002 rate of 7,830.

Fidelity announced it would add 750 jobs in Jacksonville as it relocates its corporate offices this year from Santa Barbara, Calif., and continues to grow the mortgage processing operation on Riverside Avenue it acquired as it bought Alltel Information Services.

Because of Fidelity and other companies that earlier announced large hiring plans, economic development executive Jerry Mallot is changing his forecast for the metro area.

"It is turning out to be pretty good, which tells me we will expand beyond the 10,000 jobs that I would have seen as a goal. I see where it would go beyond that," said Mallot, executive vice president of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Mallot noted that Fidelity is one of several companies that have announced they will create several hundred jobs.

"We expect the economy to continue to grow. Our activity remains strong," he said.

Mallot expects "some announcements in the fairly near term horizon" that could add "a couple hundred jobs" each, or close to it.

An impending war with Iraq had dampened job expectations earlier this year, but the U.S. dominance in the conflict seems to have restored some corporate confidence.

"I also believe that more companies will begin to expand as their confidence grows in the economy because of the war and the pent-up demand," Mallot said.

During April, 21 organizations indicated they might create 1,466 jobs in Jacksonville if their plans work out. Two others said they would trim 129 jobs. CitiStreet said it would lay off about 100 employees over the next several months, and Verizon said it would move 29 Jacksonville information technology jobs to Tampa by the end of the year.

That created a projected net gain of 1,337 jobs. That follows a potential net gain of 750 jobs in March, 1,141 jobs in February and 1,252 jobs in January. Those numbers indicate an annual gain of 13,440 jobs.

The unscientific survey counts the jobs that employers say they might create or cut in Jacksonville. It does not include numbers from Clay, Nassau or St. Johns counties, which together with Duval constitute the metropolitan area.

Information is gathered from employers or through announcements or filings with the chamber, the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission and its divisions, the Jacksonville Planning and Development Department and its Concurrency Management System Office, the state and other sources.

Not all of the plans are completed because some of the filings are preliminary and the deals might not be done.

Still, the surveys found that employers said they might create 7,830 Jacksonville jobs in 2002; 10,528 jobs in 2001; 12,778 jobs in 2000; and 12,581 jobs in 1999.

Here are 21 companies that indicated during April that they might add jobs in Jacksonville, how many, where and the source:

-- Alexander Key Investments, 25 jobs, downtown, company.

-- Blanding Village, 30 jobs, southwest Jacksonville; concurrency.

-- Brierwood Village Phase II, 50 jobs, southside, concurrency.

-- Coyotes of Mandarin oyster bar, 35 jobs, Mandarin, company.

-- Fidelity National Financial Inc., 750 jobs, Riverside, company.

-- Golden Oaks Plaza, 33 jobs, West Jacksonville along Roosevelt Boulevard, concurrency.

-- La Villa Bistro, 142 jobs, La Villa downtown, commission.

-- Nelnet Inc., 100 jobs, Southside, Summit at Southpoint, company.

-- The Shoppes at Normandy Boulevard, 200 jobs, Normandy and Chaffee Road, concurrency. …