Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Revival of Downtown Must Include Business and Jobs

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Revival of Downtown Must Include Business and Jobs

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee

For Warren Jones, it was all deja vu.

For the past two decades, companies have been fleeing downtown Jacksonville to chase cheap land and plentiful parking in neighborhoods far south of it. In the 1990s, companies like American Heritage Life Insurance and IBM pulled up their downtown roots. Other companies followed.

So when Adecco Group, which just completed acquisition of MPS Group Inc., recently announced that it would likely move its 375 employees to the suburbs, the longtime Jacksonville City Council member didn't just worry that over five floors of the Modis building would be empty.

He thought about the struggling people who would, more than likely, lose another source of income.

"It just hurts my heart whenever I see companies pull out of downtown," said Jones, whose council district encompasses LaVilla and parts of downtown, and who heard numerous stories of workers who couldn't get to their jobs when American Heritage Life moved off J. Turner Butler Boulevard in 1994.

"It's not so much as the high-paying jobs being gone, but the residual jobs that those companies bring."

Those are the jobs that are held by cooks who, say, work at eateries that depend on traffic from companies like MPS. Some are sidewalk entrepreneurs who see workers at those companies as convenient customers for them to sell their goods.

Those companies also generate clientele for small businesses - some of which, in turn, hire people who live nearby; people who generally don't have cars, or reliable transportation that would enable them to follow a company once it moves farther away.

So they lose out.

But what's also lost is another means of trying to make downtown live up to what it ought to be: A place that not only encapsulates the city's heart and personality, but a place where people who live in and near the core city can make work a defining force in their lives.

Of course, one can't blame Adecco, or the other companies before it, for leaving downtown. …

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